1541 — Conqueror of the Incas assassinated
Francisco Pizarro, the governor of Peru and conqueror of the Inca civilization, is assassinated in Lima by Spanish rivals.
The illegitimate son of a Spanish gentleman, Pizarro served under Spanish conquistador Alonso de Ojeda during his expedition to Colombia in 1510 and was with Vasco Nunez de Balboa when he discovered the Pacific Ocean in 1513. Hearing legends of the great wealth of the Incas in South America, Pizarro formed an alliance with fellow conquistador Diego de Almagro in 1524 and sailed back to the Americas. Their first expedition only penetrated as far as present-day Ecuador, but their second reached farther and discovered evidence of the existence of the Inca kingdom.
Securing aid from Emperor Charles V, and a guarantee that he, not Almagro, would receive the majority of the expedition's future profits, Pizarro sailed to Peru and landed at Tumbes in 1532. He led his army up the Andes Mountains to the Inca city of Cajamarca and met with Atahualpa, the king of the Inca kingdom of Quito. After winning his trust, Pizarro captured Atahualpa, exacted a room full of gold as ransom for his life, and then treacherously had him executed. The conquest of Peru came quickly to Pizarro and his army, and in 1533 Inca resistance came to an end with their defeat at Cuzco.
Pizarro, now the governor of Peru, founded new settlements, including Lima, and granted Almagro the conquest of Chile as appeasement for claiming the riches of the Inca civilization for himself. However, Pizarro failed to provide Almagro with all the land he had promised, and Almagro responded by seizing Cuzco in 1538. Pizarro sent his half brother, Hernando, to reclaim the city, and Almagro was defeated and put to death. Three years later, on June 26, 1541, a group hired by Almagro's former adherents penetrated Pizarro's palace and slew the conquistador while he was eating dinner. Shortly after his death, Diego el Monzo, Almagro's son, proclaimed himself governor of Peru.
1956 — Congress approves Federal Highway Act
On this day in 1956, the U.S. Congress approves the Federal Highway Act, which allocates more than $30 billion for the construction of some 41,000 miles of interstate highways; it will be the largest public construction project in U.S. history to that date.
Among the pressing questions involved in passing highway legislation were where exactly the highways should be built, and how much of the cost should be carried by the federal government versus the individual states. Several competing bills went through Congress before 1956, including plans spearheaded by the retired general and engineer Lucius D. Clay; Senator Albert Gore Sr.; and Rep. George H. Fallon, who called his program the "National System of Interstate and Defense Highways," thus linking the construction of highways with the preservation of a strong national defense.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower had first realized the value of a national system of roads after participating in the U.S. Army's first transcontinental motor convoy in 1919; during World War II, he had admired Germany's autobahn network. In January 1956, Eisenhower called in his State of the Union address (as he had in 1954) for a "modern, interstate highway system." Later that month, Fallon introduced a revised version of his bill as the Federal Highway Act of 1956. It provided for a 65,000-km national system of interstate and defense highways to be built over 13 years, with the federal government paying for 90 percent, or $24.8 billion. To raise funds for the project, Congress would increase the gas tax from two to three cents per gallon and impose a series of other highway user tax changes. On June 26, 1956, the Senate approved the final version of the bill by a vote of 89 to 1; Senator Russell Long, who opposed the gas tax increase, cast the single "no" vote. That same day, the House approved the bill by a voice vote, and three days later, Eisenhower signed it into law.
Highway construction began almost immediately, employing tens of thousands of workers and billions of tons of gravel and asphalt. The system fueled a surge in the interstate trucking industry, which soon pushed aside the railroads to gain the lion's share of the domestic shipping market. Interstate highway construction also fostered the growth of roadside businesses such as restaurants (often fast-food chains), hotels and amusement parks. By the 1960s, an estimated one in seven Americans was employed directly or indirectly by the automobile industry, and America had become a nation of drivers.
— This Day in History is courtesy of History.com.