Today in History – December 31

Today is Thursday, Dec. 31, the 365th and final day of 2009. Today is New Year’s Eve.

Today’s Highlight in History

On Dec. 31, 1909, the Manhattan Bridge, spanning the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, was officially opened to vehicular traffic by New York City Mayor George B. McClellan Jr. on his last day in office.

On this date

In 1600, the East India Company, formed for the exploitation of trade with East and Southeast Asia and India, was incorporated by English royal charter.

In 1759, Arthur Guinness founded his famous brewery at St. James’s Gate in Dublin.

In 1775, the British repulsed an attack by Continental Army generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold at Quebec; Montgomery was killed.

In 1857, Ottawa, located in Ontario at the confluence of the Ottawa, Gatineau, and Rideau rivers and whose area was first described by Samuel de Champlain in 1613, was named the capital of Canada by Queen Victoria.

In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed an act admitting West Virginia to the Union.

In 1869, Henri Matisse, one of the foremost painters of 20th century French art, was born.

In 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light in Menlo Park, N.J.

In 1946, President Harry S. Truman officially proclaimed the end of hostilities in World War II.

In 1961, the Marshall Plan expired after distributing more than $12 billion in foreign aid.

In 1969, Joseph A. Yablonski, an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency of the United Mine Workers of America, was shot to death along with his wife and daughter in their Clarksville, Pa., home by hit men acting under the orders of UMWA president Tony Boyle.

In 1974, private U.S. citizens were allowed to buy and own gold for the first time in more than 40 years.

In 1978, Taiwanese diplomats struck their colors for the final time from the embassy flagpole in Washington, D.C., marking the end of diplomatic relations with the United States.

In 1985, singer Rick Nelson, 45, and six other people were killed when fire broke out aboard a DC-3 that was taking the group to a New Year’s Eve performance in Dallas.

In 1986, 97 people were killed when fire broke out in the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Three hotel workers later pleaded guilty in connection with the blaze.)

In 1993, entertainer Barbra Streisand performed her first paid concert in 22 years, singing to a sellout crowd at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas.

In 1997, Michael Kennedy, the 39-year-old son of the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, was killed in a skiing accident on Aspen Mountain in Colorado.

In 1999, ten years ago, people around the world celebrated while awaiting the arrival of the year 2000.

In 1999, Russian President Boris Yeltsin announced his resignation (he was succeeded by Vladimir Putin).

In 1999, the eight-day hijacking of an Indian Airlines plane in Afghanistan ended peacefully.

In 1999, the United States prepared to hand over the Panama Canal to Panama at the stroke of midnight.

In 1999, former Attorney General Elliot L. Richardson died in Boston at age 79.

In 2004, five years ago, President George W. Bush pledged $350 million to help tsunami victims, and didn’t rule out sending even more U.S. aid to help people recover from what he called an “epic disaster.”

In 2004, Ukrainian Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych resigned, admitting he had little hope of reversing the presidential election victory of his Western-leaning rival, Viktor Yushchenko.

In 2006, the death toll for Americans killed in the Iraq war reached 3,000.

In 2008, one year ago, the U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting on an Arab request for a binding and enforceable resolution condemning Israel and halting its military attacks on Gaza.

In 2008, a man left four gift-wrapped bombs in downtown Aspen, Colo., in a bank-robbery attempt, turning New Year’s Eve celebrations into a mass evacuation. (The man, identified as 72-year-old James Chester Blanning, shot and killed himself.)

In 2008, a woman gave birth aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 59 while en route from Amsterdam to Boston.

Today’s Birthdays

TV producer George Schlatter is 80. Actor Sir Anthony Hopkins is 72. Actor Tim Considine (“My Three Sons”) is 69. Actress Sarah Miles is 68. Rock musician Andy Summers is 67. Actor Ben Kingsley is 66. Rock musician Peter Quaife (The Kinks) is 66. Producer-director Taylor Hackford is 65. Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg is 63. Actor Tim Matheson is 62. Pop singer Burton Cummings (The Guess Who) is 62. Singer Donna Summer is 61. Actor Joe Dallesandro is 61. Rock musician Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith) is 58. Actor James Remar is 56. Actress Bebe Neuwirth is 51. Actor Val Kilmer is 50. Singer Paul Westerberg is 50. Actor Don Diamont is 47. Rock musician Ric Ivanisevich (Oleander) is 47. Rock musician Scott Ian (Anthrax) is 46. Actress Gong Li is 44. Author Nicholas Sparks is 44. Pop singer Joe McIntyre is 37. Rock musician Mikko Siren (Apocalyptica) is 34. Rock musician Bob Bryar (My Chemical Romance) is 30.

Today’s Historic Birthdays

Jacques Cartier
12/31/1491 – 9/1/1557
French explorer

Charles Cornwallis
12/31/1738 – 10/5/1805
English soldier and statesman

Robert Aitken
12/31/1864 – 10/29/1951
American astronomer

Henri Matisse
12/31/1869 – 11/3/1954
French painter

George C. Marshall
12/31/1880 – 10/16/1959
U.S. Army general

Ben Jones
12/31/1882 – 6/13/1961
American racehorse trainer

Elizabeth Arden
12/31/1878 – 10/18/1966
Canadian-born American cosmetic executive

Nathan Milstein
12/31/1903 – 12/21/1992
Russian-born American violinist

Jules Styne
12/31/1905 – 9/20/1994
American songwriter

Thought for Today

“No one ever regarded the first of January with indifference. It is the nativity of our common Adam.” – Charles Lamb, English essayist and author (1775-1834).


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