Today in History – December 24

Today is Thursday, Dec. 24, the 358th day of 2009. There are 7 days left in the year. This is Christmas Eve.

Today’s Highlight in History

On Dec. 24, 1809, legendary American frontiersman Christopher “Kit” Carson was born in Madison County, Ky.

On this date

In 1524, Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama who had discovered a sea route around Africa to India died in Cochin, India.

In 1814, the War of 1812 officially ended as the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium.

In 1818, the German Christmas carol “Silent night” is a symbol of the festive season for millions of people all over the world. The carol was first performed on 24 December 1818 under conditions of great poverty in a small Austrian village -predominantly home to raftsmen and boat builders – near the German border. There was a famine.

In 1822, ‘Tis December 24, the day before Christmas, and all through the land, families will send excited children to bed with a reading of Clement Moore’s classic poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas.”

Moore is thought to have composed the tale, now popularly known as “The Night Before Christmas,” on December 24, 1822, while traveling home from Greenwich Village, where he had bought a turkey for his family’s Christmas dinner.

Inspired by the plump, bearded Dutchman who took him by sleigh on his errand through the snow-covered streets of New York City, Moore penned A Visit from St. Nicholas for the amusement of his six children, with whom he shared the poem that evening. His vision of St. Nicholas draws upon Dutch-American and Norwegian traditions of a magical, gift-giving figure who appears at Christmas time, as well as the German legend of a visitor who enters homes through chimneys.

In 1851, fire devastated the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., destroying about 35,000 volumes.

In 1865, several veterans of the Confederate Army formed a private social club in Pulaski, Tenn., called the Ku Klux Klan.

In 1871, Giuseppe Verdi’s opera “Aida” had its world premiere in Cairo, Egypt.

In 1906, Canadian physicist Reginald A. Fessenden became the first person to broadcast a music program over radio, from Brant Rock, Mass.

In 1907, I. F. Stone, the American journalist famous for his witty commentary in his newsletter, “I.F. Stone’s Weekly”, was born.

In 1920, Enrico Caruso gave his last public performance, at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

In 1942, Admiral François Darlan, a leading figure in Marshal Philippe Pétain’s Vichy government, was assassinated in Algiers.

In 1943, President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower supreme commander of Allied forces as part of Operation Overlord.

In 1951, Gian Carlo Menotti’s “Amahl and the Night Visitors,” the first opera written specifically for television, was first broadcast by NBC.

In 1962, more than 1,000 men taken prisoner at the Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba return to the United States in time for Christmas.

In 1968, the Apollo 8 astronauts, orbiting the moon, read passages from the Old Testament Book of Genesis during a Christmas Eve telecast.

In 1980, Americans remembered the U.S. hostages in Iran by burning candles or shining lights for 417 seconds one second for each day of captivity.

In 1989, ousted Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega, who had succeeded in eluding U.S. forces, took refuge at the Vatican’s diplomatic mission in Panama City.

In 1992, President Bush pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five others in the Iran-Contra scandal.

In 1994, militants hijacked an Air France Airbus A-300 at the Algiers airport; three passengers were slain during the siege before all four hijackers were killed by French commandos in Marseille two days later.

In 1997, Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, the aging revolutionary known as Carlos the Jackal, was sentenced by a French court to life in prison for the 1975 murders of two French investigators and a Lebanese national.

In 1999, ten years ago, five hijackers seized an Indian Airlines jet, forcing the aircraft on a journey across South Asia and into the Middle East. (The eight-day ordeal resulted in the death of one passenger and India’s release of three jailed pro-Kashmir militants in exchange for the rest of the hostages.)

In 2002, Laci Peterson was reported missing from her Modesto, Calif., home, by her husband, Scott, who was later convicted of murdering her and their unborn son.

In 2004, five years ago, bearing gifts of praise and encouragement, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld paid a surprise Christmas Eve visit to U.S. troops in some of the most dangerous areas of Iraq.

In 2004, Afghan President Hamid Karzai swore in a new cabinet.

In 2004, the international Cassini spacecraft launched a probe on a three-week free-fall toward Saturn’s mysterious moon Titan.

In 2008, one year ago, a man dressed in a Santa Claus suit shot his way into the Covina, Calif., home of his former in-laws and set it on fire, killing nine people (the attacker, identified as Bruce Jeffrey Pardo, committed suicide the next day).

In 2008, the Federal Reserve granted a request by the financing arm of General Motors Corp. to tap the government’s $700 billion rescue fund, bolstering the automaker’s ability to survive.

In 2008, army Capt. Moussa Camara, the leader of a coup in Guinea, entered the country’s capital, hours after saying his group would hold power until elections in two years.

In 2008, Nobel Prize-winning playwright Harold Pinter died in London at age 78.

Today’s Birthdays

Songwriter-bandleader Dave Bartholomew is 89. Author Mary Higgins Clark is 82. Federal health administrator Anthony S. Fauci is 69. Recording company executive Mike Curb is 65. Rock singer-musician Lemmy (Motorhead) is 64. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., is 63. Actor Grand L. Bush is 54. Actor Clarence Gilyard is 54. Actress Stephanie Hodge is 53. Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai is 52. Rock musician Ian Burden (The Human League) is 52. Actor Anil Kapoor is 50. Actor Wade Williams is 48. Designer Kate Spade is 47. Rock singer Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs) is 46. Actor Mark Valley is 45. Actor Diedrich Bader is 43. Actor Amaury Nolasco is 39. Singer Ricky Martin is 38. Author Stephenie Meyer (“Twilight”) is 36. “American Idol” host Ryan Seacrest is 35.

Today’s Historic Birthdays

King John of England (1199–1216), born this day in 1167, lost Normandy and almost all his other French possessions in a war with France and was forced to seal the Magna Carta (1215) following an English baronial revolt.

William Paterson
12/24/1745 – 9/9/1806
Irish-born American governor of New Jersey

Kit Carson
12/24/1809 – 5/23/1868
American frontiersman and folk hero

Matthew Arnold
12/24/1822 – 4/15/1888
English poet and social critic

Michael Curtiz
12/24/1886 – 4/10/1962
Hungarian-born American film director

Georges-Marie Guynemer
12/24/1894 – 9/11/1917
French World War I combat pilot

Baby Dodds
12/24/1898 – 2/14/1959
American jazz musician

Howard Hughes
12/24/1905 – 4/5/1976
American manufacturer and aviator

I. F. Stone
12/24/1907 – 6/18/1989
American journalist

Ava Gardner
12/24/1922 – 1/25/1990
American actress

Thought for Today

 “Christmas is the day that holds all time together.” Alexander Smith, Scottish poet and essayist (1830-1867).


Full article: