1307: William Tell (circa 1280-1354) shot an apple off his son’s head with a crossbow and bolt in Altdorf, Austria.
1493: Christopher Columbus (1450-1506) first sighted the island now known as Puerto Rico.
1803: The Battle of Vertières, the last major battle of the Haitian Revolution, was fought, leading to the establishment of the Republic of Haiti, the first, and so far only, black republic in the Western Hemisphere.
1865: The short story “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” by Mark Twain (1835-1910) was published in the New York Saturday Press.
1883: American and Canadian railroads established five standard continental time zones, ending the confusion of thousands of local times.
1926: George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) refused to accept the money for his Nobel Prize, saying, “I can forgive Alfred Nobel for inventing dynamite, but only a fiend in human form could have invented the Nobel Prize.”
1928: The animated short “Steamboat Willie” was released. It was the first fully synchronized sound cartoon, directed by Walt Disney (1901-1966) and Ub Iwerks (1901-1971), featuring the third appearances of cartoon characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. This is considered by the Disney corporation to be Mickey’s birthday.
1980: Born this day: NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin, and Saudi Arabian terrorist Hamza al-Ghamdi, (hijacker of United Airlines Flight 175 that crashed into South Tower of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001).
1831: James Abram Garfield (20th U.S. president, died 1881) was born in Orange, Ohio.
1863: President Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865) delivered the Gettysburg Address at the dedication of the military cemetery ceremony at Gettysburg, Pa.
1916: Samuel Goldwyn (born Szmuel Gelbfisz, 1879-1974) and Edgar Selwyn (1875-1944) established Goldwyn Pictures in Hollywood, Calif.
1933: Born this day: CNN talk show host Larry King, and Judge Jerry Sheindlin (The People’s Court).
1936: Born this day: talk show host Dick Cavett; falsetto R&B singer Ray Collins (The Mothers of Invention, died 2012); and chemist and Nobel Prize Laureate Yuan T. Lee.
1941: Born this day: actor Dan Haggerty (The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams), and Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (in office 1987-2001).
1955: William F. Buckley (1925-2008) published the first edition of his ultra-conservative bimonthly magazine, National Review, in New York.
1990: Pop duo Milli Vanilli were stripped of their Grammy Award because they did not sing at all on the Girl You Know It’s True album. Session musicians had provided all the vocals.
1998: The U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee began impeachment hearings against President Bill Clinton (born 1946), for lying under oath about his sexual affair with White House intern Monica Lewinski (born 1973). Portrait of the Artist Without Beard by Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) sold at auction in New York for $71.5 million, making it the 21st most expensive painting to date.
2008: David Phyall, 50, the last resident in a block of flats due to be demolished in Bishopstoke, near Southampton, Hampshire, England, cut off his own head with a chainsaw to highlight the injustice of being forced to move out.
1789: New Jersey became the first U.S. state to ratify the Bill of Rights.
1805: The only opera by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), Fidelio, premiered in Vienna.
1959: Born this day: U.S. Rep. James McGovern, D-Mass., (took office 2013) and actress Sean Young (Blade Runner, Dune, No Way Out, Wall Street, Cousins).
1962: The Cuban missile crisis ended when the Soviet Union agreed to remove its missiles from Cuba, and President John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) ended the quarantine of the Caribbean nation.
1969: The occupation of Alcatraz Island began when Native American activists seized control of the former prison site. (They were ousted by the U.S. government on June 11, 1971.)
1970: Born this day: Missouri Gov. Matt Blunt (in office 2005-2009); jazz pianist Geoffrey Keezer; actress Sabrina Lloyd (Sliders, Sports Night); and b-movie actor Joe Zaso (The Adventures of Young Van Helsing: The Quest for the Lost Scepter; Date with a Vampire).
1971: Born this day: National Football League player and TV sports commentator Joey Galloway (Seattle Seahawks, ESPN); and actor-comedian Joel McHale (The Soup, Spider-Man 2, Community, Ted).
1975: Born this day: country singer Dierks Bentley (“Drunk on a Plane,” “Up on the Ridge,” “Sideways”); and actor Joshua Gomez (Chuck, Without a Trace).
1985: Microsoft Windows 1.0 was released.
1789: North Carolina ratified the U.S. Constitution and was admitted as the 12th state.
1877: Thomas Edison (1847-1931) unveiled his newest invention, the phonograph, a machine that could record and play sound.
1902: The first ever night game in professional American football took place in Elmira, N.Y., when the Philadelphia Football Athletics defeated the Kanaweola Athletic Club of Elmira, 39-0.
1905: The scientific paper, Does the Inertia of a Body Depend Upon Its Energy Content?, by Albert Einstein (1879-1955) was published in the journal Annalen der Physik. This paper revealed the relationship between energy and mass, and led to the mass-energy equivalence formula E = mc².
1945: On this day, U.S. humorist Robert Benchley (born 1889) died, and actress Goldie Hawn was born.
1948: Born this day: rock singer-songwriter Lonnie Jordan (War); rock drummer Alphonse Mouzon (Weather Report); and businessman George Zimmer (founded Men’s Wearhouse).
1953: The British Natural History Museum announced that the “Piltdown Man” skull, initially believed to be one of the most important fossilized hominid skulls ever found, was a hoax.
1959: American disc jockey Alan Freed (1921-1965),
1718: British pirate Edward Teach (born 1680, best known as “Blackbeard”) was killed in battle off the coast of North Carolina, by a boarding party led by Royal Navy Lt. Robert Maynard (1684-1751).
1858: Denver, Colo., was founded.
1869: The clipper Cutty Sark was launched from Dumbarton, Scotland. (It was one of the last clippers ever built, and the only one still surviving today.)
1923: Born this day: movie producer Arthur Hiller (The Americanization of Emily, Tobruk, Love Story, The Out-of-Towners, Plaza Suite, Silver Streak); and punk-rock musician and Elvis impersonator Dika Newlin (died 2006).
1925: Born this day: pilot Jerrie Mock (first woman to fly solo around the world, died 2014); and conductor and jazz musician Gunther Schuller.
1928: The first performance of Boléro by Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) took place in Paris.
1935: The China Clipper, the first plane to offer transpacific commercial air service, took off from Alameda, Calif., on its first commercial flight. (It arrived at its destination, Manila, The Philippines, one week later.)
1939: Born this day: actor Allen Garfield (Dick Tracy, Beverly Hills Cop II, The Cotton Club); and engineer Tom West (protagonist in Pulitzer Prize-winning non-fiction book The Soul of a New Machine, died 2011).
1940: Born this day: actor and director Terry Gilliam (Monty Python’s Flying Circus, Time Bandits, Brazil); and Marvel Comics writer and artist Roy Thomas (Conan the Barbarian).
1943: Born this day: tennis player Billie Jean King; and screenwriter Roger L. Simon (Bustin’ Loose, My Man Adam, Scenes from a Mall).
1950: Born this day: singer-songwriters and musicians Steven Van Zandt (E Street Band) and Tina Weymouth (Talking Heads).
1954: The Humane Society of the United States was founded in Washington, DC.
1956: Born this day: rock singer-songwriter and musician Lawrence Gowan (Styx); actor Richard Kind (Mad About You, Spin City); and writer-illustrator Ron Randall (creator of comic book character Trekker).
1965: Born this day: actresses Kathrine Narducci (The Sopranos); and Kristin Minter (Home Alone).
1967: Born this day: German tennis player Boris Becker; and actor Mark Ruffalo (The Avengers, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind).
2005: Angela Merkel became the first female Chancellor of Germany.
1804: Franklin Pierce, the 14th president, was born in Hillsboro, N.H.
1936: Life was first published as a photo magazine and enjoyed instant success.
1642: Abel Tasman (1603-1659) became the first European on record to discover Van Diemen’s Land (later renamed Tasmania), the island south of eastern Australia.
1835: The Texas Provincial Government authorized the creation of a horse-mounted police force called the Texas Rangers (now the Texas Ranger Division of the Texas Department of Public Safety).
1859: Charles Darwin (1809-1882) published On the Origin of Species, the anniversary of which some call “Evolution Day.”
1863: Thanksgiving was celebrated for the first time as a national holiday.
1906: The first major scandal in U.S. football history began when the Massillon Tigers beat the Canton Bulldogs 13-6 to win the Ohio League Championship. The game prompted accusations that the championship series was fixed.
1932: The FBI Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory (better known as the FBI Crime Lab) officially opened in Washington, D.C.
1783: The last defeated British troops left New York City, three months after the signing of the Treaty of Paris, which ended the American Revolutionary War.
1922: The first door to King Tut’s tomb was opened by Howard Carter and George Herbert.
1944: Born this day: rock drummer Bev Bevan (Electric Light Orchestra); and lawyer, presidential speechwriter and actor Ben Stein (Planes, Trains and Automobiles).
1947: New Zealand became independent of legislative control by the United Kingdom. Born this day: director Jonathan Kaplan (The Accused, Without a Trace, Law and Order); actor John Larroquette (Night Court, The John Larroquette Show); and character actor Tracey Walter (The Silence of the Lambs, Independence Day).
1952: Agatha Christie’s murder-mystery play The Mousetrap opened at the Ambassadors Theatre in London. It became the longest continuously-running play in history.
1992: The Federal Assembly of Czechoslovakia voted to split the country into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as of Jan. 1, 1993.