1500: Vicente Yáñez Pinzón became the first European to set foot on Brazil.
1808: The Rum Rebellion took place, becoming the only successful (albeit short-lived) armed takeover of the government in Australia.
1838: Tennessee enacted the first prohibition law in the United States.
1905: The world’s largest diamond ever, the Cullinan, weighing 3,106.75 carats (1.37 pounds), was found at the Premier Mine near Pretoria in South Africa.
1915: Rocky Mountain National Park was established by an act of the U.S. Congress.
1960: Danny Heater set a worldwide high school basketball scoring record when he recorded 135 points for Burnsville High School in West Virginia.
2004: A dead whale exploded in the town of Tainan, Taiwan. A build-up of gas in the decomposing sperm whale is suspected of causing the explosion.
2005: President George W. Bush appointed Condoleezza Rice secretary of state, making her the highest ranking African-American woman ever to serve in a presidential cabinet.
98: Trajan succeeded his adoptive father Nerva as Roman emperor. (Under Trajan’s rule, the Roman Empire reached its maximum size.)
1785: The University of Georgia was founded, the first public university in the United States.
1880: Thomas Edison (1847-1931) received the patent for his incandescent lamp.
1974: The largest flood in the 20th century to affect the city of Brisbane, Australia, occurred when the Brisbane River breached its banks.
1984: Pop singer Michael Jackson suffered second-degree burns to his scalp during the filming of a Pepsi commercial in Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles.
1996: Germany observed International Holocaust Remembrance Day for the first time.
2006: Western Union discontinued its telegram and commercial messaging services after being in business since 1851.
1754: The word “serendipity” (meaning “pleasant surprise”) was coined by Horace Walpole (1717-1797) in a letter to a friend.
1820: The continent of Antarctica was discovered by a Russian expedition led by Fabian Gottlieb von Bellingshausen (1778-1852) and Mikhail Petrovich Lazarev (1788-1851).
1855: The Isthmus of Panama was crossed for the first time by a locomotive on the Panama Canal Railway, from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean.
1878: Yale Daily News became the first daily college newspaper in the United States.
1887: The largest reported snowflake was discovered by a ranch owner at Fort Keogh, Mont.; it measured 15 inches across and 8 inches thick.
1896: Walter Arnold of East Peckham, Kent, England, became the first person convicted of speeding. (He was fined one shilling plus costs for going 8 mph, exceeding the speed limit of 2 mph.)
1917: City-owned streetcars began operating in San Francisco, Calif.
1934: The first ski tow in the United States began operating in Vermont.
1937: The first Rolls Royce prototype, known as the Silver Wraith, was test driven in England.
1938: The world land speed record on a public road was broken by Rudolf Caracciola in a Mercedes-Benz W195 with a speed of 268.9 mph.
1956: Young country-rock singer Elvis Presley made his first-ever television appearance on the TV musical-variety program Stage Show. (Presley sang “Heartbreak Hotel,” which quickly became a hit single. In total, Elvis appeared on six shows. The program was hosted by swing band leaders Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey. Elvis went on to appear on Ed Sullivan’s immensely popular variety show, Toast of the Town, in the fall of 1956. The appearance made Elvis a household name.)
1958: The Lego company patented the design of its Lego bricks, still compatible with bricks produced today. The last episode of the British radio comedy show The Goon Show was broadcast.
1965: The “maple leaf” design of the Canadian flag was chosen by an act of Parliament.
1980: Born this day: Nick Carter, U.S. singer-songwriter, producer, dancer, and actor Backstreet Boys); Michael Hastings, U.S. journalist and author (died 2013).
1845: Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, The Raven, was first published in the New York Evening Mirror.
1886: Karl Benz received a patent for the first successful gasoline-driven automobile.
1907: Charles Curtis of Kansas became the first Native American U.S. senator. (He later served as vice president under President Herbert Hoover.)
1963: The first inductees into the Pro Football Hall of Fame were announced.
2002: In his state of the union address, President George W. Bush described “regimes that sponsor terror” as an Axis of evil, in which he included Iraq, Iran and North Korea.
2009: Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich was removed from office after his conviction of several corruption charges, including the alleged solicitation of personal benefit in exchange for an appointment to the U.S. Senate to replace then-U.S. President-elect Barack Hussein Obama.
1649: King Charles I of England was beheaded after being found guilty of tyranny by the Rump Parliament at the behest of Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658).
1790: The first boat specializing as a lifeboat was tested on the River Tyne in northeast England.
1847: Yerba Buena, Calif., was renamed San Francisco.
1862: The first American ironclad warship, the USS Monitor, was launched at Hampton Roads, Va.
1911: The destroyer USS Terry made the first airplane rescue at sea, saving the life of John Alexander Douglas McCurdy (1886-1910), 10 miles north of Havana, Cuba. The Canadian Naval Service became the Royal Canadian Navy.
1969: the Beatles made their last public performance in an impromptu concert on the roof of their London recording studio. (The event was broken up by the police.)
1982: Richard Skrenta (born 1967) wrote the first personal computer virus code, which was 400 lines long and disguised as an Apple boot program called “Elk Cloner.”
2014: At 5:50 a.m., Darlene Shaver of Troy, Mont., became the first patient admitted into Cabinet Peaks Medical Center, a new, $40 million hospital in Libby, Mont. At 6:45 a.m., Cheryle Amos of Libby became the last patient discharged from St. John’s Lutheran Hospital.
1747: The first venereal diseases clinic opened at London Lock Hospital.
1865: As the Civil War began winding down, Confederate general and traitor Robert E. Lee became general-in-chief.
1930: 3M began marketing Scotch Tape.
1949: The first TV soap opera, These Are My Children, was broadcast by the NBC station in Chicago.
1958: The first American satellite, Explorer 1, was launched.
1990: The first McDonald’s in the Soviet Union opened in Moscow.
2010: Avatar became the first film to gross over $2 billion worldwide.
1861: In the run-up to the Civil War, Texas seceded from the United States.
1893: Thomas A. Edison finished construction of the first motion picture studio, the Black Maria, in West Orange, New Jersey.
1918: Russia adopted the Gregorian calendar, the last major nation to do so.
1957: Felix Wankel’s first working prototype of the Wankel rotary engine ran at the NSU research and development department Versuchsabteilung TX in Germany.
1964: The Beatles had their first No. 1 hit in the United States with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”
1968: Born this day: Pauly Shore, comedian, actor, director, and producer; and Lisa Marie Presley, daughter of Elvis and Priscilla Presley, born in Memphis, Tenn.
1998: Lillian E. Fishburne became the first female African-American to be promoted to rear admiral.
ON THIS DAY…
JANUARY 26 – FEBRUARY 1
NATIONAL GREEN JUICE DAY
Green juices consist of a variety of pressed vegetables and fruits—making them a healthy alternative to other foods.
NATIONAL CHOCOLATE CAKE DAY
NATIONAL DAISY DAY
The word daisy comes from the Old English language, “day’s eye” because its petals blossom at dawn and shut at dusk.
NATIONAL PUZZLE DAY
Scientists have discovered that when we work on a jigsaw puzzle, we utilize bot sides of the brain, improving memory, cognitive function, and problem solving skills in the process.
NATIONAL CROISSANT DAY
While most of us know it as a French specialty, the croissant actually originated in Austria under the name “kipferls”.
SCOTCH TAPE DAY
A problem arose when cars needed to be painted in two tones and sections needed to be taped off to do so.
CHINESE NEW YEAR
You’ll find a full 20% of Earth’s population celebrating this day— using more fireworks than any other day of the year.