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Daily History

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December 23, 1888 – Vincent van Gogh chops off his ear


On December 23, 1888, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cuts off the lower part of his left ear with a razor while staying in Arles, France.  He later documented the event in a painting titled Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear. Today, Van Gogh is regarded as an artistic genius and his masterpieces sell for … Continue reading

December 22, 1989 – The Brandenburg Gate between East and West Berlin is opened for the first time in nearly thirty years


Berlin, the capital city of Germany, was divided following World War II. With the development of the Cold War, tensions began to increase between the Soviet Union which controlled the East, and the western allies which controlled West Berlin. The border between East and West Germany was closed in 1952, but people continued to defect … Continue reading

December 20, 1957 – Elvis Presley is drafted


On December 20, 1957, while spending the Christmas holidays at Graceland, his newly purchased Tennessee mansion, rock-and-roll star Elvis Presley receives his draft notice for the United States Army. With a suggestive style—one writer called him “Elvis the Pelvis”—a hit movie, Love Me Tender, and a string of gold records including “Heartbreak Hotel,” “Blue Suede Shoes,” “Hound Dog” and “Don’t Be … Continue reading

December 19, 1843 – Charles Dickens “A Christmas Carol” was published


On December 19, 1843, Charles Dickens’ classic story “A Christmas Carol” was published. Dickens was born in 1812 and attended school in Portsmouth. His father, a clerk in the navy pay office, was thrown into debtors’ prison in 1824, and 12-year-old Charles was sent to work in a factory. The miserable treatment of children and the … Continue reading

December 18, 1865 – Slavery abolished in America with adoption of 13th Amendment


Following its ratification by the requisite three-quarters of the states earlier in the month, the 13th Amendment is formally adopted into the U.S. Constitution, ensuring that “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude… shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.” Before the American Civil War, Abraham Lincoln and other leaders of the anti-slavery Republican Party sought not to … Continue reading

December 17, 1903 – The Wright brothers make the first sustained, controlled flights in a powered aircraft.


Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier-than-air aircraft. Orville piloted the gasoline-powered, propeller-driven biplane, which stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet on its inaugural flight. Orville and Wilbur Wright grew up in Dayton, Ohio, and developed an interest in aviation after learning of … Continue reading

December 16, 1773 – The Boston Tea Party


In Boston Harbor, a group of Massachusetts colonists disguised as Mohawk Indians boarded three British tea ships and dumped 342 chests of tea into the harbor. The midnight raid, popularly known as the “Boston Tea Party,” was in protest of the British Parliament’s Tea Act of 1773, a bill designed to save the faltering East India Company by … Continue reading

December 15, 1961 – Adolf Eichmann, ‘Chief Executioner of the Third Reich’, is sentenced to death for his war crimes


Adolf Eichmann was a member of the Austrian Nazi party in World War II. After his promotion to the Gestapo’s Jewish section, he was essentially responsible for the extermination of millions of Jews during the war. He is often referred to as the ‘Chief Executioner’ of the Third Reich. Eichmann escaped from a prison camp … Continue reading

December 14, 1503 – Physician, philosopher and seer, Nostradamus, is born


Michel de Nostredame, more commonly known as Nostradamus, was born on 14 December 1503, although some reports say he was born one week later. He was a well-educated man, studying mathematics, philosophy, astrology and medicine. Using his skills in astrology, Nostradamus wrote a series of books, consisting of “quatrains”, which were purported to be prophecies … Continue reading

December 13, 1925 – Dick Van Dyke, American actor, singer, and dancer was born


Richard Wayne Van Dyke was born on December 13, 1925 in West Plains, Missouri. He went on to become an actor, comedian, writer, singer, and dancer, whose award-winning career has spanned seven decades. He grew up in Danville, Illinois. His family line traces back to Mayflower passenger John Alden.He is the older brother of actor Gerry Van Dyke. His … Continue reading

December 12, 1953 – Charles (Chuck) Yeager becomes the first person to travel two and a half times the speed of sound


Charles Elwood “Chuck” Yeager was born on 13 February 1923 in Myra, West Virginia. After joining the army at age 16 and training as an aircraft mechanic, he was then selected for flight training. His service record during WWII was impeccable, becoming an “ace-in-a-day” after shooting down five enemy aircraft in a single mission. Yeager … Continue reading

December 11, 1903 – The world’s first wildlife preservation society is founded


Fauna and Flora International (FFI), formerly the Fauna and Flora Preservation Society, was the world’s first conservation society. It was founded on 11 December 1903 in England as the Society for the Preservation of the Wild Fauna of the Empire. Launched by conservationist Edward North Buxton, its many supporters included both influential people and notable … Continue reading

December 10, 1901 – First Nobel Prizes awarded


The first Nobel Prizes are awarded in Stockholm, Sweden, in the fields of physics, chemistry, medicine, literature and peace. The ceremony came on the fifth anniversary of the death of Alfred Nobel, the Swedish inventor of dynamite and other high explosives. In his will, Nobel directed that the bulk of his vast fortune be placed … Continue reading

December 9, 1993 – The first on-orbit service and repair mission to the Hubble Space Telescope takes place


The Hubble Space Telescope was launched on 24 April 1990, by the Space Shuttle Discovery from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida. The telescope was the product of a cooperative project between the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and the European Space Agency (ESA). After launch, it was decided that on-orbit servicing every three … Continue reading

December 8, 1980 – John Lennon shot dead in New York City


John Lennon, a former member of the Beatles, the rock group that transformed popular music in the 1960s, was shot and killed by an obsessed fan in New York City.  The 40-year-old artist was entering his luxury Manhattan apartment building when Mark David Chapman shot him four times at close range with a .38-caliber revolver. Lennon, bleeding profusely, … Continue reading

December 7, 1941 – Pearl Harbor bombed


At 7:55 a.m. Hawaii time, a Japanese dive bomber bearing the red symbol of the Rising Sun of Japan on its wings appears out of the clouds above the island of Oahu. A swarm of 360 Japanese warplanes followed, descending on the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in a ferocious assault. The surprise attack struck a critical blow … Continue reading

December 6, 1907 – 361 miners are killed in the US’s worst coal mining disaster


West Virginia, USA, once had the reputation for the highest mine death rate of any of the states. Large scale coal operations began in Marion County, WV, in the 1880s. Between 1890 and 1912, regulation of mining conditions in West Virginia was poor, and the state’s mining industry saw numerous deadly coal mining accidents. The … Continue reading

December 5, 2013 – Nelson Mandela, anti-apartheid campaigner and the first democratically-elected President of South Africa, dies.


Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela was born on 18 July 1918. Rolihlahla Mandela was seven years old when he became the first member of his family to attend school: it was there that he was given the English name “Nelson” by a Methodist teacher. In his university days, Mandela became a political activist against the white minority … Continue reading

December 4, 1872 – The ‘Mary Celeste’ is found abandoned, with its cargo intact, but no sign of its crew or passengers


The Mary Celeste was a ship found abandoned off the coast of Portugal in 1872. Originally named ‘The Amazon’ when it was first built in Nova Scotia in 1861, the 103-foot, 282-ton brigantine was renamed the ‘Mary Celeste’ in 1869 after changing hands several times. Early in November 1872, the ship set sail from New … Continue reading

December 3, 1971 – Pakistan invades India as a result of the Bangladeshi struggle for freedom


The British Empire once stretched into almost every continent on Earth. In 1947, Britain dismantled its Indian empire and partitioned the sub-continent, resulting in an eruption of tensions between India and Pakistan. Pakistan itself was divided by civil war after its 1970 election saw the East Pakistani Awami League party win 167 of 169 seats … Continue reading

December 2, 1804 – Napoleon Bonaparte crowns himself Emperor of France


Napoléon Bonaparte was born Napoleone Buonaparte in Ajaccio, Corsica, on 15 August 1769. His father, Carlo Buonaparte, was an attorney and Corsica’s representative to the court of Louis XVI of France in 1778, so Napoleon later adopted a more French form of his name. He began his military career at the age of 16, and … Continue reading

December 1, 1955 – Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat to a white man


Rosa Parks’ stand off with an Alabama bus driver in 1955 turned into a wider movement that fought against segregation and inequality. African-Americans had wilfully violated the segregation of public transport before Rosa Parks, even in her hometown of Montgomery, Alabama, where 15-year-old Claudette Colvin was arrested nine months earlier for the same crime of … Continue reading

November 30, 1874 – Winston Churchill, British Prime Minister during WWII, is born


Winston Leonard Spencer Churchill was born on 30 November 1874, at Blenheim Palace in Oxfordshire, England. He served with the British Army in India and Sudan, and became nationally known through his writings when, as a journalist, he was captured in South Africa during the Boer War. Churchill became a member of Parliament in 1900, … Continue reading

November 29, 1947 – U.N. votes for partition of Palestine


Despite strong Arab opposition, the United Nations votes for the partition of Palestine and the creation of an independent Jewish state. The modern conflict between Jews and Arabs in Palestine dates back to the 1910s, when both groups laid claim to the British-controlled territory. The Jews were Zionists, recent emigrants from Europe and Russia who came to … Continue reading

November 28, 1520 – Ferdinand Magellan reaches the Pacific


After sailing through the dangerous straits below South America that now bear his name, Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan enters the Pacific Ocean with three ships, becoming the first European explorer to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic. On September 20, 1519, Magellan set sail from Spain in an effort to find a western sea route to the rich Spice … Continue reading

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