December 20


1606 - The "Susan Constant," "Godspeed" and "Discovery" set sail from London. Their landing at Jamestown, VA, was the start of the first permanent English settlement in America.

1699 - Peter the Great ordered that the Russian New Year be changed from September 1 to January 1.

1790 - The first successful cotton mill in the United States began operating at Pawtucket, RI.

1803 - The United States Senate ratified a treaty that included the Louisiana Territories from France for $15 million. The transfer was completed with formal ceremonies in New Orleans.

1820 - The state of Missouri enacted legislation to tax bachelors between the ages of 21-50 for being unmarried. The tax was $1 a year.

1860 - South Carolina became the first state to secede from the American Union.

1864 - Confederate forces evacuated Savannah, GA as Union Gen. William T. Sherman continued his "March to the Sea."

1879 - Thomas A. Edison privately demonstrated his incandescent light at Menlo Park, NJ.

1880 - New York's Broadway became known as the "Great White Way" when it was lighted by electricity.

1892 - Alexander T. Brown and George Stillman patented the pneumatic tire.

1928 - Mail delivery by dog sled began in Lewiston, ME.

1933 - The film "Flying Down to Rio" was first shown in New York.

1938 - Vladimir Kosma Zworykin patented the iconoscope television system.

1946 - The Frank Capra film "It's A Wonderful Life" had a preview showing for charity at New York City's Globe Theatre, a day before its "official" world premiere. James Stewart and Donna Reed star in the film.

1946 - In Indochina (Vietnam), full-scale guerrilla warfare between Vietnam partisans and French troops began.

1954 - Buick Motor Company signed Jackie Gleason to one of the largest contracts ever entered into with an entertainer. Gleason agreed to produce 78 half-hour shows over a two-year period for $6,142,500.

1962 - A world indoor pole-vault record was set by Don Meyers when he cleared 16 feet, 1-1/4 inches.

1963 - The Berlin Wall was opened for the first time to West Berliners. It was only for the holiday season. It closed again on January 6, 1964.

1968 - Author John Steinbeck died at the age of 66.

1973 - The Spanish premier Carrero Blanco was assassinated in Madrid.

1987 - More than 3,000 people were killed when the Dona Paz, a Philippine passenger ship, collided with the tanker Vector off Mindoro island, setting off a double explosion.

1989 - General Noriega, Panama's former dictator, was overthrown by a United States invasion force invited by the new civilian government. The project was known as Operation Just Cause.

1990 - The world's first website and server go live at CERN. The first website was

1991 - Ante Markovic resigned as federal Prime Minister of Yugoslavia.

1991 - Oliver Stone's "JFK" opened in the U.S.

1994 - Marcelino Corniel, a homeless man, was shot and mortally wounded by White House security officers. He had brandished a knife near the executive mansion.

1994 - Ivan Lendl retired after a 17-year tennis career.

1995 - An American Airlines Boeing 757 en route to Cali, Colombia, crashed into a mountain, killing all but four of the 163 people aboard.

1996 - Doctors reported that a Cypriot woman who had taken fertility drugs was carrying about 11 embryos.

1998 - In Houston, TX, a 27-year-old woman gave birth to the only known living set of octuplets.

1999 - The Vermont Supreme Court ruled that homosexual couples were entitled to the same benefits and protections as wedded couples of the opposite sex.

1999 - Sovereignty over the colony of Macao was transferred from Portugal to China.

2001 - The U.S. Congress passed a $20 billion package to finance the war against terrorism taking place in Afghanistan.

2001 - Argentina's President Fernando De la Rua resigned after two years in power.

2001 - The first British peacekeepers arrived in Afghanistan to help the nation heal after decades of war.