1685: René-Robert Cavelier claimed Texas for France as he established Fort St. Louis at Matagorda Bay.
1792: The Postal Service Act, establishing the United States Post Office Department, was signed by President George Washington.
1816: Gioachino Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville premiered at the Teatro Argentina in Rome.
1872: The Metropolitan Museum of Art opened in New York City.
1873: The University of California opened its first medical school in San Francisco.
1901: The legislature of Hawaii Territory convened for the first time.
1931: Congress approved the construction of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge by the state of California.
1935: Caroline Mikkelsen, 25, of Denmark, became the first woman in recorded history to set foot in Antarctica.
1956: The United States Merchant Marine Academy became a permanent Service Academy.
1971: The United States Emergency Broadcast System was accidentally activated in an erroneous national alert.
1974: Basil Brown, a 48-year-old health food advocate from Croydon, England, drank himself to death with carrot juice.
1998: American figure skater Tara Lipinski became the youngest gold-medalist at the Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan.
2003: During a concert by the rock band Great White in West Warwick, R.I., a pyrotechnics display set the Station nightclub on fire, killing 100 people and injuring over 200 others.
2012: A special edition of the Portuguese weekly Terra Nostra set a new world record as the world’s smallest newspaper, measuring just 25 x 18 mm, according to the World Records Academy. With the headline “A Hug to the World,” the special 32-page edition of Terra Nostra cost 2.5 euro. The paper is regularly published in tabloid format.
1787: Congress approved a convention “for the sole and express purpose of revising the Articles” [of Confederation] into what would become the U.S. Constitution.
1804: The first self-propelled steam locomotive was fired up at the Pen-y-Darren Ironworks in Wales.
1828: The first issue of the Cherokee Phoenix was published, becoming the first periodical to use the Cherokee syllabary invented by Sequoyah.
1842: John Greenough was granted the first U.S. patent for a sewing machine.
1874: The Oakland Daily Tribune published its first edition.
1878: The first telephone directory was issued, by the District Telephone Company of New Haven, Conn.
1885: The newly completed Washington Monument was dedicated.
1918: The last Carolina Parakeet died in captivity at the Cincinnati Zoo. (It was the only parrot species indigenous to the U.S.)
1925: The first issue of The New Yorker was published.
1947: Edwin H. Land publicly demonstrated his Polaroid Land camera, which could produce a black-and-white photograph in 60 seconds.
1948: NASCAR was incorporated in Daytona Beach, Fla.
1952: The British government, under Winston Churchill, abolished identity cards in the UK to “set the people free.”
1972: President Richard Nixon (1913-1994) visited the People’s Republic of China to normalize relations between the two countries.
1986: The Legend of Zelda, the first game of The Legend of Zelda series, was released in Japan on the Famicom Disk System.
1995: Steve Fossett (1944-2007) became the first person to make a solo flight across the Pacific Ocean in a balloon, upon landing in Leader, Saskatchewan, Canada.
1732: First U.S. President George Washington was born in Wakefield, Va. (He was actually born Feb. 11, 1731, under the old-style calendar in use at the time of his birth.)
1856: The Republican Party opened its first national meeting in Pittsburgh.
1861: Edward Payson Weston began his 11-day walk from Boston to Washington to see the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln.
1889: President Grover Cleveland signed a bill admitting North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana and Washington as U.S. states.
1924: President Calvin Coolidge became the first president to deliver a radio broadcast from the White House.
1959: Lee Petty won the first Daytona 500.
1983: The notorious Broadway flop Moose Murders opened and closed on the same night at the Eugene O’Neill Theatre. It is regarded by critics as the worst Broadway play ever produced.
2002: Bugs Bunny animator Chuck Jones died in Corona del Mar, Calif.
1455: The first Gutenberg Bible was printed, becoming the first Western book printed with movable type.
1848: John Quincy Adams (sixth president, 1825-1829) died while giving a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. His last words were, “This is the last of Earth. I am content.”
1861: President-elect Abraham Lincoln arrived secretly in Washington, D.C., after an alleged assassination plot was thwarted in Baltimore, Md.
1886: Charles Martin Hall produced the first samples of man-made aluminum after several years of intensive work.
1896: The Tootsie Roll was invented in Chicago, becoming the first individually wrapped penny candy.
1903: Cuba leased Guantánamo Bay to the United States “in perpetuity.”
1927: In response to the burgeoning number of broadcast radio stations, President Calvin Coolidge signed a bill establishing the Federal Radio Commission. (It became the Federal Communications Commission in 1934.)
1942: Japanese submarines fired artillery shells at the California coastline near Santa Barbara, propelling the movement to forcibly relocate American citizens of Japanese descent.
1582: Pope Gregory XIII unveiled the Gregorian calendar, which eventually replaced the less-than-accurate Julian calendar.
1607: The first work recognized as an opera, L’Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi, premiered in Mantua, Italy.
1711: The first Italian opera written for the London stage, Rinaldo by George Frideric Handel, premiered.
1803: In Marbury v. Madison, the U.S. Supreme Court established the principle of judicial review of actions by the legislative and executive branches of government.
1831: The first removal treaty in accordance with the Indian Removal Act, known as the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, was proclaimed, in which the Choctaws in Mississippi ceded land east of the river in exchange for payment and land in the West.
1868: Andrew Johnson became the first president of the United States to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. (He was later acquitted in the Senate.)
1916: The Governor-General of Korea established a clinic in Sorokdo to segregate leprosy patients.
1920: The Nazi Party was founded in Munich, Germany, by Anton Drexler.
1983: A special commission of the U.S. Congress released a report that condemned the practice of Japanese internment during World War II.
2008: Fidel Castro retired after nearly 50 years as the as the President of Cuba.
1836: Samuel Colt was granted a U.S. patent for the Colt revolver.
1870: Hiram Rhodes Revels (1827-1901), a Republican from Mississippi, was sworn into the U.S. Senate, becoming the first African American ever to sit in the U.S. Congress.
1919: Oregon placed a 1 cent per gallon tax on gasoline, becoming the first U.S. state to levy a gasoline tax.
1928: Charles Jenkins Laboratories of Washington, D.C. became the first holder of a television license from the Federal Radio Commission.
1932: Austrian native Adolf Hitler obtained German citizenship by naturalization, which allowed him to run in the 1932 election for Reichspräsident.
1947: The Kingdom of Prussia, in existence since the early 13th century, ceased to exist.
1983: American author Tennessee Williams died when he choked on an eye-drop bottle-cap in his room at the Hotel Elysee in New York. He would routinely place the cap in his mouth, lean back, and place his eyedrops in each eye.
1999: Dominguez Garcia was killed by an airborne cow in Vacaville, Calif. The animal had strayed onto the highway and was struck by another vehicle, launching it into his lane where it crashed through his windshield.
2008: San Antonio, Texas, recorded a record high 92 degrees Fahrenheit.