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This Day in History: November 17


1777 – Articles of Confederation (United States) are submitted to the states for ratification.

1800 – The United States Congress holds its first session in Washington, D.C.

1820 – Captain Nathaniel Palmer becomes the first American to see Antarctica. (The Palmer Peninsula is later named after him.)

1856 – American Old West: On the Sonoita River in present-day southern Arizona, the United States Army establishes Fort Buchanan in order to help control new land acquired in the Gadsden Purchase.

1863 – American Civil War: Siege of Knoxville begins: Confederate forces led by General James Longstreet place Knoxville, Tennessee, under siege.

1871 – The National Rifle Association is granted a charter by the state of New York.

1894 – H. H. Holmes, one of the first modern serial killers, is arrested in Boston, Massachusetts.

1896 – The Western Pennsylvania Hockey League, which later became the first ice hockey league to openly trade and hire players, began play at Pittsburgh's Schenley Park Casino.

1911 – Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Incorporated, which is the first black Greek-lettered organization founded at an American historically black college or university, was founded on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C.

1933 – United States recognizes Soviet Union.

1947 – The Screen Actors Guild implements an anti-Communist loyalty oath.

1947 – American scientists John Bardeen and Walter Houser Brattain observe the basic principles of the transistor, a key element for the electronics revolution of the 20th century.

1962 – President John F. Kennedy dedicates Washington Dulles International Airport, serving the Washington, D.C., region.

1967 – Vietnam War: Acting on optimistic reports that he had been given on November 13, U.S. President Lyndon B. Johnson tells the nation that, while much remained to be done, "We are inflicting greater losses than we're taking...We are making progress."

1968 – Viewers of the Raiders–Jets football game in the eastern United States are denied the opportunity to watch its exciting finish when NBC broadcasts Heidi instead, prompting changes to sports broadcasting in the U.S.

1969 – Cold War: Negotiators from the Soviet Union and the United States meet in Helsinki, Finland to begin SALT I negotiations aimed at limiting the number of strategic weapons on both sides.

1970 – Vietnam War: Lieutenant William Calley goes on trial for the My Lai Massacre.

1973 – Watergate scandal: In Orlando, Florida, U.S. President Richard Nixon tells 400 Associated Press managing editors "I am not a crook."

1978 – The Star Wars Holiday Special airs on CBS, receiving negative reception from critics, fans, and even Star Wars creator George Lucas.

1982 – Duk Koo Kim dies from injuries sustained during a 14-round match against Ray Mancini in Las Vegas, prompting reforms in the sport of boxing.

1993 – United States House of Representatives passes resolution to establish the North American Free Trade Agreement after greater authority in trade negotiations was granted to President George Bush in 1991.

2013 – A rare late-season tornado outbreak strikes the Midwest. Illinois and Indiana are most affected with tornado reports as far north as lower Michigan. In all around six dozen tornadoes touch down in approximately an 11-hour time period, including seven EF3 and two EF4 tornadoes.


1753 – Gotthilf Heinrich Ernst Muhlenberg, American pastor and botanist (d. 1815)

1866 – Voltairine de Cleyre, American author and activist (d. 1912)

1901 – Lee Strasberg, Ukrainian-American actor and director (d. 1982)

1916 – Shelby Foote, American historian and author (d. 2005)

1925 – Rock Hudson, American actor and singer (d. 1985)

1930 – Bob Mathias, American decathlete, actor, and politician (d. 2006)

1942 – Martin Scorsese, American director, producer, screenwriter, and actor

1944 – Tom Seaver, American baseball player and sportscaster

1947 – Michaele Vollbracht, American fashion designer

1949 – John Boehner, American businessman and politician, 61st Speaker of the United States House of Representatives

1960 – RuPaul, American drag queen performer, actor, and singer


1808 – David Zeisberger, Czech-American pastor and missionary (b. 1721)

1865 – James McCune Smith, American physician and author (b. 1813)

1940 – Raymond Pearl, American biologist and academic (b. 1879)

1990 – Robert Hofstadter, American physicist and academic, Nobel Prize laureate (b. 1915)

2014 – Bill Frenzel, American lieutenant and politician (b. 1928)