1783 - George Washington returned home to Mount Vernon, after the disbanding of his army following the Revolutionary War.
1788 - Maryland voted to cede a 100-square-mile area for the seat of the national government. About two-thirds of the area became the District of Columbia.
1823 - The poem "A Visit from St. Nicholas" by Clement C. Moore (" 'Twas the night before Christmas...") was published.
1834 - English architect Joseph Hansom patented his 'safety cab', better known as the Hansom cab.
1852 - The Theatre of Celestial John opened on Telegraph Hill in San Francisco, CA. It was the first Chinese theatre in the U.S.
1880 - Thomas Edison incorporated the Edison Electric Light Company of Europe.
1888 - Following a quarrel with Paul Gauguin, Dutch painter Vincent Van Gogh cut off part of his own earlobe.
1893 - The Engelbert Humperdinck opera "Hansel und Gretel" was first performed, in Weimar, Germany.
1913 - The Federal Reserve Bill was signed into law by U.S. President Woodrow Wilson. The act established 12 Federal Reserve Banks.
1919 - The first ship designed to be used as an ambulance for the transport patients was launched. The hospital ship was named USS Relief and had 515 beds.
1922 - The British Broadcasting Corporation began daily news broadcasts.
1930 - Ruth Elizabeth Davis, an unknown actress, arrived in Hollywood, under contract to Universal Studios. Universal changed her name to Bette Davis for the movies.
1938 - "Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch" was heard for the final time on the radio.
1941 - During World War II, American forces on Wake Island surrendered to the Japanese.
1942 - Bob Hope agreed to entertain U.S. airmen in Alaska. It was the first of the traditional Christmas shows.
1943 - "Hansel and Gretel," the opera, was televised on New York's WRBG. It was the first complete opera to be televised.
1947 - John Bardeen, Walter H. Brattain and William Shockley invented the transistor.
1948 - Former Japanese premier Hideki Tojo and six other Japanese war leaders were executed in Tokyo. They had been found guilty of crimes against humanity.
1951 - A National Football League (NFL) championship game was televised nationally for the first time. The Los Angeles Rams beat the Cleveland Browns 24-17. The DuMont Network had paid $75,000 for the rights to the game.
1953 - Soviet secret police chief Lavrenti Beria and six of his associates were shot for treason following a secret trial.
1954 - The Walt Disney movie "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea" was released.
Disney movies, music and books
1957 - Dan Blocker made his acting debut on television in the "Restless Gun."
1965 - A 70-mph speed limit was introduced in Britain.
1968 - Eighty-two crewmembers of the U.S. intelligence ship Pueblo were released by North Korea, 11 months after they had been captured.
1972 - The Pittsburgh Steelers beat the Oakland Raiders 13-7 in an NFL playoff game on a last-second play that was dubbed the "Immaculate Reception." Pittsburgh's Franco Harris caught a deflected pass and ran it in for the winning touchdown.
1981 - NASA approved a plan to continue the Voyager II spacecraft on a trajectory that would take it within 66,000 miles of Uranus on July 24, 1986.
1986 - The experimental airplane Voyager, piloted by Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, completed the first non-stop, around-the-world flight without refueling as it landed safely at Edwards Air Force Base in California.
1987 - Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme, serving a life sentence for the attempted assassination of U.S. President Ford in 1975, escaped from the Alderson Federal Prison for Women in West Virginia. She was recaptured two days later.
1989 - Ousted Romanian President Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife, Elena, were captured as they were attempting to flee their country.
1990 - Elections in Yugoslavia ended, leaving four of its six republics with non-Communist governments.
1995 - A fire in Dabwali, India, killed 540 people, including 170 children, during a year-end party being held near the children's school.
1995 - The bodies of 16 members of the Solar Temple religious sect were found in a clearing near Grenoble, France. 14 were presumed shot by two people who then committed suicide.
1997 - Terry Nichols was convicted by a Denver jury on charges of conspiracy and involuntary manslaughter in the 1995 federal building bombing in Oklahoma City. The bomb killed 168 people.
1998 - Guerrillas in south Lebanon fired dozens of rockets at northern Israel.