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1250 - Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor and King of Germany and Sicily, died and was succeeded by Conrad IV.
1545 - The Council of Trent, summoned by Pope Paul III in May 1542, finally met to discuss doctrinal matters, especially the rise of Protestantism.
1577 - Francis Drake began a voyage from Plymouth, England, in the "Golden Hind" that was to take him around the world.
1642 - New Zealand was discovered by the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman. Several of his men were killed in attempting to land when Maoris interpreted an exchange of trumpet fanfares as a prelude to battle.
1809 - In Danville, Kentucky, the first abdominal surgical procedure was performed. The victim/patient was Jane Todd Crawford, whose operation was performed without an anesthetic.
1816 - John Adamson, of Boston, Massachusetts, patented a dry dock.
1862 - In the American Civil War, General Robert E. Lee with 80,000 Confederates repulsed General Burnside with his 150,000 Federals at the Battle of Fredericksburg, Virginia. After hard fighting along the Massaponax River, Burnside lost almost 14,000 troops.
1884 - The first coin-operated weighing machine was patented by Percy Everitt.
1913 - Leonardo da Vinciís "La Gioconda" ("Mona Lisa"), was returned to Paris's Louvre Museum after a two-year absence due to theft. The stolen painting was valued $5,000,000 at the time of its recovery. In 1962, the value was set at one hundred million dollars.
1928 - The George Gershwin composition, "American in Paris", had its debut peformance by the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Walter Damrosch.
1929 - Hoagy Carmichael and Louis Armstrong recorded "Rockiní Chair" on Columbia records and cylinders.
1936 - Green Bay won the National Football League championship after they beat the Boston Redskins, 21-6. It was Boston's last game, as they became the Washington Redskins in 1937.
1937 - Japanese forces took the Chinese city of Nanking (Nanjing). Over the following six weeks, in one of the worst atrocities of World War II, they killed an estimated 200,000 Chinese in what became known as the "Rape of Nanking."
1939 - In World War II, the battle of the River Plate took place off the coast of South America between the British cruisers Exeter, Ajax and Achilles and the German battleship Graf Spee.
1940 - Glenn Miller and his orchestra recorded the two-sided jump tune, "The Anvil Chorus", for Bluebird Records in New York. The 10-inch, 78 rpm record was six minutes long.
1941 - British forces retreated to Hong Kong island as the invading Japanese army took Kowloon and the New Territories.
1942 - "Allenís Alley" was presented for the first time on "The Fred Allen Show". This segment of the show became popular and hence was used until 1949. The stops along the way in "Allenís Alley" were the Brooklyn tenement of Mrs. Nussbaum, the farmhouse of Titus Moody, the shack of Ajax Cassidy and the antebellum mansion of Senator Beauregard Claghorn.
1948 - After an 11 1/2 month strike, the American Federation of Musicians went back to work. During the strike there was also an 11Ĺ-month ban on phonograph records.
1949 - The American League said no to a proposal to revive the spitball, outlawed since 1920. Many pitchers still tossed the spitter anyway.
1961 - At age 101, Grandma Moses, Anna Mary Robertson Moses, passed away. The self-taught artist began painting in her sixties; having her first showing in New York City at eighty. Her nostalgic, primitive style mostly centered on rural scenes: "The Old Oaken Bucket", "Christmas at Home", "The Quilting Bee".
1967 - King Constantine of Greece and his family fled the country after a counter-coup failed to topple the military-backed government.
1973 - Detroit, Michigan was the first city to get a franchise in the unsuccessful World Football League.
1974 - Former Beatle George Harrison was invited to lunch by President Gerald R. Ford. At the White House, the two exchanged buttons, Ford giving George a WIN (Whip Inflation Now) pin and Harrison giving the President an OM (Hindu mantra word expressing creation) button.
1975 - The late-night television variety show, Saturday Night Live, did not broadcast live for the first time on this date. NBC was concerned that the host for that evening's show, popular comedian Richard Pryor, would utter some obscene words or phrases. Pryor had promised that he would not use foul language, but as most of his stand-up routine consisted of four-letter words, the possibility existed that he would accidentally, or purposefully, "let loose." The show's executive heads decided that the show would be placed on a 5-second electronic delay. Two expletives spoken by Pryor were determined unsuitable for television and were deleted before they hit the airwaves.
1979 - In Canada, Prime Minister Joe Clark's 7-month-old Progressive Conservative government was defeated in a vote of no confidence in parliament.
1981 - The Polish government imposed martial law and took its strongest step so far to stifle Solidarity's unprecedented challenge against Communist rule.
1982 - An earthquake in Yemen killed 3,000 people and injured 2,000; the earthquake devastated Dhamar province 60 miles (100 km) southeast of Sanaa.
1983 - Civilian Turgut Ozal became prime minister of Turkey after three years of military rule.
1983 - In professional basketball, Detroit and Denver played for 3 hours, 11 minutes. The Pistons won, 186-184, during triple overtime. NBA records for single-game were set for most points by two teams; by one team; assists; and field goals. Kiki Vandeweghe of the Denver Nuggets scored a career-high with 51 points.
1985 - In a first for movies, the murder mystery, "Clue", opened featuring three different endings. Newspaper ads said which ending was playing at which theatre.
1986 - In the school's 62-year history, Duke University won its first NCAA team championship when the Blue Devilsí soccer team beat Akron, 1-0.
1986 - Madonna's recording of Open Your Heart entered Bilboard's Top 40 pop charts on this date, and later peaked at Number 1 for a week. The song stayed on the charts for 14 weeks.
1991 - North and South Korea signed a non-aggression accord aimed at improving their often rocky ties.
1993 - The European Community ratified a treaty creating the world's largest trade bloc, the European Economic Area, to come into effect on January 1 1994.
1995 - Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng, a 1995 Nobel Peace Prize nominee, was imprisoned for 14 years for subversive acts.
1995 - All 49 passengers and crew were killed when a Romanian charter plane crashed and burst into flames minutes after take-off from Verona airport in northern Italy.
1996 - Ministers and officials from 128 countries adopted a wide-ranging final declaration at the end of the five-day World Trade Organization conference in Singapore.
1998 - Voters in Puerto Rico rejected United States statehood.