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.
1853: Giuseppe Verdi’s opera Il Trovatore, which includes the iconic Anvil Chorus, had its premiere performance in Rome.
1883: The first electric lighting system employing overhead wires, built by Thomas Edison, began service at Roselle, New Jersey.
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.)
1983: The Apple Lisa, the first commercial personal computer from Apple Inc. to have a graphical user interface and a computer mouse, was announced.
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.
1887: The U.S. Navy leased Pearl Harbor as a naval base.
1920: The American Civil Liberties Union was founded in New York City. 1966: Born this day: Stacey Dash, actress (Clueless); Tracii Guns, guitarist and songwriter (Brides of Destruction); and Rainn Wilson, actor (The Office).
1986: Martin Luther King Jr. Day was celebrated as a federal holiday for the first time.
2006: A bottlenose whale was seen swimming in the River Thames for the first time since records began in 1913.
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 assistance.
2009: Barack Obama was inaugurated as the first president of black African heritage.
1786: The United States adopted a uniform currency.
1905: Born this day: Christian Dior, French fashion designer, founded Christian Dior S.A. (died 1957), and Karl Wallenda, German-American acrobat and tightrope walker, founded The Flying Wallendas (died 1978).
1976: Commercial service of the Concorde supersonic passenger jet began with the London-Bahrain and Paris-Rio routes.
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.
1970: Pan American Airways had the inaugural commercial flight of the Boeing 747, the world’s first “jumbo jet,” from John F. Kennedy International Airport to London Heathrow Airport.
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.
1990: Robert Tappan Morris Jr. was convicted of releasing the 1988 internet computer worm.
2002: Kmart became the largest retailer in U.S. history to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
2006: Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers scored the second highest total in NBA history, 81 points, in game versus the Toronto Raptors.
1570: James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, regent for the infant King James VI of Scotland, was assassinated by a firearm, in the first such recorded instance.
1719: The Principality of Liechtenstein was created within the Holy Roman Empire.
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.
1909: RMS Republic, a passenger ship of the White Star Line, became the first ship to use the CQD distress signal, after colliding with another ship, the SS Florida, off the Massachusetts coastline.
1950: Jerusalem became the capital of Israel.
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.
1964: The 24th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, prohibiting the use of poll taxes in national elections.
1986: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio, inducted its first members: Little Richard, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Ray Charles, Fats Domino, the Everly Brothers, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis Presley.
1997: Madeleine Albright became the first woman to serve as U.S. Secretary of State.
1848: The California Gold Rush began when James W. Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Mill near Sacramento.
1935: The first canned beer, Kreuger’s, was test marketed in Richmond, Va.
1961: A U.S. B-52 bomber carrying two H-bombs broke up in mid-air over Goldsboro, N.C. (The uranium core of one bomb was never found.)
1984: The first Apple Macintosh went on sale.
2003: The U.S. Department of Homeland Security officially began operation.
1881: Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell formed the Oriental Telephone Company to sell telephone systems in Asia, Eastern Europe and South Africa.
1915: Alexander Graham Bell inaugurated U.S. transcontinental telephone service, speaking from New York to Thomas Watson in San Francisco.
1924: The first Winter Olympics opened at Chamonix in the French Alps.
1937: The Guiding Light debuted on NBC radio from Chicago. (In 1952 it moved to CBS television, where it remained until Sept. 18, 2009. It remains the longest-running drama in U.S. TV history, the longest-running soap opera ever, and the fifth-longest-running program in world broadcast history.)
1949: The first Emmy Awards were presented at the Hollywood Athletic Club.
1960: The National Association of Broadcasters reacted to the “payola” scandal by threatening fines for any disc jockeys who accepted money for playing particular records.
1961: President John F. Kennedy held the first televised press conference.
1968: The Israeli submarine Dakar, carrying 69 sailors, disappeared and was never seen again. The exact fate of this vessel remains a mystery.