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Today in History

Christmas Eve
1818
Franz Xaver Gruber composes Silent Night
1851
Library of Congress burns
1865
KKK forms in Pulaski, Tennessee
1880
Author, political cartoonist, illustrator and creator of "Raggedy Ann" Johnny Gruelle born in Arcola, Illinois
1905
Aviator, industrialist and philanthropist, Howard Hughes born in Houston, Texas
1922
Oscar nominated actress, Ava Gardner born in Brogden, North Carolina
1979
Soviet Union invades Afghanistan
3
Servius Sulpicius Galba, 6th Roman Emperor born
562
Justinian, Emperor of Byzantium, dedicates Hagia Sophia's new dome
640
Election of Pope John IV
820
Assassination of Leo V "the Armenian," Eastern Roman Emperor
877
St. Odo born
1144
Edessa captured by Zangi, Atabeg of Mosul This action inspires the 2nd Crusade.
1167
English King John I born
1167
John I "Lackland," King of England born
1453
The British composer (and astronomer) John Dunstable died.
1473
Death of St. John of Kanti
1524
Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama -- who had discovered a sea route around Africa to India -- died in Cochin, India.
1566
Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, pardons the murderers of Riccio
1737
American diplomat Silas Deane born
1745
Physician and chemist Benjamin Rush (`father of psychiatry' the 1st American to recognize alcoholism as a disease; signer of America's Declaration of Independence) born
1809
Frontiersman Kit (Christopher) Carson born
1814
The War of 1812 officially ended as the United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent in Belgium.
1818
Franz Gruber of Oberndorf, Germany composed the music for "Silent Night" to words written by Josef Mohr. The traditional song was sung for the first time during Midnight Mass this night.
1818
Physicist James Joule (Joule's Law) born
1822
Poet and essayist Matthew Arnold born
1832
The London Philharmonic gave its premiere of Beethoven's Ninth. The orchestra commissioned the work but Beethoven let it be played in Vienna first in violation of the contract.
1851
The Library of Congress and part of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C., were destroyed by fire.( about 35,000 volumes of books were destroyed)
1865
Several veterans of the Confederate Army formed a private social club in Pulaski, Tennessee, called the Ku Klux Klan.
1871
Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Aida" had its world premiere in Cairo, Egypt, to celebrate the opening of the Suez Canal.
1889
Daniel Stover and William Hance, of Freeport, Illinois, patented the back pedal brake for bicycles. It would later be known as the safety brake and became a standard feature on most brands of bikes.
1893
Composer (Salvatore Guaragna) Harry Warren (Best Song Oscars: Lullaby of Broadway , You'll Never Know , On the Atcheson, Topeka and Santa Fe [w/Johnny Mercer-1946]) born
1905
Industrialist Howard Hughes born
1906
Canadian physicist Reginald A. Fessenden became the first person to broadcast a music program over radio, from Brant Rock, Massachusetts.
1907
Journalist I.F. (Isidor Feinstein) Stone born
1920
Enrico Caruso gave his last public performance, singing in Jacques Halevy's "La Juive" at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.
1922
Songwriter-bandleader Dave Bartholomew born
1922
Actress (Lucy Johnson) Ava Gardner (The Barefoot Contessa, Earthquake, The Long Hot Summer, The Night of the Iguana; once married to Mickey Rooney, Artie Shaw, Frank Sinatra) born
1924
Notre Dame football coach (1918-1930) Knute Rockne said he opposed elimination of the forward pass since it has helped "to curb the brutality of football."
1930
Choreographer Robert (Khan) Joffrey (The Joffrey Ballet) born
1931
Actress Jill Bennett (For Your Eyes Only, The Old Curiosity Shop, The Charge of the Light Brigade, The Sheltering Sky) born
1931
Pianist and composer Ray Bryant ( Slow Freight, Little Susie, Cubano Chant, The Madison Time, Sack of Woe, After Hours) born
1935
Alban Berg died, he was 51. Berg died without completing his 12-tone opera "Lulu." Berg's music did fairly well in the years immediately after his death, because his compositions are more expressive.
1940
Federal health administrator Anthony S. Fauci born
1942
Adm. Jean Louis Darlan, the French administrator of North Africa, was assassinated as a sympathizer of the French Vichy regime.
1943
President Roosevelt appointed General Dwight D. Eisenhower supreme commander of Allied forces as part of Operation "Overlord."
1944
The Andrews Sisters starred in the debut of "The Andrews Sisters' Eight-To-The-Bar-Ranch" on ABC Radio. Patty, Maxene and LaVerne ran a fictional dude ranch. George `Gabby' Hayes was a regular guest along with Vic Schoen's Orchestra. The program aired until 1946.
1944
Recording company executive Mike Curb born
1945
Playwright and director Nicholas Meyer ( Star Trek 6 Undiscovered Country, Company Business, Time After Time, born
1945
Rock singer and musician (Ian Kilmister) Lemmy (Motorhead) born
1946
Actress Sharon Farrell born
1946
Football player `Mean' Joe Green born
1951
Gian Carlo Menotti's "Amahl and the Night Visitors," the first opera written specifically for television, was first broadcast by NBC TV.
1953
"Dragnet", starring Jack Webb as Detective Joe Friday, became the first network program to be sponsored.
1955
Actor Clarence Gilyard ("Walker, Texas Ranger") born
1955
The lovely Lennon Sisters debuted as featured vocalists on "The Lawrence Welk Show" on ABC. They became regulars with Welk within a month and stayed on the show until 1968.
1956
Actress Stephanie Hodge born
1957
Rock musician Ian Burden (The Human League) born
1963
Rock singer Mary Ramsey (10,000 Maniacs) born
1966
Actor Diedrich Bader ("The Drew Carey Show") born
1968
The crew of the U.S. Navy ship, "Pueblo", were released by North Korea. The Captain of the "Pueblo", Commander Lloyd M. Bucher, and 82 of his crew had been held for 11 months after the ship was seized by North Korea.
1968
The "Apollo Eight" astronauts (Lovell, Anders and Borman), orbiting the moon 250,000 miles from home, were reading verses from their bible and transmitting a message to all mankind calling for "peace on earth."
1971
Singer Ricky Martin born
1974
Cyclone Tracy devastates Darwin, Australia
1980
Americans remembered the US hostages in Iran by burning candles or shining lights for 417 seconds -- one second for each day of captivity.
1987
In Lebanon, the kidnappers of Terry Anderson released a videotape in which the Associated Press correspondent told his family he was in good health, and said to President Reagan, "Surely by now you know what must be done and how you can do it." (Anderson was freed nearly four years later.)
1988
President-elect Bush nominated Elizabeth H. Dole, onetime transportation secretary, to be his secretary of labor.
1989
Ousted Panamanian ruler Manuel Noriega, who had succeeded in eluding US forces, took refuge at the Vatican's diplomatic mission in Panama City.
1990
With three weeks left before the United Nations deadline for Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait, hundreds of thousands of U-S troops marked Christmas Eve with muted celebrations and a heightened state of alert.
1992
President Bush pardoned former Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and five others in the Iran-Contra scandal.
1992
President-elect Clinton appointed Bruce Babbitt interior secretary, Mike Espy agriculture secretary and Federico Pena transportation secretary; Clinton also chose Zoe Baird to be attorney general, but the nomination fell apart over Baird's hiring of illegal aliens as domestic workers.
1993
The Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, who had blended Christian and psychiatric principles into a message of "positive thinking," died in Pawling, New York, at age 95.
1994
British playwright John Osborne ("Look Back in Anger") died at age 65.
1994
Armed Islamic fundamentalists hijacked an Air France Airbus A-300 carrying 227 passengers at the Algiers airport; three passengers were killed during the siege before the hijackers were killed by French commandos in Marseille two days later.
1995
In a Christmas message to U-S troops in Bosnia, President Clinton praised their peace mission to a land exhausted by war.
1995
Fire broke out at the Philadelphia Zoo, killing 23 rare gorillas, orangutans, gibbons and lemurs.
1996
The streets of Belgrade, Yugoslavia, turned violent as demonstrators traded blows with supporters of President Slobodan Milosevic, and then were clubbed by riot police.
1997
Japanese actor Toshiro Mifune died in suburban Tokyo at age 77.
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.
1998
Ignoring NATO warnings, Serb tanks and troops struck an ethnic Albanian stronghold in Kosovo
1998
Most of California's citrus crop was considered ruined after three straight nights of freezing cold.
1999
Five hijackers seized an Indian Airlines jet with 189 people aboard, 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.)
2005
Tolls may be needed for NSW Pacific Highway upgrade
2005
Bolivian President Evo Morales convinces EU to pay for study of coca
2005
Bomb explodes in crowded São Paulo street
2005
Egypt court sentences opposition leader
2005
Haiti might have to postpone elections again
2005
New South Wales ALP loses support first time under premier Iemma
2005
Chad declares border with Sudan a "military operations zone".
2005
US Student reveals book visit a hoax
2005
Allegations of three candidates' drug ties resurface in Haitian presidential race
2005
U.S. taskforce encourages vote to decide Puerto Rico status
2006
Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani killed in airstrike
2006
Analysis reveals that New York City tunnels are susceptible to attacks
2006
Inhabited tropical island lost to rising seas
2006
Iran dismisses United Nations resolution imposing sanctions
2006
Video clip from YouTube used to track down suspected murderer
2006
Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales to start wiki-based search engine
2006
Ethiopian fighter jets attack Somalian towns
2007
Belgian Chamber of Representatives backs interim government
2007
Astronomers say asteroid could hit Mars
2007
Lordi release future Dark Floors soundtrack 'Beast Loose in Paradise' as single
2007
Germany announces large child porn investigation
2007
Nepalese monarchy to become republic
2007
NBA 2K8 Asia Championship: Taiwan Stage Highlights
2007
11 dead after snow storms in US
2007
Jazz pianist Oscar Peterson dies at 82
2007
Four French tourists killed in Mauritania
2007
Eight men and several Spinka charities charged with tax fraud in Los Angeles
2007
German composer Harald Genzmer dies at age 98
2009
Closure of Guantánamo prison will take longer than expected
2009
Israeli forensic institute illegally harvested organs in the '90s
2009
Two killed, 47 injured in coach crash in Cornwall, England
2009
Mexican helicopter crash leaves soldier dead
2009
Illinois high school girls basketball: Geneva wins Benet-Naperville North tournament
2009
U.S. Senate passes landmark health care reform bill
2009
American actor Arnold Stang dies at age 91
2010
Fifty injured, five critically, as coach overturns in Norwich, England
2010
U.S. vice president Joe Biden says positive consensus on same-sex marriage is 'inevitable'
2010
Scottish politician going to jail after perjury conviction
2011
Colombian crime gang boss, hundreds of members surrender
2011
Gingrich, Perry fail to qualify for Virginia Republican presidential primary ballot
2011
Lansing, Michigan airport designated 'aerotropolis'
2012
Scottish Midlothian car crash kills three

In the early days of Unix, a date-tagged list of historical events was used by system administrators to add some interest to the system's Message of the Day. Whenever users logged in they would be presented with the latest system notices, perhaps some mildly amusing quotes and one or two lines of historical events, based on the current date.

Today in History (UNIX calendar) uses some of the entries from the original library but is updated with current events as well. Instead of plain text, each entry is now formatted in HTML and each day may include one or more icons of historical figures or celebrities.

Other things unique to the UNIX calendar are references to dates found in fictional literature such as Lord of the Rings, perhaps undue emphasis on people and events that were part of popular culture in the 70's and technical minutiae about computers and operating systems that might not be found in other places.

In association with Amazon, this symbol is a link to related products at amazon.com. Any proceeds resulting from the sales of these products are used to defray the cost of maintaining the Today in History site and editorial efforts.

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