On This Day December 31

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History Highlights
History Highlights

1781 – The first bank in the U.S. opens under the name The Bank of North America.

1862 – Nine months after engaging in the most famous naval battles in American history, the ironclad warship USS Monitor sinks in a storm off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Sixteen crewmen are killed. The Monitor had dueled to a standstill with another ironclad, the CSS Virginia (originally the CSS Merrimack), off Hampton Roads, Virginia on March 9, 1862.

1879 – Inventor Thomas Edison demonstrates his incandescent light bulb to the public for the first time.

1904 – The first New Year’s Eve celebration is held in New York’s Times Square — known then as Longacre Square — at the intersection of 7th Avenue, Broadway and 42nd Street in Manhattan. Three years later, in 1907, the tradition of the dropping ball is introduced.

1946 – President Harry Truman officially proclaims the end of hostilities in World War II.

1984 – Bernhard Goetz, the white man known as the “subway vigilante” after he shot four young black men on a New York City subway train, turns himself in to authorities in New Hampshire.

1999 – Days after Mikhail Gorbachev is re-elected head of the Soviet Communist Party, Boris Yeltsin, president of the Republic of Russia, stuns his country and the world by announcing his resignation six months before the end of his term. He turns control over to Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, undercutting Gorbachev’s efforts to keep the struggling Soviet Union together. 

1999 – The United States officially turns control of the Panama Canal over to Panamanian authorities for the first time.

Musical Milestones
Musical Milestones

1966 – The Monkees swing to the top of the singles chart with “I’m a Believer” and hold on for seven weeks, finally yielding to The Buckinghams’ “Kind of a Drag” in mid-February.

1970 – Eight months after the The Beatles’ breakup and subsequent release of their last album, “Let It Be,” Paul McCartney files suit against bandmates John Lennon, George Harrison and Ringo Starr to officially dissolve their partnership.

1972 – Dick Clark begins a new holiday tradition as his first “New Year’s Rockin’ Eve” concert is broadcast on ABC-TV, featuring performances by Three Dog Night and Al Green. Clark hosts the annual event for the next 32 years before turning the reins over to Ryan Seacrest.

1977 – “How Deep Is Your Love,” by the Bee Gees, is in the middle of three weeks as the No. 1 single. The song is part of the “Saturday Night Fever” movie soundtrack.

1983 – Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson are in the middle of a six-week domination of the pop chart with “Say Say Say.”

1985 – Former teen idol Ricky Nelson and six others are killed when their chartered plane crashes in Texas.

1988 – “Every Rose Has Its Thorn,” by Poison, is in the midst of a three-week run at No. 1 on the Billboard single chart.

2005 – Mariah Carey begins a two-week hold on top of the Billboard Hot 100 with “Don’t Forget About Us.”

2015 – Grammy-winning R&B singer-songwriter Natalie Cole (“This Will Be,” “I’ve Got Love On My Mind,” “Miss You Like Crazy,” “Unforgettable”), daughter of legendary crooner and jazz pianist Nat King Cole, dies of congestive heart failure at the age of 65.

On This Day December 30

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On This Day December 29

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On This Day December 28

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On This Day December 27

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On This Day December 26

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History Highlights
History Highlights

1898 – In a landmark moment for chemistry and physics, French scientists Pierre and Marie Curie publish a paper announcing their discovery of the element of radium (Ra). The groundbreaking discovery later garners the husband and wife team the Nobel Prize.

1946 – Mobster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel opens the Flamingo Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, aiming to establish a stylish and cosmopolitan gambling destination in the Nevada desert. Siegel closes the resort just two weeks later due to lackluster business, and the following June, he is killed in a mob hit. After undergoing multiple ownership changes through the years, the Flamingo is still in operation as the oldest casino on the Vegas Strip.

1966 – Kwanzaa is observed for the first time. The seven-day holiday with strong African roots was designed by Dr. Maulana Karenga, the chair of Black Studies at California State University at Long Beach, as a celebration of African American family, community and culture.

1972 – Harry S. Truman, the 33rd U.S. president, dies in Independence, Missouri at the age of 88.

1973 – “The Exorcist” opens in movie theaters across the U.S., terrifying audiences and establishing a new standard for the horror genre. Based on William Peter Blatty’s 1971 novel of the same name, the Oscar- and Golden Globe-winning movie is about a girl, played by Linda Blair, that is possessed by an evil spirit.

1974 – Cancer claims the life of beloved comedian Jack Benny at the age of 80.

1982 – TIME magazine breaks from tradition when the magazine’s editors replace the annual “Man of the Year” cover story with “Machine of the Year” and profile the personal computer.

1996 – Six-year-old beauty queen JonBenét Ramsey is found beaten and strangled in the basement of her family’s Boulder, Colorado home. Her murder becomes the focus one of most intensive and publicized police investigations in U.S. history and remains unsolved to this day.

On This Day December 25

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History Highlights
History Highlights

1776 – General George Washington and 2,400 of his Continental Army troops cross the icy waters of the Delaware River for a surprise attack against Hessian forces at Trenton, New Jersey.

1914 – Gunfire is replaced with the sounds of Christmas carols as German troops serving in World War I lay down their weapons and break into song on Christmas morning. Russian, French and British troops do the same and even shake hands and exchange cigarettes with enemy soldiers along the eastern and western fronts during the Christmas Truce of 1914. 

1962 – “To Kill a Mockingbird,” a film based on the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of the same name by Harper Lee, opens in theaters, starring Gregory Peck, who wins a Best Actor Oscar for his performance as attorney Atticus Finch.

1973 – “The Sting,” starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford as a pair of 1930s grifters, premieres.

1977 – British director, producer and comedic actor Charlie Chaplin, an icon of the silent film era, dies at the age of 88.

1989 – Ousted Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, are executed following a popular uprising.

1989 – Former New York Yankees manager Billy Martin dies in a traffic accident at the age of 61.

1991 – Mikhail Gorbachev resigns as president of the Soviet Union just days after 11 of the former Soviet republics establish the Commonwealth of Independent States.

1996 – Six-year-old JonBenét Ramsey is killed in her Boulder, Colorado, home. Her parents call police the following morning to report their daughter missing and discover a ransom note demanding $118,000. The girl’s body is found in the basement that afternoon. The crime becomes a national sensation that remains unsolved today.

On This Day December 24

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On This Day December 23

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History Highlights
History Highlights

1783 – Following the signing of the Treaty of Paris, General George Washington resigns as commander in chief of the Continental Army and retires to his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia.

1888 – Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, uses a razor to sever part of his left ear. He later documents the event in a painting titled “Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.” Over years, however, a variety of new theories have emerged about this incident.

1913 – President Woodrow Wilson signs the Federal Reserve Act into law establishing the Federal Reserve, which continues serving as the nation’s central banking system today and is responsible for executing monetary policy.

1947 – John Bardeen, Walter Brattain and William Shockley with Bell Laboratories unveil their invention of the transistor, which revolutionizes communications and electronics.

1968 – The crew and captain of the American intelligence gathering ship USS Pueblo are released after 11 months imprisonment by the North Korean government.

1986 – Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager complete the first non-stop flight around the world without refueling. They set a new world record of 216 hours of continuous flying in the experimental aircraft Voyager.

1993 – The movie “Philadelphia,” starring Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington, and directed by Jonathan Demme, opens in U.S. theaters. It is the first major Hollywood film to address the HIV/AIDS crisis and garners Hanks a Best Actor Oscar and Bruce Springsteen a Best Original Song Oscar for his track, “Streets of Philadelphia.”

On This Day December 22

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