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This Day in History - December 17

December 17

1273 – Persian mystic and poet Rumi dies

1398 – The army of Mahmud Tughluk, Sultan of Delhi, is destroyed by the Mongols at Panipat

1526 – Pope Clemens VII publishes degree Cum ad zero, forming Inquisition

1538 – Pope Paul III excommunicates England’s King Henry VIII

1777 – The French foreign minister, Charles Gravier, count of Vergennes, officially acknowledges the US as an independent nation

1778 – Chemist who discovered the anesthetic effect of laughing gas, Humphrey Davy, is born

1778 – Grigory Potemkin’s Russian army occupies Ocharov

1790 – The Stone of the Five Eras, the Aztec calendar stone, is excavated in Mexico City

1807 – American poet, abolitionist, reformer and founder of the Liberal Party, John Greenleaf Whittier is born

1830 – Venezuelan commander Simon Bolivar dies

1843 – Charles Dickens’ classic “A Christmas Carol” is published

1861 – The Stonewall Brigade begins dismantlement of Dam No. 5 of the C&O Canal

1862 – Union General Ulysses S. Grant issues an order expelling all Jewish people from his military district, believing them to be the driving force behind the black market for cotton.  President Abraham Lincoln ordered Grant to rescind the order and Grant later admitted that the criticism was well-deserved and that he had acted hastily

1873 – Writer, educator, and member of the so-called Lost Generation who served on the Western Front during the great War, Ford Madox Ford aka Ford Hermann Hueffer is born

1886 – Sam Belle shoots his nemesis Frank West at a Christmas party, but is fatally wounded himself

1889 – Rosemary “Silver Dollar” Tabor, the second daughter of Horace and Elizabeth “Baby Doe” Tabor is born.  The Tabors, who had begun a very public and scandalous affair while the gorgeous and much younger Baby Doe was still married to her first husband, were one of the wealthiest families in Colorado. Horace Tabors’ silver and gold mines flourished and the Tabor’s named their second daughter “Silver Dollar” in honor of their extreme and lavish wealth.  They lived in extraordinary opulence until US Congress repealed the Silver Purchase Act of 1890, virtually rendering Tabor’s mines worthless.  Baby Doe took her daughters to Chicago to stay with relatives when Tabor died of appendicitis in 1899.  Eventually, Baby Doe left her first daughter, Lillie, with relatives and she and Silver Dollar headed back to Leadville to live in utter poverty.  Baby Doe became a recluse, using gunny sacks for shoes and was known to doctor herself with lard and turpentine.  Silver drank and used drugs and was murdered in 1925 at 36 years old.  Baby Doe, formally one of the most beautiful and richest people on earth, died cold and alone during a severe blizzard in 1935

1903 – Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight in history of a self-propelled, heavier than air aircraft, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina

1908 – American Nobel Prize-winning chemist who helped create the carbon-14 method in dating ancient findings, Willard Frank Libby, is born

1927 – US Secretary of State Frank B. Kellogg suggests a worldwide pact renouncing war

1929 – Journalist and author William Safire is born

1930 – Publisher and founder of Penthouse magazine, Bob Guccione is born

1933 – The 13th Dalai Lama dies

1935 – Comic actor George Lindsey is born

1936 – Pope Francis aka Jorge Mario Bergoglio, is born

1937 – Singer, musician Art Neville is born

1937 – Australian businessman who founded World Series Cricket, Kerry Packer is born

1937 – Deputy commander-in-chief for military operations with US Central Command during the First Gulf War, US Lieutenant General Calvin Waller is born

1938 – Italy declares the 1935 pact with France is invalid because ratifications had not been exchanged and France argues

1939 – The British trap the German pocket battleship Graf Spee, in the Battle of River Plate near Montevideo.  German Captain Langsdorf sinks his ship believing that resistance is hopeless

1941 – Rear Admiral Husband E. Kimmel is relieved of his command of the US Pacific Fleet in the wake of Pearl Harbor

1943 – US forces invade Japanese-occupied New Britain Island in New Guinea

1944 – The German Army renews the attack on the Belgian town of Losheimergraben against defending Americans during the Battle of the Bulge

1944 – US Major General Henry C. Pratt issues Public Proclamation No. 21, declaring that Japanese American “evacuees” from the West Coast could return to their homes effective January 2, 1945

1945 – News anchor, political commentator Chris Matthews is born

1948 – The Smithsonian Institute accepts the Kitty Hawk, plane of the Wright brothers

1950 – The French government appoints Marshal de Lattre de Tassigny to command their troops in Vietnam

1952 – Yugoslavia breaks relations with the Vatican

1961 – 300 people are killed and hundreds more severely burned when a fire breaks out at a circus in Brazil

1962 – Police officer who discovered pipe bombs at the Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia and helped evacuate the area, Richard Jewell, is born

1965 – Ferdinand Marcos is declared president of the Philippines

1969 – The US Air Force ends “Project Blue Book,” finding no evidence of extraterrestrial activity behind UFO sightings

1971 – Communist forces bombard Cambodian forces in Prak Ham

1973 – English runner Paula Radcliffe is born

1975 – Charles Manson cult follower Lynette Alice “Squeaky” Fromme is sentenced to life in prison for her attempted assassination of President Gerald R. Ford

1978 – Politician and Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao is born

1979 – Hollywood stuntman Stan Barrett becomes the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound on land when he rides in a rocket-and-missile-powered car across a dry lakebed at California’s Edward Air Force Base

1981 – Red Brigade terrorists kidnap Brigadier General James Dozier, the highest-ranking US-NATO officer in Italy

1986 – “Operation Iceman” is in full-swing when undercover agents for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms arrest criminal Richard Kuklinski at a truck stop off the New Jersey Turnpike after he had shown an operative how to poison a person with cyanide.  Kuklinski was responsible for several murders, most involving criminal activities such as when he poisoned his partners who were joining him in a plan to steal cars.  Kuklinski was sentenced to life imprisonment

1986 – Mrs. Davina Thompson receives the first heart, lung and liver transplant at Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, England

1989 – Television’s longest running animated series, The Simpsons, makes its US debut

1989 – Fernando Color de Mello becomes Brazil’s first democratically elected president in nearly 30 years

1990 – Jean-Bertrand Aristide wins the presidency in Haiti’s first free election

1991 – After a meeting between Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev and President of the Russian Federation Boris Yeltsin, a spokesman for Yeltsin announces that the Soviet Union will officially cease to exist before New Year’s Eve

1991 – A federal court rules that music sampling amongst hip hop musicians must not occur without receiving official copyright permissions, when Gilbert O’Sullivan sued Warner Bros. for Biz Markie’s use if a sampling of O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again, Naturally”

1992 – The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is signed by the US, Canada, and Mexico

1996 – Fourteen members of the Tupac Amaru (MRTA) leftist rebel movement, dressed as waiters and caterers, slip into the home of Japanese Ambassador Morihisa Aoki, during a birthday party for the emperor.  The terrorists demanded the release of 400 MRTA members imprisoned in Peru.  490 hostages were taken.  Shortly after police surrounding the compound, the rebels agree to release 170 women and elderly guests, and then released all but 72 in the days to come.  President Fujimori ordered an assault on the complex by a special forces team, who secretly warned the hostages, and set off a blast in a tunnel beneath the building.  All 14 rebels were killed in the assault, one hostage, and one soldier was killed during the attack and two soldiers died later from serious injuries

2000 – San Francisco’s wide receiver Terrell Owens sets a new league record of 20 catches in a single game against the Chicago Bears

2002 – Congolese parties of the inter-Congolese Dialogue sign a peace accord in the Second Congo War, providing for transitional government and elections within two years

2007 – Son of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Sophie, Countess of Wessex and youngest grandchild of Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, James, Viscount Severn, is born

2010 – The catalyst for the Tunisian revolution and the subsequent Arab Spring in which then-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali steps down from his position, Mohamed Bouazizi, immolates himself in a protest against the economic conditions in Tunisia

2010 – American singer and songwriter Captain Beefheart dies

2011 – North Korea’s reclusive dictator Kim Jong II dies


Written by Crystal McCann

Crystal is the owner of Madison's Media, Madison's CPC and the Chief Administrative Officer for Lanterns. She lives in Texas with her husband and dogs and has two adult children. Writers seeking additional exposure: Ask how you can contribute!


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