1519: Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in search of the Aztec civilization and their wealth.
1789: The first Congress of the United States met In New York City, putting the U.S. Constitution into effect. The U.S. Bill of Rights was written and proposed to Congress.
1791: The independent republic of Vermont joined the United States of America to become the 14th state.
1837: The city of Chicago was incorporated.
1853: Abigail Powers Fillmore, the first lady of outgoing President Millard Fillmore, contracted pneumonia at the inauguration of President Franklin A. Pierce; she died 26 days later.
1917: Jeannette Rankin of Montana became the first female member of the U.S. House of Representatives.
1933: Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated as America’s 33rd president. His inaugural speech included the line, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” Frances Perkins became U.S. Secretary of Labor, the first female member of a U.S. Cabinet.
1974: People magazine was published for the first time in the United States as People Weekly.
1985: The Food and Drug Administration approved a blood test for AIDS infection, used since then for screening all blood donations in the United States.
1770: The Boston Massacre occurred when five Americans, including Crispus Attucks and a boy, were killed by British troops in an event that would contribute to the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War five years later. (At a subsequent trial, the soldiers were defended by future U.S. President John Adams.)
1836: Samuel Colt patented the first production-model revolver, the .34-caliber.
1872: George Westinghouse patented the air brake.
1946: Winston Churchill coined the phrase “Iron Curtain” in a speech at Westminster College, Missouri.
1960: Elvis Presley was given an honorable discharge from the U.S. Army.
1975: The Homebrew Computer Club met for the first time in Silicon Valley, California, signaling the advent of the personal computer revolution.
1981: The ZX81, a pioneering British home computer, was launched by Sinclair Research and would go on to sell over 1.5 million units around the world. It was sold as the Timex Sinclair 1000 in the U.S. The computer used cassette tapes for data storage and had 1 kB of memory.
1995: British singer, composer and eccentric Vivian Stanshall died at age 52 in a fire at his flat in London. He was a founder of the Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band, a precursor to Monty Python’s Flying Circus.
1475: Michelangelo Buonarroti, the great Italian Renaissance artist, was born in the small village of Caprese.
1836: The Alamo in San Antonio fell to 3,000 Mexican soldiers after a 13-day siege. All 187 Texas defenders were killed, including frontiersman Davy Crockett and Col. Jim Bowie.
1869: Dmitri Mendeleev presented the first periodic table to the Russian Chemical Society.
1888: Louisa May Alcott, author of many novels including Little Women and its sequel Little Men, died in Boston at age 55.
1899: Bayer registered “Aspirin” as a trademark. (The company lost the trademark to the United States as part of its reparations for its involvement with the Nazi government during World War II.)
1964: Nation of Islam’s Elijah Muhammad officially gave boxing champion Cassius Clay the name Muhammad Ali.
1967: Joseph Stalin’s daughter Svetlana Alliluyeva defected to the United States. Famous actor and singer Nelson Eddy, 65, suffered a fatal stroke while performing onstage at the Doral Country Club in Miami, Fla.
1975: The Zapruder film of the assassination of John F. Kennedy was shown in motion for the first time to a national TV audience by Robert J. Groden and Dick Gregory.
1990: Ed Yielding and Joseph T. Vida set the transcontinental speed record flying a SR-71 Blackbird from Los Angeles to Virginia in 64 minutes, averaging 2,124 mph.
1992: The Michelangelo computer virus, discovered in 1991, began to affect computers on the 517th anniversary of the birth of the artist after whom it is named.
1876: Alexander Graham Bell, 29, received a patent for his invention that he called the telephone.
1900: The German liner SS Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse became the first ship to send wireless signals to shore.
1912: Roald Amundsen announced that his expedition had reached the South Pole on Dec. 14, 1911.
1936: Nazi leader Adolf Hitler violated the Treaty of Versailles and the Locarno Pact by sending German military forces into the Rhineland, a demilitarized zone along the Rhine River in western Germany.
1985: The song “We Are the World” received its international release.
1994: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that parodies of an original work are generally covered by the doctrine of fair use.
1655: John Casor became the first legally-recognized slave in England’s North American colonies.
1775: An anonymous writer, thought by some to be Thomas Paine, published “African Slavery in America,” the first article in the American colonies calling for the emancipation of slaves and the abolition of slavery.
1817: The New York Stock Exchange was founded.
1874: Millard Fillmore, 13th U.S. president, died in Buffalo, N.Y., at age 74.
1910: French aviator Raymonde de Laroche became the first woman to receive a pilot’s license.
1930: William Howard Taft (27th president and 10th chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court) died in Washington, D.C. at age 72.
1936: Daytona Beach Road Course held its first oval stock car race.
1973: Ron “Pigpen” McKernan, founding member of the Grateful Dead, died of gastrointestinal hemorrhage associated with alcoholism, in Corte Madera, Calif., at age 27, joining the 27 Club.
1978: The first radio episode of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams was transmitted on BBC Radio 4.
1979: Philips demonstrated the compact disc publicly for the first time.
1983: President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire.”
2014: Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 left Kuala Lumpur on a direct flight to Beijing. The Boeing 777 with 239 people onboard changed course and disappeared without a trace. (A wing flap was found on July 29, 2015, on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean that was positively linked to the missing craft.)
1841: The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in United States v. The Amistad that captive Africans who had seized control of the ship carrying them had been taken into slavery illegally.
1842: The first documented discovery of gold in California occurred at Rancho San Francisco, six years before the California Gold Rush.
1916: During the Mexican Revolution, Pancho Villa led nearly 500 Mexican raiders in an attack against the border town of Columbus, New Mexico.
1959: The Barbie doll made its debut at the American International Toy Fair in New York City.
1996: Comedian George Burns died at age 100 in Los Angeles.
1804: The United States bought the Louisiana Territory from France, doubling the size of the USA.
1831: The French Foreign Legion was established by King Louis Philippe to support his war in Algeria.
1862: The first U.S. paper money was issued; The denominations were $5, $10, and $20.
1876: Alexander Graham Bell made the first successful telephone call by saying “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.”
1891: Almon Strowger, an undertaker in Topeka, Kansas, patented the Strowger switch, a device that led to the automation of telephone circuit switching.
1940: Action movie actor Chuck Norris was born in Ryan, Okla.
1969: In Memphis, Tenn., James Earl Ray pleaded guilty to assassinating Martin Luther King Jr. (He later unsuccessfully attempted to retract his plea.)
1977: Astronomers discovered rings around Uranus.
2000: The NASDAQ Composite stock market index peaked at 5,132.52, signaling the beginning of the end of the dot-com boom.