1902: Inventor Gustav
Whitehead successfully flew
an airplane of his own design
for about seven miles near
Bridgeport, Conn. This was
Whitehead’s second flight
(the first was in May, 1899 in
Pittsburgh). Whitehead’s
flights predated the Wright
Brothers’ but are not recognized
because Whitehead
had only one witness, his
mechanic, whose name was
not recorded.

1949: The first
Volkswagen Beetle arrived in
the United States from Germany.
1950: Eleven men stole
$2.7 million from the Brinks
Armored Car Depot in Boston,
the largest theft in U.S.
history to date. (The culprits
were caught in 1956 just
days before the statute of
limitations for the theft expired,
but only a small portion
of the money was recovered.
The rest is fabled to be
hidden in the hills north of
Grand Rapids, Minn.)

1961: In a nationally televised
speech, Dwight D. Eisenhower
addressed the
American people for the last
time as president. Expressing
ideas that seem prophetic in
retrospect, Eisenhower offered
his fears and hopes for
the future, warning against
the unchecked growth of the
“military-industrial complex,”
a term he coined.

January 18 1778: James Cook became
the first known European to
discover the Hawaiian Islands,
which he named the
“Sandwich Islands.”
1903: President Theodore
Roosevelt sent a radio
message to King Edward VII
via the first transatlantic
radio transmission originating
in the United States.
1911: Eugene B. Ely landed
on the deck of the USS
Pennsylvania stationed in
San Francisco Bay, the first
time an aircraft landed on a

1912: The expedition of
British explorer Robert Falcon
Scott arrived at the
South Pole only to find that
Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian
explorer, had preceded
them by just over a month.
(Scott and his four team
members perished on the
return trip to their base

1967: Albert DeSalvo,
the “Boston Strangler,” was
convicted of numerous
crimes and sentenced to life
in prison.

1977: Scientists identified
a previously unknown bacterium
as the cause of the mysterious
Legionnaires’ disease.

1981: Phil Smith and Phil
Mayfield parachuted off a
Houston skyscraper, becoming
the first two people to
BASE jump from objects in
all four categories: buildings,
antennae, spans (bridges),
and earth (cliffs).

1993: Martin Luther
King Jr. Day was officially
observed for the first time in
all 50 states.

1997: Boerge Ousland of
Norway became the first
person to cross Antarctica
alone and unaided.
January 19

1807: Confederate general
and U.S. traitor Robert E.
Lee was born in Virginia.

1809: U.S. literary giant
Edgar Allan Poe was born in
Boston, Mass.

1829: Johann Wolfgang
von Goethe’s Faust Part 1
received its premiere performance.

1883: The first electric
lighting system employing
overhead wires, built by
Thomas Edison, began service
at Roselle, New Jersey.

1915: In the first major
aerial bombardment of a
civilian target, German zeppelins
bombed the towns of
Great Yarmouth and King’s
Lynn in the United Kingdom,
killing more than 20.

1935: Coopers Inc. began
selling the world’s first men’s

1953: A whopping 71.7
percent of all television sets
in the United States tuned
into I Love Lucy to watch
Lucy give birth.

1977: Snow fell in Miami,
Florida, for the first and only
time in recorded history. It
also snowed in the Bahamas.

1978: The last
Volkswagen Beetle made in
Germany left the VW plant in
Emden. (Beetle production in
Latin America continued
until 2003.)

1986: The first IBM PC
computer virus was released
into the wild. A boot sector
virus dubbed ‘(c)Brain,’ it
was created by the Farooq
Alvi brothers in Lahore, Pakistan,
reportedly to deter
piracy of the software they
had written.
January 20

1783: The Kingdom of
Great Britain signed a peace
treaty with France and Spain,
officially ending hostilities in
the American Revolutionary

1841: The British first
took possession of Hong
Kong Island.

1887: The U.S. Navy
leased Pearl Harbor as a naval

1929: In Old Arizona, the
first full-length talking motion
picture filmed outdoors,
was released.

1942: At the Wannsee
Conference held in the Berlin
suburb of Wannsee, senior
Nazi German officials discussed
the implementation
of the “Final Solution to the
Jewish question.”

1954: The National Negro
Network was established
with 40 charter member
radio stations.

1981: Ronald Reagan
was inaugurated at age 69,
the oldest man ever inaugurated
as U.S. President.
Twenty minutes later, Iran
released the remaining 52
American hostages.

1991: Sudan’s government
imposed Islamic sharia
law nationwide, worsening
the civil war between the
country’s Muslim north and
Christian south.

2006: A bottlenose
whale was seen swimming in
the River Thames for the first
time since records began in

2007: A three-man team,
using only skis and kites,
completed a 1,093-mile trek
to reach the southern pole of
inaccessibility (the point in
Antactica farthest from any
ocean) for the first time since
1958, and for the first time
ever without mechanical

January 21
1525: The Swiss Anabaptist
Movement was founded,
breaking a thousand-year
tradition of church-state
union. (Amish, Mennonites
and Hutterites are direct
descendents of this movement.)

1786: The United States
adopted a uniform currency.
1908: New York City
passed the Sullivan Ordinance,
making it illegal for
women to smoke in public.
(The measure was vetoed
two weeks later by Mayor
George McClellan Jr.)

1948: The flag of Quebec
was adopted and flown for
the first time over the National
Assembly of Quebec.

1954: The first nuclearpowered
submarine, the USS
Nautilus, was launched in
Groton, Conn., by first lady
Mamie Eisenhower.

1977: President Jimmy
Carter pardoned nearly all
American Vietnam War draft
evaders, some of whom had
emigrated to Canada.

2002: At a Martin Luther
King celebration, officials of
Lauderdale, Fla., presented
actor James Earl Jones with a
plaque that said, “Thank you
James Earl Ray for keeping
the dream alive.” (Ray was
the man convicted of assassinating
King in Memphis
Tenn., in 1968.)
January 22

1506: The first contingent
of 150 Swiss Guards arrived
at the Vatican.

1889: Columbia Phonograph
(later Columbia Records)
was formed in Washington,

1901: Queen Victoria
died, ending her 63-year
reign, the second-longest in
British history. Her son, King
Edward VII, succeeded her to
the throne. She was survived
by 37 great-grandchildren.

1927: Teddy Wakelam
gave the first live radio commentary
of a football match
anywhere in the world, between
Arsenal F.C. and Sheffield
United at Highbury.

1946: The Central Intelligence
Group, forerunner of
the Central Intelligence
Agency, was founded.

1947: KTLA, the first
commercial television station
west of the Mississippi
River, began operation in
Hollywood, Calif.

1957: The New York City
“Mad Bomber,” George P.
Metesky, was arrested in
Waterbury, Connecticut and
charged with planting more
than 30 bombs in 16 years.

1984: The Apple Macintosh,
the first consumer computer
to popularize the computer
mouse and the graphical
user interface, was introduced
during Super Bowl
XVIII with its famous “1984”
television commercial.

2002: Kmart became the
largest retailer in U.S. history
to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy
January 23

1556: The deadliest
earthquake in recorded history
struck Shaanxi, China,
killing an estimated 830,000

1795: In a rare occurrence
of a battle between
ships and cavalry, the French
cavalry captured 14 Dutch
ships and 850 guns, after an
extraordinary charge across
the frozen Zuiderzee.

1849: Elizabeth Blackwell
was granted a medical degree
from Geneva College in
New York (now known as
Hobart College), becoming
the first woman in U.S. history
to be officially recognized
as a physician.

1855: The first bridge
over the Mississippi River
opened in what is now Minneapolis,
Minn., a crossing
made today by the Hennepin
Avenue Bridge.

1870: In Montana, U.S.
cavalrymen killed 173 Native
Americans, mostly women
and children, in the Marias

1897: Elva Zona Heaster,
24, was found dead in Greenbrier
County, West Virginia.
(The resulting murder trial
of her husband became the
only case in United States
history where the alleged
testimony of a ghost helped
secure a conviction.)

1941: American aviation
hero Charles Lindbergh testified
before the U.S. Congress
and recommended that the
United States negotiate a
neutrality pact with Adolf

1943: Duke Ellington
played at Carnegie Hall for
the first time

1957: Toy company
Wham-O introduced the aerodynamic
plastic flying disc
called the Frisbee.

1960: The bathyscaphe
USS Trieste broke a depth
record by descending to

35,797 feet in the Mariana
Trench in the Pacific Ocean.