December 31st in History

This day in history

December 31 is the 365th day of the year (366th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar.
It is widely known as New Year’s Eve since the following day is New Year’s Day. It is the last day of the year. The following day is January 1 of the following year. You have 358 shopping days till Christmas.



Commodus Musei Capitolini MC1120.jpgIn 192,  Commodus, Roman emperor (b. 161) was assassinated. He was Roman Emperor from 180 to 192. He also ruled as co-emperor with his father Marcus Aurelius from 177 until his father’s death in 180. His accession as emperor was the first time a son had succeeded his father since Titus succeeded Vespasian in 79. He was also the first emperor to have both a father and grandfather (who had adopted his father) as the two preceding emperors. Commodus was the first (and until 337 the only) emperor “born in the purple“, i.e., during his father’s reign. Commodus was assassinated in 192.

In 406,  Vandals, Alans and Suebians cross the Rhine, beginning an invasion of Gaul.

In 535, Byzantine general Belisarius completes the conquest of Sicily, defeating the Gothic garrison of Palermo (Panormos), and ending his consulship for the year.

In 1225, The Lý dynasty of Vietnam ends after 216 years by the enthronement of the boy emperor Trần Thái Tông, husband of the last Lý monarch, Lý Chiêu Hoàng, starting the Trần dynasty.

In 1229, James I of Aragon the Conqueror enters Medina Mayurqa (now known as Palma, Spain) thus consummating the Christian reconquest of the island of Majorca.

In 1501, The First Battle of Cannanore commences.

In 1600, The British East India Company is chartered.

In 1660, James II of England is named Duke of Normandy by Louis XIV of France.

In 1687, The first Huguenots set sail from France to the Cape of Good Hope.

The Shannon Portrait of the Hon Robert Boyle.jpgIn 1691, Robert Boyle, Irish chemist and physicist (b. 1627) died from paralysis. He was an Anglo-Irish natural philosopher, chemist, physicist, and inventor. Born in Lismore, County Waterford, Ireland, he was also noted for his writings in theology. Although his research clearly has its roots in the alchemical tradition, Boyle is largely regarded today as the first modern chemist, and therefore one of the founders of modern chemistry, and one of the pioneers of modern experimental scientific method. He is best known for Boyle’s law, which describes the inversely proportional relationship between the absolute pressure and volume of a gas, if the temperature is kept constant within a closed system. Among his works, The Sceptical Chymist is seen as a cornerstone book in the field of chemistry.

In 1695, A window tax is imposed in England, causing many householders to brick up windows to avoid the tax.

In 1757, Empress Elizabeth I of Russia issues her ukase incorporating Königsberg into Russia.

In 1759, Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum and starts brewing Guinness.

In 1775, American Revolutionary War: Battle of Quebec: British forces repulse an attack by Continental Army General Richard Montgomery.

In 1790, Efimeris, the oldest Greek newspaper of which issues have survived till today, is published for the first time.

In 1796, The incorporation of Baltimore as a city.

In 1831, Gramercy Park is deeded to New York City.

In 1853, A dinner party is held inside a life-size model of an iguanodon created by Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins and Sir Richard Owen in south London, England.

In 1857, Queen Victoria chooses Ottawa, then a small logging town, as the capital of Canada.

In 1862, American Civil War: Abraham Lincoln signs an act that admits West Virginia to the Union, thus dividing Virginia in two.

In 1862, American Civil War: The Battle of Stones River begins near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

In 1878, Karl Benz, working in Mannheim, Germany, filed for a patent on his first reliable two-stroke gas engine, and he was granted the patent in 1879.

In 1879, Thomas Edison demonstrates incandescent lighting to the public for the first time, in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

In 1906, Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar signs the Persian Constitution of 1906.

In 1907, The first New Year’s Eve celebration is held in Times Square (then known as Longacre Square) in New York, New York.

In 1909, Manhattan Bridge opens.

Spencer Trask.jpgIn 1909, Spencer Trask, American financier and philanthropist (b. 1844) died in a train accident on New Year’s Eve in 1909. He was an American financier, philanthropist, and venture capitalist. Beginning in the 1870s, Trask began investing and supporting entrepreneurs, including Thomas Edison‘s invention of the electric light bulb and his electricity network. In 1896 he reorganized the New York Times, becoming its majority shareholder and chairman. Along with his financial acumen, Trask was a generous philanthropist, a leading patron of the arts, a strong supporter of education, and a champion of humanitarian causes. His gifts to his alma mater, Princeton University, set a lecture series in his name that still continues to this day. He was also an initial trustee of the Teachers’ College (now Teachers College, Columbia University) and St. Stephen’s College.

Portrait of pilot Arch Hoxsey at the Dominguez Air Meet, ca.1910 (CHS-43570).jpgIn 1910, Archibald Hoxsey, American pilot (b. 1884) died on December 31, 1910 in Los Angeles, California after crashing from 7,000 feet. He was trying to set a new flight altitude record. He was an American aviator who worked for the Wright brothers. He was born in Staunton, Illinois on October 15, 1884. He moved with his parents to Pasadena, California. In his early twenties he worked as an auto mechanic and chauffeur. By 1909-1910 his mechanical ability led to a meeting with the Wright Brothers. In March 1910 the Wright brothers opened a flight school in Montgomery, Alabama and Hoxey was a teacher there. There he became the first pilot to fly at night. On October 11, 1910 at Kinloch Field in St. Louis he took Theodore Roosevelt up in an airplane. Because of their dueling altitude record attempts, he and Ralph Johnstone were nicknamed the “heavenly twins”. On December 26, 1910 Hoxley set the flight altitude record of 11,474 feet.

In 1923, The chimes of Big Ben are broadcast on radio for the first time by the BBC.

In 1944, World War II: Hungary declares war on Nazi Germany.

In 1944, World War II: Operation Nordwind, the last major German offensive on the Western Front begins.

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

In 1951, The Marshall Plan expires after distributing more than US$13.3 billion in foreign aid to rebuild Europe.

In 1955, General Motors becomes the first U.S. corporation to make over US$1 billion in a year.

In 1960, The farthing coin ceases to be legal tender in the United Kingdom.

In 1961, RTÉ, Ireland’s state broadcaster, launches its first national television service.

In 1963, The Central African Federation officially collapses, subsequently becoming Zambia, Malawi and Rhodesia.

In 1965, Jean-Bédel Bokassa, leader of the Central African Republic army, and his military officers begins a coup d’état against the government of President David Dacko.

In 1967, The Youth International Party, popularly known as the “Yippies”, is founded.

Eisenhower dollar, obverse

Eisenhower dollar obverse design used from 1971-1978.

In 1970, The Eisenhower dollar is a one-dollar coin issued from 1971 to 1978 by the United States Mint. Authorized by law on December 31, 1970, it was the first US dollar coin minted since 1935, the last year of the Peace dollar. Designed by Frank Gasparro, the coin’s obverse depicts President Dwight D. Eisenhower, who died in March 1969. Proposals in Congress to honor him on a coin led to a dispute over whether the new coin was to contain silver. In 1970, a compromise was reached to strike it in base metal for circulation, and in 40% silver as a collectible. Although the collector’s pieces sold well, the new dollars failed to circulate, except in and around Nevada casinos, where they took the place of privately issued tokens. Coins from 1975 and 1976 bear a double date, 1776–1976, and a special reverse by Dennis R. Williams in honor of the Bicentennial. To replace the Eisenhower dollar with a smaller-sized piece, Congress authorized the Susan B. Anthony dollar, struck beginning in 1979, but that coin also failed to circulate.

Roberto Clemente

In 1972,  Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rican baseball player (b. 1934) died in an aviation accident on December 31, 1972, while en route to deliver aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. He was a Puerto Rican professional baseball player. He was a Major League Baseball right fielder who played 18 seasons for the Pittsburgh Pirates from 1955 through 1972. He was a National League, Most Valuable Player once, All-Star twelve times (15 games), batting champion four times, and Gold Glove winner twelve times. In 1972, Clemente got his 3,000th major league hit in the very last plate appearance of his career during a regular season game. Clemente was involved in charity work in Puerto Rico and Latin American countries during the off seasons, often delivering baseball equipment and food to those in need. Clemente was inducted posthumously to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973, becoming the first Latin American to be enshrined. His death established the precedent that as an alternate to the five year retirement period, a player deceased for at least 6 months is eligible for entry into the Hall of Fame. Clemente is the first Latino player to win a World Series as a starter (1960), to receive a National League MVP Award (1966), and to receive a World Series MVP Award (1971).

In 1981, A coup d’état in Ghana removes President Hilla Limann‘s PNP government and replaces it with the Provisional National Defence Council led by Flight lieutenant Jerry Rawlings.

In 1983, The AT&T Bell System is broken up by the United States Government.

In 1983, In Nigeria a coup d’état led by Major General Muhammadu Buhari ends the Second Nigerian Republic.

A young man in profile playing a guitar and standing before a microphone.In 1985,  Ricky Nelson, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, and actor (b. 1940) dies. Eric Hilliard Nelson  – known as Ricky Nelson, later also as Rick Nelson,  was an American actor, musician and singer-songwriter. He starred alongside his family in the television series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952–66), as well as co-starring alongside John Wayne and Dean Martin in Howard Hawks’s western feature film, Rio Bravo (1959). He placed 53 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 between 1957 and 1973 including “Poor Little Fool” which holds the distinction of being the first #1 song on Billboard magazine’s then-newly created Hot 100 chart. He recorded 19 additional Top 10 hits and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on January 21, 1987. In 1996, he was ranked #49 on TV Guide’s 50 Greatest TV Stars of All Time. Nelson began his entertainment career in 1949 playing himself in the radio sitcom series, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. In 1952, he appeared in his first feature film, Here Come the Nelsons. In 1957, he recorded his first single, debuted as a singer on the television version of the sitcom, and released the #1 album entitled Ricky. In 1958, Nelson released his first #1 single, “Poor Little Fool“, and in 1959 received a Golden Globe nomination for “Most Promising Male Newcomer” after starring in Rio Bravo. A few films followed, and when the television series was cancelled in 1966, Nelson made occasional appearances as a guest star on various television programs. Nelson and Sharon Kristin Harmon were married on April 20, 1963, and divorced in December 1982. They had four children: Tracy Kristine, twin sons Gunnar Eric and Matthew Gray, and Sam Hilliard. On February 14, 1981, a son (Eric Crewe) was born to Nelson and Georgeann Crewe. A blood test in 1985 confirmed that Nelson was the child’s father. Nelson was engaged to Helen Blair when both were killed in an airplane crash on December 31, 1985.

In 1986, A fire at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, kills 97 and injures 140.

In 1988, Pittsburgh PenguinsMario Lemieux becomes the only National Hockey League player to score goals in five different ways: even strength, shorthanded, power play, penalty shot, and empty net, during an 8–6 win over the New Jersey Devils.

In 1988, First Winter Ascent of Lhotse (8,516m) by Krzysztof Wielicki (solo).

In 1991, All official Soviet Union institutions have ceased operations by this date and the Soviet Union is officially dissolved.

In 1992, Czechoslovakia is peacefully dissolved in what is dubbed by media as the Velvet Divorce, resulting in the creation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

In 1994, This date is skipped altogether in Kiribati as the Phoenix Islands and Line Islands change time zones from UTC−11:00 to UTC+13:00 and UTC−10:00 to UTC+14:00, respectively.

In 1994 – The First Chechen War: Russian army began a New Year’s storming of Grozny.

In 1998, The European Exchange Rate Mechanism freezes the values of the legacy currencies in the Eurozone, and establishes the value of the euro currency.

In 1999, First President of Russia, Boris Yeltsin, resigns from office, leaving Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the acting President and successor.

In 1999, The United States Government hands control of the Panama Canal (as well all the adjacent land to the canal known as the Panama Canal Zone) to Panama. This act complied with the signing of the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties.

In 1999, Indian Airlines Flight 814 hijacking ended after seven days with the release of 190 survivors at Kandahar Airport, Afghanistan.

In 2004, The official opening of Taipei 101, the tallest skyscraper at that time in the world, standing at a height of 509 metres (1,670 ft).

In 2009, Both a blue moon and a lunar eclipse occur.

In 2010, Tornadoes touch down in midwestern and southern United States, including Washington County, Arkansas; Greater St. Louis, Sunset Hills, Missouri, Illinois, and Oklahoma, with a few tornadoes in the early hours. A total 36 tornadoes touched down, resulting in the deaths of nine people and $113 million in damages.

In 2011, NASA succeeds in putting the first of two Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory satellites in orbit around the Moon.

In 2014, A New Year’s Eve celebration stampede in Shanghai kills at least 36 people and injures 49 others.

Marvin Panch next to his #21 Wood Brothers Ford prior to the 1962 Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. Photo by Tom Kirkland / Smyle Media

In 2015, Marvin Panch, American race car driver (b. 1926) dies. He was an American stock car racing driver. Winner of the 1961 Daytona 500, he won seventeen NASCAR Grand National – now Sprint Cup Series – events during a 17-year career. Panch was named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers in 1998. He was inducted into the National Motorsports Press Association Hall of Fame in 1987, and the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in its first class in 2002.

In 2015,  A fire broke out at the Downtown Address Hotel in Downtown Dubai, United Arab Emirates located near the Burj Khalifa 2 hours before the fireworks display was due to commence. 16 injuries were reported; one had a heart attack, another suffered a major injury, and fourteen others with minor injuries.

In 2018,  Starting date of Valletta as European Capital of Culture

%d bloggers like this: