The History Place - This Month in History
December

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December 1

December 1, 1640 - A nationalist revolution in Portugal led to independence from Spain as the Spanish garrisons were driven out of Portugal.

December 1, 1822 - Dom Pedro, founder of the Brazilian Empire, was crowned as the first emperor of Brazil.

December 1, 1918 - Iceland was granted independence by the Danish parliament.

December 1, 1919 - Lady Nancy Astor became the first woman in the British House of Commons.

December 1, 1925 - The Locarno Treaties were signed by France, Belgium and Germany, as a preventitive measure to avoid another war, in the aftermath of World War I. Terms of the Locarno Pact were guaranteed by Britain and Italy.

December 1, 1941 - The American Civil Air Patrol (CAP), a U.S. Air Force auxiliary, was founded as Director of Civilian Defense, former New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, signed the formal order. The CAP currently provides aerospace education, a CAP cadet program, and emergency services such as locating missing aircraft.

December 1, 1942 - The Beveridge Report was published in Britain envisioning the welfare state including insurance for the entire population.

December 1, 1955 - The birth of the modern American civil rights movement occurred as Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat to a white man and move to the back section of a municipal bus. Her arrest resulted in a year-long boycott of the city bus system by African Americans and led to legal actions ending racial segregation on municipal buses throughout the South.

December 1, 1988 - Benazir Bhutto was nominated to become prime minister of Pakistan, the first woman to govern a Muslim nation.

December 1, 1989 - Mikhail Gorbachev became the first Soviet Russian leader to visit the Vatican and meet the Pope, thus ending 72 years of strict atheist policy in Communist Russia.

December 1, 1990 - England was connected to mainland Europe for the first time since the Ice Age as engineers digging a railway tunnel under the English Channel broke through the last rock layer.

December 1, 1994 - The head of the U.N. Commission on Rwanda estimated 500,000 deaths had resulted from genocide.

December 2

December 2, 1804 - Napoleon Bonaparte was crowned Emperor of France by Pope Pius VII in Paris.

December 2, 1805 - Napoleon defeated Russia and Austria in the Battle of Austerlitz.

December 2, 1823 - President James Monroe introduced his "Monroe Doctrine" during his annual message to the Congress, prohibiting any further colonization of the American continents by European powers, stating, "we should consider any attempt on their part to extend their system to any portion of this hemisphere as dangerous to our peace and safety..."

December 2, 1852 - The Second Empire was proclaimed in France with Napoleon III as emperor.

December 2, 1859 - Abolitionist leader John Brown was executed for treason at Charles Town, West Virginia, following his raid on the U.S. Arsenal at Harper's Ferry.

December 2, 1942 - Physicists led by Enrico Fermi carried out the world's first successful nuclear chain reaction at the University of Chicago.

December 2, 1954 - The U.S. Senate condemned Senator Joseph McCarthy for misconduct following his ruthless investigations of thousands of alleged Communists.

December 2, 1971 - The United Arab Emirates was formed, consisting of seven Arab kingdoms on the eastern coast of the Arabian Peninsula including the former Trucial states Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm al Qaiwain and Fujairah. Ras al-Khaimah became a member in 1972. The area has some of the world's largest reserves of petroleum and natural gas.

December 2, 1979 - Electors in Iran voted overwhelmingly in favor of a new constitution granting absolute power to Ayatollah Khomeini.

December 2, 1982 - The first permanent artificial heart was implanted in 61-year-old Barney C. Clark by Dr. William De Vries at the University of Utah Medical Center in Salt Lake City. Clark, who was near death at the time of the operation, survived 112 days after the implantation.

Birthday - French painter Georges Seurat (1859-1891) was born in Paris. He was a leader in the neo-impressionist movement of the late 19th Century.

December 3

December 3, 1931 - British dominions gained complete legislative independence as the Statute of Westminster gave equal status to the dominions of Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, and Newfoundland.

December 3, 1962 - Edith Sampson was sworn in as the first African American female judge, after she was elected associate judge of the Municipal Court in Chicago.

December 3, 1967 - The first successful heart transplant was performed by Dr. Christiaan Barnard at Cape Town, South African, on Louis Washkansky, who lived for 18 days.

December 3, 1984 - A deadly gas leak (of methyl isocyanate) at a Union Carbide plant in Bhopal, India, killed at least 3,000 persons and injured more than 200,000.

December 3, 1993 - Britain's Princess Diana announced she was stepping out of the public spotlight, desiring more privacy amid unyielding attention from the tabloid press and 'paparazzi.'

Birthday - American portrait painter Charles Stuart (1755-1828) was born near Narragansett, Rhode Island. Best known for his portraits of George Washington, James Madison, James Monroe, and Thomas Jefferson.

Birthday - Polish novelist Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) was born in the Ukraine (as Josef Teodor Konrad Korzeniowski). Although he could speak no English at age 20, he went on to become an outstanding novelist, best known for his tales of seafaring life including Heart of Darkness and Lord Jim.

December 4

December 4, 1791 - The Observer, now the oldest Sunday newspaper in the world, was first published in Britain.

December 4, 1829 - The British banned the practice of "suttee" in India in which Indian females traditionally burned themselves to death on their husband's funeral pyre.

December 4, 1918 - The Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes was proclaimed.

December 4, 1943 - During World War II, the second Cairo Conference took place, attended by Prime Minister Churchill, President Roosevelt and President Inonu of Turkey.

December 4, 1991 - The last American hostage held in Lebanon was released. Journalist Terry Anderson of the Associated Press had been kidnapped on March 16, 1985 and held for 2,454 days by Islamic Jihad (Holy War) captors. He was one of 15 Americans held hostage for periods ranging from two months to more than six years. Three of the hostages; William Buckley, Peter Kilburn and Lieutenant Colonel William Higgins, were killed during their captivity. The others were released one or two at a time.

Birthday - Scottish essayist and historian Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) was born in the village of Ecclefechan, Scotland. He wrote a three volume history of the French Revolution. Other works included; Heroes and Hero-Worship, Life and Letters of Oliver Cromwell and Frederick the Great.

December 5 Return to Top of Page

December 5, 1492 - Haiti was discovered by Christopher Columbus.

December 5, 1791 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died a pauper at age 35 in Vienna, Austria. He had become seriously ill and rapidly declined, leading to speculation that he had been poisoned, although this was later proven false. During his brief life, he created over 600 musical compositions and is widely considered one of the finest composers who ever lived.

December 5, 1876 - President Ulysses S. Grant delivered a speech of apology to Congress claiming mistakes he made as president were "errors of judgment, not intent."

December 5, 1933 - The 18th Amendment (Prohibition Amendment) to the U.S. Constitution was repealed. For nearly 14 years, since January 29, 1920, it had outlawed the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages in the U.S.

December 5, 1955 - In Alabama, the Montgomery bus boycott began in response to the arrest of Rosa Parks for refusing to give up her seat on a municipal bus to a white man. Organized by the African American community, the boycott lasted until December 20, 1956, when a U.S. Supreme Court ruling integrated the public transportation system.

December 5, 1955 - The AFL-CIO was founded after two separate labor organizations, the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations, joined together following 20 years of rivalry, thus becoming the leading advocate for trade unions in the U.S.

Birthday - Martin van Buren (1782-1862) the 8th U.S. President was born in Kinderhook, New York. He was the first President who was born a citizen of the United States. He served from March 4, 1837 to March 3, 1841.

Birthday - George Armstrong Custer was born in New Rumley, Harrison County, Ohio. He graduated from West Point at the bottom of his class in 1861, then became a dashing cavalry officer in the Civil War and fought at Bull Run. He was appointed brigadier general and served gallantly at Gettysburg and in the Virginia campaigns. After the war, he took part in the Western expedition against the Sioux Indians. In June of 1867, Custer and over 200 of his soldiers from the U.S. 7th Cavalry were killed by Sioux warriors at Little Bighorn in Montana.

Birthday - Walt Disney (1901-1966) was born in Chicago, Illinois. As a little boy, he liked to draw farm animals and eventually got a job as an artist. He moved to Hollywood and in 1928 produced Steamboat Willie, starring Mickey Mouse, in the first cartoon with synchronized sound. In 1937, he released his full length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. He opened the Disneyland amusement park in Anaheim, California, in 1955. Five years after his death, Disney World opened in Florida. The company he founded has since grown into a global entertainment empire.

December 6

December 6, 1492 - The island of Hispaniola was discovered by Christopher Columbus. Today the island is divided between Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

December 6, 1865 - The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, abolishing slavery.

December 6, 1877 - At his laboratory in West Orange, New Jersey, Thomas Edison spoke the children's verse "Mary had a Little Lamb..." while demonstrating his newly invented phonograph which utilized a revolving cylinder wrapped in tinfoil to record sounds.

December 6, 1917 - Two ships collided at Halifax, Nova Scotia, resulting in an explosion that killed more than 1,500 persons and injured 8,000. The Norwegian ship Imo collided with the French munitions ship Mont Blanc which was loaded with supplies for the war in Europe, including 5,000 tons of TNT. A tidal wave caused by the explosion destroyed much of the city.

December 6, 1921 - The Irish Free State became an independent member of the British Commonwealth.

December 6, 1971 - The Democratic Republic of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, was recognized by India. Pakistan then broke off diplomatic relations with India.

December 6, 1973 - Gerald Ford was sworn in as vice president under Richard Nixon following the resignation of Spiro Agnew who pleaded no contest to charges of income tax evasion.

December 6, 1978 - In Spain, a new constitution was approved by referendum, providing for a constitutional monarchy and a parliamentary form of government.

Birthday - American poet Alfred Joyce Kilmer (1886-1918) was born in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Best known for his poem Trees, published in 1913. He was killed in action during World War I near Ourcy, France. The U.S. Army's Camp Kilmer was named in his honor.

Birthday - American lyricist Ira Gershwin (1896-1983) was born in New York City. He collaborated with his brother George to create many Broadway successes including; Lady Be Good, Funny Face, Strike Up the Band, and songs such as The Man I Love, Someone to Watch Over Me, and I Got Rhythm.

Birthday - Photojournalist Alfred Eisenstaedt (1898-1995) was born in Dirschau, Prussia. Best known for his Life magazine cover photos, including the sailor kissing a nurse in Time's Square, celebrating the end of World War II.

December 7

December 7, 43 B.C. - Cicero (Marcus Tullius) died. He was a writer, statesman, and was considered ancient Rome's greatest orator.

December 7, 1787 - Delaware became the first state to adopt the new constitution of the United States of America.

December 7, 1941 - The U.S. Naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by nearly 200 Japanese aircraft in a raid that lasted just over one hour and left nearly 3,000 Americans dead.

Birthday - Wax modeler Marie Tussaud (1761-1850) was born in Bern, Switzerland. She established Madame Tussaud's waxworks in London in 1802 and later added a Chamber of Horrors.

December 8

December 8, 1940 - During the Blitz, the House of Commons and Tower of London were seriously damaged amid an overnight air raid by German bombers on London.

December 8, 1941 - A day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the United States and Britain declared war on Japan.

December 8, 1980 - Former Beatle musician John Lennon was assassinated in New York City.

December 8, 1987 - President Ronald Reagan and Soviet Russia's General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty eliminating all intermediate-range and shorter-range nuclear missiles.

December 8, 1991 - The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) ceased to exist, as the leaders of Russia, Byelorussia and the Ukraine signed an agreement creating the Commonwealth of Independent States. The remaining republics of the former USSR, with the exception of Georgia, joined the new Commonwealth.

Birthday - Cotton gin inventor Eli Whitney (1765-1825) was born in Westboro, Massachusetts. His invention used comb-like teeth to remove seeds from harvested cotton and had a tremendous impact on the economy of the South. By 1800, cotton production increased from about 3,000 bales a year to 73,000. He also developed the concept of mass production of interchangeable parts and the assembly line.

Birthday - General Motors founder William C. "Billy" Durant (1861-1947) was born in Boston, Massachusetts.

Birthday - Mexican artist Diego Rivera (1886-1957) was born in Guanajuato, Mexico. He created large works for display in the U.S. which aroused controversy due to his political point of view as a Communist. In 1933, his fresco Man at the Crossroads was removed from Rockefeller Center in New York City amid claims it included a figure resembling Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin. A year earlier, a mural done for the Detroit Institute of Arts had been criticized as irreligious. Following these controversies, he was denied further commissions in the U.S., although his work remained popular in Mexico.

Birthday - American humorist and artist James Thurber (1894-1961) was born in Columbus, Ohio. Best known for The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

December 9

December 9, 1941 - During World War II, China issued a formal declaration of war against Japan, Germany and Italy.

December 9, 1948 - The United Nations General Assembly unanimously approved the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. It took effect on January 12, 1951, following ratification by 20 member nations.

December 9, 1958 - The John Birch Society was founded in the U.S. by Robert H.W. Welch as an anti-Communist political organization named for Capt. John Birch, a U.S. Army officer killed in 1945 by Chinese Communists.

December 9, 1990 - Lech Walesa won a landslide victory in the Polish presidential election.

December 9, 1992 - Buckingham Palace announced the separation of Prince Charles and Princess of Wales, Dianna.

December 9, 1993 - A five-day repair job in space on the $3 billion Hubble Space Telescope was finished by U.S. astronauts.

December 9, 1994 - Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army's political wing, held its first formal talks with Britain in over 70 years.

December 9, 1998 - Swiss politicians elected Interior Minister Ruth Dreifuss as president, making her the first woman to lead the Swiss government.

Birthday - British poet John Milton (1608-1674) was born in London. Considered second only to Shakespeare in importance, his works include; Paradise Lost, Paradise Regained, Samson Agonistes, the pamphlets Of Reformation Touching Church Discipline, The Doctrine and Discipline of Divorce, The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates and Pro Populo Anglicano.

Birthday - American industrialist Clarence Birdseye (1886-1956) was born in Brooklyn, New York. He developed a method of deep-freezing foods and was one of the founders of General Foods Corp.

December 10 Return to Top of Page

December 10, 1896 - Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel died at San Remo, Italy. His will stipulated that income from his $9 million estate be used for awards recognizing persons who have made valuable contributions to humanity. Nobel recipients are chosen by a committee of the Norwegian parliament. Prizes for Peace, Physics, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Economics are presented annually in a ceremony in Stockholm, Sweden, on the anniversary of his death. Each prize is valued at about $1 million.

December 10, 1898 - The Treaty of Paris was signed between American and Spanish representatives following Spain's defeat in the Spanish-American War. Under the treaty, the U.S. gained the Philippine Islands, the islands of Guam and Puerto Rico, and an agreement by Spain to withdraw from Cuba. The treaty passed by a single vote in the U.S. Senate on February 6, 1899, and was signed by President William McKinley four days later.

December 10, 1941 - During World War II, British Battleships Repulse and Prince of Wales were sunk by Japanese warplanes in the South China Sea, killing nearly 800 crewmen.

December 10, 1948 - The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

December 10, 1950 - Dr. Ralph Bunche became the first African American man awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, for his efforts in mediation between Israel and nearby Arab states the previous year.

December 10, 1989 - The first non-Communist government since 1948 assumed power in Czechoslovakia.

Birthday - Educator Thomas Gallaudet (1787-1851) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He co-founded the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1817.

Birthday - Poet Emily Dickinson (1830-1886) was born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Her poetry became known only after her death when her sister discovered nearly 2,000 poems locked in her bureau, written on the backs of envelopes and scraps of paper. They were published gradually over the next 50 years, beginning in 1890.

Birthday - American librarian Melvil Dewey (1851-1931) was born in Adams Center, New York. He invented the Dewey decimal book classification system, advocated spelling reform, and urged use of the metric system.

December 11

December 11, 1845 - The first Anglo-Sikh War in India began as the Sikhs attacked British colonial forces. The Sikhs were defeated after four battles. Part of the Punjab region of northwestern India was then annexed by the British.

December 11, 1901 - The first transatlantic radio signal was transmitted by Guglielmo Marconi from Cornwall, England, to St. John's, Newfoundland.

December 11, 1936 - King Edward VIII abdicated the throne of England to marry "the woman I love," a twice-divorced American named Wallis Warfield Simpson. They were married in France on June 3, 1937, and then lived in Paris.

December 11, 1941 - A major turning point in World War II occurred as Japan's Axis partners, Italy and Germany, both declared war on the United States. The U.S. Congress immediately declared war on them. President Roosevelt then made the defeat of Hitler the top priority, devoting nearly 90 percent of U.S. military resources to the war in Europe.

December 11, 1994 - Russia sent tanks and troops into Chechnya to end the rebel territory's three-year drive for independence.

December 11, 1998 - The House Judiciary Committee approved three articles of impeachment charging President Bill Clinton with perjury and obstruction of justice.

Birthday - New York Mayor Fiorello H. LaGuardia (1882-1947) was born in New York City. A beloved, gregarious politician, "The Little Flower" (the meaning of Fiorello) served as a U.S. Congressman and was then elected three times as mayor of New York City beginning in 1933. He was a liberal Republican who supported organized labor, women's rights and child labor laws. As mayor of New York, he reformed the city government and battled corruption, but kept his sense of humor. "When I make a mistake it's a beaut!" he once joked.

December 12

December 12, 1870 - Joseph Hayne Rainey of Georgetown, South Carolina, became the first African American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. He filled a seat which had been declared vacant by the House and served until 1879.

December 12, 1998 - The House Judiciary Committee approved a fourth and final article of impeachment against President Bill Clinton, charging him with making false statements in his answers to written questions from Congress.

Birthday - American statesman John Jay (1745-1829) was born in New York City. He was a diplomat and the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. He co-wrote (with Alexander Hamilton and James Madison) the Federalist Papers.

Birthday - Abolitionist William LLoyd Garrison (1805-1879) was born in Newburyport, Massachusetts. He founded the Liberator anti-slavery newspaper in 1831 and published it for the next fifty years. He also traveled throughout America delivering scathing antislavery speeches, even advocating that the North should secede from the South. In 1854, he burned a copy of the U.S. Constitution, declaring, "So perish all compromises with tyranny!"

Birthday - French author Gustave Flaubert (1821-1880) was born in Rouen. Best known for the novel Madame Bovary, a tale of a woman's revolt against middle class society.

December 13

December 13, 1545 - The Council of Trent, summoned by Pope Paul III, met to discuss doctrinal matters including the rise of Protestantism.

December 13, 1577 - Francis Drake departed Plymouth, England, in the Golden Hind on his voyage around the world.

December 13, 1642 - New Zealand was discovered by Dutch navigator Abel Tasman of the Dutch East India Company.

December 13, 1862 - During the American Civil War, the Battle of Fredericksburg occurred in Virginia as the Union Army of the Potomac under General Burnside suffered a costly defeat, losing 12,653 men after 14 frontal assaults on well entrenched Rebels on Marye's Heights. "We might as well have tried to take hell," a Union soldier remarked. Confederate losses were 5,309. "It is well that war is so terrible - we should grow too fond of it," stated Confederate General Robert E. Lee during the fighting.

December 13, 1937 - The beginning of one of the worst atrocities of World War II as the Chinese city of Nanking (Nanjing) was captured by the Japanese. Over the next six weeks, the Rape of Nanking occurred in which Japanese soldiers randomly attacked, raped and indiscriminately killed an estimated 200,000 Chinese persons.

December 13, 1981 - In its struggle to maintain Communism, the Polish government imposed martial law and took steps to stifle the growing power of the pro-democratic trade union Solidarity.

December 13, 1991 - North and South Korea signed a treaty of reconciliation and nonaggression which also formally ended the Korean War, although actual fighting had ceased in 1953.

Birthday - German writer Heinrich Heine (1797-1856) was born in Dusseldorf. Best known for his statement made a hundred years before the advent of book-burning Nazis in Germany - "Where books are burned, human beings are destined to be burned too."

Birthday - Mary Todd (1818-1882) was born in Lexington, Kentucky. She became the wife of Abraham Lincoln, the 16th U.S. President.

Birthday - American clergyman and composer Phillips Brooks (1835-1893) was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He wrote the lyrics for the popular Christmas Carol, O Little Town of Bethlehem.

December 14

December 14, 1799 - George Washington died at Mount Vernon.

December 14, 1861 - In Britain, Prince Albert died of typhoid at Windsor Castle. He was the consort and husband of Queen Victoria of England. Following his death, the Queen went into an extended period of mourning.

December 14, 1911 - Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first person to reach the South Pole.

December 14, 1918 - British women voted for the first time in a general election and were allowed to run for office.

December 14, 1927 - Britain recognized independent Iraq and supported Iraqi admission to the League of Nations.

December 14, 1935 - Thomas Masaryk, founder and first president of the Czechoslovak Republic, resigned and was succeeded by Edvard Benes.

December 14, 1939 - The League of Nations expelled Soviet Russia for its aggression against Finland.

December 14, 1962 - The Mariner II space probe sent back information from the planet Venus, the first information ever received from another planet.

December 14, 1995 - A Bosnian peace treaty was signed in Paris by leaders from the former Yugoslavia. The treaty ended Europe's worst conflict since World War II.

Birthday - French physician Nostradamus (1503-1566) was born in St. Remy, Provence, France (as Michel de Notredame). He wrote astrological predictions in rhymed quatrains, believed by many to foretell the future.

Birthday - World War II General James Doolittle (1896-1993) was born in Alameda, California. On April 18, 1942, he led a squadron of B-25 bombers launched from the aircraft carrier Hornet to conduct the first American air raid of the war against mainland Japan. He also headed the Eighth Air Force during the Normandy invasion and was awarded the Medal of Honor.

December 15 Return to Top of Page

December 15, 1791 - The Bill of Rights (first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution) became effective following ratification by Virginia.

December 15, 1840 - Napoleon was buried in Les Invalides in Paris. He had died in exile on the island of Saint Helena after his fall from power.

December 15, 1890 - Sioux leader Sitting Bull (native name Tatanka-yatanka) was killed in a skirmish with U.S. soldiers along the Grand River in South Dakota as his warriors tried to prevent his arrest.

December 15, 1939 - Gone with the Wind had its world premiere in Atlanta, introduced by producer David O. Selznick and featuring appearances by Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable.

December 15, 1943 - The Battle of San Pietro took place during World War II as a German panzer battalion devastated American forces trying to take the 700-year-old Italian village. Hollywood director John Huston, serving as an army lieutenant, filmed the battle and left behind a graphic account.

December 15, 1961 - Nazi SS-Colonel Adolf Eichmann was sentenced to death in Jerusalem for his role in the Holocaust. Eichmann had organized the deportation of Jews from all over occupied Europe to Nazi death camps.

December 15, 1964 - Canada adopted a new national flag featuring a red maple leaf on a white background.

December 15, 1989 - The dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet ended in Chile. Pinochet had come to power in 1973 after a military overthrow of the democratically elected government.

December 15, 1993 - The GATT (General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade) Treaty was approved by delegations from 117 countries. The treaty was designed to reduce international tariffs, eliminate trade quotas, and protect intellectual property.

December 15, 1995 - European Union leaders announced their new currency would be known as the Euro.

Birthday - French engineer Alexandre Eiffel (1832-1923) was born in Dijon, France. He designed the Eiffel Tower for the Paris International Exposition of 1889. He also helped design the Statue of Liberty.

December 16

December 16, 1653 - Following the defeat of King Charles I in the English Civil War, Oliver Cromwell, leader of the Parliamentary forces, was declared Lord Protector of England.

December 16, 1773 - The Boston Tea Party occurred as colonial activists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded British ships anchored in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 containers of expensive tea into the water.

December 16, 1835 - A massive fire erupted in New York City, destroying more than 600 buildings, causing an estimated $20 million in damages.

December 16, 1944 - American big-band leader Glenn Miller disappeared in a small plane over the English Channel and was presumably killed. Best remembered for Moonlight Serenade and In the Mood.

December 16, 1944 - During World War II in Europe, the Battle of the Bulge began as the Germans launched a big counter-offensive in the Ardennes Forest along a 75-mile front, taking American troops by surprise. Aided by foggy, snowy weather, the Germans penetrated 65 miles into Allied lines by the end of December. The German advance was eventually halted by Montgomery on the Meuse and Patton at Bastogne. As the weather cleared, Allied aircraft attacked German ground forces and supply lines and the counter-offensive failed. There were an estimated 77,000 Allied and 130,000 German casualties.

December 16, 1969 - The British House of Commons voted 343-185 to abolish the death penalty in England.

December 16, 1991 - The United Nations voted to revoke Resolution 3379, originally approved on November 10, 1975, which had equated Zionism (a movement supporting the Jewish national state of Israel) with racism.

Birthday - Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) was born in Bonn, Germany. He created powerful, emotional music and is widely consider the greatest orchestral composer who ever lived. He suffered from hearing loss before he was 30 and by the time of his last (Ninth) symphony, he was completely deaf. In 1824, he conducted the Ninth Symphony at its world premier in Vienna although he was unable to hear either the orchestra or the applause. In all, he composed nine symphonies, 32 piano sonatas, five piano concerti, 17 string quartets, ten sonatas for violin and piano, the opera Fidelio, the Mass in C Major, Missa Solemnis, and other chamber music.

Birthday - British novelist Jane Austen (1775-1817) was born in Hampshire, England. She wrote love stories concerning the lives of gentry in rural England. Best known for Sense and Sensibility, Pride and Prejudice, Northanger Abbey, and Emma. In recent years her works have been made into very popular TV mini-series and movies.

Birthday - Philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952) was born in Madrid, Spain. As a child he emigrated to the U.S. and eventually became a teacher at Harvard University. Best known for stating, "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

Birthday - Anthropologist Margaret Mead (1901-1978) was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She studied primitive peoples in the Southwest Pacific and was known for her outspoken manner regarding social issues such as women's rights, child rearing, population control and world hunger.

December 17

December 17, 1538 - Pope Paul III excommunicated King Henry VIII after he had declared himself supreme head of the Church in England.

December 17, 1777 - At Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, the Continental Army led by General George Washington settled in for the winter.

December 17, 1971 - The war between India and Pakistan over East Pakistan (later Bangladesh) ended as 90,000 Pakistani troops surrendered.

December 17, 1903 - After three years of experimentation, Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved the first powered, controlled airplane flights. They made four flights near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the longest lasting about a minute.

Birthday - Deborah Sampson (1760-1827) was born in Plympton, Massachusetts. During the American Revolutionary War, she disguised herself as a man and enlisted in the Continental Army under the name Robert Shurtleff. Although she was wounded in battle, she was not discovered until a severe fever unmasked her identity. She was dismissed from the army in 1783. In later life, she lectured professionally on her wartime experiences.

Birthday - Poet and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier (1807-1892) was born in Haverhill, Massachusetts. His books of poetry include Legends of New England and Snowbound.

December 18

December 18, 1865 - The 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified abolishing slavery, stating, "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, save as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

December 18, 1916 - During World War I, the Battle of Verdun concluded after ten months of fighting in which 543,000 French and 434,000 German soldiers were killed.

December 18, 1940 - Adolf Hitler ordered the German General Staff to begin planning Operation Barbarossa, the invasion of Soviet Russia.

December 18, 1956 - Japan was admitted to the United Nations.

Birthday - West German Chancellor Willy Brandt (1913-1992) was born in Lubeck, Germany (as Herbert Ernst Karl Frahm). During Hitler's regime, he was an anti-Nazi exile. He returned to Germany after World War II, entered politics and was elected chancellor in 1969. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1971 for his efforts to improve East-West relations during the Cold War.

December 19

December 19, 1732 - Benjamin Franklin first published Poor Richard's Almanac containing weather predictions, humor, proverbs and epigrams, eventually selling nearly 10,000 copies per year.

December 19, 1946 - War broke out in French Indochina as Ho Chi Minh attacked the French seeking to oust them from Vietnam. This marked the beginning of a thirty-year conflict which eventually led to heavy U.S. involvement and ended with a Communist victory in April 1975 after U.S. withdrawal from South Vietnam.

December 19, 1998 - The House of Representatives impeached President Bill Clinton, approving two out of four Articles of Impeachment, charging Clinton with lying under oath to a federal grand jury and obstructing justice.

Birthday - British explorer William Parry (1790-1855) was born in Bath, England. He conducted Arctic expeditions and made three attempts to find a Northwest Passage.

Birthday - Historian Carter Woodson (1875-1950) was born in New Canton, Virginia. He introduced black studies to American colleges and universities. His works included; The Negro in Our History and The Education of the Negro Prior to 1861.

December 20 Return to Top of Page

December 20, 1606 - The Virginia Company expedition to America began as three small ships, the Susan Constant, Godspeed and Discovery, departed London under the command of Captain Christopher Newport. In May of 1607, the royally chartered company established the first permanent English settlement in America at Jamestown (Virginia).

December 20, 1699 - Czar Peter the Great changed the Russian New Year from September 1 to January 1 as part of his reorganization of the Russian calendar.

December 20, 1860 - South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union in a prelude to the American Civil War. Within two months Mississippi, Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana and Texas seceded. In April 1861, Virginia seceded, followed within five weeks by Arkansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina, thus forming an eleven state Confederacy with a population of 9 million, including nearly 4 million slaves. The Union had 21 states and a population of over 20 million.

December 20, 1956 - The Montgomery bus boycott ended after the U.S. Supreme Court ruling integrating the Montgomery bus system was implemented. The boycott by African Americans had begun on December 5, 1955, after Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery bus to a white man.

December 20, 1989 - The U.S. invaded Panama attempting to capture Manuel Noriega on charges of narcotics trafficking. Operation Just Cause occurred seven months after Noriega had declared unfavorable election results in his country to be null and void. The invasion toppled the Noriega government and resulted in the installation of Guillermo Endara as president. Noriega temporarily eluded capture, but surrendered a few weeks later to U.S. troops. He was then tried, convicted, and imprisoned in the U.S.

Birthday - American industrialist Harvey S. Firestone (1868-1938) was born in Columbiana County, Ohio. He founded Firestone Tire and Rubber Co. and was a close friend of Henry Ford and Thomas Edison.

December 21

December 21st - Winter begins in the Northern Hemisphere. In the Southern Hemisphere today is the beginning of summer.

December 21, 1846 - Anesthesia was used for the first time in Britain during an operation at University College Hospital in London performed by Robert Liston who amputated the leg of a servant.

December 21, 1945 - World War II General George Patton died in Germany following a car accident. He had been injured on December 9th near Mannheim and was taken to a hospital in Heidelberg where he died. He was buried in Luxembourg. Nicknamed "Old Blood and Guts," he once stated during the war, "We shall attack and attack until we are exhausted, and then we shall attack again."

December 21, 1972 - East and West Germany established diplomatic ties, ending nearly two decades of Cold War hostility and paving the way for international recognition of East Germany.

December 21, 1988 - Pan American Flight 103 exploded in midair as the result of a terrorist bomb and crashed into Lockerbie, Scotland. All 259 passengers and crew members along with 11 persons on the ground were killed.

December 21, 1993 - The KGB (Soviet Secret Police) organization was abolished by Russian President Boris Yeltsin.

Birthday - British statesman Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881) was born in London. He led the Tory Party and twice held the post of prime minister. He was instrumental in the expansion of the British Empire into India and the Middle East during the reign of Queen Victoria. He also pioneered the concept of the political novel and produced such works as Vivian Grey, Coningsby, and Lothair.

Birthday - Soviet Russia leader Josef Stalin (1879-1953) was born in the village of Gori in Georgia, Russia (as Iosif Vissarionovich Dzhugashvili).

December 22

December 22, 1783 - Following a triumphant journey from New York to Annapolis, Maryland, George Washington, victorious Commander-in-Chief of the American Revolutionary Army, appeared before Congress and voluntarily resigned his commission.

Birthday - Italian composer Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924) was born in Lucca, Tuscany. Widely considered the greatest Italian opera composer, he is best known for popular works such as Madama Butterfly and La Boheme.

Birthday - "Lady Bird" Johnson (1912-2007) was born in Karnack, Texas (as Claudia Alta Taylor). She was beside her husband Lyndon Johnson on board Air Force One when he was sworn in as the 36th U.S. President following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. She proved to be a gracious First Lady, remembered for her anti-litter campaign, asking citizens to help "Beautify America."

December 23

December 23, 1888 - Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh cut off his left ear during a fit of depression.

December 23, 1913 - The U.S. Congress passed the Federal Reserve Act establishing the Federal Reserve System to serve as the nation's central bank. Chief responsibilities include: execution of monetary policy; influencing the lending and investing activities of commercial banks; and overseeing the cost and availability of money and credit.

December 23, 1947 - The transistor was invented at Bell Laboratories by John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley, who shared the Nobel Prize for their invention which sparked a worldwide revolution in electronics.

December 23, 1948 - Hideki Tojo was hanged for war crimes. He had been Japanese prime minister from 1941-44. Following Japan's defeat in World War II, he was arrested as a war criminal, tried by a military tribunal and sentenced to death. He was hanged along with six other Japanese wartime military leaders at Sugamo Prison in Tokyo, with the sentence carried out by the U.S. 8th Army.

December 23, 1987 - Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager set a new world record of 216 hours of continuous flight around the world without refueling. Their aircraft Voyager traveled 24,986 miles at a speed of about 115 miles per hour.

Birthday - Mormon prophet Joseph Smith (1805-1844) was born in Sharon, Vermont. He founded the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Birthday - Japanese Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989) was born in Tokyo. He was Japan's wartime Emperor and was allowed to remain in his position after the war.

December 24

December 24, 1814 - The Treaty of Ghent between America and Britain was signed, officially ending the War of 1812.

December 24, 1914 - The first-ever German air raid against Britain took place when a German monoplane dropped a single bomb on Dover, England, during World War I.

December 24, 1942 - The first surface-to-surface guided missile, later known as the V-1 Flying Bomb, was launched by German rocket engineer Wernher von Braun. Called "Buzz Bombs" for the loud buzzing sound of their motor, they were used by Nazi Germany against Britain beginning in September 1944.

December 24, 1943 - General Dwight D. Eisenhower was appointed Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force preparing for D-Day.

December 24, 1990 - On Christmas Eve, the bells of St. Basil's Cathedral in Moscow rang for the first time since the death of Lenin.

December 24, 1992 - Caspar Weinberger and five other Reagan aides involved in the Iran-Contra scandal were pardoned by President George Bush.

Birthday - American patriot Benjamin Rush (1745-1813) was born on a plantation in Byberry, Pennsylvania. He was a signer of the Declaration of Independence, a doctor and humanitarian, whose writings on mental illness earned him the title "Father of Psychiatry." He also countered the prevailing notion that alcohol was generally good for people and was one of the first to describe alcoholism as a chronic disease.

Birthday - American frontiersman Christopher "Kit" Carson (1809-1868) was born in Madison County, Kentucky. He was a soldier, trapper, guide and Indian agent in the Old West.

Birthday - Howard Hughes (1905-1976) was born in Houston, Texas. He was a movie producer, aviator and industrialist whose legendary desire for privacy generated many rumors and much curiosity. Perhaps best remembered for designing an eight-engine flying boat, nicknamed the Spruce Goose, which was to carry 750 passengers, although it only made one brief test flight.

Birthday - Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556) was born in northern Spain (as Inigo de Onaz y Loyola). He founded the Catholic Jesuits (Society of Jesus).

December 25  Return to Top of Page

December 25th - Christmas Day, commemorating the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. Although the exact date of his birth is not known, it has been celebrated on December 25th by the Western (Roman Catholic) Church since 336 A.D.

December 25, 1066 - William the Conqueror was crowned King of England after he had invaded England from France, defeated and killed King Harold at the Battle of Hastings, then marched on London.

December 25, 1776 - During the American Revolution, George Washington took 2,400 of his men across the Delaware River. Washington then conducted a surprise raid on 1,500 British-Hessians (German mercenaries) at Trenton, New Jersey. The Hessians surrendered after an hour with nearly 1,000 taken prisoner by Washington who suffered only six wounded (including future president Lt. James Monroe). The victory provided a much needed boost to American morale.

December 25, 1868 - President Andrew Johnson granted general amnesty to all those involved in the Civil War.

December 25, 1926 - Hirohito became Emperor of Japan.

December 25, 1989 - In Romania, a television broadcast of a Christmas symphony was interrupted with the announcement that Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife had been executed following a popular uprising. A pro-democracy coalition then took control. Ceausescu, a hard-line Communist, had been ousted from power after ordering his black-shirted state police to suppress a disturbance in the town of Timisorara, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 4,500 persons.

Birthday - Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was born in Woolsthorpe, Lincolnshire, England. He was a mathematician, scientist and author, best known for his work Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica on the theory of gravitation. He died in London and was the first scientist to be honored with burial in Westminster Abbey.

Birthday - American nurse and philanthropist Clara Barton (1821-1912) was born in Oxford, Massachusetts. She served as a nurse during the Civil War and in 1881 founded the American Red Cross.

Birthday - The founder of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, Mohammed Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) was born in Karachi.

Birthday - Film actor Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957) was born in New York City. Best known for The African Queen, The Maltese Falcon, Casablanca and To Have and Have Not.

December 26

December 26th - Boxing Day in the United Kingdom and many other countries, a day of gift giving when boxes of food, clothing and other gifts are traditionally given to employees, tradespeople and other service providers.

December 26-January 1 - Kwanzaa, an African American family observance established in 1966 celebrating traditional African harvest festivals, focusing on family unity, with a community harvest feast on the seventh day. Kwanzaa means "first fruit" in Swahili.

December 26, 2004 - An estimated 230,000 persons were killed and 1.5 million left homeless when a magnitude 9.3 earthquake on the seafloor of the Indian Ocean set off a series of giant tsunami waves that smashed into the shorelines of a dozen countries including Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India and Somalia.

Birthday - Mao Tse-Tung (1893-1976) was born in Hunan Province, China. He was a Chinese librarian, teacher, communist revolutionist, considered the "founding father" of the People's Republic of China.

December 27

December 27, 1831 - Charles Darwin set out from Plymouth, England, aboard the ship HMS Beagle on his five-year global scientific expedition. Darwin collected fossils and studied plants and animals, gradually beginning to doubt that many diverse species of living things had sprung into existence at one moment (creationism). In 1859, he published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection.

December 27, 1927 - Josef Stalin consolidated his power in Soviet Russia by expelling rival Leon Trotsky from the Soviet Communist Party.

December 27, 1945 - The International Monetary Fund was established in Washington, D.C.

December 27, 1949 - The Dutch transferred sovereignty of Indonesia to the new United States of Indonesia. The new nation retained a formal association with the Netherlands until 1954, when an independent Republic of Indonesia was formed. Indonesia is the largest country in Southeast Asia. It consists of 13,677 islands along the equator between the Indian and Pacific oceans, and a population of over 150 million.

December 27, 1996 - A genocide trial began concerning the killing of an estimated 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda. In 1994, a bloody civil war had broken out between the two main ethnic groups, the Hutu and the Tutsi. After the Hutu army seized power it had waged a campaign of "ethnic cleansing" against the Tutsi population.

Birthday - German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) was born in Wurttemberg, Germany. Considered the father of modern astronomy, he discovered the elliptical (oval) shape of the orbits in which the earth and other planets travel around the sun at a speed that varies according to each planet's distance from the sun.

Birthday - French chemist-bacteriologist Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) was born in Dole, France. He developed the pasteurization process to kill harmful bacteria with heat and found ways of preventing silkworm disease, anthrax, chicken cholera, and rabies.

Birthday - Actress Marlene Dietrich (1901-1992) was born in Berlin, Germany. She starred in The Blue Angel, the first 'talkie' made in Germany. She then moved to Hollywood and starred in films including; Destry Rides Again, Touch of Evil, Judgment at Nuremberg and Witness for the Prosecution. In the 1950's she toured the world as a cabaret singer in a stage revue.

December 28

December 28, 1832 - John C. Calhoun became the first American ever to resign the office of vice president. He served under Presidents John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson and resigned after a series of political disagreements with President Jackson. He went on to become a U.S. Senator from South Carolina.

December 28, 1947 - Victor Emmanuel III, the last King of Italy, died while in exile in Alexandria, Egypt. He had become king upon the assassination of his father in 1900. Following World War I, he named Benito Mussolini to form a cabinet and then failed to prevent Mussolini's Fascists from seizing power. In 1946, he abdicated and went into exile.

Birthday - Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924) the 28th U.S. President was born in Staunton, Virginia (as Thomas Woodrow Wilson). He served two terms from 1912 through 1921. Best remembered for stating, "The world must be made safe for democracy," while asking Congress for a declaration of war against Germany in 1917. Following the death of his first, he married Edith Bolling Galt in 1915. He had suffered a paralytic stroke in 1919 and never regained his health, leading to speculation that his wife was actually running the White House during his illness.

December 29

December 29, 1170 - Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury, was murdered by four knights acting on orders from England's King Henry II.

December 29, 1890 - Members of the U.S. 7th Cavalry massacred more than 200 Native American (Sioux) men, women and children at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota.

December 29-30, 1916 - In the waning days of the Romanov dynasty, Russian 'monk' Rasputin (Grigory Yefimovich Novykh) was assassinated. A group of conspirators had lured him to a private home then poisoned and shot him, although he did not die. They then tied him up and threw him into the Neva River, in which he drowned. Rasputin had gained enormous influence with Russian Emperor Nicholas II and the Empress Alexandra, claiming Divine inspiration and the ability to perform miracles, especially in helping young Nicky, the Czar's son who was a hemophiliac. He also urged severe measures in dealing with the peasant masses and for a time had virtually dictated government policy.

December 29, 1940 - During the Blitz, German aircraft dropped thousands of incendiary bombs on the center of London, causing the worst fire damage since the great fire of 1666. St. Paul's Cathedral survived but eight other Wren churches along with the Guildhall and Old Bailey were badly damaged.

December 29, 1965 - During the Vietnam War, North Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh rejected unconditional peace talks offered by the U.S.

December 29, 1989 - Playwright and human rights activist Vaclav Havel was sworn in as president of Czechoslovakia. He had formerly been denounced by Czech Communists as an enemy of the state and had spent five years in jail for his beliefs.

Birthday - Andrew Johnson (1808-1875) the 17th U.S. President was born in Raleigh, North Carolina. He was Abraham Lincoln's vice president and became President upon Lincoln's assassination in 1865. He went on to become the first President impeached by the House of Representatives. He was acquitted in the Senate by a single vote. He later served briefly as a Senator from Tennessee until his death on July 31, 1875.

Birthday - Cellist Pablo Casals (1876-1973) was born in Venrdell, Spain. He was one of the most influential musicians of the 20th Century whose superb ability in playing the cello set new performance standards.

December 30

December 30, 1803 - The Stars and Stripes flag was raised over New Orleans as the United States took formal possession of the territory of Louisiana, an area of 885,000 square miles, nearly doubling the size of the U.S. The territory had been purchased from France for approximately $15 million.

December 30, 1862 - During the American Civil War, the Union ironclad ship USS Monitor sank off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, during a storm, resulting in the loss of sixteen crewmen.

December 30, 1903 - In Chicago, a fire inside the Iroquois Theater killed 588 persons, eventually resulting in new fire safety codes for theaters.

December 30, 1922 - The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) was established through the confederation of Russia, Byelorussia, Ukraine and the Transcaucasian Federation.

December 30, 1947 - King Michael of Romania was forced to abdicate after the Communists seized power.

December 30, 1988 - President Ronald Reagan and President-elect George Bush were subpoenaed to testify in the trial of Oliver North, a former White House aide implicated in the Iran-Contra affair in which arms were secretly sold to Iran while profits from the sale were diverted to guerrillas trying to topple the Nicaraguan government in South America.

December 30, 1993 - Israel and the Vatican signed an agreement on mutual recognition, seeking to end 2,000 years of unfriendly Christian-Jewish relations.

Birthday - Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936) was born in Bombay, India. He was a British poet, novelist, short story writer, best known for his children's stories such as the Jungle Book.

Birthday - Japanese Prime Minister Hideki Tojo (1884-1948) was born in Tokyo. He led Japan during World War II and was arrested in August 1945 as a war criminal, tried, then hanged in 1948.

December 31

December 31st - New Year's Eve, the final evening of the Gregorian calendar year, traditionally a night for merry-making to welcome in the new year.

December 31, 1781 - The first bank in the U.S., the Bank of North America, received its charter from the Confederation Congress. It opened on January 7, 1782, in Philadelphia.

December 31, 1879 - Thomas Edison provided the first public demonstration of his electric incandescent lamp at his laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

December 31, 1971 - Austrian Kurt Waldheim became U.N. Secretary-General following the retirement of U Thant. Waldheim served until 1981 then resumed his career in Austrian politics. In 1986, he ran for the presidency. During the campaign, it was revealed he had likely given false information concerning his military service in the German Army during World War II. He claimed he left the army in 1942 after being wounded on the Russian Front, but allegations arose that he was actually lieutenant in 1943-44 stationed in the Balkans when Greek Jews were rounded up and sent to Nazi death camps and when atrocities were committed against Yugoslav resistance fighters.

Birthday - George C. Marshall (1880-1959) was born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He had genius for organization and served as Chief of Staff of the U.S. Army throughout World War II, expanding the Army from 130,000 to 8,300,000 men. He then served as Secretary of State under President Truman and designed the Marshall Plan for the relief of war torn Europe and to halt the spread of Communism.

(Photo and picture credits: Library of Congress and U.S. National Archives)

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