1909: Ernest Shackleton’s expedition discovered the magnetic South Pole.
1953: The first Chevrolet Corvette was introduced at a car show in New York.
1973: The final episode of Bonanza aired on NBC.
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.)
1706: Benjamin Franklin was born in Boston.
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.
1964: First lady Michelle Obama was born Michelle LaVaughn Robinson in Chicago.
1778: James Cook became the first known European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, which he named the “Sandwich Islands.”
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 ship.
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.
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.
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.
1935: Coopers Inc. began selling the world’s first men’s briefs.
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.
1265: The first English parliament to include not only Lords but also representatives of the major towns held its first meeting in the Palace of Westminster, now commonly known as the Houses of Parliament.
1841: The British first took possession of Hong Kong Island.
1878: Born this day: Finlay Currie, Scottish-English actor, and Ruth St. Denis, American dancer. (They died 1½ months apart in 1968).
1887: The U.S. Navy leased Pearl Harbor as a naval base.
1929: In Old Arizona, the first full-length talking motion picture filmed outdoors, was released.
1936: Edward VIII became King of the United Kingdom. (He abdicated on Dec. 11 of the same year.)
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.
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.
1789: The first American novel, The Power of Sympathy or the Triumph of Nature Founded in Truth by William Hill Brown, was published by Isaiah Thomas in Boston.
1899: Opel manufactured its first automobile, in Rüsselsheim, Germany.
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.)
1911: The first Monte Carlo Rally took place.
1915: Kiwanis International was founded in Detroit, Michigan.
1941: Born this day: Plácido Domingo, Spanish tenor and conductor, and Richie Havens, U.S. singer-songwriter and guitarist (died 2013).
1942: Mac Davis, U.S. singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor; and Edwin Starr, U.S. singer-songwriter (“War,” died 2003).
1948: The flag of Quebec was adopted and flown for the first time over the National Assembly of Quebec.
1954: The first nuclear-powered submarine, the USS Nautilus, was launched in Groton, Conn., by first lady Mamie Eisenhower.
1976: Commercial service of the Concorde supersonic passenger jet began with the London-Bahrain and Paris-Rio routes.
1977: President Jimmy Carter pardoned nearly all American Vietnam War draft evaders, some of whom had emigrated to Canada.
1981: Production of the iconic DeLorean DMC-12 sports car began in Dunmurry, Northern Ireland.
1997: The U.S. House of Representatives voted 395–28 to reprimand Newt Gingrich for ethics violations, making him the first Speaker of the House so disciplined.
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.)
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.