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This Day in History: January 17


1781 – American Revolutionary War: Battle of Cowpens: Continental troops under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan defeat British forces under Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton at the battle in South Carolina.

1893 – Lorrin A. Thurston, along with the Citizens' Committee of Public Safety, led the Overthrow of the Kingdom of Hawaii and the government of Queen Liliʻuokalani.

1899 – The United States takes possession of Wake Island in the Pacific Ocean.

1917 – The United States pays Denmark $25 million for the Virgin Islands.

1929 – Popeye the Sailor Man, a cartoon character created by E. C. Segar, first appears in the Thimble Theatre comic strip.

1944 – World War II: Allied forces launch the first of four assaults on Monte Cassino with the intention of breaking through the Winter Line and seizing Rome, an effort that would ultimately take four months and cost 105,000 Allied casualties.

1945 – World War II: Soviet forces capture the almost completely destroyed Polish city of Warsaw.

1945 – The Nazis begin the evacuation of the Auschwitz concentration camp as Soviet forces close in.

1946 – The UN Security Council holds its first session.

1949 – The Goldbergs, the first sitcom on American television, airs for the first time.

1950 – The Great Brink's Robbery: Eleven thieves steal more than $2 million from an armored car company's offices in Boston.

1961 – U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower delivers a televised farewell address to the nation three days before leaving office, in which he warns against the accumulation of power by the "military–industrial complex" as well as the dangers of massive spending, especially deficit spending.

1969 – Black Panther Party members Bunchy Carter and John Huggins are killed during a meeting in Campbell Hall on the campus of UCLA.

1977 – Convicted murderer Gary Gilmore is executed by a firing squad in Utah, ending a ten-year moratorium on capital punishment in the United States.

1982 – "Cold Sunday": In numerous cities in the United States temperatures fall to their lowest levels in over 100 years.

1983 – The tallest department store in the world, Hudson's flagship store in downtown Detroit, closes due to high cost of operating.

1991 – Gulf War: Operation Desert Storm begins early in the morning. Iraq fires eight Scud missiles into Israel in an unsuccessful bid to provoke Israeli retaliation.

1992 – During a visit to South Korea, Japanese Prime Minister Kiichi Miyazawa apologizes for forcing Korean women into sexual slavery during World War II.

1997 – Cape Canaveral Air Force Station: A Delta II carrying a GPS2R satellite explodes 13 seconds after launch, dropping 250 tons of burning rocket remains around the launch pad.

1998 – Lewinsky scandal: Matt Drudge breaks the story of the Bill Clinton–Monica Lewinsky affair on his Drudge Report website.


1640 – Jonathan Singletary Dunham, American settler (d. 1724)

1706 – Benjamin Franklin, American publisher, inventor, and politician, 6th President of Pennsylvania (d. 1790)

1851 – A. B. Frost, American author and illustrator (d. 1928)

1853 – T. Alexander Harrison, American painter and academic (d. 1930)

1880 – Mack Sennett, Canadian-American actor, director, and producer (d. 1960)

1899 – Al Capone, American mob boss (d. 1947)

1899 – Robert Maynard Hutchins, American philosopher and academic (d. 1977)

1911 – John S. McCain Jr., American admiral (d. 1981)

1914 – William Stafford, American poet and author (d. 1993)

1922 – Betty White, American actress, singer, and producer

1933 – Shari Lewis, American actress, puppeteer, and television host (d. 1998)

1939 – Maury Povich, American talk show host and producer,

1942 – Muhammad Ali, American boxer and referee (d. 2016)

1957 – Steve Harvey, American comedian, actor, and game show host

1964 – Michelle Obama, American lawyer and activist, 46th First Lady of the United States

1971 – Kid Rock, American singer-songwriter, producer, and actor

1980 – Zooey Deschanel, American singer-songwriter and actress (She & Him)


1718 – Benjamin Church, American colonel (b. 1639)

1874 – Chang and Eng Bunker, Thai conjoined twins (b. 1811)

1893 – Rutherford B. Hayes, American general, lawyer, and politician, 19th President of the United States (b. 1822)

1927 – Juliette Gordon Low, American founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA (b. 1860)

1933 – Louis Comfort Tiffany, American stained glass artist (b. 1848)

1996 – Barbara Jordan, American lawyer and politician (b. 1936)