January 17


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.


January 18


1778: James Cook became the first known European to discover the Hawaiian Islands, which he named the “Sandwich Islands.”

1903: President Theodore Roosevelt sent a radio message to King Edward VII via the first transatlantic radio transmission originating in the United States.

2007: Keith Kallstrom, a Christian Identity pastor and avowed racist from Oklahoma, died of an apparent heart attack in a federal prison cell in Michigan. (Mourners at his funeral displayed an assortment of hate symbols including the Confederate flag, the KKK ‘red cross’ and the Nazi swastika.)


January 19

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.




1915: In the first major aerial bombardment of a civilian target, German zeppelins bombed the towns of Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn in the United Kingdom, killing more than 20.

1935: Coopers Inc. began selling the world’s first men’s briefs.

January 20

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.

1783: The Kingdom of Great Britain signed a peace treaty with France and Spain, officially ending hostilities in the American Revolutionary War.

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.


January 21

1525: The Swiss Anabaptist Movement was founded, breaking a thousand-year tradition of church-state union. (Amish, Mennonites and Hutterites are direct descendants of this movement.)

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.

1887: A total of 18.3 inches of rain fell in Brisbane, a record for any Australian capital city.

1899: Opel manufactured its first automobile, in Rüsselsheim, Germany.

January 22

1506: The first contingent of 150 Swiss Guards arrived at the Vatican.

1889: Columbia Phonograph (later Columbia Records) was formed in Washington, D.C.