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December 20th - History On The Way To Today at UselessKnowledge.com

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On The Way To Today...   December 20th

1046 - By the Synod at Sutri in Italy, King Henry III dismissed Pope Gregory VI and four days later Clement II was elected as pope.

1560 - The first General Assembly of the Church of Scotland took place.

1606 - Setting sail from London, England, were the "Susan Constant", "Godspeed" and "Discovery", destined for America. Captain Christopher Newport commanded the three tiny ships, which are now on display at Jamestown village in Virginia. The royally chartered ships landing at Jamestown, Virginia was the beginning of the first permanent English settlement in America.

1699 - Peter the Great announced a reorganization of the Russian calendar, decreeing that the New Year would begin on January 1 and not September 1.

1803 - France sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States for $15 million, a price of about $20 a square mile.

1820 - Missouri enacted legislation taxing bachelors between the ages of 21-50, $1 a year for not being married.

1860 - South Carolina became the first state to secede from the American Union; it was not readmitted until 1868.

1880 - Broadway, New York's main thoroughfare, was illuminated by electricity for the first time, between 14th and 26h Streets.

1892 - The pneumatic tire was patented by Alexander T. Brown and George Stillman of Syracuse.

1914 - In World War I, the first battle of Champagne began with the French attacking German machinegun positions.

1920 - An English-born comedian Leslie Downes, who would later be knwon as Bob Hope, became an American citizen today. Having lived in the United States since 1908, he became one of the nation's true ambassadors for show business and charity.

1928 - The 47th Street Playhouse, built for actress Ethel Barrymore and the first named for a living actress, opened in New York City.

1928 - In Lewiston, Maine, mail delivery by dog sled started.

1932 - On Brunswick Records, Al Jolson recorded "April Showers".

1938 - Vladimir Kosma Zworykin of Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, patented the iconoscope television system, which caught on; although the name didn't.

1945 - Karl Renner was elected first president of the new Second Austrian republic.

1949 - Harry Belafonte recorded his second session at Capitol Records, waxing the songs "Whispering" and "Farewell to Arms". With eight song recorded and little enthusiasm from record buyers, Capitol decided not to renew the singerís contract. He relocated to RCA Victor in April, 1952 where he enjoyed a successful career.

1952 - Jimmy Boyd hit #1 on the record charts with the Christmas song of the year, I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus.

1954 - The Buick Motor Company signed Jackie Gleason to one of the largest contracts ever with an entertainer. Gleason would produce 78 half-hour long shows over two years for $6,142,500.

1956 - The Montgomery bus boycott ended after a Supreme Court decision calling for the integration of the public bus system was implemented.

1962 - Don Meyers set a world indoor pole-vault record was set in Chicago, Illinois, when he cleared 16 feet, 1-1/4 inches.

1963 - The Berlin Wall was opened for the first time, remaining so for the holiday season, but closing again on January 6, 1964. During this time, 4,000 people crossed over to visit relatives.

1969 - Leaving on a Jet Plane, recorded by Peter, Paul and Mary, jumped into the Number 1 spot on this date on Billboard's Top 40 record charts and was in the top slot for one week.

1970 - In Poland, Communist leader Wladyslaw Gomulka resigned after riots and was replaced by Edward Gierek.

1971 - Pakistani President Mohammad Yahya Khan resigned and handed power to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

1972 - Jack Albertson and Sam Levine starred in Neil Simon's classic comedy, The Sunshine Boys, as two retired vaudevillians. The show opened at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York City for the first of 538 performances. The movie version, starring Walter Matthau and George Burns, became a box office hit too.

1973 - In Spain, General Franco's prime minister and right-hand man, Admiral Luis Carrero Blanco, was assassinated as he rode through a Madrid street.

1973 - Multi-talented entertainer Bobby Darin, best remembered for his Grammy-winning single Mack the Knife, died at age 37 at Cedars of Lebanon Hospital in Los Angeles while undergoing surgery to remove two artificial valves in his heart which were malfunctioning. According to the biography written by son Dodd, Darin's hospitalization and subsequent death was brought on by not taking prescribed antibiotics before a teeth-cleaning procedure. Darin had a history of heart problems.

1979 - Kim Jae-kyu, head of the Korean Central Intelligence Agency, was sentenced to death for the assassination of President Park Chung-hee in Seoul.

1979 - Knots Landing debuted on CBS, starring Ted Shackelford and Joan Van Ark as Gary and Valene Ewing.

1980 - Former child star, Shirley Temple Black became a grandmother when, today, her oldest daughter, Susan, gave birth to a baby girl.

1980 - Television experimented with football when NBC covered the meaningless NFL game between the New York Jets (4-11) and the Miami Dolphins (8-7) with no announcers in the booth. The only thing heard were field noises and spectators as the pictures tried to get across the emotion of the game. The next day headlines read, "Jets Silence Dolphins 24-17."

1981 - Romuald Spasowski, Polish ambassador in Washington, was granted political asylum in the United States.

1983 - The Washington Redskins Joe Gibbs, was named NFL Coach of the Year by the Associated Press, making him the first head coach to receive the honor in consecutive years since 1961-1962, when Allie Sherman, of the New York Giants, was honored. In the 1983 season, Joe Gibbs took the Redskins to a 14-2 finish.

1985 - A bill empowering the Librarian of Congress to name a Poet Laureate/Consultant of Poetry each year was signed into law.

1987 - A collision between the Philippine ferry Dona Paz and a tanker caused the deaths of 4,386 passengers and crew, all but 11 aboard the ferry -- the worst peace-time tragedy at sea. The Dona Paz was licensed to carry just 1,500.

1988 - Warner Chappell, a division of Warner Communications and the largest music publisher in the world, agreed to pay $25 million for the song "Happy Birthday to You." The song, owned by Birchtree Ltd., reportedly generated $1 million a year in royalty fees. The copyright would expire after the year 2010.

1989 - The United States invaded Panama and installed a new government but initially failed in its key objective of seizing strongman Manuel Antonio Noriega.

1990 - Russian Foreign Minister Eduard Shevardnadze, a key figure in five years of Soviet reform that helped end the Cold War, resigned.

1995 - NATO took over peacekeeping from the United Nations in Yugoslavia and moved quickly to sweep away key roadblocks in Sarajevo.

1995 - 163 people aboard an American Airlines passenger jet en route from Miami died when it slammed into a mountain in southwest Colombia and burst into flames. Only four people survived the crash.

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