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This Day in History: December 21


1598 – Battle of Curalaba: The revolting Mapuche, led by cacique Pelentaru, inflict a major defeat on Spanish troops in southern Chile.

1620 – Plymouth Colony: William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims land on what is now known as Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts.

1826 – American settlers in Nacogdoches, Mexican Texas, declare their independence, starting the Fredonian Rebellion.

1861 – Medal of Honor: Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy Medal of Valor, is signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln.

1913 – Arthur Wynne's "word-cross", the first crossword puzzle, is published in the New York World.

1919 – American anarchist Emma Goldman is deported to Russia.

1937 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, the world's first full-length animated feature, premieres at the Carthay Circle Theatre.

1968 – Apollo program: Apollo 8 is launched from the Kennedy Space Center, placing its crew on a lunar trajectory for the first visit to another celestial body by humans.


1603 – Roger Williams, English-American minister, theologian, and politician, 9th President of the Colony of Rhode Island (d. 1684)

1850 – William Wallace Lincoln, American son of Abraham Lincoln (d. 1862)

1911 – Josh Gibson, American baseball player (d. 1947)

1915 – Werner von Trapp, Austrian-American singer (d. 2007)

1926 – Joe Paterno, American football player and coach (d. 2012)

1937 – Jane Fonda, American actress, producer, and activist

1940 – Frank Zappa, American singer-songwriter, guitarist, producer, and actor (d. 1993)

1948 – Samuel L. Jackson, American actor and producer

1959 – Florence Griffith Joyner, American sprinter and actress (d. 1998)


1937 – Frank B. Kellogg, American lawyer and politician, 45th United States Secretary of State, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1856)

1940 – F. Scott Fitzgerald, American author and poet (b. 1896)

1945 – George S. Patton, American general (b. 1885)

1990 – Clarence Johnson, American engineer, designed the Lockheed U-2 and Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird (b. 1910)

2013 – John Eisenhower, American historian, general, and diplomat, 45th United States Ambassador to Belgium (b. 1922)