1636: The Massachusetts Bay Colony organized three militia regiments to defend the colony against the Pequot Indians. This organization is recognized today as the founding of the National Guard of the United States.
1939: The first Lincoln Continental was produced.
1948: Born this day: rock musicians Jeff Baxter (Steely Dan and The Doobie Brothers); and Ted Nugent.
1962: NASA launched Relay 1, the first active repeater communications satellite in orbit.
1972: Apollo 17 astronauts and Harrison Schmitt (born 1935) and Eugene Cernan (born 1934) became the 11th and 12th humans respectively, and the last humans to date, to set foot on the Moon.
1975: NBC’s Saturday Night Live was broadcast with a seven-second delay for the first time because producers wanted to bleep out anticipated profanity by guest host Richard Pryor (1940-2005).
1287: The Zuiderzee sea wall in the Netherlands collapsed, killing over 50,000 people.
1751: The Theresian Military Academy in Austria was founded as the first military academy in the world.
1782: The Montgolfier brothers’ first hot-air balloon lifted off on its first test flight in Paris.
1799: George Washington died at Mount Vernon, Va., at age 67.
1903: Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright made their first attempt to fly their plane, the Wright Flyer, at Kitty Hawk, N.C.
1911: Roald Amundsen’s team, comprising himself, Olav Bjaaland, Helmer Hanssen, Sverre Hassel and Oscar Wisting, became the first people to reach the South Pole.
1971: Over 200 intellectuals including doctors, lawyers, engineers, artists, journalists, writers, teachers and professors in East Pakistan, were massacred by the Pakistan Army to eliminate potential leaders of the newly forming country of Bangladesh.
1972: Astronaut Eugene Cernan became the last human to date to walk on the moon as the Apollo 17 mission prepared to depart the lunar surface.
2008: Muntadhar al-Zaidi threw his shoes at then U.S. President George W. Bush during a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq.
1791: The U.S. Bill of Rights became law when ratified by the Virginia General Assembly.
1890: Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull was killed on Standing Rock Indian Reservation, leading to the Wounded Knee Massacre, the last battle of the American Indian Wars.
1918: President Woodrow Wilson arrived in Paris to begin talks about forming the League of Nations, the predecessor to the United Nations.
1933: The 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution officially became effective, repealing the 18th Amendment that prohibited the sale, manufacture and transportation of alcohol.
1939: Gone with the Wind premiered at Loew’s Grand Theatre in Atlanta, Georgia.
1949: Mrs. Ellen K. Coutres, 53, burned to death in her home in Manchester, England, the apparent victim of spontaneous combustion. Police discovered her burnt remains lying on the floor of a room. Neither the floor nor its furnishings were damaged, although the house was made of wood.
1707: The last recorded eruption of Mount Fuji in Japan occurred.
1773: Members of the Sons of Liberty disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded a British ship in Boston Harbor and threw overboard the ship’s cargo of tea, to protest the “tea tax.” The event became known as the Boston Tea Party.
1811: The first two in a series of four severe earthquakes occurred in the vicinity of New Madrid, Mo. These four so-called mega-quakes are believed to be an ongoing cataclysmic danger that could affect eight of today’s heartland states of the United States.
1937: Theodore Cole and Ralph Roe escaped from the American federal prison on Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay. Neither was ever seen again and were presumed to have drowned.
1978: Cleveland, Ohio became the first post-Depression era city to default on its loans, owing $14,000,000 to local banks.
1997: An episode of Pokémon, “Dennō Senshi Porygon,” aired in Japan and induced seizures in 685 Japanese children.
497 BC: The first Saturnalia festival was celebrated in ancient Rome.
1538: Pope Paul III excommunicated Henry VIII of England.
1777: France formally recognized the United States.
1790: The Aztec calendar stone was discovered in Mexico City.
1835: A fire leveled 17 blocks in lower Manhattan.
1862: General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order No. 11, expelling Jews from parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky, to eliminate the black market in Southern cotton. (After public outcry, the order was rescinded on Jan. 17, 1863.)
1892: The first issue of Vogue magazine was published.
1896: The first artificially manufactured ice skating rink in North America, Schenley Park Casino in Pittsburgh, Pa., was destroyed in a fire.
1914: Born this day: Fernando Alonso, Cuban ballet dancer, co-founded the Cuban National Ballet (died 2013); and American serial murderer Raymond Fernandez (executed 1951).
1935: The first flight of the Douglas DC-3 took place over Southern California. Born this day:
1938: German chemist Otto Hahn discovered the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy.
1943: All Chinese were again permitted to become citizens of the United States when President Franklin Roosevelt repealed the Exclusion Act of 1882 and signed the Magnuson Act.
1947: The first flight of the Boeing B-47 Stratojet strategic bomber took place over Southern California.
1957: The United States successfully launched the first Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile at Cape Canaveral, Florida.
1989: The first episode of television series The Simpsons, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire,” aired in the United States.
2014: The United States and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations after severing them in 1959.
1788: New Jersey ratified the U.S. Constitution.
1915: America’s 28th president, Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), married Edith Galt at her home. He became the third president to marry while in office.
1843: A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens first went on sale.
1941: Adolf Hitler became Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the German Army.
1967: Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt was officially presumed dead. He disappeared December 17 while swimming at Cheviot Beach near Portsea, Victoria.
1995: The U.S. government restored federal recognition to the Nottawaseppi Huron Band of Potawatomi Indian tribe in southern Michigan.
1998: The U.S. House of Representatives forwarded articles I and III of impeachment against President Bill Clinton to the Senate.
2001: A record high barometric pressure of 1085.6 hPa (32.06 inHg) was recorded at Tosontsengel, Khövsgöl Province, Mongolia.
1892: Alexander Brown and George Stillman of Syracuse, New York, received the first patent on an inflatable automobile tire.
1957: American rock and roll star Elvis Presley received notice that he would be drafted into the U.S. Army.
1945: General George S. Patton, commander of the U.S. 3rd Army, died of injuries received in a vehicle accident in Germany.
1958: President Eisenhower’s press secretary, James Hagerty, issued a press release announcing that a new reverse design for the U.S. penny would begin production on Jan. 2, 1959. The new design, by Frank Gasparro, had been developed by the Treasury in consultation with the Lincoln Sesquicentennial Commission. Approved by the president and by Secretary of the Treasury Robert B. Anderson, the new design featured the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. The redesign came as a complete surprise, as word of the proposal had not been leaked.
1808: The iconic Fifth Symphony by Ludwig von Beethoven premiered in Vienna, Austria, with Beethoven himself conducting.
1936: Born this day: Author James Burke (The Day The Universe Changed), and Polish filmmaker Voytek Frykowski (murdered by Manson family in 1969).
1937: The Lincoln Tunnel opened to traffic in New York City.
1944: During the Battle of the Bulge, German troops demanded the surrender of U.S. troops at Bastogne, Belgium, prompting the famous one word reply by General Anthony McAuliffe: “Nuts!”
1965: In the United Kingdom, a 70 mph speed limit was applied to all rural roads including motorways for the first time. Previously, there had been no speed limit.
1984: Bernhard Hugo Goetz shot four African-American would-be muggers on an express train in Manhattan, New York City.
border, age 27.
1989: Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate re-opened after nearly 30 years, effectively ending the division of East and West Germany.
1992: The “Archives of Terror” were found by a lawyer, Dr. Martín Almada, and a human-rights activist and judge, José Agustín Fernández, in a police station in a suburb of Asunción, capital of Paraguay. Fernández was looking for files on a former prisoner. Instead, he found archives describing the fates of thousands of Latin Americans who had been secretly kidnapped, tortured and killed by the security services of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Paraguay, and Uruguay. The “terror archives” listed 50,000 people murdered, 30,000 people disappeared and 400,000 people imprisoned.
2001: Richard Reid attempted to destroy a passenger airliner by igniting explosives hidden in his shoes aboard American Airlines Flight 63.
2012: The repeal of the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy, the 17-year-old policy banning homosexuals serving openly in the U.S. military, was signed into law by President Barack Obama..