August of the past and present

Published 9:54 am Thursday, August 3, 2017

Here we are finally at the eighth month of the year: August. What comes to mind when you think of this month?

For me, it’s just a few things: humidity, new school year, and Little League World Series baseball. Other than that, there’s not much that stands out in my mind. There aren’t even any nationally recognized holidays in August. We’re just in that long gap between Independence Day and Labor Day.

So I began to wonder: what historical events have happened in August in the past? Surely there must be something of note that occurred during the month. Here’s what I found:

Aug 24, 79 AD: Mt. Vesuvius erupted in Italy, destroying the city of Pompeii and its inhabitants along with nearby town Herculaneum. (Today we remember this natural disaster with an amusement park ride at Busch Gardens.)

Aug 3, 1492: Christopher Columbus left Spain with his three ships (the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria) in search of a water route to Asia that wouldn’t involve having to travel around the entirety of Africa. Little did he know an entirely different continent would be in his way.

Aug 18, 1920: the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, giving women the right to vote. The state of Tennessee was the last vote to reach the two-thirds required for ratification. Most of the other Southern states had said no.

Aug 2, 1923: President Warren G. Harding unexpectedly died from an apparent heart attack. He’d only been in office for two years.

Aug 14, 1935: President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act as a part of his “New Deal” programs to bring America out of the Great Depression.

Aug 21, 1959: President Eisenhower signed a bill to make Hawaii the 50th state. He actually wanted to make Hawaii the 49th state, but Congress pushed harder for Alaska to join first.

Aug 13, 1961: construction began on the Berlin Wall dividing East and West Berlin. They started first with simple barbed wire before building the solid concrete wall to keep people from escaping the communism of East Germany.

Aug 6, 1962: Jamaica gained independence from the United Kingdom.

Aug 28, 1963: “The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom” took place with more than 200,000 participants from different civil rights and religious groups. Martin Luther King Jr gave his famous “I have a dream” speech at the end of the day’s march.

Aug 11-17, 1978: the first transatlantic balloon flight began in Maine and ended near Paris, totaling 3,233 miles. The balloon, called Double Eagle II, was piloted by three Americans: Max Anderson, Ben Abruzzo, and Larry Newman. They had attempted the trip the year before but only made it as far as Iceland.

Although August is typically an uneventful month for me, that certainly hasn’t always been the case for everyone else around the world. And along with the historical events of the past, August 2017 has a few upcoming events as well.

There’s going to be a total solar eclipse on August 21, which is 38 years after the previous one. Here in North Carolina though, we’re only going to be able to see it partially.

Additionally, a quick Google search tells me that August is apparently National Catfish Month, National Golf Month, National Goat Cheese Month, and National Panini Month. So have fun celebrating all those things… bonus points if you try to eat a catfish and goat cheese panini while out on the golf course!

Locally, the Watermelon Festival is happening in Murfreesboro until August 5. Don’t forget to check that out too.

I guess all these things are pretty interesting for a month named after the first Roman emperor.

Holly Taylor is a staff writer for Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact her at or by phone at 252-332-7206.