New Year’s Day – The most celebrated holiday around the world.
1502 – Portuguese explorers landed at Guanabara Bay on the coast of South America and named it Rio de Janeiro (River of January). Rio de Janeiro is currently Brazil’s second largest city.
1660 – Samuel Pepys began his famous diary in which he chronicled life in London including the Great Plague of 1664-65 and the Great Fire of 1666.
1776 – During the American Revolution, George Washington unveiled the Grand Union Flag, the first national flag in America.
1801 – Ireland was added to Great Britain by an Act of Union thus creating the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
1863 – The Emancipation Proclamation by President Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves in the states rebelling against the Union.
1877 – Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India.
1892 – Ellis Island in New York Harbor opened. Over 20 million new arrivals to America were processed until its closing in 1954.
1901 – The Commonwealth of Australia was founded as six former British colonies became six states with Edmund Barton as the first prime minister.
1915 – During World War I, the British Battleship Formidable was hit by a torpedo in the English Channel, killing 547 crewmen.
1942 – Twenty six countries signed the Declaration of the United Nations, in Washington, D.C., reaffirming their opposition to the Axis powers and confirming that no single nation would make a separate peace.
1958 – The EEC (European Economic Community) known as the Common Market was formed by Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and The Netherlands in order to remove trade barriers and coordinate trade policies.
1959 – Fidel Castro seized power in Cuba after leading a revolution that drove out Dictator Fulgencio Batista. Castro then established a Communist dictatorship.
1973 – Britain, Ireland and Denmark became members of the Common Market (EEC).
1975 – During the Watergate scandal, former top aides to President Nixon including former Attorney General John Mitchell, Domestic Affairs Advisor John Ehrlichman and Chief of Staff H.R. Haldeman, were found guilty of obstruction of justice.
1979 – China and the U.S. established diplomatic relations, 30 years after the foundation of the People’s Republic.
1993 – Czechoslovakia broke into separate Czech and Slovak republics.
1999 – Eleven European nations began using a new single European currency, the Euro, for electronic financial and business transactions. Participating countries included; Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Portugal and Spain.
Birthday – American Patriot Paul Revere (1735-1818) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Best known for his ride on the night of April 18, 1775, warning Americans of British plans to raid Lexington and Concord.
Birthday – Betsy Ross (1752-1836) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She was a seamstress credited with helping to originate and sew the Stars and Stripes flag of America in 1776.
1905 – The Russians surrendered to the Japanese after the Battle of Port Arthur during the Russian-Japanese War. A peace conference was later held in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, with President Theodore Roosevelt serving as a mediator. In September of 1905, the Russians agreed to the Treaty of Portsmouth yielding Port Arthur and the Liaodong Peninsula to Japan. Russia also agreed to evacuate Manchuria and recognize Japan’s interests in Korea.
1942 – During World War II in the Pacific, the Japanese captured the Philippines capital of Manila and the nearby air base at Cavite.
1960 – In Washington, D.C., Senator John F. Kennedy announced his intention to seek the Democratic presidential nomination.
1777 – During the American Revolution, General George Washington defeated the British at Princeton and drove them back toward New Brunswick. Washington then established winter quarters at Morristown, New Jersey. During the long harsh winter, Washington’s army shrank to about a thousand men as enlistments expired and deserters fled.
1924 – British Egyptologist Howard Carter found the sarcophagus of Tutankhamen in the Valley of the Kings near Luxor after several years of searching.
1946 – An Englishman known during World War II as “Lord Haw Haw” (William Joyce) was hanged for treason in London. Joyce had broadcast Nazi propaganda via radio from Germany to Britain during the war.
1959 – Alaska was admitted as the 49th U.S. state with a land mass almost one-fifth the size of the lower 48 states together.
1961 – President Dwight D. Eisenhower broke off diplomatic relations with Cuba two years after Communist dictator Fidel Castro had seized power and just weeks before John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as the next president.
1990 – Manuel Noriega, the deposed leader of Panama, surrendered to American authorities on charges of drug trafficking after spending 10 days hiding in the Vatican embassy following the U.S. invasion of Panama.
January 3, 1993 – President George Bush and Russian President Boris Yeltsin signed the Start-II (Strategic Arms Reduction Talks) Treaty, eliminating about two-thirds of each country’s long range nuclear weapons.
1790 – President George Washington delivered the first State of the Union address.
1974 – President Richard Nixon rejected subpoenas from the Senate Watergate Committee seeking audio tapes and related documents.
Birthday – Louis Braille (1809-1852) was born in France. Blinded as a boy, he later invented a reading system for the blind using punch marks in paper.
Birthday – Elizabeth Ann Seton (1774-1821) was born in New York. She became the first American Catholic Saint in 1975.
1919 – German Communists in Berlin led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht attempted to take over the government by seizing a number of buildings. However, ten days later, they were both assassinated by German soldiers.
1919 – The German Workers’ Party (Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) was founded by Anton Drexler in Munich. Adolf Hitler became member No. 7 and changed the name in April of 1920 to the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei) commonly shortened to Nazi or Nazi Party.
January 5, 1925 – Nellie Tayloe Ross of Wyoming became the first female governor inaugurated in the U.S.
January 5, 1968 – Alexander Dubcek became first secretary of Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party. He introduced liberal reforms known as “Communism with a human face” which resulted in Soviet Russian troops invading Prague to crack down.
1972 – President Richard Nixon signed a bill approving $5.5 billion over six years to build and test the NASA space shuttle.
1976 – In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge led by Pol Pot announced a new constitution which legalized the Communist government and renamed the country as Kampuchea. During the reign of Pol Pot, over 1 million persons died in “the killing fields” as he forced people out of the cities into the countryside to create an idyllic agrarian society. Educated and professional city people were especially targeted for murder and were almost completely annihilated. In January of 1979, the Pol Pot was overthrown by Cambodian rebels and Vietnamese troops.
Birthday – King Juan Carlos I of Spain was born in Rome on January 5, 1938. He was chosen by Francisco Franco to inherit his right-wing dictatorship and was sworn in as King on November 22, 1975, two days after Franco’s death. The new King then announced his intention to mold Spain into a broadly based democratic society.
1066 – Harold, Earl of Wessex, was crowned King of England following the death of his brother-in-law Edward the Confessor. Harold II was England’s last Anglo-Saxon king. In October of 1066, Harold met the invading army of William the Conqueror at Hastings and died on the field of battle.
1941 – President Franklin Roosevelt delivered his State of the Union address to Congress asking for support for the lend-lease program aiding Allies fighting the Axis powers. Roosevelt also defined four essential freedoms worth defending; freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.
1990 – Poland’s Communist Party disbanded and then reorganized as the Social Democratic Party, an opposition party to Solidarity.
Birthday – Joan of Arc (1412-1431) was born in France. After a series of mystic visitations by saints, she inspired French troops to break the British siege at Orleans and win several important victories during the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) between France and Britain. She was eventually captured and sold to the British who tried her for heresy and burned her at the stake. In 1920, Joan of Arc was canonized a saint by the Roman Catholic Church.
1714 – A patent was issued for the first typewriter designed by British inventor Henry Mill “for the impressing or transcribing of letters singly or progressively one after another, as in writing.”
1782 – The first U.S. commercial bank opened as the Bank of North America in Philadelphia.
1989 – Emperor Hirohito of Japan died after a long illness. He had ruled for 62 years and was succeeded by his son, Crown Prince Akihito.
1999 – The first presidential impeachment trial in 130 years began as members of the U.S. Senate were sworn in by Supreme Court Chief Justice William Rehnquist to decide whether President Clinton should be removed from office. House prosecutors had delivered two articles of impeachment charging Clinton with perjury and obstruction of justice.
Birthday – Millard Fillmore (1800-1874) the 13th U.S. President was born in a log cabin in Cayuga County, New York. He was a Whig who became president upon the sudden death of Zachary Taylor in 1850 from cholera. Best remembered for signing five bills concerning slavery known as the Compromise of 1850 which temporarily prevented civil war in the U.S. He was not re-nominated by his party.
1798 – The 11th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, preventing lawsuits against a state by anyone from another state or foreign nation.
1815 – The Battle of New Orleans occurred as General Andrew Jackson and American troops defended themselves against a British attack, inflicting over 2,000 casualties. Both sides in this battle were unaware that peace had been declared two weeks earlier with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812.
1918 – Amid the ongoing World War in Europe, President Woodrow Wilson proposed his Fourteen Points, calling for a reduction of arms, self determination for governments, and the creation of a League of Nations, all intended to serve as a basis for resolving the conflict and establishing a lasting peace in Europe.
January 8, 1959 – Charles de Gaulle took office as the first president of France’s Fifth Republic. De Gaulle had led the Free French government in exile during Nazi occupation. Following the war, he advocated a strong presidency to balance the powerful National Assembly. He was chosen to head the new government following years of political instability in which no French government was able to stay in power for more than a few months. On this day in 1966, he took office for a second term.
1964 – President Lyndon Johnson declared War on Poverty during his State of the Union message before Congress.
1982 – The American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) Company was broken up as a result of an antitrust suit. AT&T gave up 22 local Bell system companies, opening the U.S. telephone system to competition.
1987 – The Dow Jones industrial average first topped the 2,000 mark.
Birthday – Elvis Presley (1935-1977) was born in Tupelo, Mississippi.
1960 – With the first blast of dynamite, construction work began on the Aswan High Dam across the Nile River in southern Egypt. One third of the project’s billion-dollar cost was underwritten by Soviet Russia. The dam created Lake Nasser, one of the world’s largest reservoirs, at nearly 2,000 square miles and irrigated over 100,000 acres of surrounding desert. The dam was opened in January of 1971 by President Anwar Sadat of Egypt and President Nikolai Podgorny of the Soviet Union.
Birthday – Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994) the 37th U.S. President, was born in Yorba Linda, California. He served as vice president under Dwight D. Eisenhower from 1953-61, then made an unsuccessful run for the presidency, narrowly losing to John F. Kennedy. Nixon ran for governor of California in 1962 and lost. He then told reporters he was leaving politics. However, he re-emerged in 1968 and ran a successful presidential campaign against Hubert Humphrey. He won re-election by a landslide in 1972, but resigned two years later amid impeachment proceedings resulting from the Watergate scandal.
Birthday – Carrie Lane Chapman (1859-1947) was born in Ripon, Wisconsin. She was the women’s rights pioneer who founded the National League of Women Voters in 1919.
1776 – Common Sense, a fifty page pamphlet by Thomas Paine, was published. It sold over 500,000 copies in America and Europe, influencing, among others, the authors of the Declaration of Independence.
1861 – Florida became the third state to secede from the Union in events leading up to the American Civil War.
1863 – The world’s first underground railway service opened in London, the Metropolitan line between Paddington and Farringdon.
1878 – An Amendment granting women the right to vote was introduced in Congress by Senator A.A. Sargent of California. The amendment didn’t pass until 1920, forty-two years later.
1912 – The flying boat airplane, invented by Glenn Curtiss, made its first flight at Hammondsport, New York.
1920 – The League of Nations officially came into existence with the goal of resolving international disputes, reducing armaments, and preventing future wars. The first Assembly gathered in Geneva ten months later with 41 nations represented. More than 20 nations later joined, however, the U.S. did not join due to a lack of support for the League in Congress.
1922 – Arthur Griffith was elected president of the newly formed Irish Free State.
1946 – The first meeting of the United Nations General Assembly took place in London with delegates from 51 countries. The U.N. superseded its predecessor, the League of Nations.
1984 – The U.S. and Vatican established full diplomatic relations after a break of 116 years.
1861 – Alabama seceded from the Union in events leading to up the American Civil War.
1964 – The U.S. Surgeon General declared cigarettes may be hazardous to health, the first such official government report.
1990 – In Lithuania, 200,000 persons demanded political independence from Soviet Russia after Mikhail Gorbachev, leader of the Soviet Union, publicly warned that separatism could lead to tragedy. Independence was achieved in September of 1991, three months before the collapse of the Soviet Union itself.
Birthday – Alexander Hamilton (1755-1804) was born in the British West Indies. He was a founder of the United States who favored a strong central government and co-authored the Federalist Papers, a series of essays in defense of the new Constitution. He was selected by George Washington to be the first Secretary of the Treasury. He died from a gunshot wound received during a duel with Aaron Burr.
1879 – In Southern Africa, the Zulu War began between the British and the natives of Zululand, ultimately resulting in the destruction of the Zulu Empire.
1932 – Hattie W. Caraway, a Democrat from Arkansas, was appointed to the U.S. Senate to fill the term of her deceased husband. Later in the year, she became the first woman elected to the Senate.
1990 – Romania outlawed the Communist Party following the overthrow of Dictator Nicolae Ceauescu who had ruled for 24 years.
1991 – Congress authorized President George Bush to use military force against Iraq following its invasion of Kuwait.
1996 – The first joint American-Russian military operation since World War II occurred as Russian troops arrived to aid in peacekeeping efforts in Bosnia.
1999 – President Bill Clinton sent a check for $850,000 to Paula Jones officially ending the sensational sexual harassment legal case that ultimately endangered his presidency. The president withdrew $375,000 from his and Hillary Rodham Clinton’s personal funds and got the remaining $475,000 from an insurance policy. The lawsuit had exposed the president’s affair with Monica Lewinsky and resulted in investigations by Independent Counsel Ken Starr that led to Clinton’s impeachment by the House of Representatives and subsequent trial in the Senate.
Birthday – John Winthrop (1588-1649) was born in Suffolk, England. In 1630, he joined a group of Puritans emigrating to America and became the first governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, establishing a colony on the peninsula of Shawmut, which became Boston.
Birthday – Irish orator, politician and philosopher Edmund Burke (1729-1797) was born in Dublin. Best known for his essays and pamphlets including Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents (1770), On American Taxation (1774), On Conciliation with the Colonies (1775) and Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).
Birthday – American statesman and patriot John Hancock (1737-1793) was born in Braintree, Massachusetts. He was elected president of the Second Continental Congress in 1775, was the first signer of the Declaration of Independence, and went on to become the first elected governor of Massachusetts.
1893 – The British Independent Labor Party was founded with James Keir Hardie as its leader.
1898 – French author Emile Zola published J’Accuse, a letter accusing the French government of a cover-up in the Alfred Dreyfus case. Dreyfus had been convicted of treason for selling military secrets to the Germans and had been sent to Devil’s Island. As a result of Zola’s letter and subsequent trail, Dreyfus was completely vindicated.
1935 – The population of the Saar region bordering France and Germany voted for incorporation into Hitler’s Reich. The 737 square-mile area with its valuable coal deposits had been under French control following Germany’s defeat in World War I.
1990 – Douglas Wilder of Virginia became the first African American governor in the U.S. as he took the oath of office in Richmond.
Birthday – Author Horatio Alger (1834-1899) was born in Revere, Massachusetts. He wrote over 100 books for boys, many featuring “rags to riches” themes of poor boys triumphing over life’s obstacles.
January 14-23, 1943 – President Franklin Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill met at Casablanca in Morocco to work on strategy during World War II. At the conclusion of the conference, Roosevelt and Churchill held a joint news conference at which Roosevelt surprisingly announced that peace would come “by the total elimination of German and Japanese war power. That means the unconditional surrender of Germany, Italy and Japan.”
Birthday – Benedict Arnold (1741-1801) was born in Norwich, Connecticut. He was the American Revolutionary War hero who turned traitor, sending information to the British in exchange for money. After obtaining command of West Point in 1780, he conspired to turn over the garrison to the British. However, his plans were discovered and he fled to British headquarters in New York. After the war, he lived in England.
Birthday – Philosopher-physician Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965) was born in Upper Alsace, Germany. He served as a medical missionary in Africa and received the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize for his work on behalf of the brotherhood of all nations.
Birthday – American film pioneer Hal Roach (1892-1992) was born in Elmira, New York. His output included nearly 1,000 movies of all lengths, including the classic Laurel and Hardy comedies.
69 A.D. – Roman Emperor Servius Sulpicius Galba was assassinated by the Praetorian guard in the Roman Forum. He had succeeded Emperor Nero.
1535 – Henry VIII became Supreme Head of the Church in England as a result of the Act of Supremacy following his break with Rome.
1559 – Elizabeth Tudor, daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was crowned as Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey.
1870 – The first use of a donkey to symbolize the Democratic Party in America appeared in a cartoon in Harper’s Weekly, criticizing former secretary of war Edwin Stanton with the caption, “A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion.”
1973 – Golda Meir became the first Israeli Prime Minister to visit the Pope.
Birthday – Martin Luther King (1929-1968) was born in Atlanta, Georgia. As an African American civil rights leader he spoke eloquently and stressed nonviolent methods to achieve equality. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. In 1983, the third Monday in January was designated a legal holiday in the U.S. to celebrate his birthday.
January 16, 1547 – Ivan the Terrible had himself officially crowned as the first Russian Czar (Caesar) although he had already ruled Russia since 1533. His reign lasted until 1584 and brought much needed reforms including a new legal code and cultural development. However, during his reign he instituted a campaign of terror against the Russian nobility and had over 3,000 persons put to death. He also killed his own son during a fit of rage.
January 16, 1979 – The Shah of Iran departed his country amid mass demonstrations and the revolt of Islamic fundamentalists led by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The Shah had ruled Iran since 1941 and had unsuccessfully attempted to westernize its culture.
January 16, 1991 – The war against Iraq began as Allied aircraft conducted a major raid against Iraqi air defenses. The air raid on Baghdad was broadcast live to a global audience by CNN correspondents as operation Desert Shield became Desert Storm.
January 16, 1992 – The twelve-year civil war in El Salvador ended with the signing of a peace treaty in Mexico City. The conflict had claimed over 75,000 lives.
Birthday – French industrialist Andre Michelin (1853-1931) was born in Paris. He started the Michelin Tire Company in 1888, pioneering the use of pneumatic tires on autos.
1773 – The ship Resolution, sailing under Captain James Cook, became the first vessel to cross the Antarctic Circle.
1945 – During World War II, Warsaw, Poland, was liberated by Soviet Russian troops.
1966 – A Hydrogen bomb accident occurred over Palomares, Spain, as an American B-52 jet collided with its refueling plane. Eight crewmen were killed and the bomber then released its H-bomb into the Atlantic.
Birthday – Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. Considered the Elder Statesman of the American Revolution, he displayed multiple talents as a printer, author, publisher, philosopher, scientist, diplomat and philanthropist. He signed both the Declaration of Independence and the new U.S. Constitution.
Birthday – Muhammad Ali was born in Louisville, Kentucky, January 17, 1942 (as Cassius Clay). At age 22 in 1964, he knocked out Sonny Liston to win the world heavyweight boxing championship, shouting out “I shook up the world!” After converting to the Muslim religion, the boxing superstar became an outspoken conscientious objector (on religious grounds) to America’s escalating involvement in the Vietnam War and refused military duty upon being drafted. As a result, he was stripped of his boxing title, banned from boxing, and subsequently jailed. After a long legal battle, his conviction was reversed and he regained the championship in 1974 by defeating George Foreman. In the early 1980s, after retiring from boxing, Ali revealed his new struggle with Parkinson’s disease. However, he has remained active, devoting himself to various philanthropic and humanitarian causes.
1966 – Robert Clifton Weaver was sworn in as the first African American cabinet member in U.S. history, becoming President Lyndon B. Johnson’s Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.
Birthday – American orator and politician Daniel Webster (1782-1852) was born in Salisbury, New Hampshire. “Liberty and Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!” he stated in the U.S. Senate in 1830 in response to Southern Senators who contended that individual states had the right to refuse to obey Congress.
1966 – Indira Gandhi was elected prime minister of India in succession to Lal Shastri who had died eight days earlier. She served until 1975 and later from 1980 to 1984, when she was assassinated by her own bodyguards as she walked to her office. Her only surviving son, Rajiv, became the next prime minister. In 1991, he was assassinated while campaigning for reelection
1983 – Former Gestapo official Klaus Barbie, known as the “Butcher of Lyon,” was arrested in Bolivia, South America. He was responsible for deporting Jewish children from Lyon to Auschwitz where they were gassed. He also murdered French Resistance leader Jean Moulin and tortured others. He was exposed by Nazi hunters Serge and Beate Klarsfeld, extradited in 1987, then convicted by the French and died while in prison.
Birthday – Robert E. Lee (1807-1870) military leader of the Confederacy during the American Civil War, was born in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was the son of a Revolutionary War hero, a graduate of West Point and served in the U.S. Army for 25 years preceding the Civil War. At the outbreak of hostilities, he was offered command of the Union Army, but declined and instead accepted command of the military and naval forces of Virginia.
Birthday – Edgar Allen Poe (1809-1849) poet and writer of mystery and suspense tales, was born in Boston, Massachusetts. His works include; The Fall of the House of Usher, Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque, The Murders in the Rue Morgue and his famous poem The Raven.
1649 – At the conclusion of the English Civil War, King Charles I was brought before a high court of justice at Westminster Hall on charges of treason. The Civil War had been fought over whether the King’s power was absolute or was limited by the powers of Parliament. Oliver Cromwell had led the Parliamentary forces to victory over the Royals. In the trial that followed, Charles was found guilty and condemned as “a tyrant, traitor, murderer, and public enemy” and was beheaded several days later in front of Whitehall Palace in London.
1936 – King George V of England died at age 71. The grandson of Queen Victoria, he had reigned since 1910. He renamed his line as the House of Windsor, breaking his association with the family’s German line of descent. He was succeeded by his son King Edward VIII who abdicated in December and was succeeded by George VI.
1942 – During the Holocaust, Reinhard Heydrich, Himmler’s second in command of the SS, convened the Wannsee Conference in Berlin with 15 top Nazi bureaucrats to coordinate the Final Solution (Endlösung) in which the Nazis would attempt to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe, an estimated 11 million persons.
1945 – Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated to an unprecedented fourth term as president of the United States. He had served since 1933.
1981 – Ronald Reagan became president of the United States at the age of 69, the oldest president to take office. During his inauguration celebrations, he announced that 52 American hostages that had been seized in the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran, were being released after 444 days in captivity.
1996 – Yasir Arafat became the first democratically-elected leader of the Palestinian people with 88.1 percent of the vote.
1793 – In the aftermath of the French Revolution, King Louis XVI of France was guillotined on the charge of conspiring with foreign countries for the invasion of France. During the Revolution, the King had attempted to flee to Austria for assistance. Ten months later, his wife, Queen Marie Antoinette, was also guillotined.
1924 – Soviet Russian leader Vladimir Lenin died of a brain hemorrhage. He led the Bolsheviks to victory over the Czar in the October Revolution of 1917 and had then established the world’s first Communist government. Lenin’s body was placed in a tomb in Red Square in Moscow and was a much venerated national shrine until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
1954 – The USS Nautilus, the world’s first nuclear powered submarine, was launched at Groton, Connecticut.
1976 – The Concorde supersonic jet began passenger service with flights from London to Bahrain and Paris to Rio de Janeiro, cruising at twice the speed of sound (Mach 2) at an altitude up to 60,000 feet.
Birthday – Ethan Allen (1738-1789) was born in Litchfield, Connecticut. He was a hero of the American Revolution who led the small force that captured Fort Ticonderoga in New York without bloodshed in 1775. The fort contained much needed supplies and ammunition.
Birthday – Confederate Army General “Stonewall” Jackson (1824-1863) was born in Clarksburg, Virginia (as Thomas Jonathan Jackson). He was a West Point graduate who served in the Mexican War then resigned to teach at the Virginia Military Institute. He sided with the South and became a Brigadier General, earning his nickname at the first battle of Bull Run as his troops held firm while others wavered. “There is Jackson standing like a stone wall,” a fellow general commented. He was shot in 1863 by a Confederate lookout who had mistaken him in the dark. “I have lost my right arm,” lamented General Lee upon his death.
1901 – Queen Victoria of England died after reigning for 64 years, the longest reign in British history, during which England had become the most powerful empire in the world.
1905 – Five hundred protesting Russian workers were killed by the troops of Czar Nicholas II in St. Petersburg. The event became known as “Bloody Sunday” and marked the beginning of the violent revolutionary movement of 1905 which ultimately failed. A second revolutionary movement in 1917 succeeded and the Czar abdicated.
1943 – During World War II in the Pacific, Japanese resistance ended in New Guinea, resulting in the first land victory of the war for Allied forces.
1973 – Abortion became legal in the U.S. as the Supreme Court announced its decision in the case of Roe vs. Wade striking down local state laws restricting abortions in the first six months of pregnancy. In more recent rulings (1989 and 1992) the Court upheld the power of individual states to impose some restrictions.
Birthday – British essayist, philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon (1561-1626) was born in London. Best known for his philosophical works concerning the acquisition of knowledge; Novum Organum and The Advancement of Learning.
1849 – Elizabeth Blackwell was awarded her MD by the Medical Institute of Geneva, New York, thus becoming America’s first woman doctor.
1907 – Charles Curtis of Kansas became the first person of Native American ancestry to serve in the U.S Senate. He later served as vice president under President Herbert Hoover from 1929-33.
1937 – In Moscow, 17 leading Communists went on trial, accused of participating in a plot engineered by Leon Trotsky to overthrow Stalin’s regime and assassinate its leaders. After a seven-day trial, 13 of them were sentenced to death. Trotsky fled to Mexico where he was assassinated in 1940.
1943 – In North Africa, British forces under General Bernard Montgomery captured Tripoli in Libya.
1968 – The American ship USS Pueblo was seized by North Koreans in the Sea of Japan amid claims the Navy ship was spying. The ship was confiscated and its crew held in captivity until December, with one fatality.
Birthday – Russian film director Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948) was born in Riga, Latvia. He developed a new way of film making utilizing artistic montages (a series of arbitrary images) to deliver an emotional impact. Prior to him, most film makers showed scenes in strictly chronological sequences. His classic films include Potemkin, Alexander Nevsky, and Ivan the Terrible.
41 AD- Roman Emperor Caligula was assassinated at the Palatine Games by his own guard after a reign of just four years, noted for his madness and cruelty including arbitrary murder.
1848 – The California gold rush began with the accidental discovery of the precious metal near Coloma during construction of a Sutter’s sawmill. An announcement by President Polk later in the year caused a national sensation and resulted in a flood of “Forty-niners” seeking wealth.
1895 – Hawaii’s monarchy ended as Queen Liliuokalani was forced to abdicate. Hawaii was then annexed by the U.S. And remained a territory until statehood was granted in 1959.
1965 – Winston Churchill (1874-1965) died. He had been Britain’s wartime prime minister whose courageous leadership and defiant rhetoric had fortified the British during their long struggle against Hitler’s Germany. “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat,” he stated upon becoming prime minister at the beginning of the war. He called Hitler’s Reich a “monstrous tyranny, never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime.” Following the war, he coined the term “Iron Curtain” to describe the barrier between areas in Eastern Europe under Soviet Russia’s control and the free West.
1972 – Japanese soldier Shoichi Yokoi was discovered on Guam after he had spent 28 years hiding out in the jungle not knowing World War II had long since ended.
1533 – King Henry VIII married his second wife, Anne Boleyn, in defiance of Pope Clement who had refused to annul his first marriage. The King later broke all ties with Rome and became Supreme Head of the Church of England.
1579 – Holland, Zeeland, Utrecht, Gelderland, Friesland, Groningen and Overyssel formed the (Protestant) Dutch Republic with the signing of the Union of Utrecht to defend their rights against Catholic Spain.
1947 – Gangster Al Capone, who once controlled organized crime in Chicago, died in Miami at age 48 from syphilis.
1959 – An American Airlines Boeing 707 made the first scheduled transcontinental U.S. flight, traveling from California to New York.
1961 – President John F. Kennedy conducted the first live televised presidential news conference, five days after taking office.
1971 – In Uganda, a military coup led by Idi Amin deposed President Milton Obote. Amin then ruled as president-dictator until 1979 when he was ousted by Tanzanian soldiers and Ugandan nationalists. During his reign, Amin expelled all Asians from Uganda, and ordered the execution of more than 300,000 tribal Ugandans.
Birthday – Scientist Robert Boyle (1627-1691) was born in Lismore, Ireland. He formulated Boyle’s Law concerning the volume and pressure of gases.
1788 – The British established a settlement at Sydney Harbor in Australia as 11 ships with 778 convicts arrived, setting up a penal colony to relieve overcrowded prisons in England.
1943 – Nazis began using Hitler Youths to operate anti-aircraft batteries in Germany following heavy Allied bombing of Berlin and other cities.
1994 – Romania became the first former Cold War foe to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) following the collapse of the Soviet Union.
1998 – President Bill Clinton made an emphatic denial of charges that he had a sexual affair with Monica Lewinsky and had advised her to lie about it. “…I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky…”
Birthday – Douglas MacArthur (1880-1964) was born on a military base in Little Rock, Arkansas. He commanded Allied forces during World War II in the Pacific. In 1942, he uttered one of the most famous phrases of the war, “I shall return,” when forced to leave the Philippines due to the unchecked Japanese advance. In 1950, after war broke out in Korea, he became commander of the United Nations forces. However, disagreements with President Harry Truman over war policy resulted in his dismissal by Truman in April 1951. MacArthur then appeared before Congress and announced his retirement, declaring, “Old soldiers never die – they just fade away.”
1943 – The U.S. 8th Air Force conducted the first all-American bombing raid on Germany as 55 bombers targeted Wilhelmshaven, losing three planes while claiming to have shot down 22 German fighters. The success of this first mission encouraged U.S. military planners to begin regular daylight bombing raids, which eventually resulted in high casualty rates for the American crewmen involved.
1944 – Russian Army General Govorov announced the lifting of the Nazi blockade of Leningrad. During the 900-day siege, an estimated one million Russian civilians inside the city died of disease, starvation and relentless German shelling.
1945 – The Russian Army liberated Auschwitz death camp near Krakow in Poland, where the Nazis had systematically murdered an estimated 2,000,000 persons, including 1,500,000 Jews.
1967 – Three American astronauts were killed as a fire erupted inside Apollo 1 during a launch simulation test at Cape Kennedy, Florida.
1973 – U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War ended as North Vietnamese and American representatives signed an agreement in Paris. The U.S. agreed to remove all remaining troops within 60 days thus ending the longest war in American history. Over 58,000 Americans had been killed, 300,000 wounded and 2,500 declared missing. A total of 566 prisoners-of-war had been held by the North Vietnamese during the war, with 55 reported deaths.
Birthday – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was born in Salzburg, Austria. From the age of five, through his untimely death at age 35, this musical genius created over 600 compositions including 16 operas, 41 symphonies, 27 piano and five violin concerti, 25 string quartets, 19 masses, and many other works.
Birthday – British novelist Lewis Carroll (1832-1898) was born in Daresbury, Cheshire, England (as Charles Lutwidge Dodgson). Best known for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. He also lectured in mathematics and was a pioneering photographer.
Birthday – Labor leader Samuel Gompers (1850-1924) was born in London. He emigrated to America at age 13, worked in a cigar factory, eventually becoming head of the Cigar Workers’ Union. He later brought together several national unions under the name American Federation of Labor and became its first president.
Birthday – German Kaiser Wilhelm II (1859-1941) was born. He was a grandson of England’s Queen Victoria and ruled Germany from 1888 through World War I. Although he had military training, he left conduct of the war mainly in the hands of Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Erich von Ludendorff. In 1918, amid the defeat of Germany, he abdicated and fled to the Netherlands where he lived in seclusion until his death. He was given a military funeral by Hitler.
1547 – King Henry VIII of England died and was succeeded by his son, Edward VI. Henry had ruled since 1509 and had broken all ties with the Roman Catholic Church over the issue of divorce. He married a total of six times. Edward VI was the son of his third wife, Jane Seymour. Edward became king at age 10, but died of tuberculosis at age 16. He was followed by his half-sister, Mary.
1871 – The Franco-Prussian War ended as Paris surrendered to the Germans after a four month siege. Peace terms imposed on the French included yielding the greater part of Alsace and Lorraine to the Germans and a $1 billion fine. German troops also outraged the French by marching triumphantly through the streets of Paris causing enmity between the two nations which lasted for decades.
1915 – The U.S. Coast Guard was created by an Act of Congress, combining the Life Saving Service and the Revenue Cutter Service.
1935 – Iceland became the first country to legalize abortion.
1963 – African American student Harvey Gantt entered Clemson College in South Carolina, the last state to hold out against integration.
1986 – The U.S. Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 74 seconds into its flight, killing seven persons, including Christa McAuliffe, a teacher who was to be the first ordinary citizen in space.
Birthday – Explorer Henry Stanley (1841-1904) was born in Wales. As a newspaper correspondent for the New York Herald, he was given the challenging assignment of finding missionary-explorer David Livingston in Africa. Upon locating Livingston near Lake Tanganyika in 1871 after an exhausting search, Stanley simply asked, “Dr. Livingston, I presume?”
1891 – Hawaii proclaimed Liliuokalani as its queen. Renowned for her song Aloha Oe, she had a reign of only four years until she was forced to abdicate in 1895 under pressure from powerful businessmen.
1916 – During World War I, the first aerial bombings of Paris by German zeppelins took place.
1919 – The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (Prohibition Amendment) was ratified. For nearly 14 years, until December 5, 1933, the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages were illegal in the United States. The Amendment had the unexpected result of causing enormous growth of organized crime which provided bootleg liquor to thirsty Americans.
Birthday – Common Sense author Thomas Paine (1737-1809) was born in Thetford, England. His pamphlet, published in 1776, provided inspiration to undecided Americans that a new nation, independent from Britain, might eventually become “…an asylum for mankind!” He served in the Continental Army and observed the hardships of American troops fighting the world’s most powerful army. He then published The Crisis series pamphlets which began by stating, “These are the times that try men’s souls.” He refused to accept the profits from his writings and wound up destitute after the Revolution.
Birthday – William McKinley (1843-1901) the 25th U.S. President was born in Niles, Ohio. He was elected in 1896 and re-elected in 1900. Early in his second term, on September 6, 1901, he was shot and mortally wounded by an anarchist at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, New York, and died eight days later.
Birthday – Russian playwright Anton Chekhov (1860-1904) was born in Taganrog, Russia. His works included Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard.
1649 – King Charles I of England was beheaded for treason by order of Parliament under the direction of Oliver Cromwell, leader of the Puritan Revolution.
1835 – President Andrew Jackson survived the first assassination attempt on a U.S. President. While leaving the House of Representatives Chamber, an insane would-be assassin fired two pistol shots at him, however both pistols misfired and the president was unharmed.
1933 – Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany by President Paul von Hindenburg. Hitler went on to become the sole leader of Nazi Germany. He then waged a war of expansion in Europe, precipitating the deaths of an estimated 50 million persons through military conflict and through the Holocaust in which the Nazis attempted to exterminate the entire Jewish population of Europe.
1948 – Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated in New Delhi, India, by a religious fanatic. Gandhi had ended British rule in India through nonviolent resistance. “Non-violence is not a garment to be put on and off at will. Its seat is in the heart, and it must be an inseparable part of our very being,” he had stated in 1926.
1968 – Beginning of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam as North Vietnamese troops attacked 36 provincial capitals and 5 major cities in South Vietnam, including an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and the presidential palace. Although U.S. forces eventually fended off the massive surprise attack and achieved a military victory, Tet became a propaganda victory for the Vietnamese due in part to graphic news reports on television which helped turn U.S. public opinion against continuation of the war.
1972 – In Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 13 Roman Catholics were killed by British troops during a banned civil rights march. The event became known as Bloody Sunday.
1973 – During the Watergate scandal, Gordon Liddy and James McCord were convicted of burglary, wire-tapping and attempted bugging of the Democratic headquarters inside the Watergate building in Washington, D.C.
1992 – Argentina allowed access to numerous files of Nazis who had fled to South America from Germany after World War II, thus aiding the hunt for Nazi war criminals.
Birthday – Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) the 32nd U.S. President was born in Hyde Park, New York. Despite crippling polio, he led America out of the Great Depression and through World War II and is widely considered to be one of America’s three greatest presidents (along with Washington and Lincoln). “When peace has been broken anywhere, the peace of all countries is in danger,” he stated in 1939.
1943 – German troops surrendered at Stalingrad, marking the first big defeat of Hitler’s armies in World War II. During the Battle of Stalingrad, 160,000 Germans were killed and 90,000 taken prisoner, including the commander, Friedrich von Paulus, the first German field marshal ever to surrender. The captured Germans were forced to march to Siberia, with few ever returning to Germany.
1945 – Eddie Slovik, a 24-year-old U.S. Army private, was executed by a firing squad after being sentenced to death for desertion, the first such occurrence in the U.S. Army since the Civil War.
Birthday – Jackie Robinson (1919-1972) was born in Cairo, Georgia. He was the first African American to play professional baseball. He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1956, was chosen as the National League’s most valuable player in 1949 and elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1962.
(Photo and picture credits: Library of Congress and U.S. National Archives)