26 March 1791

The new King's Theatre, Haymarket opened with a private performance of song and dance. It had been built to replace John Vanbrugh's theatre, which had burned down two years earlier.


26 March 1812

The cities of Caracas and Merida in Venezuela were largely destroyed by an earthquake, which caused the deaths of an estimated 15,000 to 20,000 people.

26 March 1827

Composer Ludwig van Beethoven dies in Vienna.

26 March 1830: The Book of Mormon debuts with a whimper

Poor sales give little indication of enormous impact to come

If you visit the little town of Palmyra in Wayne County, New York, you will see a neat brick building decked with plaques and flags. This was once the printing press and bookshop of a man called Egbert B Grandin, who also published the local newspaper.

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In the summer of 1829, Grandin announced that he was preparing a major new publication – a sacred text containing hitherto unknown biblical prophecies, as well as the history of the first people to live in the Americas, who had apparently fled from the Tower of Babel. The text, it turned out, had been engraved on gold plates and buried in a New York hillside, before being revealed to a local preacher, Joseph Smith, by an angel called Moroni.

Grandin himself thought this was a tall story and had originally turned it down. But when another printer agreed to take on the job, Grandin changed his mind. Smith gave him $3,000 in security – worth perhaps $73,000 today – and Grandin agreed to produce 5,000 copies.

Today, with an estimated 15 million Mormons worldwide, original copies of the Book of Mormon change hands for well over $50,000. But when the book first went on sale on 26 March 1830, sales were disappointing. Many local citizens thought it was blasphemous; another Palmyra paper even called it “the greatest piece of superstition that has come to our knowledge”.

Local farmer Martin Harris had mortgaged his property to pay for Smith’s security. Harris lost everything, yet he never lost his faith in the Book of Mormon. It was “no fake,” he said on his deathbed. “I know what I know. I have seen what I have seen and I have heard what I have heard. I have seen the gold plates from which the Book of Mormon is written.” | Written by Dominic Sandbrook

26 March 1839

A public meeting in the town hall of Henley-on-Thames concludes that an annual regatta would greatly benefit the town.

26 March 1840

The Royal Agricultural Society of England (founded two years earlier as the English Agricultural Society) was granted its Royal Charter by Queen Victoria. John, third Earl Spencer, a devoted cattle-breeder, was its first president.

26 March 1898

Establishment of the Sabie Game Reserve in the Transvaal, South Africa. The reserve will eventually expand into today's Kruger National Park.


26 March 1943

The British launched Operation Supercharge II, a flanking attack by the New Zealand Corps and the 1st Armoured Division that forced Axis forces to fall back from their strong defensive position on the Mareth Line in Tunisia.

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