December 4


1918: President Woodrow Wilson became the first U.S. president to travel to Europe while in office, when he set sail from New York City for the World War I peace talks in Versailles, France.

1943: In a rare move, President Franklin D. Roosevelt closed down a federal agency, the Works Progress Administration, because of high wartime employment in the United States.

1945: The U.S. Senate voted 65-7 for United States participation in the United Nations, which had been established on Oct. 24.)

1954: The first Burger King (renamed from Insta-Burger King) opened in Miami, Fla.

1956: The “Million Dollar Quartet” (Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash) recorded an impromptu jam session together at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tenn., for the first and last time.

1980: English rock band Led Zeppelin officially disbanded following the death of drummer John Bonham, 32, on Sept. 25.


December 5


1933: Prohibition in the United States ended when Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, establishing the required 75 percent of states needed to enact the amendment. (This overturned the 18th Amendment of 1920, which made the manufacture, sale, or transportation of alcohol illegal in the United States.)

1969: The ARPANET network, the precursor to the internet, was established.


December 6


1865: The 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified, banning slavery.

1877: The first edition of the Washington Post was published.

1897: London became the world’s first city to license taxicabs.

1973: The U.S. House of Representatives voted 387-35 to confirm Gerald Ford as Vice President of the United States, following the resignation of Spiro T. Agnew. (The Senate had confirmed Ford 92-3 on Nov. 27.)

December 7


1930: The first television commercial in the United States, an advertisement for I.J. Fox Furriers, was broadcast on W1XAV in Boston, Massachusetts, during a video telecast of the CBS radio orchestra program, The Fox Trappers.

1941: Japan launched a surprise attack against U.S. forces at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, propelling the United States into World War II.

1963: Instant replay was used for the first time, during an Army-Navy football game.

December 8


1941: President Franklin D. Roosevelt declared Dec. 7 “a date which will live in infamy,” after which the U.S. declared war on Japan. Japanese forces simultaneously invaded Malaya, Thailand, Hong Kong, the Philippines, and the Dutch East Indies.

2010: SpaceX became the first private company to successfully launch, orbit and recover a spacecraft.


December 9


1851: The first YMCA in North America was established in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.

1888: Statistician Herman Hollerith (1860-1929) installed his computing device, a punch-card tabulator, at the U.S. War Department, thus beginning the era of automatic data processing systems. (His design dominated the computing landscape for almost 100 years, and he is widely regarded as “The father of modern machine data processing.”)

1960: The first episode of the world’s longest-running television soap opera, Coronation Street, was broadcast in the United Kingdom.

1962: Petrified Forest National Park was established in Arizona.

1965: A Charlie Brown Christmas, the first in a series of Peanuts television specials, debuted on CBS.

1979: The smallpox virus was certified as eradicated, making it the first and to date only human disease driven to extinction.

2008: Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, 51, was arrested by federal officials for a number of crimes including attempting to sell the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. (He was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison.


December 10


1906: Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) became the first U.S. president to win a Nobel Prize when he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his role in mediating the Russo-Japanese War.

1909: Swedish author Selma Lagerlöf (1858-1940) became the first female writer to win the Nobel Prize in Literature.

1911: The first transcontinental flight across the United States was completed when Calbraith Perry Rodgers landed the Vin Fiz in Long Beach, Calif. (The flight began on Sept. 17, 1911, from Sheepshead Bay, New York.)

1927: The phrase “Grand Ole Opry” was broadcast for the first time on radio.

1955: Mighty Mouse Playhouse premiered on national television.

1965: The Grateful Dead performed its first concert under this new name, in San Jose, Calif., during one of author Ken Kesey’s “Acid Tests,” a notorious series of LSD-fueled parties.

1968: Japan’s biggest heist, the still-unsolved “300 million yen robbery,” was carried out in Tokyo.