"A Christmas Carol" is first published, the NHL plays its first games, Apollo 17 splashes down, and the U.S. House impeaches President Bill Clinton, all on this day.
1732: Benjamin Franklin begins publishing "Poor Richard's Almanack" under the pseudonym of "Richard Saunders." The yearly almanac, which appeared continually through 1758, became popular for the usual mixture of seasonal weather forecasts and practical household hints. However, it is mostly remembered for being a repository of Franklin's aphorisms and proverbs, many of which live on in American English.
1776: Thomas Paine publishes his first "American Crisis" essay, writing the famous words, "These are the times that try men's souls."
1843: "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens is first published and becomes an instant hit, selling out its initial print run of 6,000 copies by Christmas Eve.
1848: English author Emily Brontë, best remembered for her solitary novel, "Wuthering Heights," dies of tuberculosis at the age of 30 in Haworth, Yorkshire, England.
1906: Leonid Brezhnev, the Soviet statesman who was the leader of the Soviet Union for 18 years, is born in Kamenskoe, Yekaterinoslav Governorate, Russian Empire, in what is now the Ukraine.
1915: Singer and actress Édith Piaf, who would become widely regarded as France's national popular singer, is born in Belleville, Paris, France. Among her best-known songs are "La Vie en rose," "Non, je ne regrette rien," "Hymne à l'amour," "Milord" and "La Foule."
1917: The first games of the new National Hockey League are played. The initial NHL included the Montreal Canadiens, Montreal Wanderers, Ottawa Senators and Toronto Arenas, although the Wanderers would fold four games into their season due to a fire that destroyed Montreal Arena on Jan. 2, 1918.
1918: Robert Ripley begins his "Believe It or Not" cartoon feature, originally called "Champs and Chumps" and dealing with only sports feats, in "The New York Globe."
1932: BBC World Service begins broadcasting as the BBC Empire Service, a shortwave service aimed principally at English speakers in the outposts of the British Empire. Today, the BBC World Service is the world's largest international broadcaster, broadcasting news, speech and discussions in 27 languages to many parts of the world on analogue and digital shortwave platforms, internet streaming, podcasting, satellite, and FM and MW relays.
1934: Baseball Hall of Famer Al Kaline, who played his entire 22-year baseball career with the Detroit Tigers, is born in Baltimore, Md. Kaline would finish his career with 3,007 hits, 399 home runs and 1,583 RBIs. He batted over .300 nine times in his career to finish with a lifetime batting average of .297 and, while never considered a true power hitter, he hit 25 or more home runs seven times in his career.
1933: Actress Cicely Tyson, best known for her roles in movies such as "Sounder," "Fried Green Tomatoes," "Hoodlum" and "The Help," and the TV movies "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman" and "Roots," is born in New York City. She earned an Academy Award nomination for her role in "Sounder."
1946: Actor Robert Urich, best remembered for the television series "Vega$" and "Spenser: For Hire," is born in Toronto, Ohio.
1957: Hall of Fame basketball player Kevin McHale, who won three NBA championships in a career with the Boston Celtics that ran from 1980 to 1993, is born in Hibbing, Minn.
1960: Neil Sedaka's song "Calendar Girl" debuts on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart at No. 100 during its first week of release. The song would reach No. 4 on the chart in 1961, making it one of the singer's better-known songs.
1961: The drama "Judgment At Nuremberg," depicting the trial of certain judges who served during the Nazi regime in Germany, opens in New York City. The movie, starring Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Maximilian Schell, Werner Klemperer, Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, William Shatner and Montgomery Clift, would be nominated for 11 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, but would win only two, Best Actor for Schell and Best Adapted Screenplay.
1961: Hall of Fame football player Reggie White, a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year and 13-time Pro Bowl selection who won a Super Bowl title with the Green Bay Packers in 1997, is born in Chattanooga, Tenn.
1963: Actress Jennifer Beals, best known for her role in the movie "Flashdance" and on TV in "The L Word," is born in Chicago, Ill.
1969: Actress Kristy Swanson, best known for her movie roles in "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "The Chase" and "Flowers in the Attic," is born in Mission Viejo, Calif.
1971: The sci-fi movie "A Clockwork Orange," written, directed and produced by Stanley Kubrick, and starring Malcolm McDowell, premieres in the United States. The film chronicles the horrific crime spree of Alex (McDowell) and his gang, his capture, and attempted rehabilitation via controversial psychological conditioning. Despite the film's controversial nature, it would prove to be a hit with American audiences, grossing more than $26 million, and earn four Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Film Editing and Best Adapted Screenplay.
1972: The last manned lunar flight, Apollo 17, crewed by Eugene Cernan, Ron Evans and Harrison Schmitt, returns to Earth, splashing down in the Pacific Ocean.
1972: Actress Alyssa Milano, best known for her TV roles in "Who's the Boss?," "Charmed" and "Melrose Place," is born in Brooklyn, N.Y.
1974: The pioneering Altair 8800 microcomputer is first put on sale in the U.S. as a do-it-yourself computer kit, for $397. The demand for the machine, which used switches for input and flashing lights as a display, exceeded the manufacturer's wildest expectations and would lead blaze the trail for the first commercially successful personal computers, including the Commodore PET and Apple II.
1974: "The Man with the Golden Gun," the ninth spy film in the James Bond series and the second to star Roger Moore, premieres in London, England.
1974: Former New York Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller is sworn in as the 41st U.S. vice president, replacing Gerald R. Ford, who had become president in August after Richard M. Nixon's resignation.
1975: John Paul Stevens is appointed an associate justice of the Supreme Court of the United States. At the time of his retirement in June 2010, he was the oldest member of the court and the third longest-serving justice in the history of the Supreme Court.
1979: The drama "Kramer vs. Kramer," starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, and directed and written by Robert Benton, opens in theaters. The movie, which tells the story of a married couple's divorce and its impact on everyone involved, including the couple's young son, would go on to receive five Academy Awards in the categories of Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, and Best Adapted Screenplay.
1980: The drama "Raging Bull," starring Robert De Niro, Joe Pesci and Cathy Moriarty, and directed by Martin Scorsese, opens in theaters. The movie, which tells the real-life story of Italian American middleweight boxer Jake LaMotta, would go on to earn eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Director, but would win only Best Actor for De Niro and Best Film Editing.
1980: The comedy "9 to 5," starring Dolly Parton, Lily Tomlin, Jane Fonda and Dabney Coleman, opens in theaters. The film, about three working women living out their fantasy of getting even with their "sexist, egotistical, lying, hypocritical bigot" of a boss, would prove to be an instant hit and earn more than $100 million at the U.S. box office. The movie's theme song, "9 to 5," would become one of Parton's biggest hits of the decade. It went to No. 1 for two weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, as well as the U.S. country singles charts, and was nominated for several awards, including the Academy Award for Best Song.
1980: Actor Jake Gyllenhaal, best known for his movie roles in "October Sky," "Donnie Darko," "Brokeback Mountain," "Zodiac" and "Love and Other Drugs," is born in Los Angeles, Calif.
1984: The Sino-British Joint Declaration, stating that the People's Republic of China would reclaim sovereignty over Hong Kong from the United Kingdom on July 1, 1997, is signed in Beijing by Zhao Ziyang and Margaret Thatcher.
1984: Wayne Gretzky, 23, of the Edmonton Oilers, becomes the 18th, and youngest, player in NHL history to score more than 1,000 points. Gretzky, who scores the point on an assist in a 7-3 win over the Los Angeles Kings, reaches the mark in just his 424th regular-season game, the fewest by any player in NHL history.
1986: American author V. C. Andrews, whose best-known novel is the infamous 1979 bestseller "Flowers in the Attic," dies of breast cancer at the age of 63 in Virginia Beach, Va.
1986: The war drama "Platoon," starring Tom Berenger, Willem Dafoe and Charlie Sheen, and directed by Oliver Stone, opens in Los Angeles and New York City. The film would become a box office success, making nearly $140 million at the box office, and would earn eight Academy Award nominations, winning four, including Best Picture and Best Director.
1997: The dramatic love story "Titanic," starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet, and directed by James Cameron, opens in theaters. The movie would go on to dominate the box office, staying at No. 1 for 15 consecutive weeks and eventually becoming the first film to reach the $1 billion mark. With an initial worldwide gross of $1.84 billion, it would remain the highest-grossing film of all time until Cameron's 2009 film "Avatar" surpassed it in 2010. "Titanic" would also earn 14 Academy Award nominations, winning 11, including Best Picture and Best Director, to tie 1959's "Ben Hur" for the most Oscars won by a single film.
1998: U.S. President Bill Clinton is impeached on two charges of perjury and obstruction of justice by the U.S. House of Representatives. Two other impeachment articles, a second perjury charge and a charge of abuse of power, fail in the House. All the charges arose from the Monica Lewinsky scandal and the Paula Jones lawsuit. Clinton would eventually be acquitted by the U.S. Senate on Feb. 12, 1999.
2005: Under the guidelines of the United Kingdom's newly enacted Civil Partnership Act, Grainne Close and Shannon Sickels become the first women in the United Kingdom joined in a civil partnership ceremony, at the Belfast City Hall in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The new law gave gay couples the same property and inheritance rights as married heterosexuals and entitles them to the same pension, immigration and tax benefits.
2008: U.S. President George W. Bush signs a $17.4 billion rescue package of loans for ailing automakers General Motors and Chrysler, tapping into the fund that Congress authorized to rescue the financial industry. The funds, which were released to the automakers in January and February under President Barack Obama, would ultimately not be enough for the companies to avoid filing for bankruptcy.
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