History: November 20

1789

New Jersey ratifies the Bill of Rights, the first state to do so.

The addendum to the Constitution grants a list of liberties the Founders did not incorporate into the original draft, but after consideration, were deemed essential to free society.

However, with New Jersey’s approval, they also rejected a measure that forbade Congress from voting itself a pay raise within its own term. That would not become law as the 27th Amendment until 1992.

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1820

The whaling ship Essex is attacked by an 80-ton sperm whale off the coast of South America.

Whales provided materials for oil and their bones had many uses. The crew of the ship got into a tussle with the giant whale, who rammed the boat twice and managed to capsize it.

The whole crew made it into life boats, but only 5 of the 20 survived. They were eventually picked up 83 days later by other ships.

Stories of cannibalism were rampant. It would’ve been the only way to survive. It is legend that men drew straws to see who would be shot in order to be eaten.

The story inspired parts of Herman Melville’s novel “Moby Dick.”

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1923

Garrett Morgan receives a patent for the design of the modern traffic signal.

While the first stop-and-go signs were implemented in London in the mid-1800s, Morgan’s design incorporated the “slow down” signal, making traffic crossings and intersections a little safer.

Morgan’s story is truly heroic: His parents had been slaves, and he moved to Ohio for work when he was just 14. He developed a knack for working with his hands, and found work repairing sewing machines.

At the age of 30 he opened his own store, and in 1909 added garment alterations to his services.

Having become rather wealthy, he started his own newspaper, the Cleveland Call, in 1920. Given his wealth, he was able to own a car, and was acutely aware of the needs for improved traffic control in a a time when horses, pedestrians, cars, and bikes packed streets.

His design sold to General Electric for $40,000.

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1947

Princess Elizabeth marries Philip Mountbatten.

The ostentatious wedding at Westminster Abbey shook up the royal dynamic of Europe. Philip renounced his titles as Prince of Greece and Denmark to marry Elizabeth.

She was 21, he was 26. With his marriage to the heir to the British throne, he was made duke of Edinburgh.

They had four kids: Charles, Anne, Andrew, and Edward.

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2003

Recording producer Phil Spector is indicted for killing actress Lana Clarkson.

Spector worked with the likes of John Lennon, Ike and Tina Turner, and the Ramones.

The trial didn’t begin until 2007. It lasted three and a half months.

The jury was deadlocked, and the judge declared a mistrial.

After a retrial, Spector was convicted of second-degree murder.

He is serving 19-years-to-life. He’ll be eligible for parole when he’s 88 years old.