The U.S. military scores its first aerial victory, Reader's Digest is first published, Disney's "Peter Pan" premieres, and Manuel Noriega is indicted, all on this day.
1869: The largest alluvial gold nugget in history, called the "Welcome Stranger", is found in Moliagul, Victoria, Australia. The nugget measured 24 inches by 12 inches and weighed more than 240 pounds. It's estimated that the value of the nugget in January 2013 dollars would have been more than $3.7 million.
1900: Politician and diplomat Adlai Ewing Stevenson II is born in Los Angeles, Calif. Stevenson served as the 31st governor of Illinois and was the Democratic Party's candidate for U.S. president in 1952 and 1956, losing both times to Republic Dwight D. Eisenhower. He also sought the Democratic nomination a third time, in 1960, but was defeated by Sen. John F. Kennedy. After Kennedy was elected, he appointed Stevenson as the ambassador to the United Nations, a position he held from 1961 till his death in July 1965.
1901: A loop-the-loop centrifugal railway, or roller coaster, is patented by Edwin Prescott of Arlington, Mass. Prescott had installed the roller coaster at Coney Island in 1900, where it was known as Boynton's Centrifugal Railway and had a 75-foot incline and a 20-foot-wide loop. The patent was to improve on his earlier design, which had a purely circular loop. The new patent featured the teardrop shape seen in today's looping roller coasters as an attempt to make the ride more comfortable for passengers.
1906: Actor John Carradine, one of the most prolific character actors in Hollywood history and the patriarch of the Carradine acting family, is born in New York City. Four of Carradine's five sons would also become actors: David, Robert, Keith and Bruce. David Carradine, who starred in the TV series "Kung Fu," would also see his own daughter, Calista, join Robert's daughter Ever and Keith's son Cade and daughter Martha Plimpton as actors.
1909: Belgian chemist Leo Baekeland announces the creation of Bakelite, the world's first synthetic thermosetting plastic. The discovery marked the beginning of the modern plastics industry and the material would be used in a myriad of products, including radio and telephone casings, kitchenware, jewelry, pipe stems, toys, cameras and more. Today it is mostly used for wire insulation, brake pads and related automotive components, and industrial electrical-related applications.
1914: Author William S. Burroughs, a primary figure of the Beat Generation and a major postmodernist author best known for his novel "Naked Lunch," is born in St. Louis, Mo.
1917: The current constitution of Mexico is adopted, establishing a federal republic with powers separated into independent executive, legislative, and judicial branches.
1917: The U.S. Congress passes the Immigration Act of 1917 over President Woodrow Wilson's veto. Also known as the Asiatic Barred Zone Act, it forbade immigration from nearly all of south and southeast Asia. The act was later altered formally by the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1952, known as the McCarran-Walter Act. It extended the privilege of naturalization to Japanese, Koreans, and other Asians.
1918: Stephen W. Thompson of the U.S. Army Air Forces shoots down a German airplane while flying with the French on a bombing raid over Saarbrücken, Germany. It is the first aerial victory by a member of the U.S. military.
1918: The luxury liner SS Tuscania is torpedoed off the coast of Ireland, becoming the first ship carrying American troops to Europe to be torpedoed and sunk. The ship was carrying more than 2,000 U.S. troops en route to Liverpool, England, and 210 of its passengers died.
1919: Charlie Chaplin, Mary Pickford, Douglas Fairbanks and D.W. Griffith launch the film studio United Artists with the intention of controlling their own interests rather than depending upon the powerful commercial studios.
1919: Actor and comedian Red Buttons, best known for movie roles in "Sayonara," "Hatari!," "The Longest Day," "The Poseidon Adventure," "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" and "Pete's Dragon," is born Aaron Chwatt in New York City. Buttons won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for "Sayonara."
1922: Reader's Digest magazine is published for the first time.
1927: Buster Keaton's silent comedy film "The General" has its New York City premiere after earlier showings in Tokyo and London. The movie, an adventure-epic filmed toward the end of the silent era, would receive poor reviews and struggle at the box office, but is today considered by critics as one of the greatest films ever made.
1934: Hall of Fame baseball player Hank Aaron, who in 1974 broke the career home run record set by Babe Ruth, is born in Mobile, Ala. Aaron, who played 21 seasons for the Milwaukee and Atlanta Braves before playing two seasons for the Milwaukee Brewers at the end of his career, was a 25-time All-Star and helped lead the Braves to a World Series title in 1957 while also winning the National League MVP award. His career home run record of 755 was eventually surpassed by Barry Bonds, but he still holds the MLB records for the most career RBIs (2,297), the most career extra base hits (1,477) and the most career total bases (6,856).
1937: Charlie Chaplin's silent film "Modern Times" premieres in New York City. The film, considered one of Chaplin's greatest, was released well into the "talkie" era of filmmaking and would prove to be Chaplin's last silent film and last time out as his famous "Little Tramp" character.
1942: Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach, who joined the Dallas Cowboys in 1969 following service in the U.S. Navy after graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, is born in Cincinnati, Ohio. Staubach, who is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, led the Cowboys to two Super Bowl titles, winning the MVP award in Super Bowl VI to become the first player to win both the Heisman Trophy as college's best player and the Super Bowl MVP award. He was named to the Pro Bowl six times during his 11-year NFL career.
1943: Film director Michael Mann, best known for movies such as "The Last of the Mohicans," "Heat," "The Insider," "Ali" and "Public Enemies," is born in Chicago, Ill.
1948: Actor and director Christopher Guest, best known for his acting roles in "This Is Spinal Tap" and "The Princess Bride" as well as the writer-director-star of such movies as "Waiting for Guffman," "Best in Show" and "A Mighty Wind," is born in New York City.
1948: Actress Barbara Hershey, best known for movies such as "The Last Temptation of Christ," "Portrait of a Lady," "Hannah and Her Sisters" and "Beaches," is born Barbara Lynn Herzstein in Hollywood, Calif.
1953: The Walt Disney film "Peter Pan" premieres at the Roxy Theatre in New York City. The film, the 14th in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series, would prove to be a commercial success and was also the highest-grossing film of 1953.
1958: Following a midair collision between a B-47 bomber and F-86 fighter plane during a practice exercise, a 7,600-pound Mark 15 hydrogen bomb is jettisoned and lost in the waters off Tybee Island near Savannah, Ga., never to be recovered.
1962: Actress Jennifer Jason Leigh, best known for roles in movies such as "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," "The Hudsucker Proxy," "Single White Female" and "Short Cuts," is born Jennifer Leigh Morrow in Hollywood, Calif.
1964: Actress Laura Linney, best known for her roles in movies such as "The Truman Show," "You Can Count on Me," "Mystic River," "Kinsey" and "The Savages," and for her TV work in the miniseries "John Adams" and the series "The Big C," is born in Manhattan, N.Y.
1968: Hall of Fame baseball player Roberto Alomar, regarded by many as one of the best second basemen in MLB history, is born in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He's seen here (right) with his brother, fellow major-league ballplayer Sandy Alomar Jr. During a 17-season career that saw him win two World Series titles with the Toronto Blue Jays, the 12-time All-Star won more Gold Gloves (10) than any other second baseman in history, and also won the second-most Silver Slugger Awards (four) for a second baseman.
1969: The band Cream releases their last album "Goodbye." Released after the band had broken up, it featured six songs: three live recordings dating from an Oct. 19, 1968, concert at The Forum in Los Angeles, Calif., and three new studio recordings.
1969: Actress Thelma Ritter, who received six Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress and is best known for her comedic roles as working class characters, dies of a heart attack at the age of 66 in New York City. Ritter received Oscar nominations for "All About Eve," "The Mating Season," "With a Song in My Heart," "Pickup on South Street," "Pillow Talk" and "Birdman of Alcatraz." She also had roles in movies such as "Miracle on 34th Street," "Rear Window," "The Misfits" and "How the West Was Won."
1969: Singer Bobby Brown, who got his start with the R&B band New Edition before finding success as a solo artist, is born in Boston, Mass. Brown had a string of top 10 hits between 1986 and 1992, including his signature song "My Prerogative," and won a Grammy, but is just as remembered today for being the ex-husband of the late pop star Whitney Houston.
1969: Actor Michael Sheen, best known for his roles in movies such as "The Queen," "Frost/Nixon," "The Twilight Saga: New Moon," "Tron: Legacy" and "Midnight in Paris," is born in Newport, Wales, United Kingdom.
1971: Astronauts Alan Shepard and Edgar Mitchell land on the moon as part of the Apollo 14 mission. While Shepard and Mitchell were on the Moon's surface for about 33 hours, Command Module Pilot Stuart Roosa remained in lunar orbit performing scientific experiments and photographing the Moon.
1971: Country singer Sara Evans, whose No. 1 songs include "No Place That Far," "Born to Fly," "Suds in the Bucket," "A Real Fine Place to Start" and "A Little Bit Stronger," is born in Boonville, Mo.
1972: Bob Douglas, the founder, owner and coach of the New York Renaissance basketball team from 1923 to 1949, becomes the first black man elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass. Douglas guided the barnstorming all-black professional basketball team to a 2,318-381 record.
1972: Paul Simon releases the single "Mother and Child Reunion." The song, off his first solo album, would eventually reach No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart.
1972: Neil Young's song "Heart of Gold" enters the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 for the first time. It would eventually climb all the way to the top of the chart, becoming Young's only No. 1 hit of his career so far.
1976: The 1976 swine flu outbreak begins at Fort Dix, N.J., with U.S. Army Pvt. David Lewis complaining of respiratory illness and of feeling tired and weak. A few days later Lewis died from what was determined to be swine flu. The outbreak is most remembered for the mass immunization that it prompted in the United States, including President Gerald Ford, seen here receiving his swine flu vaccination. Lewis remained the only death attributed to the disease and it never spread beyond Fort Dix.
1977: Boxer Sugar Ray Leonard beats Luis Vega in six rounds in Baltimore, Md., in his first professional match. Leonard would go on to become the first boxer to earn more than $100 million in purses while winning world titles in five weight divisions and compiling a 36-3-1 record, with 25 of his victories coming by knockout.
1986: Prince releases the song "Kiss" as a single. The song would end up becoming Prince's third No. 1 U.S. hit following 1984's highly successful "When Doves Cry" and "Let's Go Crazy."
1988: Gen. Manuel Noriega, the military leader of Panama, is indicted in the United States on drug smuggling and money laundering charges. The U.S. would end up sending troops into Panama on Dec. 20, 1989, to overthrow Noriega's government in a mission code-named Operation Just Cause. Noriega remained at large for several days before surrendering on Jan. 3, 1990. He was then immediately flown to the United States, where he was tried and convicted on eight counts of drug trafficking, racketeering and money laundering.
1989: Kareem Abdul-Jabbar becomes the first NBA player to score 38,000 points, reaching the milestone with the first basket in a Los Angeles Lakers' home game against the New Jersey Nets. Abdul-Jabbar would finish the game with 18 points to give him 38,017 for his career. He would retire after that season with a total of 38,387 points, which still ranks him No. 1 among all-time NBA points leaders. No other player has yet to break 38,000 and only four others (Karl Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant) have cracked 30,000. Abdul-Jabbar is seen here in 2006.
1993: Filmmaker Joseph L. Mankiewicz, best known as the writer-director of "All About Eve," dies at the age of 83 in Bedford, N.Y. "All About Eve" was nominated for 14 Academy Awards and won six, including wins for Mankiewicz in the categories of Best Director and Best Original Screenplay. He also directed movies such as "The Ghost and Mrs. Muir," "Julius Caesar," "The Barefoot Contessa," "Guys and Dolls," "Cleopatra" and "Sleuth," and won two additional Oscars for 1949's "A Letter to Three Wives," again for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
1994: White separatist Byron De La Beckwith is convicted in Jackson, Miss., of the 1963 murder of civil rights leader Medgar Evers. Two previous trials in 1964 had resulted in hung juries. De La Beckwith was sentenced to life in prison and would die in prison in January 2001 at the age of 80.
2001: Soap opera actress Kelly Ripa is chosen as Regis Philbin's new cohost, replacing Kathie Lee Gifford after 12 years. The syndicated morning talk show was renamed "Live! With Regis and Kelly."
2001: Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman announce their separation. Cruise would file for divorce two days later, and the marriage was dissolved in August of that year, with Cruise citing irreconcilable differences.
2003: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell presents evidence to the United Nations Security Council that Iraq has biological weapons and argues in favor of military action. Powell later admitted he had presented what turned out to be an inaccurate case to the UN on Iraqi weapons, and the intelligence he was relying on was, in some cases, "deliberately misleading."
2007: Apple Computers settles a long standing legal battle with Apple Records, the record label set up by The Beatles, which had disputed the rights of the computer maker to sell music under the Apple name.
2008: A major tornado outbreak across the southern United States leaves 57 dead, the most since the May 31, 1985, outbreak that killed 88. The outbreak, which would last 15 hours until the early morning of Feb. 6, produced 87 tornadoes across four states, including several destructive tornadoes in heavily populated areas such as Memphis and Jackson, Tenn., and the northeastern end of the Nashville metropolitan area.
2008: Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, who developed the Transcendental Meditation technique and was the leader and guru of a worldwide organization, dies in his sleep of natural causes at the age of 90 in Vlodrop, Limburg, Netherlands. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Maharishi achieved fame as the guru to The Beatles and other celebrities.
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