1702: The Daily Courant, England’s first national daily newspaper, was published for the first time.
1851: The first performance of Rigoletto by Giuseppe Verdi took place in Venice.
1888: The infamous “Blizzard of ’88” struck the northeastern United States, causing about 400 deaths.
1942: With Japanese forces advancing across the Pacific, Gen. Douglas MacArthur left the Philippines for Australia, vowing, “I shall return.” (He did so nearly three years later.)
1894: Coca-Cola was bottled and sold for the first time, in Vicksburg, Miss., by local soda fountain operator Joseph Biedenharn.
1912: Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Guides (later the Girl Scouts of America) in Savannah, Ga.
1993: Janet Reno was sworn in as the nation’s first female attorney general, under President Bill Clinton.
2009: Financier Bernard Madoff pleaded guilty in New York to scamming $18 billion, the largest in Wall Street history.
2011: A reactor at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan melted and exploded, releasing radioactivity into the atmosphere a day after an earthquake.
1639: Harvard College was named for clergyman John Harvard.
1781: William Herschel discovered Uranus.
1925: Tennessee outlawed the teaching of evolution.
1930: News of the discovery of Pluto was telegraphed to the Harvard College Observatory.
1993: Birmingham, Ala., received 13 inches of snow.
2013: Jorge Mario Bergoglio (born Dec. 17 1936) became Pope Francis after he was elected in the papal conclave to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned. He became the first pope from the Western Hemisphere, the first Hispanic pope (Argentina), and the first pope to use the name Francis, after St. Francis of Assisi.
1794: Eli Whitney was granted a patent for the cotton gin.
1903: The Hay-Herran Treaty, granting the United States the right to build the Panama Canal, was ratified by the U.S. Senate. Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order making Pelican Island, in Florida, a “preserve and breeding ground for native birds,” marking the birth of the National Wildlife Refuge System.
1964: A jury in Dallas, Texas, found Jack Ruby guilty of killing Lee Harvey Oswald, the purported assassin of President John F. Kennedy.
1989: President George H. W. Bush banned the import of assault rifles into the United States.
1994: The free, open-source computer operating system, Linux version 1.0.0, was released.
2004: Pope John Paul II became the second-longest serving pope in history.
2012: The publishers of the Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that they would cease publishing a print edition after 244 years in business. (The company continued offering an on-line version for $70 per year.)
1820: Maine became the 23rd U.S. state.
1875: Archbishop of New York John McCloskey was named the first Roman Catholic cardinal in the United States.
1985: The first internet domain name was registered (symbolics.com).
1621: Samoset, a Mohegan, became the first Native American to make contact with the settlers of Plymouth Colony when he strolled into the encampment and said, “Welcome, Englishmen! My name is Samoset.”
1802: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was established to found and operate the United States Military Academy at West Point, New York
1916: On orders from President Woodrow Wilson, the 7th and 10th US cavalry regiments under John J. Pershing crossed the U.S.-Mexico border to join the hunt for Pancho Villa.
1926: Robert Goddard launched the first liquid-fueled rocket, at Auburn,
1958: The Ford Motor Company produced its 50 millionth automobile, the Thunderbird, averaging almost a million cars a year since the company was founded in 1908.
1968: General Motors produced its 100 millionth automobile, an Oldsmobile Toronado.
1996: The first Irish Fair, known then as the St. Patrick’s Day Irish Fair & Music Festival, was held in Libby, Mont. The day-long event included a parade on Mineral Ave., arts and crafts fair at Memorial Gym, corned beef and cabbage dinners at 20 restaurants in Libby and Troy, and an evening concert featuring several performers including Kevin Burke, an international recording star and Irish fiddler; the Regent Irish Step Dancers from Calgary, Alberta; Shaughnessy Hill Band from Libby; Walter Charm, an Irish uilleann pipe virtuoso from Seattle, and; Tannersøster Musikkompani Orkester, a 22-piece orchestra performing Irish jigs, reels, polkas and hornpipes.
493: St. Patrick died in County Down, Ireland.
1845: Rubber bands were patented by Stephen Perry.
1905: Franklin Delano Roosevelt (33rd president, 1933-1945) married Eleanor Roosevelt, his fifth cousin once removed and the niece of 26th President Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909).
1941: The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., was officially opened by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.
1948: Benelux, France, and the United Kingdom signed the Treaty of Brussels, a precursor to the North Atlantic Treaty that established NATO.
1950: Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, announced the creation of element 98, which they named “californium.”
1969: Golda Meir became the first female prime minister of Israel.
1995: The first coordinated, town-wide St. Patrick’s Day celebration was held in Libby, Mont. It was the precursor to the annual St. Patrick’s Day Irish Fair & Music Festival that began the following year.