On This Day in History December 21

December 21 – Events:

  • 69 – The end of the Year of the four emperors: Following Galba, Otho and Vitellius, Vespasian becomes the fourth Emperor of Rome within a year.
  • 1620 – Plymouth Colony: William Bradford and the Mayflower Pilgrims land on what is now known as Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  • 1844 – The Rochdale Pioneers commence business at their cooperative in Rochdale, England, starting the Cooperative movement.
  • 1861 – Medal of Honor: Public Resolution 82, containing a provision for a Navy Medal of Valor, is signed into law by President Abraham Lincoln.
  • 1872 – Challenger expedition: HMS Challenger, commanded by Captain George Nares, sails from Portsmouth.
  • 1883 – The first Permanent Force cavalry and infantry regiments of the Canadian Army are formed: The Royal Canadian Dragoons and The Royal Canadian Regiment.
  • 1913 – Arthur Wynne’s “word-cross”, the first crossword puzzle, is published in the New York World.
  • 1958 – French presidential election: Charles de Gaulle is elected President of France as his Union des Démocrates pour la République party gain 78.5% of the vote.
  • 1962 – Rondane National Park is established as Norway’s first national park.
  • 1967 – Louis Washkansky, the first man to undergo a heart transplant, dies in Cape Town, South Africa, after living for 18 days.
  • 1968 – Apollo program: Apollo 8, the first manned mission to the moon, is launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. At 2h:50m:37s Mission elapsed time (MES), the crew performs the first ever manned Trans Lunar Injection and become the first humans to leave Earth’s gravity.
  • 1971 – The United Nations Security Council chooses Kurt Waldheim to succeed U Thant as Secretary-General.
  • 1973 – The Geneva Conference on the Arab-Israeli conflict opens.
  • 1979 – Lancaster House Agreement: An independence agreement for Rhodesia is signed in London by Lord Carrington, Sir Ian Gilmour, Robert Mugabe, Joshua Nkomo, Bishop Abel Muzorewa and S.C. Mundawarara.
  • 1987 – The passenger ferry Doña Paz sinks after colliding with the oil tanker Vector 1 in the Tablas Strait in the Philippines, killing 1,565.
  • 1988 – A bomb explodes on board Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland, killing 270.
  • 1991 – Charilaos Florakis is elected honorary president of the Communist Party of Greece.
  • 1992 – A Dutch DC-10, flight Martinair MP 495, crashes at Faro Airport (Portugal), killing 56 people.
  • 1995 – The city of Bethlehem passes from Israeli to Palestinian control.
  • 1999 – The Spanish Civil Guard intercepts a van loaded with 950 kg of explosives that ETA intended to use to blow up Torre Picasso in Madrid.
  • 2007 – The Schengen Agreement area increases to include 9 European Union member states; Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia on land and sea borders.

December 21 – Birthdays:

  • 1118 – Thomas Becket, Lord Chancellor of England and Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1170)
  • 1401 – Tommaso Masaccio, Italian painter (d. 1428)
  • 1596 – Petro Mohyla, Moldovan Orthodox Metropolitan Bishop of Kiev and Galicia (d. 1646)
  • 1603 – Roger Williams, English theologian and colonist (d. 1684)
  • 1714 – John Bradstreet, Canadian-born soldier (d. 1774)
  • 1778 – Anders Sandøe Ørsted, Danish politician (d. 1860)
  • 1795 – Leopold von Ranke, German historian (d. 1886)
  • 1804 – Benjamin Disraeli, 1st Earl of Beaconsfield, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1881)
  • 1805 – Thomas Graham, British chemist (d. 1869)
  • 1811 – Archibald Campbell Tait, Archbishop of Canterbury (d. 1882)
  • 1815 – Thomas Couture French painter and teacher (d. 1879)
  • 1818 – Amalia of Oldenburg, Queen of Greece (d. 1875)
  • 1832 – John H. Ketcham, American politician (d. 1906)
  • 1843 – Thomas Bracken, Irish-born New Zealander poet (d. 1898)
  • 1850 – Zdenek Fibich, Bohemian composer (d. 1900)
  • 1851 – Thomas Chipman McRae, American politician, 34th Governor of Arkansas (d. 1929)
  • 1859 – Gustave Kahn, French poet (d. 1936)
  • 1872 – Sidney Ainsworth, British actor (d. 1922)
  • 1872 – Don Lorenzo Perosi, Italian composer (d. 1956)
  • 1872 – Albert Payson Terhune, American author (d. 1942)
  • 1873 – Blagoje Bersa, Croatian composer (d. 1934)
  • 1876 – Jack Lang (John Thomas Lang), Premier of New South Wales (d. 1975)
  • 1878 – Jan Lukasiewicz, Polish philosopher and mathematician (d. 1956)
  • 1885 – Frank Patrick, hockey player (d. 1960)
  • 1889 – Sewall Wright, American biologist (d. 1988)
  • 1890 – Hermann Joseph Muller, American geneticist and Nobel laureate (d. 1967)
  • 1891 – John William McCormack, American politician (d. 1980)
  • 1892 – Walter Hagen, American golfer (d. 1969)
  • 1892 – Rebecca West, American writer (d. 1983)
  • 1892 – Amy Key Clarke, English mystical poet
  • 1896 – Leroy Robertson, American composer (d. 1971)
  • 1905 – Anthony Powell, British author (d. 2000)
  • 1909 – Seicho Matsumoto, Japanese mystery writer and journalist (d. 1992)
  • 1911 – Josh Gibson, American baseball player (d. 1947)
  • 1914 – Ivan Generalic, Austro-Hungarian-born Croatian painter (d. 1992)
  • 1915 – Werner von Trapp, member of the Trapp Family Singers (d. 2007)
  • 1917 – Heinrich Böll, German writer and Nobel laureate (d. 1985)
  • 1917 – Sophie Masloff, American politician
  • 1918 – Donald Regan, American White House Chief of Staff (d. 2003)
  • 1918 – Kurt Waldheim, Austrian United Nations Secretary-General and Federal President of Austria (d. 2007)
  • 1920 – Alicia Alonso, Cuban ballerina
  • 1920 – Bob Bindig, cartoonist (d. 2006)
  • 1920 – Jean Gascon, Canadian actor (d. 1988)
  • 1921 – Maila Nurmi, aka Vampira, Finnish-born American actress (d. 2008)
  • 1921 – John Severin, American comics artist
  • 1922 – Paul Winchell, American ventriloquist (d. 2005)
  • 1923 – Intizar Hussain, Urdu writer and columnist of Pakistan
  • 1926 – Joe Paterno, American football coach
  • 1932 – Edward Hoagland, American essayist
  • 1935 – John G. Avildsen, American film director
  • 1935 – Lorenzo Bandini, Italian racecar driver (d. 1967)
  • 1935 – Yusuf Bey (Joseph Stephens), American activist (d. 2003)
  • 1935 – Phil Donahue, American talk show host
  • 1935 – Edward Schreyer, Canadian politician, Premier of Manitoba
  • 1937 – Jane Fonda, American actress
  • 1937 – Donald F. Munson, American politician
  • 1939 – Lloyd Axworthy, Canadian politician
  • 1940 – Frank Zappa, American musician (d. 1993)
  • 1940 – Ray Hildebrand, American singer (Paul & Paula)
  • 1942 – Hu Jintao, Chinese president
  • 1942 – Reinhard Mey, German singer
  • 1942 – Carla Thomas, American singer
  • 1943 – André Arthur. Quebec radio host
  • 1944 – Michael Tilson Thomas, American conductor
  • 1944 – Bill Atkinson, English footballer
  • 1946 – Carl Wilson, American musician (The Beach Boys) (d. 1998)
  • 1946 – Christopher Keene, American conductor (d. 1995)
  • 1947 – Paco de Lucía, Spanish musician
  • 1947 – Bryan Hamilton, Northern Irish footballer
  • 1948 – Samuel L. Jackson, American actor
  • 1948 – Willi Resetarits, Austrian musician
  • 1948 – Dave Kingman, baseball player
  • 1949 – Nikolaos Sifounakis, Greek politician
  • 1950 – Jeffrey Katzenberg, American producer
  • 1950 – Lillebjørn Nilsen, Norwegian singer-songwriter
  • 1951 – Nick Gilder, English musician (Sweeney Todd)
  • 1952 – Joaquín Andújar, baseball player
  • 1953 – Betty Wright, American singer
  • 1954 – Chris Evert, American tennis player
  • 1955 – Jane Kaczmarek, American actress
  • 1955 – Kazuyuki Sekiguchi, Japanese musician
  • 1956 – Lee Roy Parnell, American country singer
  • 1957 – Tom Henke, American baseball player
  • 1957 – Ray Romano, Italian-American comedian
  • 1959 – Florence Griffith Joyner, American sprinter (d. 1998)
  • 1960 – Louis Demetrius Alvanis, London-based pianist
  • 1960 – Roger McDowell, Former Major League Baseball Pitcher
  • 1960 – Andy Van Slyke, baseball player
  • 1961 – Francis Ng, Hong Kong actor
  • 1961 – Ryuji Sasai, Japanese composer
  • 1964 – Rob Kelly, English football manager
  • 1964 – Fabiana Udenio, Argentine actress
  • 1965 – Andy Dick, American actor and comedian
  • 1965 – Anke Engelke, German comedian
  • 1966 – Kiefer Sutherland, British-born Canadian actor
  • 1966 – Karri Turner, American actress
  • 1967 – Mikhail Saakashvili, Soviet-born President of Georgia
  • 1969 – Julie Delpy, French actress
  • 1969 – Mihails Zemlinskis, Latvian footballer
  • 1970 – Jamie Theakston, English television presenter
  • 1971 – Mathieu Chedid, French musician
  • 1971 – Fenton Keogh, Australian celebrity chef
  • 1971 – Brett Scallions, American singer (Fuel, The X’s)
  • 1972 – Latroy Hawkins, baseball player
  • 1972 – Erwin Schrott, Uruguayan opera singer
  • 1972 – Dustin Hermanson, baseball player
  • 1973 – Karmen Stavec, German-born Slovenian singer
  • 1973 – Mike Alstott, American football player
  • 1974 – Karrie Webb, Australian golfer
  • 1975 – Paloma Herrera, Argentine ballet dancer
  • 1976 – Mirela Manjani, Greek javelin thrower
  • 1978 – Mike Vitar, American actor
  • 1979 – Tuva Novotny, Swedish actress and singer
  • 1981 – Cristian Zaccardo, Italian football player
  • 1981 – Lynda Thomas, Mexican singer
  • 1981 – Sajid Mahmood, English cricketer
  • 1982 – Mike Gansey, American basketball player
  • 1982 – Erica Hayden, American journalist and radio personality
  • 1982 – Philip Humber, American baseball player
  • 1984 – Darren Potter, Irish footballer
  • 1985 – James Stewart Jr., American motorcycle racer

December 21 – Deaths:

  • 72 – Thomas the Apostle
  • 1295 – Marguerite Berenger of Provence, wife of Louis IX of France (b. 1221)
  • 1308 – Henry I of Hesse (b. 1244)
  • 1375 – Giovanni Boccaccio, Italian writer (b. 1313)
  • 1504 – Bertold von Henneberg-Römhild, German archbishop and elector (b. 1442)
  • 1549 – Marguerite of Navarre, wife of Henry II of Navarre (b. 1492)
  • 1579 – Vicente Masip, Spanish painter
  • 1597 – Petrus Canisius, Dutch Jesuit (b. 1521)
  • 1807 – John Newton, English cleric and hymnist (b. 1725)
  • 1824 – James Parkinson, English physician, geologist, paleontologist, and political activist (b. 1755)
  • 1873 – Francis Garnier, French explorer (b. 1839)
  • 1889 – Friedrich August von Quenstedt, German geologist (b. 1809)
  • 1900 – Roger Wolcott, American political figure, 39th Governor of Massachusetts (b. 1847)
  • 1933 – Knud Johan Victor Rasmussen, Greenlandic polar explorer and anthropologist (b. 1879)
  • 1935 – Kurt Tucholsky, German journalist and satirist (b. 1890)
  • 1937 – Frank B. Kellogg, United States Secretary of State, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (b. 1856)
  • 1940 – F. Scott Fitzgerald, American writer (b. 1896)
  • 1945 – George S. Patton, U.S. general (b. 1885)
  • 1957 – Eric Coates, English composer (b. 1886)
  • 1958 – Lion Feuchtwanger, German writer (b. 1884)
  • 1959 – Rosanjin, Japanese calligrapher, restaurateur and ceramicist (b. 1883)
  • 1964 – Carl Van Vechten, American writer and photographer (b. 1880)
  • 1965 – Claude Champagne, Quebec composer (b. 1891)
  • 1967 – Stuart Erwin, American actor (b. 1903)
  • 1974 – James Henry Govier, British artist (b. 1910)
  • 1974 – Richard Long, American actor (b. 1927)
  • 1981 – Allan Dwan, Canadian-born American director and screenwriter (b. 1885)
  • 1983 – Paul de Man, Belgian-born literary critic (b. 1919)
  • 1987 – John Spence, founding No Doubt member (b. 1969)
  • 1988 – Nikolaas Tinbergen, Dutch ornithologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (b. 1907)
  • 1990 – Clarence “Kelly” Johnson, American aeronautical engineer (Lockheed Skunk Works; b. 1910)
  • 1992 – Albert King, American blues musician (b. 1924)
  • 1992 – Nathan Milstein, Ukrainian violinist (b. 1903)
  • 1997 – Amie Comeaux, American country music singer (b. 1976)
  • 1998 – Roger Avon, Durham actor (b. 1914)
  • 1998 – Karl Denver, Scottish singer (b 1931)
  • 1998 – Ernst Gunther Schenck, German doctor who joined the Sturmabteilung in 1933 (b. 1904)
  • 2001 – Dick Schaap, American sports journalist (b. 1934)
  • 2003 – Prince Alfonso of Hohenlohe-Langenburg, Spanish playboy and businessman (b.

1924)

  • 2004 – Autar Singh Paintal, Indian medical scientist (b. 1925)
  • 2005 – Elrod Hendricks, American baseball player and coach (b. 1940)
  • 2006 – Scobie Breasley, Australian jockey (b. 1914)
  • 2006 – Saparmurat Niyazov, President of Turkmenistan (b. 1940)
  • 2007 – Ken Hendricks, American businessman (b. 1941)

December 21 – Holidays:

  • Roman festivals – Divalia in honour of Angerona
  • R.C. Saints – O Oriens, Saint Petrus Canisius; formerly feast day of Thomas the apostle
  • In the Northern Hemisphere, the winter solstice, sometimes known as Yule, occurs on or very close to this date. In the Southern Hemisphere, the summer solstice occurs around this time. It is also an important festival in the Chinese calendar.
  • Yalda, originally a religious holiday for Zoroastrians, is now a social holiday in Iran.
  • Chester Greenwood Day in Maine, he was the inventor of earmuffs.
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