December 17th in History

This day in historyDecember 17 is the 351st day of the year (352nd in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 14 days remaining until the end of the year. There are only 7 more shopping days till Christmas.



In 497 BC,  The first Saturnalia festival was celebrated in ancient Rome.

In 546,  Siege of Rome: The Ostrogoths under king Totila plunder the city, by bribing the Byzantine garrison.

In 920,  Romanos I Lekapenos is crowned co-emperor of the underage Constantine VII.

In 942, Assassination of William I of Normandy.

In 1398, Sultan Nasir-u Din Mehmud‘s armies in Delhi are defeated by Timur.

In 1538, Pope Paul III excommunicates Henry VIII of England.

In 1583, Cologne War: Forces under Ernest of Bavaria defeat troops under Gebhard Truchsess von Waldburg at the Siege of Godesberg.

In 1586, Go-Yōzei becomes Emperor of Japan.

In 1600, Marriage of Henry IV of France and Marie de’ Medici.

In 1718, War of the Quadruple Alliance: Great Britain declares war on Spain.

In 1777, American Revolution: France formally recognizes the United States.

In 1790, Discovery of the Aztec calendar stone.

In 1807, Napoleonic Wars: France issues the Milan Decree, which confirms the Continental System.

In 1812, War of 1812: U.S. forces attack a Lenape village in the Battle of the Mississinewa.

In 1819, Simón Bolívar declares the independence of Gran Colombia in Angostura (now Ciudad Bolívar in Venezuela).

Bolivar Arturo Michelena.jpgIn 1830, Simón Bolívar, Venezuelan general and politician, 2nd President of Venezuela (b. 1783) dies. He commonly known as Simón Bolívar or Simon Bolivar, was a Venezuelan military and political leader. Bolívar played a key role in Latin America’s successful struggle for independence from the Spanish Empire, and is today considered one of the most influential politicians in the history of the Americas. Following the triumph over the Spanish monarchy, Bolívar participated in the foundation of the first union of independent nations in Hispanic-America, a republic, now known as Gran Colombia, of which he was president from 1819 to 1830. Bolívar is regarded as a hero, visionary, revolutionary, and liberator in Hispanic-America. During his lifetime, he led Venezuela, Colombia (including Panama at the time), Ecuador, Peru (together with Don José de San Martín), and Bolivia to independence from the Spanish Empire. Admirers claim that he helped lay the foundations for democracy in much of Latin America.

In 1835, Great Fire of New York: Fire levels lower Manhattan.

In 1837, A fire in the Winter Palace of Saint Petersburg kills 30 guards.

In 1862, American Civil War: General Ulysses S. Grant issues General Order No. 11, expelling Jews from parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

In 1865, First performance of the Unfinished Symphony by Franz Schubert.

In 1892, First issue of Vogue is published

In 1896, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania’s Schenley Park Casino, which was the first multi-purpose arena with the technology to create an artificial ice surface in North America, is destroyed in a fire.

In 1903, The Wright brothers make the first controlled powered, heavier-than-air flight in the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

In 1907, Ugyen Wangchuck is crowned first King of Bhutan

Lord Kelvin photograph.jpgIn 1907, William Thomson, 1st Baron Kelvin, Irish-Scottish physicist and engineer (b. 1824) dies. He was a British mathematical physicist and engineer who was born in Belfast in 1824. At the University of Glasgow he did important work in the mathematical analysis of electricity and formulation of the first and second laws of thermodynamics, and did much to unify the emerging discipline of physics in its modern form. He worked closely with mathematics professor Hugh Blackburn in his work. He also had a career as an electric telegraph engineer and inventor, which propelled him into the public eye and ensured his wealth, fame and honour. For his work on the transatlantic telegraph project he was knighted by Queen Victoria, becoming Sir William Thomson. He had extensive maritime interests and was most noted for his work on the mariner’s compass, which had previously been limited in reliability.

Absolute temperatures are stated in units of kelvin in his honour. While the existence of a lower limit to temperature (absolute zero) was known prior to his work, Lord Kelvin is widely known for determining its correct value as approximately −273.15 Celsius or -460 Fahrenheit.

He was ennobled in 1892 in recognition of his achievements in thermodynamics, and of his opposition to Irish Home Rule, becoming Baron Kelvin, of Largs in the County of Ayr. He was the first British scientist to be elevated to the House of Lords. The title refers to the River Kelvin, which flows close by his laboratory at the University of Glasgow. His home was the imposing red sandstone mansion Netherhall, in Largs. Despite offers of elevated posts from several world renowned universities Lord Kelvin refused to leave Glasgow, remaining Professor of Natural Philosophy for over 50 years, until his eventual retirement from that post. The Hunterian Museum at the University of Glasgow has a permanent exhibition on the work of Lord Kelvin including many of his original papers, instruments and other artefacts such as his smoking pipe.

Always active in industrial research and development, he was recruited around 1899 by George Eastman to serve as vice-chairman of the board of the British company Kodak Limited, affiliated with Eastman Kodak.

In 1918, Darwin Rebellion: Up to 1,000 demonstrators march on Government House in Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia.

In 1919, Uruguay becomes a signatory to the Buenos Aires copyright treaty.

In 1926, Antanas Smetona assumes power in Lithuania as the 1926 coup d’état is successful.

In 1927, Indian revolutionary Rajendra Lahiri is hanged in Gonda jail, Uttar Pradesh, India, two days before the scheduled date.

In 1928, Indian revolutionaries Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev Thapar and Shivaram Rajguru assassinate British police officer James Saunders in Lahore, Punjab, to avenge the death of Lala Lajpat Rai at the hands of the police. The three were executed in 1931.

Yellow Shirt, Hunkpapa Sioux chief.

In 1928, Frank Rinehart, American photographer (b. 1861) dies. He was an American artist famous for his photography capturing Native American personalities and scenes, especially portrait settings of leaders and members of the delegations who attended the 1898 Indian Congress in Omaha.

German American Rinehart was born in Lodi, Illinois. He and his brother, Alfred, moved to Colorado in the 1870s and found employment at the Charles Bohm photography studio, in Denver. In 1881 the Rinehart brothers formed a partnership with famous Western photographer William Henry Jackson, who had achieved widespread fame for his images of the West. Under Jackson’s teachings, Rinehart’s perfected his professional skills, and developed a keen interest in Native American culture. Frank Rinehart and Anna, the receptionist of Jackson’s studio, married and in 1885 moved to Nebraska. In downtown Omaha, Rinehart opened a studio in the Brandeis Building, where he worked until his death.

Rinehart married Anna Ransom Johnson (daughter of Willard Bemis Johnson and Phebe Jane Carpenter) on 5 September 1885 in Denver County, Colorado. They had two daughters, Ruth and Helen, both born in Nebraska.

In 1898, and in occasion of the Indian Congress held in conjunction with the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition, Rinehart was commissioned to photograph the event and the Native American personalities who attended it. Together with his assistant Adolph Muhr (who would later be employed by the famous photographer Edward S. Curtis), they produced what is now considered “one of the best photographic documentations of Indian leaders at the turn of the century”. Tom Southall, former photograph curator at the University of Kansas‘ Spencer Art Museum, said of the Rinehart collection:

The dramatic beauty of these portraits is especially impressive as a departure from earlier, less sensitive photographs of Native Americans. Instead of being detached, ethnographic records, the Rinehart photographs are portraits of individuals with an emphasis on strength of expression. While Rinehart and Muhr were not the first photographers to portray Indian subjects with such dignity, this large body of work which was widely seen and distributed may have had an important influence in changing subsequent portrayals of Native Americans

In 1935, First flight of the Douglas DC-3.

In 1938, Otto Hahn discovers the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy.

In 1939, World War II: Battle of the River Plate – The Admiral Graf Spee is scuttled by Captain Hans Langsdorff outside Montevideo.

In 1941, World War II: Japanese forces land in Northern Borneo.

In 1943, All Chinese are again permitted to become citizens of the United States with the repealing of the Act of 1882 and the introduction of the Magnuson Act.

In 1944, World War II: Battle of the BulgeMalmedy massacre – American 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion POWs are shot by Waffen-SS Kampfgruppe Peiper.

In 1947, First flight of the Boeing B-47 Stratojet strategic bomber.

In 1950, The F-86 Sabre‘s first mission over Korea.

In 1951, The American Civil Rights Congress delivers “We Charge Genocide” to the United Nations.

In 1957, The United States successfully launches the first Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

In 1960, Troops loyal to Emperor Haile Selassie in Ethiopia crush the coup that began December 13, returning power to their leader upon his return from Brazil. Haile Selassie absolves his son of any guilt.

In 1960, 1960 Munich C-131 crash: 20 passengers and crew on board as well as 32 people on the ground are killed.

In 1961, Niterói circus fire: Fire breaks out during a performance by the Gran Circus Norte-Americano in the city of Niterói, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, killing more than 500.

Thomas Mitchell in High Barbaree trailer.jpg

Thomas Mitchell in High Barbaree trailer

In 1962, Thomas Mitchell, American actor, singer, and screenwriter (b. 1892) dies at the age of seventy from peritoneal mesothelioma in Beverly Hills, California.  He was an American actor. Among his most famous roles in a long career are those of Gerald O’Hara, Scarlett‘s father in Gone with the Wind, the drunken Doc Boone in John Ford‘s Stagecoach, and Uncle Billy in It’s a Wonderful Life. Mitchell was the first person to win an Oscar, an Emmy, and a Tony Award.

Nominated twice for an Oscar, first for The Hurricane (1938), he won the Best Supporting Actor award for Stagecoach (1939); later, he would be nominated three times for an Emmy Award. He was nominated twice, in 1952 and 1953, for his role in the medical drama The Doctor, winning the Lead Actor Drama award in 1953. Nominated again in 1955, for an appearance on a weekly anthology series, he did not win. Mitchell won the Tony for Best Actor in a Musical, in 1953, for his role as Dr Downer in the musical comedy Hazel Flagg, based on the 1937 Paramount comedy film Nothing Sacred, rounding out the Triple Crown of acting awards. In addition to being an actor, he was also a director, playwright, and screenwriter.

In 1967, Australian Prime Minister Harold Holt disappears while swimming near Portsea, Victoria, and is presumed drowned.

In 1969, The SALT I talks begin.

In 1969, Project Blue Book: The United States Air Force closes its study of UFOs.

In 1970, Polish 1970 protests: In Gdynia, soldiers fire at workers emerging from trains, killing dozens.

In 1973,  Thirty passengers are killed in an attack by Palestinian terrorists on Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci–Fiumicino Airport.

James Lee Dozier

In 1981, American Brigadier General James L. Dozier is abducted by the Red Brigades in Verona, Italy.

In 1983, Provisional IRA members detonate a car bomb at Harrods Department Store in London, England, United Kingdom. Three police officers and three civilians are killed.

A sword and axe intersect, with a crystal ball above them both.In 1987, Final Fantasy is released in Japan on the Famicon, marking the start of the Final Fantasy series and saving Square from bankruptcy. Final Fantasy is a fantasy role-playing video game created by Hironobu Sakaguchi, developed and first published in Japan by Square (now Square Enix) in 1987. It is the first game in Square’s Final Fantasy series. Originally released for the Family Computer/NES, Final Fantasy was remade for several video game consoles and is frequently packaged with Final Fantasy II in video game collections.

The story follows four youths called the Light Warriors, who each carry one of their world’s four elemental orbs which have been darkened by the four Elemental Fiends. Together, they quest to defeat these evil forces, restore light to the orbs, and save their world.

The game received generally positive reviews, and it is regarded as one of the most influential and successful role-playing games on the Nintendo Entertainment System, playing a major role in popularizing the genre. Critical praise focused on the game’s graphics, while criticism targeted the time spent wandering in search of random battle encounters to raise the player’s experience level. By March 2003, all versions of Final Fantasy have sold a combined total of two million copies worldwide.

In 1989, The first episode of television series The Simpsons, “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire“, airs in the United States.

In 1989, Romanian Revolution: Protests continue in Timișoara, Romania, with rioters breaking into the Romanian Communist Party‘s District Committee building and attempting to set it on fire.

In 1989, Fernando Collor de Mello defeats Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in the second round of the Brazilian presidential election, becoming the first democratically elected President in almost 30 years.

In 1997, The British Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act 1997 comes into force, banning all handguns with the exception of antique and show weapons.

In 2002, Second Congo War: The Congolese parties of the Inter Congolese Dialogue sign a peace accord which makes provision for transitional governance and legislative and presidential elections within two years.

In 2003, The Soham murder trial ends at the Old Bailey in London, England, with Ian Huntley found guilty of two counts of murder. His girlfriend Maxine Carr is found guilty of perverting the course of justice.

In 2003, SpaceShipOne, piloted by Brian Binnie, makes its first powered and first supersonic flight.

A photo of Otto Graham in 1959 while serving as football coach at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

A photo of Otto Graham in 1959 while serving as football coach at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

In 2003, Otto Graham, American football player and coach (b. 1921) dies of a heart aneurysm in Sarasota, Florida, on December 17, 2003.  He was an American football quarterback who played for the Cleveland Browns in the All-America Football Conference and National Football League. Graham is regarded by critics as one of the most dominant players of his era, having taken the Browns to league championship games every year between 1946 and 1955, winning seven of them. With Graham at quarterback, the Browns posted a record of 114 wins, 20 losses and four ties, including a 9–3 win–loss record in the playoffs. While most of Graham’s statistical records have been surpassed in the modern era, he still holds the NFL record for career average yards gained per pass attempt, with 8.98. He also holds the record for the highest career winning percentage for an NFL starting quarterback, at 0.814. Long-time New York Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, a friend of Graham’s, once called him “as great of a quarterback as there ever was.” He is also known for being one of only two people (the other being Gene Conley—Milwaukee Braves in the 1957 World Series and three Boston Celtics championships from 1959–61) to win championships in two of the four major American sports—1946 NBL (became NBA) and AAFC Championship, plus 3 more AAFC and 3 NFL championships.

In 2005, Anti-World Trade Organization protesters riot in Wan Chai, Hong Kong.

In 2005, Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicates the throne as King of Bhutan.

In 2009,  MV Danny F II sinks off the coast of Lebanon, resulting in the deaths of 44 people and over 28,000 animals.

In 2010,  Mohamed Bouazizi sets himself on fire. This act became the catalyst for the Tunisian Revolution and the wider Arab Spring.

In 2013, The anti-corruption operation in Turkey begins with high profile detainments.

In 2014, The United States and Cuba re-establish diplomatic relations after severing them 55 years ago.

In 2015, After an atheist group forced one Minnesota city to take down its Nativity scene, residents took matters into their own hands, blanketing the town with nativity scenes in response…hundreds of them.

In 2015, Officials with the Democratic National Committee have accused the presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders of improperly accessing confidential voter information gathered by the rival campaign of Hillary Clinton, according to several party officials.

In 2016, Pro-LGBT group Tennessee Thrives intends to stop any perceived discrimination of the LGBT community in proposed state legislation that they believe could adversely affect the economy. The coalition of more than 180 Tennessee businesses calls itself a “watchdog of the General Assembly” and includes businesses like Country Music Television, (CMT is owned by ViaCom) Dow, FedEx, the Nashville Predators, and Vanderbilt, among others, which are said to include HCA and Jack Daniels. The Jackson Press.

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