1721 - Peter the Great (Peter I), ruler of Russia, changed his title to emperor.
1776 - During the American Revolutionary War, William Demont, became the first traitor of the American Revolution when he deserted.
1783 - U.S. Gen. George Washington gave his "Farewell Address to the Army" near Princeton, NJ.
1867 - "Harpers Bazaar" magazine was founded.
1883 - Thomas Edison executed a patent application for an electrical indicator using the Edison effect lamp (U.S. Pat. 307,031).
1889 - North Dakota and South Dakota were admitted into the union as the 39th and 40th states.
1895 - In Chicago, IL, the first gasoline powered car contest took place in America.
1917 - British Foreign Secretary Arthur Balfour expressed support for a "national home" for the Jews of Palestine.
1920 - The first commercial radio station in the U.S., KDKA of Pittsburgh, PA, began regular broadcasting.
1921 - Margaret Sander's National Birth Control League combined with Mary Ware Denetts Voluntary Parenthood League to form the American Birth Control League.
1930 - Haile Selassie was crowned emperor of Ethiopia.
1930 - The DuPont Company announced the first synthetic rubber. It was named DuPrene.
1937 - The play "I'd Rather be Right" opened in New York City.
1947 - Howard Hughes flew his "Spruce Goose," a huge wooden airplane, for eight minutes in California. It was the plane's first and only flight. The "Spruce Goose," nicknamed because of the white-gray color of the spruce used to build it, never went into production.
1948 - Harry S. Truman defeated Thomas E. Dewey for the U.S. presidency. The Chicago Tribune published an early edition that had the headline "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN." The Truman victory surprised many polls and newspapers. (Illinois>
1959 - Charles Van Doren, a game show contestant on the NBC-TV program "Twenty-One" admitted that he had been given questions and answers in advance.
1960 - In London, the novel "Lady Chatterly's Lover," was found not guilty of obscenity.
1962 - U.S. President Kennedy announced that the U.S.S.R. was dismantling the missile sites in Cuba.
1963 - South Vietnamese President Ngo Dihn Diem was assassinated in a military coup.
1966 - The Cuban Adjustment Act allows 123,000 Cubans to apply for permanent residence in the U.S.
1979 - Joanna Chesimard, a black militant escaped from a New Jersey prison, where she'd been serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of a New Jersey state trooper.
1983 - U.S. President Ronald Reagan signed a bill establishing a federal holiday on the third Monday of January in honor of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
1984 - Velma Barfield became the first woman to be executed in the U.S. since 1962. She had been convicted of the poisoning death of her boyfriend.
1985 - The South African government imposed severe restrictions on television, radio and newspaper coverage of unrest by both local and foreign journalists.
1986 - The 12-by-16-inch celluloid of a poison apple from Walt Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs"" was purchased for $30,800.
Disney movies, music and books
1986 - American hostage David Jacobson was released after being held in Lebanon for 17 months by Shiite Muslims kidnappers.
1989 - Carmen Fasanella retired after 68 years and 243 days of taxicab service in Princeton, NJ.
1992 - Magic Johnson retired from the NBA again, this time for good because of fear due to his HIV infection.
1993 - The U.S. Senate called for full disclosure of Senator Bob Packwood's diaries in a sexual harassment probe.
1993 - Christie Todd Whitman was elected the first woman governor of New Jersey.
1995 - The play "Sacrilege" opened.
1995 - The U.S. expelled Daiwa Bank Ltd. for allegedly covering up $1.1 billion in trading losses.
1998 - U.S. President Clinton gave his first in-depth interview since the White House sex scandal to Black Entertainment Television talk show host and political commentator Tavis Smiley on the network's "BET Tonight with Tavis Smiley."
2001 - The computer-animated movie "Monsters, Inc." opened. The film recorded the best debut ever for an animated film and the 6th best of all time.
2003 - In the U.S., the Episcopal Church diocese consecrated the church's first openly gay bishop.