1803 - Thomas Jefferson, in secret communication with Congress, sought authorization for the first official exploration by the U.S. government.
1778 - English navigator Captain James Cook discovered the Hawaiian Islands, which he called the "Sandwich Islands."
1788 - The first English settlers arrived in Australia's Botany Bay to establish a penal colony. The group moved north eight days later and settled at Port Jackson.
1871 - Wilhelm, King of Prussia from 1861, was proclaimed the first German Emperor.
1886 - The Hockey Association was formed in England. This date is the birthday of modern field hockey.
1896 - The x-ray machine was exhibited for the first time.
1911 - For the first time an aircraft landed on a ship. Pilot Eugene B. Ely flew onto the deck of the USS Pennsylvania in San Francisco harbor.
1919 - The World War I Peace Congress opened in Versailles, France.
1929 - Walter Winchell made his debut on radio.
1937 - CBS radio debuted "Aunt Jenny’s Real Life Stories".
1939 - Louis Armstrong and his orchestra recorded "Jeepers Creepers."
1943 - During World War II, the Soviets announced that they had broken the Nazi siege of Leningrad, which had began in September of 1941.
1943 - U.S. commercial bakers stopped selling sliced bread. Only whole loaves were sold during the ban until the end of World War II.
1948 - "The Original Amateur Hour" debuted. The show was on the air for 22 years.
1950 - The federal tax on oleomargarine was repealed.
1951 - Joan Blondell made her TV debut on "Pot of Gold" episode of "Airflyte Theatre" on CBS-TV.
1957 - The first, non-stop, around-the-world, jet flight came to an end at Riverside, CA. The plane was refueled in mid-flight by huge aerial tankers.
1958 - Willie O'Ree made his NHL debut with the Boston Bruins. He was the first black player to enter the league.
1964 - The plans for the World Trade Center in New York were disclosed.
1967 - Albert DeSalvo, who claimed to be the "Boston Strangler," was convicted in Cambridge, MA, of armed robbery, assault and sex offenses. He was sentenced to life in prison. Desalvo was killed in 1973 by a fellow inmate.
1972 - Former Rhodesian prime minister Garfield Todd and his daughter were placed under house arrest for campaigning against Rhodesian independence.
1975 - "The Jeffersons" debuted on CBS-TV.
1978 - The European Court of Human Rights cleared the British government of torture but found it guilty of inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners in Northern Ireland.
1985 - Mary Decker broke a world, indoor record when she ran the women’s, 2,000-meter race in 5:34.2. She also ran the outdoor mile in 4:16.7.
1987 - For the first time in history the Public Broadcasting System (PBS) was seen by over 100 million viewers. The audience was measured during the week of January 12-18.
1990 - A jury in Los Angeles, CA, acquitted former preschool operators Raymond Buckey and his mother, Peggy McMartin Buckey, of 52 child molestation charges.
1990 - In an FBI sting, Washington, DC, Mayor Marion Barry was arrested for drug possession. He was later convicted of a misdemeanor.
1991 - Eastern Airlines shut down after 62 years in business due to financial problems.
1993 - The Martin Luther King Jr. holiday was observed in all 50 U.S. states for the first time.
1995 - A network of caves were discovered near the town of Vallon-Pont-d'Arc in southern France. The caves contained paintings and engravings that were 17,000 to 20,000 years old.
1997 - Hutu militiamen killed three Spanish aid workers and three soldiers and seriously wound an American in a night attack in NW Rwanda.
2002 - The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the approval of a saliva-based ovulation test.
2012 - Wikipedia began a 24-hour "blackout" in protest against proposed anti-piracy legislation (S. 968 and H.R. 3261) known as the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House. Many websites, including Reddit, Google, Facebook, Amazon and others, contended would make it challenging if not impossible for them to operate.