1861: Florida became the third Southern state to secede from the Union.
1920: the League of Nations formally came into being when the Covenant of the League of Nations, ratified by 42 nations in 1919, took effect.
1923: President Warren G. Harding ordered the withdrawal of all U.S. troops from Germany, four years after the end of World War I.
1946: The United Nations convened for the first time in London, England.
1951: A carpenter working on a roof near Düsseldorf, Germany, died when he was impaled by a six-foot-long, six-inch-round shaft of ice that fell from the sky.
2011: Swiss high-wire artist Freddy Nock walked 5,200 feet down the wire of a cable car on Mount Corvatsch near St. Moritz, Switzerland. He descended from an altitude of 10,836 feet to 8,865 feet.
1569: The first recorded lottery in England took place in London.
1759: The first life insurance company in America was incorporated, in Philadelphia.
1861: Alabama seceded from the United States.
1908: President Theodore Roosevelt declared the Grand Canyon a national monument.
1922: Insulin was first used to treat diabetes in a human patient.
1927: Louis B. Mayer, head of film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), announced the creation of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, at a banquet in Los Angeles, Calif.
1935: Amelia Earhart (1897-1937) became the first person to fly solo from Hawaii to California.
1949: The first recorded instance of snowfall occurred in Los Angeles, Calif. The first “networked” TV programs were broadcast simultaneously on the East and West coasts.
1960: Henry Lee Lucas (1936-2001), one of America’s most prolific serial killer, committed his first known murder, in Texas.
1964: Surgeon General of the United States Dr. Luther Terry, M.D., published the landmark report ‘Smoking and Health: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Surgeon General of the United States,’ saying that smoking may be hazardous to health, sparking national and worldwide anti-smoking efforts.
1972: East Pakistan renamed itself Bangladesh.
2002: The first 20 kidnapped men arrived at Camp X-Ray at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.
1900: The Detroit Automobile Company finished its first commercial vehicle, a delivery wagon. The wagon was designed by a young engineer named Henry Ford, who had produced his own first motorcar, the quadricycle, before joining the company. (Frustrated with his employers, Ford soon quit to start his own company.)
1908: A long-distance radio message was sent from the Eiffel Tower in Paris for the first time.
1915: The U.S. House of Representatives rejected a proposal to give women the right to vote.
1921: Acting to restore confidence in baseball after the Black Sox Scandal, U.S. District Court Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis (1866-1944) was elected as the first commissioner of Major League Baseball.
1930: Born this day: Tim Horton, Canadian ice hockey player and founder of Tim Hortons (died 1974); and Glenn Yarbrough, U.S. singer (“Baby the Rain Must Fall”)
1932: Ophelia Wyatt Caraway, a Democrat from Arkansas, became the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate.
1951: Born this day: radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh; actress Kirstie Alley; NFL player and sportscaster Drew Pearson; and musician Chris Bell (died age 27 in 1978.)
1962: Operation Chopper, the first American combat mission in the Vietnam War, took place.
1966: President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that the United States should stay in South Vietnam until communist aggression there was ended.
1967: Dr. James Bedford (1893-1967) became the first dead person whose body was cryonically preserved with the intent of future resuscitation. (His remains are preserved at the Alcor Life Extension Foundation in Scottsdale, Ariz.)
1969: The third AFL-NFL Championship Game became the first contest to be called “Super Bowl,” with Super Bowl III. In it, the New York Jets of the American Football League defeated the Baltimore Colts of the National Football League 16-7, in what is considered to be one of the greatest upsets in sports history.
1971: The controversial TV show All in the Family premiered on CBS.
1991: The U.S. Congress declared war to drive Iraq out of Kuwait.
2004: RMS Queen Mary 2 made its maiden voyage and became the world’s largest ocean liner.
2007: Comet McNaught reached perihelion and became the brightest comet in more than 40 years.
2010: An earthquake struck Haiti, killing over 300,000 people and destroying much of the capital city of Port-au-Prince.
1864: America’s first professional songwriter, Stephen Foster, died in a charity ward in New York’s Bellevue Hospital at age 37 after falling and striking his head on a wash basin. (Foster wrote over 200 songs, many still sung today, including “Oh! Susanna,” “Camptown Races” and “Beautiful Dreamer.”)
1928: RCA and General Electric installed experimental television sets in three homes in Schenectady, N.Y. The screen on each set was 1½ inches square.
1929: Wyatt Earp, frontier lawman best known for the famous gunfight at OK Corral in Tombstone, Ariz., died in Los Angeles at age 80.
1941: James Joyce, regarded by many as Ireland’s greatest author, died in Zurich, Switzerland, at age 58.
2007: Jennifer Strange, a 28-year-old woman from Sacramento, Calif., died of water intoxication while trying to win a Nintendo Wii console in a KDND 107.9 “The End” radio station’s “Hold Your Wee for a Wii” contest, which involved drinking large quantities of water without urinating.
1514: Pope Leo X issued a papal bull against slavery.
1943: Franklin D. Roosevelt becomes the first U.S. President to travel by airplane while in office when he flew from Miami to Morocco to meet with Winston Churchill.
1952: NBC’s morning news program Today debuted with host Dave Garroway.
1954: The Hudson Motor Car Co. merged with Nash-Kelvinator, an automaker formed by the merger of the Nash automobile firm and the Kelvinator kitchen-appliance company. The new company was called American Motors Corporation. (It went out of business in 1987.)
1978: Kurt Gödel, the Austrian/American logician and mathematician, died of starvation when his wife was hospitalized. Gödel suffered from extreme paranoia and refused to eat food prepared by anyone else.
1895: Explosions at a burning hardware store in Butte, Mont., that sold dynamite to miners, killed every member of the Butte Fire Department except two, plus many policemen and bystanders. The death toll was estimated at 60. Officials were unable to get an exact number because so many bodies had been blown into small pieces.
1919: The Boston Molasses Disaster occurred when a gigantic cast-iron tank full of raw black molasses burst open in Boston, sending a wave of goo two stories high down Commercial Street, killing 21 people and injuring 150.
1929: Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was born in Atlanta.
1967: The first Super Bowl game was played at the Los Angeles Coliseum between the Green Bay Packers and the Kansas City Chiefs.
1581: The English Parliament outlawed Roman Catholicism.
1786: Virginia adopted the Statute for Religious Freedom, written by Thomas Jefferson, which ended compulsory church support and attendance, and discrimination based on religious affiliation.
1909: Ernest Shackleton’s expedition discovered the magnetic South Pole.
1953: The first Chevrolet Corvette was introduced at a car show in New York.
1969: Jan Palach, a Czech student, committed suicide by self-immolation, in Wenceslas Square, Prague, as a political protest against the “demoralization” of Czechoslovakian citizens caused by the occupation by the Soviet Union. Palach was the first of a group of students to set himself on fire.
1973: The final episode of Bonanza aired on NBC.
1975: Japanese kabuki actor Bandō Mitsugorō VIII died of severe poisoning when he ate four fugu (puffer-fish) livers. Mitsugorō claimed to be immune to the poison and the fugu chef felt he could not refuse him.
2003: The Space Shuttle Columbia took off for mission STS-107, which would be its final one. (The craft disintegrated 16 days later during re-entry.)