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This Day in History: November 18


1493 – Christopher Columbus first sights the island now known as Puerto Rico.

1865 – Mark Twain's short story "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County" is published in the New York Saturday Press.

1883 – American and Canadian railroads institute five standard continental time zones, ending the confusion of thousands of local times.

1901 – Britain and the United States sign the Hay–Pauncefote Treaty, which nullifies the Clayton–Bulwer Treaty and withdraws British objections to an American-controlled canal in Panama.

1903 – The Hay–Bunau-Varilla Treaty is signed by the United States and Panama, giving the United States exclusive rights over the Panama Canal Zone.

1909 – Two United States warships are sent to Nicaragua after 500 revolutionaries (including two Americans) are executed by order of José Santos Zelaya.

1928 – Release of the animated short Steamboat Willie, the first fully synchronized sound cartoon, directed by Walt Disney and Ub Iwerks, featuring the third appearances of cartoon characters Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse. This is considered by the Disney corporation to be Mickey's birthday.

1938 – Trade union members elect John L. Lewis as the first president of the Congress of Industrial Organizations.

1940 – World War II: German leader Adolf Hitler and Italian Foreign Minister Galeazzo Ciano meet to discuss Benito Mussolini's disastrous Italian invasion of Greece.

1943 – World War II: Battle of Berlin: Four hundred and forty Royal Air Force planes bomb Berlin causing only light damage and killing 131. The RAF loses nine aircraft and 53 air crew.

1961 – United States President John F. Kennedy sends 18,000 military advisors to South Vietnam.

1970 – U.S. President Richard Nixon asks the U.S. Congress for $155 million in supplemental aid for the Cambodian government.

1978 – In Jonestown, Guyana, Jim Jones led his Peoples Temple to a mass murder–suicide that claimed 918 lives in all, 909 of them in Jonestown itself, including over 270 children. Congressman Leo Ryan is murdered by members of the Peoples Temple hours earlier.

1988 – War on Drugs: U.S. President Ronald Reagan signs a bill into law allowing the death penalty for drug traffickers.

1993 – In the United States, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is approved by the House of Representatives.

2003 – The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court rules 4–3 in Goodridge v. Department of Public Health that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional and gives the state legislature 180 days to change the law making Massachusetts the first state in the United States to grant marriage rights to same-sex couples.

2013 – NASA launches the MAVEN probe to Mars.


1810 – Asa Gray, American botanist and academic (d. 1888)

1861 – Dorothy Dix, American journalist and author (d. 1951)

1874 – Clarence Day, American author and poet (d. 1935)

1883 – Carl Vinson, American judge and politician (d. 1981)

1901 – George Gallup, American statistician and academic (d. 1984)

1923 – Alan Shepard, American admiral, pilot, and astronaut (d. 1998)

1936 – Don Cherry, American trumpet player (d. 1995)

1945 – Wilma Mankiller, American tribal chief (d. 2010)

1970 – Megyn Kelly, American lawyer and journalist


1886 – Chester A. Arthur, American general, lawyer, and politician, 21st President of the United States (b. 1829)

1965 – Henry A. Wallace, American academic and politician, 33rd Vice President of the United States (b. 1888)

1969 – Joseph P. Kennedy, Sr., American businessman and diplomat, 44th United States Ambassador to the United Kingdom (b. 1888)

1978 – Jim Jones, American cult leader, founded Peoples Temple (b. 1931)

1978 – Leo Ryan, American soldier, educator, and politician (b. 1925)

1994 – Cab Calloway, American singer-songwriter and bandleader (b. 1907)