On this date in...
1817...Governor Dewitt Clinton breaks ground for the building of the Erie Canal, which, when completed, opens a critical shipping route from New York City to the Great Lakes.
1827...Slavery is completely abolished in New York State.
1939...Telling a packed Yankee Stadium that "Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth," ailing Yankees star Lou Gehrig bids farewell to baseball, two years before he succumbs to the disease that now bears his name.
1976...New York City celebrates the nation's 200th birthday with "Operation Sail," an armada of tall ships from around the world.
Today's New Yorker birthdays include playwright Neil Simon, born in 1927; and former talk show host Geraldo Rivera, born in 1943.