Andrew Ellicott, an early American astronomer, witnessed the Leonids meteor shower from a ship off the Florida Keys. Ellicott wrote in his journal that the “whole heaven appeared as if illuminated with sky rockets, flying in an infinity of directions, and I was in constant expectation of some of them falling on the vessel. They continued until put out by the light of the sun after day break.” Ellicott’s journal entry is the first known record of a meteor shower in North America.
Ellis Island, the gateway to America, shut its doors after processing more than 12 million immigrants. Today, tens of millions of Americans can trace their roots through Ellis Island, located in New York Harbor off the New Jersey coast and named for merchant Samuel Ellis, who owned the land in the 1770s. On January 2, 1892, 15-year-old Annie Moore, from Ireland, became the first person to pass through the newly opened Ellis Island, which President Benjamin Harrison designated as America’s first federal immigration center in 1890. Before that time, the processing of immigrants had been handled by individual states.
Buzz Aldrin, eventually the second man to walk on the moon, took the first 'space selfie', a photo of himself performing extravehicular activity in space during the Gemini program. The program proved that astronauts could undertake extravehicular activity in space - paving the way for the Apollo program and the eventual landing on the Moon.
In the middle of a game in Kansas City, Philadelphia 76ers center Darryl Dawkins leapt over Kansas City Kings forward Bill Robinzine and slam-dunked the basketball, shattering the fiberglass backboard. The result, according to people who were at the game, was a sound like a bomb going off in the middle of the court. Shards of glass were everywhere, nicking Robinzine all over his legs and arms and had even gotten stuck in Dr. J’s Afro. “It wasn’t really a safe thing to do,” Dawkins said later, “but it was a Darryl Dawkins thing to do.” After doing it again a few weeks later, NBA Commissioner Larry O’Brien let Dawkins know he would be suspended and fined. However, Darryl Dawkins continued to the enjoyment of the crowds. Soon, the league installed shatter-proof backboards with breakaway rims in every arena.
Near the end of a weeklong national salute to Americans who served in the Vietnam War, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial was dedicated in Washington, D.C. after a march to its site by thousands of veterans of the conflict. The long-awaited memorial is a simple V-shaped black-granite wall inscribed with the names of the 57,939 Americans who died in the conflict, arranged in order of death, not rank, as was common in other memorials. “The Wall” drew together both those who fought and those who marched against the war and served to promote national healing a decade after the divisive conflict’s end.
Veteran front-office official Kim Ng broke several glass ceilings simultaneously when she was named General Manager of the Miami Marlins. Ng was the first woman and first person of East Asian descent to lead a Major League Baseball front office, as well as the first female GM in the history of North American professional men’s sports. She spent her entire career in the MLB, beginning with an internship for the Chicago White Sox and was an assistant GM for the Yankees. After applying for five GM positions between '05-'20, it was Derek Jeter, the chief executive and part-owner of the Marlins, who finally picked Ng to lead a team’s baseball operations.
Herman Melville published “Moby-Dick." While the book about Captain Ahab and his quest to catch a giant white whale was initially a flop, "Moby-Dick" is now considered a great classic of American literature and contains one of the most famous opening lines in fiction: “Call me Ishmael.” Herman Melville was born in New York City in 1819. As a young man, he spent time in the merchant marines, the U.S. Navy and on a whaling ship in the South Seas. In 1846, he published his first novel, Typee, a romantic adventure based on his experiences in Polynesia. After multiple failed novels, changed course and released Moby-Dick, a tragic epic that was influenced in part by Melville’s friend and neighbor, Nathaniel Hawthorne, whose novels include The Scarlet Letter.
A court order mandating the desegregation of schools came into effect in New Orleans, Louisiana. Six-year-old Ruby Bridges walked into William Frantz Elementary School, accompanied by federal marshals and taunted by angry crowds. She instantly became a symbol of the civil rights movement, an icon for the cause of racial equality and a target for racial animosity. The Supreme Court ordered the end of segregated public schools in Brown vs. Board of Education just a few months before Bridges was born, but it was not until after her kindergarten year that New Orleans finally assented to desegregation. African American children were given a test, and only those who passed were allowed to enroll in all-white public schools. Bridges passed the test and became the only one of the six eligible students to go ahead with desegregation.
A plane carrying most of the Marshall University football team crashed into a hillside in Kenova, West Virginia, killing everyone onboard. The team was returning from that day’s game, a 17-14 loss to East Carolina University. 37 Marshall football players were aboard the plane, along with the team’s coach, its doctors, the university athletic director and 25 team boosters–some of Huntington, West Virginia’s most prominent citizens–who had traveled to North Carolina to cheer on the Thundering Herd. “The whole fabric,” a citizen of Huntington wrote later, “the whole heart of the town was aboard.”
The first stock ticker was unveiled in New York City. The advent of the ticker ultimately revolutionized the stock market by making up-to-the-minute prices available to investors around the country. Prior to this development, information from the New York Stock Exchange, which has been around since 1792, traveled by mail or messenger. The ticker was the brainchild of Edward Calahan, who configured a telegraph machine to print stock quotes on streams of paper tape (the same paper tape later used in ticker-tape parades). The ticker, which caught on quickly with investors, got its name from the sound its type wheel made.
Elvis made his movie debut in “Love Me Tender." Set in Texas following the American Civil War, the film features Elvis as Clint Reno, the younger brother of a Confederate soldier. Originally titled The Reno Brothers, the movie was renamed Love Me Tender before its release, after a song of the same name that Reno sings during the film. Presley, who became one of the biggest icons in entertainment history, sang in the box-office hit as well as the majority of the 33 movies he made in his career.
Microsoft released the Xbox gaming console, dramatically influencing the history of consumer entertainment technology. Microsoft CEO Bill Gates first decided to venture into the video game market because he feared that gaming consoles would soon compete with personal computers. At the time, Japanese companies Sony and Nintendo dominated the field. Microsoft is said to have lost $4 billion on the initial Xbox, but its successors have sold over a hundred million units and continue to set the standard for entertainment systems.
Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory collectively entered the United States as Oklahoma, the 46th state. Oklahoma, with a name derived from the Choctaw Indian words okla, meaning “people,” and humma, meaning “red,” has a history of human occupation dating back 15,000 years. The first Europeans to visit the region were Spanish explorers in the 16th century, and in the 18th century the Spanish and French struggled for control of the territory. The United States acquired Oklahoma from France in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase.
Inspired by Maria von Trapp's book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, "The Sound of Music" premiered on Broadway. To the consternation of Maria von Trapp and her family, many particulars of her memoir were neglected while great liberties were taken by the show’s writers and by its composer and lyricist, Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. With a creative team made up of Broadway legends and a star as enormously popular and bankable as Mary Martin, it was no surprise that The Sound of Music drew enormous advance sales. Numerous songs from its score— including “Do Re Mi,” “My Favorite Things” and “Climb Every Mountain”—quickly entered the popular canon. Recorded just a week after the show’s premiere, the album shot to the top of the Billboard album charts.
President John F. Kennedy decided to increase military aid to South Vietnam without committing U.S. combat troops. Kennedy was concerned at the advances being made by the communist Viet Cong, but did not want to become involved in a land war in Vietnam. He hoped that the military aid would be sufficient to strengthen the Saigon government and its armed forces against the Viet Cong. Ultimately it was not, and Kennedy ended up sending additional support in the form of U.S. military advisors and American helicopter units. By the time of his assassination in 1963, there were 16,000 U.S. soldiers in South Vietnam.
The Oakland Raiders scored two touchdowns in nine seconds to beat the New York Jets—and no one saw it, because they were watching the movie Heidi instead. With just 65 seconds left to play, NBC switched off the game in favor of its previously scheduled programming, a made-for-TV version of the children’s story about a young girl and her grandfather in the Alps. Viewers were outraged, and they complained so vociferously that network execs learned a lesson they’ll never forget: “Whatever you do,” one said, “you better not leave an NFL football game.” The game is now known as The Heidi Game or The Heidi Bowl.
President Nixon insisted that he was “not a crook" while at Walt Disney World. Nixon made the now-famous declaration during a televised question-and-answer session with Associated Press editors. Nixon, who appeared “tense” to a New York Times reporter, was questioned about his role in the Watergate burglary scandal and efforts to cover up the fact that members of his re-election committee had funded the break-in. Nixon replied “people have got to know whether or not their President is a crook. Well, I’m not a crook. I’ve earned everything I’ve got.” He did, however, admit that he was at fault for failing to supervise his campaign’s fund-raising activities.
Ex-soldier John Muhammad was found guilty of one of a series of sniper shootings that terrorized the metropolitan Washington, D.C. area and dominated national headlines in October 2002. Police charged that Muhammad and his 17-year-old accomplice, Lee Boyd Malvo, killed 10 people and wounded three others during a three-week killing spree that became known as the “Beltway sniper” attacks. After just over six hours of deliberation, a jury convicted Muhammad of the October 9, 2002, shooting of Dean Meyers while he pumped gas at a Sunoco station in Manassas, Virginia.
America’s railroads began using a standard time system involving four time zones, Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific. Within each zone, all clocks were synchronized. The railroad industry’s plan was adopted by much of the country, although the time-zone system didn’t become official across the United States until the passage of the 1918 Standard Time Act, which also established daylight savings time. By the mid-20th century, most of the world had adopted a system of international time zones, in which the planet is divided into 24 zones spaced at intervals of approximately 15 degrees of longitude.
Walt Disney released "Steamboat Willie," Mickey Mouse's first sound cartoon. The film has received wide critical acclaim, not only for introducing one of the world's most popular cartoon characters, but for its technical innovation of synchronized sound. In 1998 the film was selected for preservation in the United States' National Film Registry for being deemed "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." This is the date used for Mickey's birthday.
Sandy Koufax, the ace pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers, retired from baseball at just 30 years old. He was retiring after a great season–he’d led the Dodgers to a National League pennant and won his third Cy Young award. Unfortunately, Koufax suffered from chronic arthritis in his pitching arm, and he was afraid that if he kept playing baseball, eventually he wouldn’t be able to use his left hand at all. During his career, Koufax threw one no-hitter every year from 1962 to 1965, and in 1965 he threw a perfect game. His pitches were notoriously difficult to hit; getting the bat on a Koufax fastball, Pittsburgh’s Willie Stargell once said, was like “trying to drink coffee with a fork.” In 1971, the 36-year-old Koufax became the youngest person ever to be elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.