1500 - Vicente Yáńez Pinzón discovered Brazil.
1736 - Stanislaus I formally abdicated as King of Poland.
1784 - In a letter to his daughter, Benjamin Franklin expressed unhappiness over the eagle as the symbol of America. He wanted the symbol to be the turkey.
1788 - The first European settlers in Australia, led by Captain Arthur Phillip, landed in what became known as Sydney. The group had first settled at Botany Bay eight days before. This day is celebrated as Australia Day.
1802 - The U.S. Congress passed an act calling for a library to be established within the U.S. Capitol.
1827 - Peru seceded from Colombia in protest against Simón Bolívar's alleged tyranny.
1837 - Michigan became the 26th state to join the United States.
1841 - Britain formally occupied Hong Kong, which the Chinese had ceded to the British.
1861 - In the U.S., Louisiana seceded from the Union.
1870 - The state of Virgina rejoined the Union.
1875 - George F. Green patented the electric dental drill for sawing, filing, dressing and polishing teeth.
1905 - The Cullinan diamond, at 3,106.75 carats, was found by Captain Wells at the Premier Mine, near Pretoria, South Africa.
1911 - Inventor Glenn H. Curtiss flew the first successful seaplane.
1934 - The Apollo Theatre opened in New York City.
1939 - In the Spanish Civil War, Franco's forces, with Italian aid, took Barcelona.
1942 - The first American expeditionary force to go to Europe during World War II went ashore in Northern Ireland.
1947 - "The Greatest Story Ever Told" was first heard on ABC radio.
1950 - India officially proclaimed itself a republic as Rajendra Prasad took the oath of office as president.
1950 - The American Associated Insurance Companies, of St. Louis, MO, issued the first baby sitter’s insurance policy.
1959 - "Alcoa Presents" debuted on ABC-TV. The show would later be renamed "One Step Beyond".
1961 - U.S. President John F. Kennedy appointed Dr. Janet G. Travell as the first woman to be the "personal physician to the President".
1962 - The U.S. launched Ranger 3 to land scientific instruments on the moon. The probe missed its target by about 22,000 miles.
1965 - Hindi was made the official language of India.
1969 - California was declared a disaster area two days of flooding and mudslides.
1972 - In Hermsdorf, Czechoslovakia, a JAT Yugoslav Airlines flight crashed after the detonation of a bomb in the forward cargo hold killing 27 people. The bomb was believed to have been placed on the plane by a Croatian extremist group. Vesna Vulovic, a stewardess, survived after falling 33,000 feet in the tail section. She broke both legs and became paralyzed from the waist down.
1979 - The ‘Gizmo’ guitar synthesizer was first demonstrated.
1984 - CBS television debuted Mickey Spillane's "Mike Hammer."
1992 - Russian president Boris Yeltsin announced that his country would stop targeting U.S. cities with nuclear weapons.
1993 - Former Czechoslovak President Vaclav Havel was elected president of the new Czech Republic.
1994 - In Sydney, Australia, a young man lunged at and fired two blank shots at Britain's Prince Charles.
1996 - U.S. First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton testified before a grand jury concerning the Whitewater probe.
1998 - U.S. President Clinton denied having an affair with a former White House intern, saying "I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky."
1999 - Saddam Hussein vowed revenge against the U.S. in response to air-strikes that reportedly killed civilians. The strikes were U.S. planes defending themselves against anti-aircraft fire.
2009 - The Icelandic government and banking system collapsed. Prime Minister Geir Haarde resigned.
2010 - It was announced that James Cameron's movie "Avatar" had become the highest-grossing film worldwide.