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This Day in History: January 1


1502 – The present-day location of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil is first explored by the Portuguese.

1776 – American Revolutionary War: Norfolk, Virginia is burned by combined Royal Navy and Continental Army action.

1781 – American Revolutionary War: One thousand five hundred soldiers of the 6th Pennsylvania Regiment under General Anthony Wayne's command rebel against the Continental Army's winter camp in Morristown, New Jersey in the Pennsylvania Line Mutiny of 1781.

1804 – French rule ends in Haiti. Haiti becomes the first black republic and second independent country in North America after the United States

1808 – The importation of slaves into the United States is banned.

1845 – The Cobble Hill Tunnel in Brooklyn, New York City is completed.

1847 – The world's first "Mercy" Hospital is founded in Pittsburgh by the Sisters of Mercy; the name will go on to grace over 30 major hospitals throughout the world.

1863 – American Civil War: The Emancipation Proclamation takes effect in Confederate territory.

1863 – The first claim under the Homestead Act is made by Daniel Freeman for a farm in Nebraska.

1890 – The Rose Parade in Pasadena, California, is first held.

1892 – Ellis Island opens to begin processing immigrants into the United States.

1898 – New York, New York annexes land from surrounding counties, creating the City of Greater New York. The four initial boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, and The Bronx, are joined on January 25 by Staten Island to create the modern city of five boroughs.

1902 – The first American college football bowl game, the Rose Bowl between Michigan and Stanford, is held in Pasadena, California.

1908 – For the first time, a ball is dropped in New York City's Times Square to signify the start of the New Year at midnight.

1932 – The United States Post Office Department issues a set of 12 stamps commemorating the 200th anniversary of George Washington's birth.

1934 – Alcatraz Island becomes a United States federal prison.

1934 – Nazi Germany passes the "Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring".

1942 – The Declaration by United Nations is signed by twenty-six nations.

1945 – World War II: In retaliation for the Malmedy massacre, U.S. troops massacre 60 German POWs at Chenogne.

1945 – World War II: The German Luftwaffe launches Operation Bodenplatte, a massive, but failed attempt to knock out Allied air power in northern Europe in a single blow.

1947 – The American and British occupation zones in Germany, after World War II, merge to form the Bizone, which later (with the French zone) became part of West Germany.

1954 – NBC makes the first coast-to-coast NTSC color broadcast when it telecast the Tournament of Roses Parade, with public demonstrations given across the United States on prototype color receivers.

1962 – United States Navy SEALs established.

1971 – Cigarette advertisements are banned on American television.

1981 – Palau achieves self-government though it is not independent from the United States.

1984 – The original American Telephone & Telegraph Company is divested of its 22 Bell System companies as a result of the settlement of the 1974 United States Department of Justice 4 antitrust suit against AT&T.

1988 – The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America comes into existence, creating the largest Lutheran denomination in the United States.

1990 – David Dinkins is sworn in as New York City's first black mayor.

1994 – The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) comes into effect.


1735 – Paul Revere, American silversmith and engraver (d. 1818)

1745 – Anthony Wayne, American general and politician (d. 1796)

1750 – Frederick Muhlenberg, American minister and politician, 1st Speaker of the United States House of Representatives (d. 1801)

1752 – Betsy Ross, American seamstress, designed the Flag of the United States (d. 1836)

1895 – J. Edgar Hoover, American law enforcement official; 1st Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (d. 1972)

1900 – Xavier Cugat, Spanish-American singer-songwriter and actor (d. 1990)

1919 – Rocky Graziano, American boxer and actor (d. 1990)

1919 – J. D. Salinger, American soldier and author (d. 2010)

1929 – Larry L. King, American journalist, author, and playwright (d. 2012)

1946 – Shelby Steele, American journalist, author, and director

1969 – Verne Troyer, American actor and stuntman


1953 – Hank Williams, American singer-songwriter and guitarist (Drifting Cowboys) (b. 1923)

1954 – Leonard Bacon, American poet and critic (b. 1887)

1955 – Arthur C. Parker, American archaeologist and historian (b. 1881)

1992 – Grace Hopper, American computer scientist and admiral, co-developed COBOL (b. 1906)

1994 – Cesar Romero, American actor, singer, and dancer (b. 1907)

1998 – Helen Wills, American tennis player and coach (b. 1905)

2005 – Shirley Chisholm, American educator and politician (b. 1924)

2009 – Claiborne Pell, American politician (b. 1918)

2013 – Patti Page, American singer and actress (b. 1927)