December 1998-Jan 10th 1999
Today in History

December 1, 1913 Henry Ford installs the first moving assembly line at his factory in Highland Park, Michigan. At first, the assembly line is for the production of magnetos, but it is soon expanded to build the entire automobile. The time to produce a Model-T is reduced from 12 hours to 93 minutes.

December 1, 1945 Singer Burl Ives makes his concert debut at the Town Hall in New York. Ives will go on to become a beloved cultural icon, well known as the voice of Frosty the Snowman in the animated TV production of "Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer."

December 1, 1955 A black woman named Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white person on a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her act of civil defiance is the trigger of a year-long boycott of city buses by African Americans, and begins the historic career of Martin Luther King, Jr.

December 2, 1804 At the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris, Napoleon Bonaparte places the crown of the Emperor of France on his own head. His self-coronation directly challenges the traditions and structure of European royalty. The European monarchies respond by declaring war on France, pledging to continue until Napoleon is de

December 2, 1942At the University of Chicago, Enrico Fermi and his team achieve the world's first artificial nuclear chain reaction, marking the true beginning of the nuclear age. The experiment takes place in a makeshift lab underneath the University's football stands.

December 2, 1982 At the University of Utah medical center in Salt Lake City, a retired dentist named Barney Clark is the world's first recipient of a permanent artificial heart. The device, invented by Dr. Robert K. Jarvik, keeps Clark alive for 112 days.

December 3, 1955 Elvis Presley's first released music is a record with "Mystery Train" on one side and "I Forgot to Remember to Forget" on the other. The record company, RCA Victor, describes Elvis as "The most talked about personality in recorded music in the last 10 years."

December 3, 1967 A team of surgeons in Cape Town, South Africa performs the world's first human heart transplant. The operation, headed by Dr. Christiaan Barnard, replaces Louis Washkansky's diseased heart with the healthy heart of a 25-year old woman who was killed in a car crash. Washkansky lives 18 days with the transplanted heart.

December 3, 1984 In Bhopal, India, a huge cloud of highly toxic methyl isocyanate gas leaks from a Union Carbide pesticide plant, causing the deaths of more than 2,000 people and injuring many thousands more. Later, it is alleged that the tragic event was deliberately caused by a worker who ran a water hose into a storage tank.

December 4, 1867 The National Grange of Husbandry, also known as the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, is founded by Oliver Hudson Kelley. The Grange, as it comes to be known, is an organization that represents farmers in much the same way that labor unions represent industrial workers.

December 4, 1933 One of the most successful radio soap operas of all time is inaugurated with the first broadcast of "Ma Perkins," sponsored by Oxydol. Created by Frank and Anne Hummert, a husband and wife advertising team, "Ma Perkins" runs for more than 25 years, well into the time of network television.

December 4, 1996 The Mars Pathfinder is launched from Cape Canaveral, beginning its 310 million mile adventure to the Red Planet. The mission demonstrates many new inventions, including a unique balloon-bounce landing and the six-wheeled, solar-assisted, semi-independent Sojourner Rover.

December 5, 1484 Pope Innocent VIII issues a Papal Bull in which he declares that all Pagan practices, including witchcraft and devil-worship, are heretical and thus punishable by death. His writings mark the beginning of the witch-hunting hysteria that eventually will lead to the Salem witch trials.

December 5, 1933 During 14 years of Prohibition, illegal drinking has risen to record levels and organized crime has become a nationwide problem. At 5:32 PM, the state of Utah ratifies the 21st Amendment to the US Constitution, thereby repealing the 18th Amendment, ending Prohibition, and making the drinking of alcoholic beverages legal once again.

December 5, 1978 The Pioneer Venus I Orbiter begins transmitting pictures and data back to scientists on Earth. It carries 17 science instruments, including a high-resolution radar surface mapper. The probe continues sending information until August 1992, when the fuel runs out and the probe is allowed to burn up in the atmosphere of Venus.

December 6, 1865 The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution is ratified, thus abolishing all forms of slavery or involuntary servitude, except as part of punishment for crimes. This is actually the second version of the 13th Amendment. The first version was written to guarantee the legality of slavery, but its ratification was interrupted by the Civil War.

December 6, 1877 Thomas A. Edison records the first sounds on a cylinder of tinfoil, reciting "Mary Had a Little Lamb." His machine can record 2-3 minutes of sound. Edison receives the patent for his phonograph in 1879.

December 6, 1917 Two ships, one of them carrying tons of ammunition, collide in the harbor of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The resulting explosion destroys part of the town of Halifax, killing more than 1,650 people and injuring 9,000. It is the largest non-nuclear explosion in history, and the largest accidental blast ever.

December 7, 1787 By becoming the first state to ratify the U.S. Constitution, Delaware is the first of the 13 original states to be admitted to the Union. Delaware has been called the "Diamond State" because of its strategic position on the Eastern Seaboard.

December 7, 1941 In a surprise attack, almost 200 Japanese warplanes bomb the U.S. Pacific Fleet base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. More than 2,300 Americans are killed. That day, Canada declares war on Japan, and the following day the United States also declares war, thus entering World War II.

December 7, 1995 The Galileo probe, a 764-pound self-contained robot, enters the atmosphere of Jupiter. For a short time its heat shield burns brighter than the sun's surface. Later, hanging beneath a parachute, it transmits about an hour of data to the mother ship orbiting above, before it drops into the burning hot depths.

December 8, 1980 Ex-Beatle John Lennon is shot outside his Manhattan apartment, The Dakota. He is rushed to the hospital but pronounced dead on arrival. David Mark Chapman is charged with the crime.

December 8, 1987 U.S. President Reagan and Soviet President Gorbachev sign the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF), agreeing to destroy all of both countries' intermediate range nuclear missiles (missiles with a range of 1,000 to 5,000 miles).

December 9, 1793 Noah Webster publishes the first daily newspaper in New York City, "The American Minerva", with a regular supplement called the "Herald". Webster is better known today for publishing the first American English dictionary, and for his active dislike of the American school system.

December 9, 1958 The John Birch society is founded in Indianapolis by Robert H. W. Welch Jr. and eleven others. The JBS becomes a major anti-communist and anti-collectivist force in the U.S., with a focus on rooting out and exposing alleged communist conspirators in the government.

December 9, 1960 Sperry Rand Corporation introduces the Univac 1107, which makes use of "thin film memory." One of the most interesting features of the 1100 series of computers is their use of one's-complement math, unlike most other computers that use two's complement. In one's complement math, the value of zero comes in two flavors: positive and negative!

December 10, 1869 Women in the Wyoming Territory are granted the right to vote and the right to hold public office. Governor John Campbell signs the historic bill, the first of its kind in the United States. Years later, December 10th becomes known as Wyoming Day in honor of the event.

December 10, 1901 On the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Nobel Prizes are established. Nobel, an owner of profitable oilfields, the inventor of dynamite, and an ardent pacifist, left instructions in his will that the awards be given every year to those who "have conferred the greatest benefit to mankind" in six fields (a seventh is added in 1968).

December 11, 1919 In Enterprise, Alabama, a new monument is dedicated to the Boll Weevil, one of the worst cotton crop pests ever. Why did they give it a monument? Because the weevil's devastations forced the farmers to try new kinds of crops, including the peanut, which ultimately led to a tripling of profits!

December 11, 1967 In Toulouse, France, the prototype for a new supersonic airliner is unveiled. The Concorde begins commercial flights in 1973, and in 1998 it remains the only supersonic passenger aircraft. However, now there are plans for a "next generation" supersonic airliner.

December 11, 1991 The world is stunned as the Union Of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) dissolves. The announcement by the leaders of Russia, Belorussia and the Ukraine marks the end of 74 years of existence for the great world power, and the beginning of a new era in global politics.

December 12, 1787 Pennsylvania becomes the second state to ratify the United States Consitution of 1787, thus building momentum for more states to accept the Constitution. The process is not smooth, and there are bitter disputes. In a document detailing their grievances, the anti- federalists allege that there was not enough time for a full discussion.

December 12, 1897 The New York Journal runs the first episode of a new comic strip called "The Katzenjammer Kids." This creation of Rudolph Dirks is the first strip to incorporate speech balloons regularly in sequential panels. It becomes an immediate hit, and today it is the oldest strip in syndication.

December 12, 1901 Near St. John's, Newfoundland, an Italian inventor named Guglielmo Marconi successfully receives the first radio transmission from the other side of the Atlantic. The signal, sent from over 2,000 miles away, is a repeated set of three short clicks -- the letter "s" in morse code.

December 13, 1577 Sir Francis Drake set sail from Plymouth, England on a voyage of discovery, hardship, and plunder. Along the way, he rounded Tierra Del Fuego, then became the first European to set foot in northern California. He returned to England in 1580, becoming the second known mariner (and the first Englishman) to sail around the world.

December 13, 1873 In Fredonia, New York, a group of Christian women led by Mrs. Esther McNeil formed a society for the purpose of visiting saloons, in hopes of countering the evils of liquor. During their anti-alcohol crusades, they sang hymns and prayed. The group later adopted the name "Women's Christian Temperance Union."

December 13, 1950 Actor James Dean landed his first role: a Pepsi commercial. He was paid $30 for the spot. He began a promising career, featuring leading roles in three movies, before his tragic death in an automobile accident in 1955, at the age of 24.

December 14, 1911 The Norwegian polar explorer Roald Amundsen reached the South Pole ahead of his competitor, Robert F. Scott. During the voyage and return, Amundsen lost all but twelve of his fifty-two sled dogs, but he and his four human companions survived.

December 14, 1962 NASA's Mariner Two swung by Venus, becoming the first successful interplanetary spacecraft. It beamed back data about the temperature and other conditions at the planet's cloud tops and at the surface. The spacecraft continued past Venus, transmitting data until early January, when contact was lost.

December 14, 1986 Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager take off in an experimental aircraft called Voyager, beginning the first nonstop, non-refueled flight around the world. The journey took nine days. Voyager was a wonder of modern design, with an airframe weighing only 425 kilograms (939pounds).

December 15, 1791 The first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution go into effect after ratification by Virginia. These amendments, also known as the Bill Of Rights, carry forward the spirit of historic documents describing the inalienable rights of free citizens, reaching back all the way to the Magna Carta, written in 1215.

December 15, 1939 The movie "Gone With The Wind" premiers at Loew's Grand Theater in Atlanta. Starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh, the two-part Civil War and Reconstruction story is a smash hit, scoring the highest box-office returns in history (adjusted for inflation), and it remains a beloved classic today.

December 15, 1941 Lena Horne records the song "Stormy Weather," which becomes a classic in the genre of torch songs. In 1941, Horne is still near the beginning of her stellar, 60-year career as an entertainer and activist. Many years later, she celebrates her 80th birthday with her fans at Lincoln Center.

December 16, 1773 Sixty Colonial patriots boarded three British ships in Boston Harbor and dumped 342 chests of tea overboard. They were protesting the British Tea Act of 1773, which effectively granted an illegal monopoly to the East India Tea Company.

December 16, 1905 A weekly showbiz magazine called "Variety" published its first issue. Sime Silverman's 16-page trade publication is still alive today, now an institution. Variety has become known for its snappy headlines, full of wordplay and wit, and for introducing many new words into the English language, including "sitcom", "deejay", and "mogul".

December 16, 1951 A new TV police drama named "Dragnet" was aired in a special presentation on "Chesterfield Sound Off Time". Jack Webb starred as Sergeant Joe Friday, and his boss in the preview was played by Raymond Burr, who later starred as Perry Mason. The show began its first official season on January 3, 1952.

December 17, 1903 Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first four successful, manned flights in a powered aircraft. The longest flight of the Flyer I (now known as the Kitty Hawk) lasted 59 seconds, during which the aircraft traveled 260 meters (852 feet). The Kitty Hawk is now on display at the Smithsonian Institution.

December 17, 1936 The wooden ventriloquist's dummy known as Charlie McCarthy made his (its?) first radio debut on the "Rudy Vallee Show." This was the beginning of a successful radio career for Charlie and his human friend (and voice), Edgar Bergen. Charlie also appeared with Edgar on TV, and in six movies.

December 17, 1976 Ted Turner's TV station, WTCG-17, began uplinking to Satcom-1, becoming the first commercial TV station to be available across the entire US. The signal was accepted for local viewing by four cable systems, reaching 24,000 homes. Turner later changed the call letters to WTBS, buying them from a radio station at MIT for $50,000.

December 18, 1865 With the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the US Constitution, slavery was abolished, and the Civil War's most important legacy was made official.

December 18, 1912 A spectacular new find of an early human skull was announced by Charles Dawson and Arthur Smith Woodward. The skull, jawbone, and tooth fragments, christened Eoanthropus dawsoni, soon became known as Piltdown Man. It was not until 1953 that the find was revealed to be a clever hoax, one of the best known cases of scientific fraud in history. To this day, scholars still argue about who did it.

December 18, 1936 A clothing designer named Ruth Harkness brought the first live giant panda to the western hemisphere. The panda, named Su-Lin, lived at the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago until his death in 1938. Since then, giant pandas have been bred in captivity, but today they are still endangered in their natural habitat, western China.

December 19, 1732 Using the pen name of Richard Sauders, Benjamin Franklin published the first issue of "Poor Richard's Almanack." This annual publication continued for many years and was widely known for its wit and wisdom.

December 19, 1843 Charles Dickens's classic story "A Christmas Carol" was published in England. The tale of the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge and his encounters with the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, has become the most famous Christmas story of all time.

December 19, 1972 The sixth and last of NASA's Apollo missions came to an end as Apollo 17 splashed down in the Pacific Ocean. The mission included a 73-hour visit to the Taurus-Littrow Valley of Mare Serenitatus, where the astronauts drove a luner rover buggy and collected the first orange-colored material from the moon.

December 20, 1606 Three tiny ships, the "Susan Constant," "Godspeed," and "Discovery," began a journey from London across the Atlantic Ocean. The 105 passengers landed at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay and founded the first permanent colony of Europeans in the New World. They named the new colony Virginia, after the shipping company which funded the voyage.

December 20, 1803 The 827,987 square mile Louisiana Territory was ceded to the United States by France, nearly doubling the size of the US. The price was $15 million, or about $18 per square mile. President Thomas Jefferson said it would take a thousand years to settle the Territory.

December 20, 1923 Vladimir Zworykin received a patent for the Iconoscope television camera tube, the first all-electronic television camera. Within a year, he had also invented an electronic TV display, the Kinescope.

December 21, 1620 A ship called the "Mayflower," carrying a group of English colonists, landed at what is now Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. The Pilgrims intended to land in a warmer area, but storms drove them off course. They came in search of religious freedom, but expelled anyone who disagreed with their own religious beliefs.

December 21, 1937 The first full-length animated feature cartoon with color and sound, Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs," premiered at the Carthay Circle Theatre in Hollywood, California. 750 artists contributed nearly a million drawings to the production, 250,000 of which made the final edit of the 83-minute film.

December 21, 1968 Apollo 8, the first manned mission to orbit the moon, was launched from Cape Kennedy, Florida. During the 147-hour flight, the three astronauts photographed the far side of the moon and named craters after the eight Apollo astronauts who had died in accidents.

December 22, 1807 The US Congress passed the Embargo Act to stop all trading with Europe, in hopes of keeping the nation out of the European Wars and convincing Britain and France of the value of free trade. Enforcement was difficult, however, especially in New England.

December 22, 1956 Colo the gorilla was born at the Zoo in Columbus, Ohio. She was the first gorilla ever born in captivity. Since then the Columbus Zoo has also seen the birth of gorilla twins, and now there are three generations of captive born gorillas there.

December 22, 1958
The new number one hit on the music charts was "The Chipmunk Song," featuring three squeaky-voiced critters and one exasperated human, voiced by David Seville. The song was at the top of the charts for a month, and today Alvin, Simon, and Theodore are still Christmas favorites.

December 23, 1783 Two months after the final battle of the Revolutionary War at Yorktown, General George Washington resigned his commission as commander in chief of the Continental Army and returned to his home at Mount Vernon, Virginia. On his way home, he encountered throngs of grateful well-wishers.

December 23, 1823 The Christmas poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas," known today as "" Twas The Night Before Christmas," is published anonymously in the Troy Sentinel, a New York newspaper. Some say that the poem was published against the wishes of Clement Clarke Moore, its author.

December 23, 1947 Three scientists at Bell Laboratories assembled the first working transistor, a solid-state component that replaced the bulky, delicate, finicky vacuum tubes used in electronic devices until then. Walter H. Brattain, John Bardeen and William Shockley later received the Nobel Prize for their work.

December 24, 1814 The United States and Great Britain signed the Treaty Of Ghent, ending the 2 1/2 year War Of 1812. Unfortunately, communications in those days were not as good as they are today. News of the treaty did not reach the US in time to prevent the Battle of New Orleans, which took place the following month.

December 24, 1865 In Pulaski, Tennessee, a group of Confederate war veterans met to form a new social club, calling it the Klu Klux Klan. It quickly became a terrorist organization which used violence and intimidation to restore white supremacy throughout the South. This was the original KKK, which operated until the 1870s. The second KKK, which still exists today, was formed in 1915.

December 24, 1906 For the first time ever, a human voice was broadcast over the radio. The broadcast, from inventor Reginald Fessenden in Brant Rock, Massachusetts, was heard clearly by surprised morse code radio operators on ships in the Atlantic Ocean! Fessenden made a short speech, played a record, and played "O Holy Night" on his violin.

Jingle Bell Break:)

January 4, 1887 After two years, eight months, and twelve days riding a high-wheeled
bicycle with solid tires, Thomas Stevens arrived in San Francisco, completing the first bicycle trip around the world. Since then, thousands of others have completed the trip, using much more comfortable equipment.

January 4, 1936 Joe Venuti was at the top of the music charts with a jazz violin selection called "Stop! Look! Listen!" This was the first time anyone had ever hit the top of the charts, because this was the first day Billboard Magazine ever published them!

January 4, 1946 Two animated talking magpies named Heckle and Jeckle made their cartoon debut. These Paul Terry characters first appeared in films, and then moved to TV in the early 1950s, when Terrytoons became the first major animation studio to explore the new medium.

January 5, 1933 Work began on the Marin anchorage of the Golden Gate Bridge, connecting San Francisco with points north. The bridge was completed in May, 1937. The 4600-foot span's trademark color, called International Orange, was suggested after a number of other color schemes were rejected, including black with yellow stripes!

January 5, 1970 A new daytime soap opera called "All My Children" appeared for the first time on ABC-TV. The original story line dealt with two families, the Tylers and the Martins. Now in its second quarter century, with several roles replaced several times by new actors, the show is still going strong.

January 5, 1972 President Richard Nixon signed a $5.5 billion bill to create a series of reusable, winged space transports, the Space Shuttles. Many innovations were required to make the fleet of shuttles a reality, including special heat-shielding tiles, vastly complex computerized control systems, and reusable rocket engines.

January 6, 1838 Samuel F. B. Morse demonstrated his electromagnetic telegraph, sending a signal over a two-mile wire at Morristown, New Jersey. At the other end, a pencil moved up and down on a strip of paper, recording a series of dots and dashes. Six years later, the invention of Morse Code made the telegraph more practical for meaningful communication.

January 6, 1942 A four-engine Boeing 314 flying boat called "Pacific Clipper" arrived in New York, completing the first commercial flight around the world. The Clipper series of planes revolutionized air travel because they could land and take off on water at a time when long airport runways were still scarce.

January 6, 1952 A comic strip called "Peanuts" achieved the honored spot above the fold on the first pages of Sunday funny papers all across the USA. Charles M. Schulz's beloved strip about kids and a dog first appeared in October 1950. It has since become the most successful syndicated comic strip ever, and has migrated to television and Broadway shows.

January 7, 1610 Galileo Galilei aimed his new telescope at the planet Jupiter and discovered three tiny "stars" near it, all in a line. Several nights later he spotted a fourth. He had discovered Jupiter's four largest moons, now called the Galilean satellites. The moons are named Io, Europa, Ganymede, and Callisto.

January 7, 1785 The first balloon crossing of the English Channel was accomplished by Jean-Pierre Blanchard and his passenger, Dr. John Jeffries. Near the end of the crossing, with the balloon cooling and losing its lift, it has been reported that they had to toss all unnecessary ballast overboard -- even including clothes -- in order to stay aloft.

January 7, 1927 The first commercial transatlantic telephone service began, between New York and London. The transatlantic transmission was done by radio, with transmitters at Rocky Point, New York and Rugby, England, and receivers at Houlton, Maine and Cupar, Scotland. The total volume on the first day was 31 calls; a 3-minute call cost $75.00.

January 8, 1679 The French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle reached Niagara Falls, and began constructing a sailing vessel to explore the waterways above the great cataract. To support the shipbuilding effort, he set up a post called Fort Conti, just downstream at the mouth of the Niagara River.

January 8, 1889 Dr. Herman Hollerith received a patent for his tabulating machine, one of the forerunners to modern computers. The machine was a counting and sorting device that made use of punched cards. With the help of Hollerith's machine, the census of 1890 was completed on schedule.

January 8, 1944 The first US jet fighter plane was flown, a prototype Lockheed XP-80 called "Lulubelle." Lockheed designed and built the jet in only 143 days! The production model became known as the P-80 "Shooting Star," one of the most successful jet fighters ever produced.

January 9, 1793 Balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard lifted off in a hydrogen-filled balloon from Philadelphia, beginning the first manned balloon trip in the United States. The take-off was witnessed by President George Washington. 46 minutes later, Blanchard settled back to earth in Woodbury, New Jersey.

January 9, 1968 The Surveyor VII spacecraft landed gently near the Lunar crater Tycho, and began sending back panoramic pictures of the site. This was the last mission in the Surveyor series of unmanned lunar probes, which returned a total of nearly 88,000 pictures and conducted a variety of scientific investigations.

January 9, 1984 Clara Peller became an instant cult figure as the first of the "Where's The Beef?" TV advertisements appeared, promoting Wendy's Hamburgers. The ornery old lady appeared in a total of four commercials, which created record levels of consumer awareness and won a Clio award.

January 10, 1776 Thomas Paine's pamphlet, "Common Sense" was published. This extended essay about the structure and function of government was a critical factor in the creation of a democratic government for the United States, and Paine's words created a huge amount of reaction, both for and against independence.

January 10, 1947 Researchers at Stanford University reported they had isolated the virus that causes poliomyelitis (polio), a sometimes deadly disease that reached epidemic status in the US in the early 1900's. Isolation of the virus led to the first effective vaccine, and today polio has been eradicated from many countries.

January 10, 1949 RCA records introduced a new format for music recordings: seven-inch singles that ran at 45 rpm. The new records came with a large center hole, said to be much easier to mount on the spindle. New "drop- changer" players were supposed to be able to play these records for 50 minutes without interruptions!

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Updated Mar 9th 2001



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