4 June 1896

Henry Ford finishes the Ford Quadricycle, his first gasoline-powered automobile.

At approximately 4:00 a.m. on June 4, 1896, in the shed behind his home on Bagley Avenue in Detroit, Henry Ford unveils the “Quadricycle,” the first automobile he ever designed or drove.

Ford was working as the chief engineer for the main plant of the Edison Illuminating Company when he began working on the Quadricycle. On call at all hours to ensure that Detroit had electrical service 24 hours a day, Ford was able to use his flexible working schedule to experiment with his pet project—building a horseless carriage with a gasoline-powered engine. His obsession with the gasoline engine had begun when he saw an article on the subject in a November 1895 issue of American Machinist magazine. The following March, another Detroit engineer named Charles King took his own hand-built vehicle—made of wood, it had a four-cylinder engine and could travel up to five miles per hour—out for a ride, fueling Ford’s desire to build a lighter and faster gasoline-powered model.

As he would do throughout his career, Ford used his considerable powers of motivation and organization to get the job done, enlisting friends–including King–and assistants to help him bring his vision to life. After months of work and many setbacks, Ford was finally ready to test-drive his creation–basically a light metal frame fitted with four bicycle wheels and powered by a two-cylinder, four-horsepower gasoline engine–on the morning of June 4, 1896. When Ford and James Bishop, his chief assistant, attempted to wheel the Quadricycle out of the shed, however, they discovered that it was too wide to fit through the door. To solve the problem, Ford took an axe to the brick wall of the shed, smashing it to make space for the vehicle to be rolled out.

With Bishop bicycling ahead to alert passing carriages and pedestrians, Ford drove the 500-pound Quadricycle down Detroit’s Grand River Avenue, circling around three major thoroughfares. The Quadricycle had two driving speeds, no reverse, no brakes, rudimentary steering ability and a doorbell button as a horn, and it could reach about 20 miles per hour, easily overpowering King’s invention. Aside from one breakdown on Washington Boulevard due to a faulty spring, the drive was a success, and Ford was on his way to becoming one of the most formidable success stories in American business history.

4 June 1989

The Tiananmen Square protests are violently ended in Beijing by the People’s Liberation Army.

The Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, commonly known in mainland China as the June Fourth Incident, were student-led demonstrations in Beijing, the capital of the People’s Republic of China, in 1989. More broadly, it refers to the popular national movement inspired by the Beijing protests during that period, sometimes called the ’89 Democracy Movement. The protests were forcibly suppressed after Chinese Premier Li Peng declared martial law. In what became known in the West as the Tiananmen Square Massacre, troops with automatic rifles and tanks killed at least several hundred demonstrators trying to block the military’s advance towards Tiananmen Square. The number of civilian deaths has been estimated variously from 180 to 10,454.

Set against a backdrop of rapid economic development and social changes in post-Mao China, the protests reflected anxieties about the country’s future in the popular consciousness and among the political elite. The reforms of the 1980s had led to a nascent market economy which benefitted some people but seriously disaffected others; the one-party political system also faced a challenge of legitimacy. Common grievances at the time included inflation, limited preparedness of graduates for the new economy, and restrictions on political participation. The students called for democracy, greater accountability, freedom of the press, and freedom of speech, though they were loosely organized and their goals varied. At the height of the protests, about a million people assembled in the Square.

As the protests developed, the authorities veered back and forth between conciliatory and hardline tactics, exposing deep divisions within the party leadership. By May, a student-led hunger strike galvanized support for the demonstrators around the country and the protests spread to some 400 cities. Ultimately, China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping and other Communist Party elders believed the protests to be a political threat, and resolved to use force. The State Council declared martial law on May 20, and mobilized as many as 300,000 troops to Beijing. The troops ruthlessly suppressed the protests by firing at demonstrators with automatic weapons, killing hundreds of protesters and leading to mass civil unrest in the days following.

The Chinese government was internationally denounced for the violent military response to the protests. Western countries imposed severe economic sanctions and arms embargoes on Chinese entities and officials. In response, the Chinese government verbally attacked the protestors and denounced Western nations who had imposed sanctions on China by accusing them of interference in China’s internal affairs, which elicited heavier condemnation by the West. It made widespread arrests of protesters and their supporters, suppressed other protests around China, expelled foreign journalists, strictly controlled coverage of the events in the domestic press, strengthened the police and internal security forces, and demoted or purged officials it deemed sympathetic to the protests. More broadly, the suppression temporarily halted the policies of liberalization in the 1980s. Considered a watershed event, the protests also set the limits on political expression in China well into the 21st century. Its memory is widely associated with questioning the legitimacy of Communist Party rule, and remains one of the most sensitive and most widely censored political topics in mainland China.