How well do you know these famous firsts in modern history?

By: Jodi C.
Estimated Completion Time
4 min
How well do you know these famous firsts in modern history?
Image: YouTube

About This Quiz

You never forget your first ... or do you? Everyone remembers Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, but do you remember the name of the first human in space? Test your knowledge of 'firsts' in modern history with our quiz!
Who made the first successful solo transatlantic flight?
Amelia Earhart
Howard Hughes
Charles Lindbergh
Gary Powers
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Lindbergh was a former military pilot who vaulted to fame by making the New York to Paris flight. Admirers gave him the name, "Lucky Lindy."

Who was the first woman to run on a major-party ticket for U.S. vice-president?
Hillary Clinton
Geraldine Ferraro
Dianne Feinstein
Victoria Woodhull
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Ferraro was Democrat presidential candidate Walter Mondale's running mate in 1980. They were crushed, however, by the Reagan-Bush ticket juggernaut.

What was the name of Lindbergh's airplane?
the Enterprise
the Clarissa
the America
the Spirit of St. Louis
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Built for distance flying, it had only one engine and one seat. You can see the Spirit of St. Louis at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.


Which of these nations has yet to have its first female head of state?
the Philippines
the United States
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The young and progressive United States has not yet had a female president. Hillary Clinton was the first major-party nominee in 2016, but failed to win the election.

When Alexander Graham Bell made the first phone call, what were his first words?
"Can you hear me?"
"Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you."
"Oh, it's not working."
"Darling, I'll be late tonight."
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

OK, this might not seem like modern history (especially to younger quiz takers) -- but by "modern," we mean the modern era, the last few hundred years or so. In other words, no questions on ancient Rome or the Pharaohs.

The first Masters tournament was played in 1934. Where is the this golf classic always played?
Augusta, Georgia
Indian Wells, California
Pebble Beach, California
St. Andrews, Scotland
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Masters is played at the Augusta National Golf Club. The winner is awarded a green jacket (which remains his property, but has to be returned to be kept in a special room.)


Benazir Bhutto was the first woman to lead a Muslim nation. Of which country was she the prime minister?
Saudi Arabia
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Bhutto came from a politically influential family -- and one often in conflict with rival political factions. Her father was hanged, and Bhutto herself was assassinated in 2007, after her service as prime minister.

What institution of American music began with its first broadcast as the "WSM Barn Dance" in 1925?
American Bandstand
the Grammys
the Grand Ole Opry
A Prairie Home Companion
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Grand Ole Opry is several things: a radio broadcast, a venue (the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, Tennessee), and an exclusive club of top country-western performers. Induction into the Opry is pretty much every country act's dream.

Who was the first human to go into space?
Yuri Gagarin
John Glenn
Chuck Yeager
Gherman Titov
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Contrary to rumors, Yuri Gagarin never said "I don't see God" while he was in space. The misunderstanding might come from a speech made later by Kruschev, who said that Gagarin went into space and didn't see God, a statement made in support of official state secularism.


In what city were the 1896 Olympic Games held?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens, Greece. At that time, there were only summer games. Which brings us to ...

What year saw the world's first billionaire (in US dollars)?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

John D. Rockefeller was the first known billionaire (and it's hard to imagine an unknown one, given their lifestyle). He made his wealth in oil. In recent years, Bill Gates and Mexico's Carlos Slim have traded the title of World's Richest Billionaire.

Who was the first person to make a solo East-to-West transatlantic flight?
Lindbergh, again
Beryl Markham
Jim Mollison
Erick Graves
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Beryl Markham is sometimes credited with this, but she was only the first woman to make the flight. She was such a colorful figure -- a British-expatriate Kenyan, racehorse trainer, and adventurer -- that she overshadowed Mollison, though he's a dashing figure in his own right.


Who is commonly credited with writing the first science-fiction novel?
Ray Bradbury
Miguel Cervantes
Mary Shelley
Mary Wollstonecraft
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Shelley began the novel as a teenager and finished it before she was 20 years old. Sidenote: Mary Wollstonecraft, one of the choices above, was Shelley's mother -- a feminist and writer in her own right.

Who is generally credited with writing the first novel ever written?
Miguel Cervantes
Daniel DeFoe
Geoffrey Chaucer
Murasaki Shibiku
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

This one's *really* not modern history. But we include it because it's rare for a woman to be the first person overall to do something, not the first woman (see Beryl Markham, above) -- which makes it notable that both the first novel and the first science-fiction novel were written by women. Murasaki, a Heian noblewoman, was the author of "The Tale of Genji," a long, multi-chapter story about an emperor's son and his many loves.

The first artificial ice rink in North America opened in what venue in 1879?
Central Park
the Montreal Botanical Garden
Madison Square Garden
Toronto's High Park
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Four buildings have had the name "Madison Square Garden." The current one opened in 1968. It has hosted everything from national political conventions to Wrestlemania.


The first movies-only cinema opened in 1905 in what city?
Los Angeles
New York
St. Louis
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

New York or Los Angeles would make more sense -- but no, it was Pittsburgh. The theater's name was "The Nickelodeon," which inspired a number of "Nickelodeons" in other cities.

Who was America's first self-made female millionaire?
Nellie Bly
Clare Boothe Luce
Madame C.J. Walker
Mary Kay Ash
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Walker, an African-American, was born Sarah Breedlove. She learned about hair care from her brothers, who were barbers, and made her fortune selling hair care products.

In 1877, Henry Flipper became the first black cadet to graduate the U.S. Military Academy. What is the USMA less formally known as?
the Citadel
the Combine
West Point
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

At the time, the U.S. Army was still segregated, so Flipper commanded an all-black unit. He became the first black leader of a "buffalo soldier" unit.


Which president was the first to occupy the White House?
John Adams
John Quincy Adams
James Monroe
Martin Van Buren
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

John Adams was the second president of the United States. Washington, the first, oversaw the architectural planning of the White House, but never lived in it.

Who did Toni Morrison call "the first black president" of the United States?
Bill Clinton
Lyndon B. Johnson
Barack Obama
Jesse Jackson
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Morrison was perhaps referring to Clinton's impoverished childhood in rural Arkansas. Though others criticized the notion, Clinton has a high comfort level with African Americans, and moved his post-presidential office to Harlem, New York.

Margaret Thatcher was the first woman prime minister of Great Britain. She was also the first prime minister to have what?
dual citizenship in India
working-class roots
royal blood
a science degree
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Thatcher was said to be more proud of being the first prime minister with a science degree than the first woman prime minister. Though Thatcher has a complicated legacy, it's likely she would have approved of early 2017's March for Science!


In what year were the first modern Olympic Games held?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The first Olympic Games were held in ancient Greece. The only competitors were men, and they usually competed naked -- which seems kind of dangerous and unsanitary. And at times, a bit unsightly.

In what year were the first winter Olympics held?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The first winter Olympic Games were held in Chamonix, France. While the summer games still have the edge in popularity (due to the fact that many hot, dry nations have little chance to compete in winter sports), the winter games offer very colorful, watchable sports like figure skating, slalom skiing, and snowboarding.

After the fall of the USSR, who was Russia's first president?
Mikhail Gorbachev
Gennady Zyuganov
Alexander Rutskoy
Boris Yeltsin
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Yeltsin was a popular maverick during the fall of the USSR in late 1991. However, his rapid economic reforms, which gave rise to a ruling class of oligarchs, diminished his popularity. Yeltsin died in 2007.


In 1877, Spencer Gore became the first person to win what prestigious athletic competition?
the Masters Tournament in golf
the Indianapolis 500
the Tour de France
the Championships, Wimbledon
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The competition was a humbler affair back then: The All England Lawn Tennis Championships. Nowadays, all eyes are on the gods and goddesses who make it to Centre Court.

Who was Major League Baseball's first black manager?
Dusty Baker
Otis Nixon
Frank Robinson
Joe Morgan
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Frank Robinson first managed the Cleveland Indians, then went on to helm the San Francisco Giants and the Montreal Expos. As a player, he wowed everyone by winning MVP honors in both the American and National Leagues.

Who was the first player to hit 61 home runs in a season?
Babe Ruth
Roger Maris
Pete Rose
Ted Williams
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Maris' record has since been broken by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. It should be noted that Babe Ruth held the previous record of 60 home runs in a season, and he did it on a tighter schedule: within a 154-game season, not 162.


Michael Sam was the first openly gay player in which league?
baseball's American League
baseball's National League
the National Hockey League
the National Football League
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

It was huge news when Sam came out before the NFL draft. However, he didn't go on to a notable career in the NFL. Sam played in a Canadian league and then had a stint on "Dancing With the Stars."

What was the first rock-and-roll song?
Hound Dog
Rocket 88
Rock Around the Clock
who can say?
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Many would vote for "Rocket 88," recorded by Ike Turner, which had a classic fuzzy-guitar sound, produced by stuffing newspaper into a torn amp. But music historians say it's an impossible question to answer. The division of music, back then, into black and white genres doesn't help.

Who was the first artist to record "Hound Dog"?
Elvis Presley, of course
Muddy Waters
Burl Ives
Willie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Thats right. "Hound Dog" was first recorded by WIllie Mae Thornton, an African-American woman who performed in Harlem at the Apollo. Not only is she not commonly associated with "Hound Dog," she only received a flat fee of $500 for performing it.


Who was/were the first female hip-hop artist(s) to win a Grammy?
Missy Elliott
Lil Kim
Queen Latifah
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

Cheryl James and Sandra Denton won for "None of Your Business" in 1993. They worked in the same Sears store before breaking into the male-dominated field of hip-hop.

Who was the first African American to be nominated for an Oscar?
Charles Burnett
Melvin Van Peebles
Hattie McDaniel
Sidney Poitier
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

McDaniel played Mammy in "Gone With the Wind."

Which was the first animated feature to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars?
Beauty and the Beast
Toy Story
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Oscars have a "Best Animated Feature" category, which probably reduces the chances of an animated movie being nominated for Best Picture. However, "Up" followed in "Beauty's" footsteps in 2009.


Kathryn Bigelow was the first woman to win an Oscar for Best Director. What film did she make?
Boys Don't Cry
The Hurt Locker
Monsoon Wedding
Stop Loss
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

To date, Bigelow is the only woman to win directing honors. Sidenote: Props to you if you recognized that all the movies listed above were directed by women. Kimberly Peirce directed "Boys Don't Cry" and "Stop Loss," while Mira Nair directed "Monsoon Wedding."

What aired on the first broadcast of color television in the United States?
the CBS Evening News
Hee Haw
the Rose Parade
The Sound of Music
Correct Answer
Wrong Answer

The Tournament of Roses parade was a good choice for the first color broadcast. After all, back then the CBS Evening News was hosted by older white men in gray suits. If it had been broadcast in color, would anyone have noticed?

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