On This Day in History December 31

December 31 – Events:

  • 406 – Vandals, Alans and Suebians cross the Rhine, beginning an invasion of Gallia.
  • 535 – Byzantine General Belisarius completes the conquest of Sicily, defeating the Ostrogothic garrison of Syracuse, and ending his consulship for the year.
  • 1229 – James I of Aragon the Conqueror enters Medina Mayurqa (now known as Palma de Mallorca, Spain) thus consummating the Christian conquest of the island of Mallorca.
  • 1599 – British East India Company is chartered.
  • 1660 – James II of England is named Duke of Normandy by Louis XIV of France.
  • 1687 – The first Huguenots set sail from France to the Cape of Good Hope.
  • 1695 – A window tax is imposed in England, causing many shopkeepers to brick up their windows to avoid the tax.
  • 1775 – American Revolutionary War: Battle of Quebec British forces repulse an attack by Continental Army generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold.
  • 1831 – Gramercy Park is deeded to New York City.
  • 1857 – Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom chooses Ottawa, Ontario, as the capital of Canada.
  • 1862 – American Civil War: Abraham Lincoln signs an act that admits West Virginia to the Union, thus dividing Virginia in two.
  • 1862 – American Civil War: The Battle of Stones River is fought near Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
  • 1879 – Thomas Edison demonstrates incandescent lighting to the public for the first time.
  • 1891 – A new immigration depot was opened on Ellis Island, New York.
  • 1904 – The first New Year’s Eve celebration is held in Times Square, then known as Longacre Square, in New York, New York.
  • 1909 – Manhattan Bridge opens.
  • 1923 – The chimes of Big Ben are broadcast on radio for the first time by the BBC.
  • 1944 – World War II: Hungary declares war on Germany.
  • 1946 – President Harry Truman officially proclaims the end of hostilities in World War II.
  • 1955 – The General Motors Corporation becomes the first U.S. corporation to make over $1 billion USD in a year.
  • 1960 – The farthing coin ceases to be legal tender in the United Kingdom.
  • 1961 – The Marshall Plan expires after distributing more than $12 billion USD in foreign aid to rebuild Europe.
  • 1963 – The Central African Federation officially collapses and splits into Zambia, Malawi and Rhodesia.
  • 1967 – Green Bay beats Dallas 21-17 in NFL championship game.
  • 1968 – First supersonic airliner flown, Russian TU-144.
  • 1981 – Coup d’état in Ghana removes President Hilla Limann’s PNP government and replaces it with the Provisional National Defence Council led by Flight Lieutenant Jerry Rawlings.
  • 1983 – The AT&T Bell System is broken up by the United States Government.
  • 1987 – Robert Mugabe assumes office as President of Zimbabwe.
  • 1986 – A fire at the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico, kills 97 and injures 140.
  • 1991 – The Soviet Union is officially dissolved.
  • 1994 – This date is skipped altogether in Kiribati as the Phoenix Islands and Line Islands change time zones from UTC-11 to UTC+13 and UTC-10 to UTC+14, respectively.
  • 1997 – Quaker Oats settles a lawsuit involving the immoral use of child subjects in radioactivity experiments from around 1945-1956.
  • 1998 – Exchange rates between the euro and legacy currencies in the Eurozone become fixed.
  • 1999 – Boris Yeltsin resigns as President of Russia, leaving Prime Minister Vladimir Putin as the acting President.
  • 1999 – Five hijackers, who had been holding 155 hostages on an Indian Airlines plane, leave the plane with two Islamic clerics that they had demanded be freed.
  • 1999 – The United States Government hands Panama Canal control over to Panama as well all the adjacent land to the canal known as the Panama Canal Zone. This act complied with the signing of the 1977 Torrijos-Carter Treaties.
  • 2004 – The official opening of Taipei 101, the current tallest skyscraper in the world, standing at a height of 509 metres (1,670 feet).
  • 2006 – The United Kingdom pays final installment of Second World War debt to the United States.
  • 2007 – December 2007 Bocaue Fire. Seven people injured when a fire razed several fireworks stores in the Municipality of Bocaue, Bulacan, Philippines.

December 31 – Birthdays:

  • 1378 – Pope Callixtus III (d. 1458)
  • 1491 – Jacques Cartier, French explorer (d. 1557)
  • 1514 – Andreas Vesalius, Flemish anatomist (d. 1564)
  • 1572 – Emperor Go-Yozei of Japan, (d. 1617)
  • 1668 – Herman Boerhaave, Dutch humanist and physician (d. 1738)
  • 1720 – Charles Edward Stuart, pretender to the British throne (d. 1788)
  • 1738 – Charles Cornwallis, 1st Marquess Cornwallis, British general (d. 1805)
  • 1741 – Isabella Maria of Parma, empress of Germany (d. 1763)
  • 1763 – Pierre-Charles Villeneuve, French admiral (d. 1806)
  • 1815 – George G. Meade, American Civil War general (d. 1872)
  • 1830 – Isma’il Pasha, Governor of Egypt (d. 1895)
  • 1860 – Joseph S. Cullinan, American oil industrialist (d. 1937)
  • 1869 – Henri Matisse, French painter (d. 1954)
  • 1877 – Lawrence Beesley, English journalist and author (d. 1967)
  • 1878 – Elizabeth Arden, Canadian businesswoman (d. 1966)
  • 1878 – Horacio Quiroga, Uruguayan-Argentinian writer (d. 1937)
  • 1880 – George C. Marshall, United States Secretary of State, Nobel Laureate (d. 1959)
  • 1880 – Fred Beebe, American baseball player (d. 1957)
  • 1881 – Max Pechstein, German painter (d. 1955)
  • 1882 – Martin O’Meara, Australian soldier (d. 1935)
  • 1884 – Bobby Byrne, American baseball player (d. 1964)
  • 1885 – Princess Victoria Adelaide of Schleswig-Holstein (d. 1970)
  • 1894 – Pola Negri, Polish actress (d. 1987)
  • 1899 – Silvestre Revueltas, Mexican composer (d. 1940)
  • 1902 – Lionel Daunais, Quebec singer and composer (d. 1982)
  • 1903 – Nathan Milstein, Ukrainian violinist (d. 1992)
  • 1905 – Jule Styne, English-born composer (d. 1994)
  • 1908 – Simon Wiesenthal, Austrian Holocaust survivor (d. 2005)
  • 1909 – Jonah Jones, American jazz trumpeter (d. 2000)
  • 1910 – Carl Dudley, American film director (d. 1973)
  • 1912 – Maj-Gen John Frost, British para commander, Operation Market-Garden (d. 1993)
  • 1919 – Tommy Byrne, American baseball player
  • 1920 – Rex Allen, American actor, singer, and songwriter (d. 1999)
  • 1924 – Taylor Mead, American actor
  • 1928 – Siné, French cartoonist
  • 1930 – Odetta, American singer
  • 1931 – Bob Shaw, Irish writer (d. 1996)
  • 1933 – Edward Bunker, American author and actor (d. 2005)
  • 1934 – Akram Awan, Islamic scholar
  • 1937 – Avram Hershko, Israeli biologist, Nobel laureate
  • 1937 – Sir Anthony Hopkins, Welsh actor
  • 1938 – Rosalind Cash, American actress (d. 1995)
  • 1940 – Mani Neumeier, German musician (Guru Guru)
  • 1941 – Sir Alex Ferguson, Scottish football manager
  • 1941 – Sarah Miles, English actress
  • 1942 – Andy Summers, British guitarist (The Police)
  • 1943 – John Denver, American singer and songwriter (d. 1997)
  • 1943 – Sir Ben Kingsley, English actor
  • 1943 – Pete Quaife, English bassist (The Kinks)
  • 1944 – Taylor Hackford, American producer and director
  • 1945 – Diane von Fürstenberg, Belgian-born fashion designer
  • 1945 – Barbara Carrera, Nicaraguan actress and model
  • 1945 – Connie Willis, American writer
  • 1946 – Pius Ncube, Zimbabwean human rights advocate
  • 1947 – Burton Cummings, Canadian keyboardist (The Guess Who)
  • 1947 – Tim Matheson, American actor
  • 1947 – Rita Lee, Brazilian Rock Star
  • 1948 – Donna Summer, American singer
  • 1948 – René Robert, National Hockey League player
  • 1949 – Ellen Datlow, American editor
  • 1949 – Susan Shwartz, American writer
  • 1951 – George Thorogood, American musician
  • 1951 – Tom Hamilton, American bassist (Aerosmith)
  • 1953 – James Remar, American actor
  • 1953 – Jane Badler, American actress
  • 1954 – Alex Salmond, Scottish politician
  • 1954 – Hermann Tilke, German racing circuit architect
  • 1955 – Dawood Ibrahim, Terrorist
  • 1956 – Steve Rude, American comics artist
  • 1958 – Bebe Neuwirth, American actress
  • 1959 – Phill Kline, American politician
  • 1959 – Val Kilmer, American actor
  • 1959 – Paul Westerberg, American musician (The Replacements)
  • 1960 – John Allen Muhammad, American serial killer
  • 1960 – Steve Bruce, English football player & manager
  • 1961 – Rick Aguilera, American baseball player
  • 1961 – Nina Li Chi, Chinese actress
  • 1962 – Heather McCartney, British activist
  • 1963 – Scott Ian, American guitarist (Anthrax)
  • 1963 – Konishiki, American sumo wrestler
  • 1964 – Michael McDonald, American actor-comedian
  • 1964 – Allen D’Nulderf, American stuntman
  • 1964 – Lowri Turner, British TV presenter
  • 1965 – Gong Li, Chinese actress
  • 1965 – Nicholas Sparks, American author
  • 1966 – Lisa Joyner, American entertainment reporter
  • 1968 – Gerry Dee, Canadian comedian and actor
  • 1969 – Kate Beahan, Australian actress
  • 1969 – Dominik Diamond, presenter and newspaper columnist
  • 1970 – Carlos Morales Quintana, husband of Princess Alexia of Greece and Denmark
  • 1970 – Bryon Russell, American basketball player
  • 1971 – Brent Barry, American basketball player
  • 1971 – Esteban Loaiza, Mexican Major League Baseball player
  • 1971 – Ricardo López Felipe, Spanish footballer
  • 1972 – Joe McIntyre, American singer (New Kids on the Block)
  • 1973 – Shandon Anderson, American basketball player
  • 1973 – Malcolm Middleton, Scottish musician (Arab Strap)
  • 1974 – Ryan Sakoda, Japanese American professional wrestler
  • 1974 – Tony Kanaan, Brazilian racing driver
  • 1975 – Toni Kuivasto, Finnish footballer
  • 1977 – Wardy Alfaro, Costa Rican footballer
  • 1978 – Papoose, American rapper
  • 1979 – Bob Bryar, American drummer (My Chemical Romance, Gerardolopoly)
  • 1979 – Elaine Cassidy, Irish actress
  • 1980 – Richie McCaw, New Zealand rugby player
  • 1980 – Matt Cross, American professional wrestler
  • 1981 – Jason Campbell, American football player
  • 1981 – Matthew Pavlich, Australian football player
  • 1982 – Julio DePaula, Dominican baseball player
  • 1982 – Craig Gordon, Scottish footballer
  • 1982 – Luke Schenscher, Australian basketball player
  • 1987 – Javaris Crittenton, American basketball player
  • 1987 – Émilie Le Pennec, French gymnast

December 31 – Deaths:

  • 192 – Commodus, Roman Emperor (b. 161)
  • 335 – St. Silvester, Pope
  • 1164 – Margrave Ottokar III of Styria (b. 1124)
  • 1194 – Duke Leopold V of Austria (killed at a tournament) (b. 1157)
  • 1297 – Humphrey de Bohun, 3rd Earl of Hereford, English soldier (b. 1249)
  • 1302 – Frederick III, Duke of Lorraine (b. 1238)
  • 1384 – John Wycliffe, English theologian and Bible translator
  • 1424 – Thomas Beaufort, 1st Duke of Exeter, English military leader
  • 1460 – Edmund, Earl of Rutland, brother of Kings Edward IV of England and Richard III of England (executed) (b. 1443)
  • 1460 – Richard Neville, 5th Earl of Salisbury, English politician (b. 1400)
  • 1510 – Bianca Maria Sforza, wife of Maximilian I, Holy Roman Emperor (b. 1472)
  • 1535 – William Skeffington, Lord Deputy of Ireland (b. 1465)
  • 1568 – Shimazu Tadayoshi, Japanese warlord (b. 1493)
  • 1575 – Pierino Belli, Italian soldier and jurist (b. 1502)
  • 1583 – Thomas Erastus, Swiss theologian (b. 1524)
  • 1610 – Ludolph van Ceulen, German mathematician (b. 1540)
  • 1650 – Dorgon, Chinese emperor (b. 1612)
  • 1673 – Oliver St John, English statesman and judge
  • 1679 – Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, Italian physiologist and physicist (b. 1608)
  • 1691 – Dudley North, English economist (b. 1641)
  • 1719 – John Flamsteed, English astronomer (b. 1646)
  • 1742 – Karl III Philip, Elector Palatine (b. 1661)
  • 1799 – Jean-François Marmontel, French historian and writer (b. 1723)
  • 1872 – Aleksis Kivi, Finnish author (b. 1834)
  • 1877 – Gustave Courbet, French painter (b. 1819)
  • 1888 – Samson Raphael Hirsch, German rabbi (b. 1808)
  • 1889 – Ion Creanga, Romanian writer (b. 1837 or 1839)
  • 1890 – Pancha Carrasco, Costa Rican war heroine (b. 1826)
  • 1894 – Thomas Joannes Stieltjes, Dutch mathematician (b. 1856)
  • 1905 – Alexander Popov, Russian physicist (b. 1859)
  • 1910 – John Moisant, American aviator (b. 1868)
  • 1910 – Arch Hoxsey, American aviator (b. 1884)
  • 1921 – Boies Penrose, U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania (b. 1860)
  • 1936 – Miguel de Unamuno, Spanish writer and philosopher (b. 1864)
  • 1948 – Malcolm Campbell, English race car driver (b. 1885)
  • 1952 – Hank Williams, American singer, guitarist, and songwriter (b.1923)
  • 1953 – Albert Plesman, Dutch aviation pioneer (b. 1889)
  • 1964 – Ólafur Thors, Prime Minister of Iceland (b. 1892)
  • 1964 – Bobby Byrne, baseball player (b. 1884)
  • 1969 – George Lewis, American clarinetist (b. 1900)
  • 1971 – Pete Duel American actor (b. 1940)
  • 1971 – Marin Sais, American actress (b. 1890)
  • 1971 – Vikram Sarabhai, Indian physicist (b. 1919)
  • 1972 – Roberto Clemente, Puerto Rican baseball player (b. 1934)
  • 1977 – Sabah III Al-Salim Al-Sabah, ruler of Kuwait (b. 1924)
  • 1980 – Marshall McLuhan, Canadian writer (b. 1911)
  • 1980 – Raoul Walsh, American film director (b. 1887)
  • 1985 – Rick Nelson, American singer (b. 1940)
  • 1986 – Lloyd Haynes, American actor (b. 1934)
  • 1990 – Vasili Lazarev, Soviet cosmonaut (b. 1928)
  • 1990 – George Allen, American football coach
  • 1993 – Maj-Gen John Frost, British para commander, Operation Market-Garden (b. 1912)
  • 1993 – Zviad Gamsakhurdia, first President of Georgia (b. 1939)
  • 1993 – Brandon Teena, Transsexual, murdered (b. 1972)
  • 1994 – Woody Strode, American actor and decathlete (b. 1914)
  • 1997 – Floyd Cramer, American musician (b. 1933)
  • 1997 – Billie Dove, American actress (b. 1903)
  • 1997 – Michael Kennedy, American politician (b. 1958)
  • 1999 – Elliot Richardson, American politician (b. 1920)
  • 2000 – Alan Cranston, American politician (b. 1914)
  • 2000 – José Greco, Italian-born American flamenco dancer and choreographer (b. 1918)
  • 2001 – Eileen Heckart, American actress (b. 1919)
  • 2002 – Kevin MacMichael, American guitarist (Cutting Crew) (b. 1951)
  • 2003 – Arthur R. von Hippel German-born physicist (b. 1898)
  • 2004 – Gerard Debreu, French-born economist, Bank of Sweden Prize laureate (b. 1921)
  • 2005 – Phillip Whitehead, British politician (b. 1937)
  • 2005 – Enrico di Giuseppe, American tenor (b. 1932)
  • 2006 – George Sisler, Jr., baseball executive (b. 1917)
  • 2007 – Tommy Dickson, British footballer (b. 1929)
  • 2007 – Tony Elliott, American football player (b. 1959)
  • 2007 – Michael Goldberg, American painter (b. 1924)
  • 2007 – Bill Idelson, American actor (b. 1919)
  • 2007 – Kathryn Ish, American actress (b. 1936)
  • 2007 – Milton L. Klein, Canadian politician (b. 1910)
  • 2007 – Markku Peltola, Finnish actor and musician (b. 1956)
  • 2007 – Ettore Sottsass, Italian architect and designer (b. 1917)

December 31 – Holidays:

  • New Year’s Eve on the Gregorian Calendar.
  • Hogmanay in Scotland.
  • Last Day of the Year Celebration, special non-working holiday in the Philippines.
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