On this Day May 24
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1775 – Meeting in Philadelphia, the Second Continental Congress unanimously elects John Hancock of Massachusetts as president. That is why Hancock has the honor of being the first to sign the Declaration of Independence.
1883 – New York’s iconic Brooklyn Bridge opens, concluding a 14-year, $18 million construction project that cost more than two dozen workers their lives. The span links the boroughs of Brooklyn and Manhattan across the East River.
1899 – The first public parking garage in the U.S. opens in Boston as part of the Back Bay Cycle & Motor Company. It is advertised as a “stable for renting, sale, storage and repair of motor vehicles.”
1991 – “Thelma & Louise,” starring Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis and directed by Ridley Scott, opens in U.S. movie theaters. The film earns six Academy Award nominations, including Best Director for Scott and Best Actress for both Sarandon and Davis, but wins for Best Original Screenplay. It introduces a young, unknown Brad Pitt and becomes a fixture of American pop culture with the two main characters representing strong women overcoming obstacles in a male-dominated world.
1991 – The firefighting drama “Backdraft,” starring Kurt Russell, William Baldwin, Robert De Niro, Scott Glenn and Donald Sutherland, and directed by Ron Howard, opens in U.S. theaters. The film goes on to receive three Academy Award nominations.
1969 – “Get Back,” by The Beatles with Billy Preston, begins five weeks on top of the Billboard Hot 100. A different mix of the song is later produced as the final track of the “Let It Be” album, the band’s last album, released just after breaking up.
1974 – Legendary jazz composer, pianist and bandleader Duke Ellington dies of lung cancer and pneumonia at the age of 75. “The Duke’s” career spanned more than half a century, during which he composed thousands of songs for the stage, screen and contemporary songbook.
1975 – Earth Wind & Fire climb to the top of the singles chart with “Shining Star,” the group’s first and only No. 1 in the U.S. The track goes on to capture a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.
1997 – The Spice Girls land reach No. 1 on the Billboard album chart with their debut production, “Spice.” They become the third all-female band to ever top the album chart, after The Supremes and The Go-Go’s.