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Today in History — August 17

Celebrity birthdays, highlights in history, plus more facts about this day.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Today is Friday, Aug. 17, the 229th day of 2007. There are 136 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

Two hundred years ago, on Aug. 17, 1807, Robert Fulton’s North River Steamboat (popularly, if erroneously, known to this day as the Clermont) began heading up the Hudson River on its successful round-trip between New York and Albany.

On this date:

In 1863, federal batteries and ships began bombarding Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor during the Civil War, but the Confederates managed to hold on despite several days of pounding.

In 1896, a prospecting party discovered gold in Canada, a finding that touched off the Klondike gold rush.

In 1915, a mob in Cobb County, Ga., lynched Jewish businessman Leo Frank, whose death sentence for the murder of 13-year-old Mary Phagan had been commuted to life imprisonment. (Frank, who’d maintained his innocence, was pardoned by the state of Georgia in 1986.)

In 1942, during World War II, U.S. Eighth Air Force bombers attacked Rouen, France.

In 1943, the Allied conquest of Sicily was completed as U.S. and British forces entered Messina.

In 1969, 256 people were killed as Hurricane Camille slammed into the Gulf Coast.

In 1978, the first successful trans-Atlantic balloon flight ended as Maxie Anderson, Ben Abruzzo and Larry Newman landed their Double Eagle Two outside Paris.

In 1985, more than 1,400 meatpackers walked off the job at the Geo. A. Hormel and Company’s main plant in Austin, Minn., in a bitter strike that lasted just over a year.

In 1987, Rudolf Hess, the last member of Adolf Hitler’s inner circle, died at Spandau Prison at age 93, an apparent suicide.

In 1996, the Reform Party announced Ross Perot had won its nomination to be its first-ever presidential candidate.

Ten years ago: President Clinton urged both sides in the United Parcel Service strike to “redouble their efforts” to reach a deal, but hours later, negotiators recessed their intensive talks.

Five years ago: In Krakow, Poland, tens of thousands of adoring Poles gave Pope John Paul II a joyous welcome home as the ailing pontiff began the 9th visit to his native country during his papacy.

One year ago: A federal judge in Detroit ruled that President Bush’s warrantless surveillance program violated the rights to free speech and privacy, as well as the separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution. (The administration said it would appeal.) President Bush signed new rules to prod companies into shoring up their pension plans. Jordan became the first Arab state to send a fully accredited ambassador to Iraq.

Today’s Birthdays: Actress Maureen O’Hara is 87. Actor Robert DeNiro is 64. Movie director Martha Coolidge is 61. Rock musician Gary Talley (The Box Tops) is 60. Rock musician Sib Hashian is 58. Actor Robert Joy is 56. Rock singer Kevin Rowland (Dexy’s Midnight Runners) is 54. Rock musician Colin Moulding (XTC) is 52. Country singer-songwriter Kevin Welch is 52. Singer Belinda Carlisle is 49. Actor Sean Penn is 47. Jazz musician Everette Harp is 46. Rock musician Gilby Clarke is 45. Singer Maria McKee is 43. Rock musician Steve Gorman (The Black Crowes) is 42. Rock musician Jill Cunniff is 41. Actor David Conrad is 40. Singer Donnie Wahlberg is

38. Rapper Posdnuos is 38. Tennis player Jim Courier is 37. Actor Bryton McClure is 21. Actor Brady Corbet is 19.

Thought for Today: “Jealousy is all the fun you think they had.” -- Erica Jong, American author.