On This Day Alert

On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, a groundbreaking scientific work by British naturalist Charles Darwin, is published in England. Darwin’s theory argued that organisms gradually evolve through a process he called “natural selection.”
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Brazilian soccer great Pele scores his 1,000th goal in a game against Vasco da Gama in Rio de Janeiro’s Maracana stadium. It was a major milestone in an illustrious career that included three World Cup championships.
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At exactly noon on this day, American and Canadian railroads begin using four continental time zones to end the confusion of dealing with thousands of local times. The bold move was emblematic of the power shared by the railroad companies.
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On November 16, 2001, the British author J.K. Rowling’s star creation—bespectacled boy wizard Harry Potter—makes his big-screen debut in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, which opens in movie theaters across the United States. Based on the mega-best-selling fantasy novel of the same name, the film, which starred Daniel Radcliffe in the title role, went on to become one of the highest-grossing movies in history.
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On November 10, 1969, “Sesame Street,” a pioneering TV show that would teach generations of young children the alphabet and how to count, makes its broadcast debut. “Sesame Street,” with its memorable theme song (“Can you tell me how to get/How to get to Sesame Street”), went on to become the most widely viewed children’s program in the world. It has aired in more than 120 countries. Learn More

On this day in 1989, East German officials opened the Berlin Wall, allowing travel from East to West Berlin. The following day, celebrating Germans began to tear the wall down. One of the ugliest and most infamous symbols of the Cold War was soon reduced to rubble that was quickly snatched up by souvenir hunters. The East German action followed a decision by Hungarian officials a few weeks earlier to open the border between Hungary and Austria. This effectively ended the purpose of the Berlin Wall, since East German citizens could now circumvent it by going through Hungary, into Austria, and thence into West Germany. Learn More

On this day in 1962, following the 1960 massacre of unarmed demonstrators at Sharpeville near Johannesburg, South Africa, in which 69 blacks were killed and over 180 were injured, the international movement to end apartheid gained wide support. However, few Western powers or South Africa’s other main trading partners favored a full economic or military embargo against the country. Nonetheless, opposition to apartheid within the U.N. grew, and in 1973 a U.N. resolution labeled apartheid a “crime against humanity.” In 1974, South Africa was suspended from the General Assembly. Learn More

On this day in 1994,  George Foreman, age 45, becomes boxing’s oldest heavyweight champion when he defeats 26-year-old Michael Moorer in the 10th round of their WBA fight in Las Vegas. More than 12,000 spectators at the MGM Grand Hotel watched Foreman dethrone Moorer, who went into the fight with a 35-0 record. Foreman dedicated his upset win to “all my buddies in the nursing home and all the guys in jail.” Learn More

On this day in 1990, Dances with Wolves, a film about an American Civil War-era soldier and a group of Sioux Indians that stars Kevin Costner and also marks his directorial debut, premieres in Los Angeles. The film, which opened across the United States on November 21, 1990, was a surprise box-office success and earned 12 Academy Award nominations, including Best Actor for Costner. Dances with Wolves took home seven Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director, and solidified Costner’s place on Hollywood’s A-list. Learn More

On this day in 2014, One World Trade Center officially opens in Manhattan. The new tower, along with the rest of the World Trade Center complex, replaced the Twin Towers and surrounding complex, which were destroyed by terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. The initial plans for the site were steeped in post-9/11 patriotic sentiment. Libeskind designed an asymmetrical tower that evoked the Statue of Liberty and stood at the same height as the original World Trade Center, topped with a spire rising to 1,776 feet. Pataki dubbed it the “Freedom Tower,” a name which became commonplace but had largely faded from use by the time One World Trade Center opened. Learn More

On this day in 1948, in the greatest upset in presidential election history, Democratic incumbent Harry S. Truman defeats his Republican challenger, Governor Thomas E. Dewey of New York, by just over two million popular votes. In the days preceding the vote, political analysts and polls were so behind Dewey that on election night, long before all the votes were counted, the Chicago Tribune published an early edition with the banner headline “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.” Learn More

On this day in 1938, "The War of the Worlds"-Orson Welles's realistic radio dramatization of a Martian invasion of Earth-is broadcast on the radio. Welles was only 23 years old when his Mercury Theater company decided to update H.G. Wells' 19th-century science fiction novel The War of the Worlds for national radio. Despite his age, Welles had been in radio for several years, most notably as the voice of "The Shadow" in the hit mystery program of the same name. "War of the Worlds" was not planned as a radio hoax, and Welles had little idea of the havoc it would cause. Learn More

On this day in 1998, nearly four decades after he became the first American to orbit the Earth, Senator John Hershel Glenn, Jr., is launched into space again as a payload specialist aboard the space shuttle Discovery. At 77 years of age, Glenn was the oldest human ever to travel in space. During the nine-day mission, he served as part of a NASA study on health problems associated with aging. Learn More

On this day in 1965, construction is completed on the Gateway Arch, a spectacular 630-foot-high parabola of stainless steel marking the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial on the waterfront of St. Louis, Missouri. The Gateway Arch, designed by Finnish-born, American-educated architect Eero Saarinen, was erected to commemorate President Thomas Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and to celebrate St. Louis' central role in the rapid westward expansion that followed. Learn More

On this day in 2006,  the last Ford Taurus rolls off the assembly line in Hapeville, Georgia. The keys to the silver car went to 85-year-old Truett Cathy, the founder of the Chick-fil-A fast-food franchise, who took it straight to his company's headquarters in Atlanta and added it to an elaborate display that included 19 other cars, including one of the earliest Fords. Learn More

On this day in 1881, the Earp brothers face off against the Clanton-McLaury gang in a legendary shootout at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona. Sheriff John Behan of Cochise County, who witnessed the shootout, charged the Earps and Holliday with murder. A month later, however, a Tombstone judge found the men not guilty, ruling that they were "fully justified in committing these homicides." Learn More

On this day in 2001, IPod, the portable media player developed by Apple released for the company's Macintosh platform. A version for the Microsoft Corporation's Windows operating system was released in 2002. The small, sleekly designed player, coupled with its accompanying online music store, has been one of the most successful and revolutionary products of the 2000s. Learn More

On this day in 1962, In a televised speech of extraordinary gravity, President John F. Kennedy announces that U.S. spy planes have discovered Soviet missile bases in Cuba. These missile sites-under construction but nearing completion-housed medium-range missiles capable of striking a number of major cities in the United States, including Washington, D.C. Kennedy announced that he was ordering a naval "quarantine" of Cuba to prevent Soviet ships from transporting any more offensive weapons to the island and explained that the United States would not tolerate the existence of the missile sites currently in place. Learn More

On this day in 1959, on New York City's Fifth Avenue, thousands of people line up outside a bizarrely shaped white concrete building that resembled a giant upside-down cupcake. It was opening day at the new Guggenheim Museum, home to one of the world's top collections of contemporary art. Learn More

On this day in 1973, after 15 years of construction, the Sydney Opera House is dedicated by Queen Elizabeth II. The $80 million structure, designed by Danish architect Jørn Utzon and funded by the profits of the Opera House Lotteries, was built on Bennelong Point, in Sydney, Australia. Famous for its geometric roof shells, the structure contains several large auditoriums and presents an average of 3,000 events a year to an estimated two million people. Learn More

On this day in 1923, Walt Disney and his brother Roy found the Disney Brothers Cartoon Studio in Hollywood, California. The studio, now known as the Walt Disney Company, has had an oversized impact on the entertainment industry and is now one of the largest media companies in the world. Learn More

On this day in 1917, Mata Hari, the archetype of the seductive female spy, is executed for espionage by a French firing squad at Vincennes outside of Paris. She first came to Paris in 1905 and found fame as a performer of exotic Asian-inspired dances. She soon began touring all over Europe, telling the story of how she was born in a sacred Indian temple and taught ancient dances by a priestess who gave her the name Mata Hari, meaning "eye of the day" in Malay. In reality, Mata Hari was born in a small town in northern Holland in 1876, and her real name was Margaretha Geertruida Zelle. Learn More

On this day in 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound. Because of the secrecy of the project, Bell and Yeager's achievement was not announced until June 1948. Yeager continued to serve as a test pilot, and in 1953 he flew 1,650 miles per hour in an X-1A rocket plane. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975 with the rank of brigadier general. Learn More

On this day in 1975, the man voted Entertainer of the Year by the Country Music Association of America one year earlier stood onstage at the CMA awards show to announce that year's winner of the Association's biggest award. But a funny thing happened when he opened the envelope and saw what was written inside. Instead of merely reading the name "John Denver" and stepping back from the podium, Charlie Rich reached into his pocket for a cigarette lighter and set the envelope on fire, right there onstage. Though the display shocked the live audience in attendance, John Denver himself was present only via satellite linkup, and he offered a gracious acceptance speech with no idea what had occurred. Learn More

On this day in 1492, After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus sights a Bahamian island, believing he has reached East Asia. His expedition went ashore the same day and claimed the land for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain, who sponsored his attempt to find a western ocean route to China, India, and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia. Learn More

On this day in 1992, 18-year-old Michelle Knapp is watching television in her parents' living room in Peekskill, New York when she hears a thunderous crash in the driveway. Alarmed, Knapp ran outside to investigate. What she found was startling, to say the least: a sizeable hole in the rear end of her car, an orange 1980 Chevy Malibu; a matching hole in the gravel driveway underneath the car; and in the hole, the culprit: what looked like an ordinary, bowling-ball-sized rock. It was extremely heavy for its size (it weighed about 28 pounds), shaped like a football and warm to the touch; also, it smelled vaguely of rotten eggs. The next day, a curator from the American Museum of Natural History in New York City confirmed that the object was a genuine meteorite. Learn More

On this day in 1957, bible-school dropout Jerry Lee Lewis laid down the definitive version of "Great Balls Of Fire," amidst a losing battle with his conscience and with the legendary Sam Phillips, head of Sun Records. It was hours into the "Great Balls Of Fire" session when Jerry Lee began arguing with Sam Phillips that the song was too sinful for him to record. As the two talked loudly over each other, Phillips pleaded with Lewis to believe that his music could actually be a force for moral good. Learn More

On this day in 2003, actor Arnold Schwarzenegger is elected governor of California, the most populous state in the nation with the world's fifth-largest economy. Despite his inexperience, Schwarzenegger came out on top in the 11-week campaign to replace Gray Davis, who had earlier become the first United States governor to be recalled by the people since 1921. Schwarzenegger was one of 135 candidates on the ballot, which included career politicians, other actors, and one adult-film star. Learn More

On this day in 1927, the Jazz Singer premiered at the Warner Theatre in New York. Starring Al Jolson, it was the first feature film with synchronised speech as well as music and sound effects. It revolutionised the motion-picture industry and marked the end of the silent-film era. Learn More

On this day in 1974, American Dave Kunst completes the first round-the-world journey on foot, taking four years and 21 pairs of shoes to complete the 14,500-mile journey across the land masses of four continents. He left his hometown of Waseca, Minnesota, on June 20, 1970. Near the end of his journey in 1974 he explained the reasons for his epic trek: "I was tired of Waseca, tired of my job, tired of a lot of little people who don't want to think, and tired of my wife." During the long journey, he took on sponsors and helped raise money for UNICEF. Learn More

On this day in 1967, Chief Justice Earl Warren swears in Thurgood Marshall, the first black justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. As chief counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in the 1940s and '50s, Marshall was the architect and executor of the legal strategy that ended the era of official racial segregation. Learn More

On this day in 1889,  the Wyoming state convention approves a constitution that includes a provision granting women the right to vote. Formally admitted into the union the following year, Wyoming thus became the first state in the history of the nation to allow its female citizens to vote. That the isolated western state of Wyoming should be the first to accept women's suffrage was a surprise. Learn More

On this day in 1913, Rudolf Diesel, inventor of the engine that bears his name, disappears from the steamship Dresden while traveling from Antwerp, Belgium to Harwich, England. On October 10, a Belgian sailor aboard a North Sea steamer spotted a body floating in the water; upon further investigation, it turned out that the body was Diesel's. There was, and remains, a great deal of mystery surrounding his death: It was officially judged a suicide, but many people believed (and still believe) that Diesel was murdered. Learn More

On this day in 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming, a young bacteriologist, accidentally discovers one of the great developments of modern medicine. Having left a plate of staphylococcus bacteria uncovered, Fleming noticed that a mold that had fallen on the culture had killed many of the bacteria. He identified the mold as penicillium notatum, similar to the kind found on bread. Learn More

On this day in 1970, unwilling to rest as a one-hit wonder when its first big hit, The Monkees, went off the air in 1968, the television production company Screen Gems wasted no time in trying to repeat its success. On September 25, 1970, in the 8:30 p.m. time slot immediately following The Brady Bunch, ABC premiered a program that would give Screen Gems its second TV-to-pop-chart smash: The Partridge Family. Learn More

On this day in 1789, the Judiciary Act of 1789 is passed by Congress and signed by President George Washington, establishing the Supreme Court of the United States as a tribunal made up of six justices who were to serve on the court until death or retirement. That day, President Washington nominated John Jay to preside as chief justice, and John Rutledge, William Cushing, John Blair, Robert Harrison, and James Wilson to be associate justices. Learn More

On this day in 1933, a party of American geologists lands at the Persian Gulf port of Jubail in Saudi Arabia and begins its journey into the desert. That July, with the discovery of a massive oil field at Ghawar, Saudi King Abdel Aziz had granted the Standard Oil Company of California a concession to "explore and search for and drill and extract and manufacture and transport" petroleum and "kindred bituminous matter" in the country's vast Eastern Province; in turn, Standard Oil immediately dispatched the team of scientists to locate the most profitable spot for the company to begin its drilling. Learn More

On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issues a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which sets a date for the freedom of more than 3 million enslaved in the United States and recasts the Civil War as a fight against slavery. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, shortly after Lincoln's inauguration as America's 16th president, he maintained that the war was about restoring the Union and not about slavery. Learn More

On this day in 1985,  a little-known actor named George Clooney makes his first appearance as a handyman on the popular TV sitcom The Facts of Life. Clooney appeared in 17 episodes of the show, which aired from 1979 to 1988 and chronicled the lives of a group of young women who meet at a fictional boarding school. Years later, he moved on to Hollywood superstardom in the hit TV medical drama ER and such films as The Perfect Storm, Ocean's Eleven, Michael Clayton, Up in the Air and Gravity. Learn More

On this day in 1973, future President Jimmy Carter files a report claiming he had seen a UFO in October 1969. During the presidential campaign of 1976, Carter proimised that if elected president he would encourage the government release of UFO information. After winning the presidency, Carter backed away from his pledge citing a threat to national security. Learn More

On this day in 1967, the Who ended an already explosive, nationally televised performance of "My Generation" with a literal bang that singed Pete Townshend's hair, left shrapnel in Keith Moon's arm and momentarily knocked The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour off the air. The explosion was caused by an excessive number of charges being placed by the bands drummer, Keith Moon, in his bass drum. Learn More

On this day in 1620, the Mayflower sails from Plymouth, England, bound for the New World with 102 passengers. The ship was headed for Virginia, where the colonists-half religious dissenters and half entrepreneurs-had been authorized to settle by the British crown. However, stormy weather and navigational errors forced the Mayflower off course, and on November 21 the "Pilgrims" reached Massachusetts, where they founded the first permanent European settlement in New England in late December. Learn More

On this day in 1962, the Four Seasons, led by Frankie Vallie, see their song "Sherry" reach #1 on the pop charts just 4 weeks after being released. The song, which had been written in just 15 minutes by keyboard player Bob Gaudio, would be followed by two more #1 hits. They would return to the top of the charts several times in the years that followed with their last appearance being in 1976. Learn More

On this day in 1814, Francis Scott Key pens a poem which is later set to music and in 1931 becomes America's national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner." The poem, originally titled "The Defence of Fort McHenry," was written after Key witnessed the Maryland fort being bombarded by the British during the War of 1812. Key was inspired by the sight of a lone U.S. flag still flying over Fort McHenry at daybreak. Learn More

On this day in 2001, At 8:45 a.m. on a clear Tuesday morning, an American Airlines Boeing 767 loaded with 20,000 gallons of jet fuel crashes into the north tower of the World Trade Center in New York City. The impact left a gaping, burning hole near the 80th floor of the 110-story skyscraper, instantly killing hundreds of people and trapping hundreds more in higher floors. Learn More

On this day in 1991, Nirvana's landmark single, "Smells Like Teen Spirit" was released with little fanfare. The song Nirvana's label and management hoped would be a hit off the band's forthcoming album, Nevermind, was "Come as You Are," which was set for release later in the fall. Kurt Cobain, had to be talked into even including "Smells Like Teen Spirit" on Nevermind. Learn More

On this day in 1776, the Continental Congress formally declares the name of the new nation to be the "United States" of America. This replaced the term "United Colonies," which had been in general use. In the Congressional declaration dated September 9, 1776, the delegates wrote, "That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words 'United Colonies' have been used, the stile be altered for the future to the "United States." Learn More

On this day in 1664, Dutch Governor Peter Stuyvesant surrenders New Amsterdam, the capital of New Netherland, to an English naval squadron under Colonel Richard Nicolls. Stuyvesant had hoped to resist the English, but he was an unpopular ruler, and his Dutch subjects refused to rally around him. Following its capture, New Amsterdam's name was changed to New York, in honor of the Duke of York, who organized the mission. Learn More

On this day in 2002, Kelly Clarkson, a 20-year-old cocktail waitress from Texas, wins the first season of American Idol in a live television broadcast from Hollywood's Kodak Theater. Clarkson came out on top in the amateur singing contest over 23-year-old runner-up Justin Guarini after millions of viewers cast their votes for her by phone. She was awarded a recording contract and went on to sell millions of albums and establish a successful music career. Learn More

On this day in 1783, the American Revolution officially comes to an end when representatives of the United States, Great Britain, Spain and France sign the Treaty of Paris. The signing signified America's status as a free nation, as Britain formally recognized the independence of its 13 former American colonies, and the boundaries of the new republic were agreed upon: Florida north to the Great Lakes and the Atlantic coast west to the Mississippi River. Learn More

On this day in 1969, America's first automatic teller machine (ATM) makes its public debut, dispensing cash to customers at Chemical Bank in Rockville Center, New York. ATMs went on to revolutionize the banking industry, eliminating the need to visit a bank to conduct basic financial transactions. By the 1980s, these money machines had become widely popular and handled many of the functions previously performed by human tellers, such as check deposits and money transfers between accounts. Learn More

On this day in 1985, a joint U.S.-French expedition locates the wreck of the RMS Titanic. The sunken liner was about 400 miles east of Newfoundland in the North Atlantic, some 13,000 feet below the surface. Efforts to locate and salvage the Titanic began almost immediately after it sank. But technical limitations-as well as the sheer vastness of the North Atlantic search area-made it extremely difficult. Learn More

On this day in 1997, shortly after midnight, Diana, Princess of Wales-affectionately known as "the People's Princess"-dies in a car crash in Paris. She was 36. Her boyfriend, the Egyptian-born socialite Dodi Fayed, and the driver of the car, Henri Paul, died as well. Princess Diana was one of the most popular public figures in the world. Her death was met with a massive outpouring of grief. Learn More

On this day in 1963, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., the African American civil rights movement reaches its high-water mark when Martin Luther King, Jr., speaks to about 250,000 people attending the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The demonstrators-black and white, poor and rich-came together in the nation's capital to demand voting rights and equal opportunity for African Americans and to appeal for an end to racial segregation and discrimination. Learn More

On this day in 1883, the most powerful volcanic eruption in recorded history occurs on Krakatoa, a small, uninhabited volcanic island located west of Sumatra in Indonesia. Heard 3,000 miles away, the explosions threw five cubic miles of earth 50 miles into the air, created 120-foot tsunamis and killed 36,000 people. Learn More

On this day in 1978, the two Grease numbers that preceded Frankie Valli's title tune as singles were the #1 hit "You're the One That I Want," a duet by the film's co-stars John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John, and the #3 hit "Hopelessly Devoted to You," by Newton-John alone. The cast ensemble performance of the song "Summer Nights" would also become a Top 10 single, making it the only one of the Grease soundtrack's four hit songs that actually came from the original Broadway show. Learn More

On this day in 1939, the Wizard of Oz, which will become one of the best-loved movies in history, opens in theaters around the United States. Filmed at MGM Studios in Culver City, California, The Wizard of Oz was a modest box-office success when it was first released, but its popularity continued to grow after it was televised for the first time in 1956. Learn More

On this day in 79 AD, after centuries of dormancy, Mount Vesuvius erupts in southern Italy, devastating the prosperous Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing thousands. The cities, buried under a thick layer of volcanic material and mud, were never rebuilt and largely forgotten in the course of history. In the 18th century, Pompeii and Herculaneum were rediscovered and excavated, providing an unprecedented archaeological record of the everyday life of an ancient civilization, startlingly preserved in sudden death. Learn More

On this day in 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a proclamation admitting Hawaii into the Union as the 50th state. The president also issued an order for an American flag featuring 50 stars arranged in staggered rows: five six-star rows and four five-star rows. The new flag became official July 4, 1960. Learn More

On this day in 1911, a dispatcher in the New York Times office sends the first telegram around the world via commercial service. Exactly 66 years later, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) sends a different kind of message-a phonograph record containing information about Earth for extraterrestrial beings-shooting into space aboard the unmanned spacecraft Voyager II. Learn More

On this day in 1964, more than six months after taking the East Coast by storm, the Fab Four traveled to California to take the stage at the Cow Palace in San Francisco for opening night of their first-ever concert tour of North America. The Beatles took America by storm during their famous first visit, wowing the millions who watched them during their historic television appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show in February 1964. But after the first great rush of stateside Beatlemania, the Beatles promptly returned to Europe, leaving their American fans to make do with mere records. Learn More

On this day in 1991, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is placed under house arrest during a coup by high-ranking members of his own government, military and police forces. Since becoming secretary of the Communist Party in 1985 and president of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) in 1988, Gorbachev had pursued comprehensive reforms of the Soviet system. Combining perestroika ("restructuring") of the economy-including a greater emphasis on free-market policies-and glasnost ("openness") in diplomacy, he greatly improved Soviet relations with Western democracies, particularly the United States. Learn More

On this day in 1969, the grooviest event in music history-the Woodstock Music & Art Fair-draws to a close after three days of peace, love and rock 'n' roll in upstate New York. The most memorable moment of the concert for many fans was the closing performance by Jimi Hendrix, who gave a rambling, rocking solo guitar performance of "The Star Spangled Banner." Learn More

On this day in 2003, a major outage knocked out power across the eastern United States and parts of Canada. Beginning at 4:10 p.m. ET, 21 power plants shut down in just three minutes. Fifty million people were affected, including residents of New York, Cleveland and Detroit, as well as Toronto and Ottawa, Canada. Although power companies were able to resume some service in as little as two hours, power remained off in other places for more than a day. The outage stopped trains and elevators, and disrupted everything from cellular telephone service to operations at hospitals to traffic at airports. Learn More

On this day in 1952, blues singer Ellie Mae "Big Mama" Thornton recorded "Hound Dog" for the very first time in Los Angeles, California. Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog" (1956) is one of the biggest and most instantly recognizable pop songs in history. It's a song so closely associated with the King of Rock and Roll, in fact, that many may mistakenly assume that it was a Presley original. Learn More

On this day in 1990, fossil hunter Susan Hendrickson discovers three huge bones jutting out of a cliff near Faith, South Dakota. They turn out to be part of the largest-ever Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever discovered, a 65 million-year-old specimen dubbed Sue, after its discoverer. Amazingly, Sue's skeleton was over 90 percent complete, and the bones were extremely well-preserved. Learn More

On this day in 1973, the nostalgic teenage coming-of-age movie American Graffiti, directed and co-written by George Lucas, opens in theaters across the United States. Set in California in the summer of 1962, American Graffiti was nominated for five Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Picture, and helped launch the big-screen careers of Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford, as well as the former child actor and future Oscar-winning filmmaker Ron Howard. The film's success enabled Lucas to get his next movie made, the mega-hit Star Wars (1977). Learn More

On this day in 1846, after a decade of debate about how best to spend a bequest left to America from an obscure English scientist, President James K. Polk signs the Smithsonian Institution Act into law. In 1829, James Smithson died in Italy, leaving behind a will with a peculiar footnote. In the event that his only nephew died without any heirs, Smithson decreed that the whole of his estate would go to "the United States of America, to found at Washington, under the name of the Smithsonian Institution, an Establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge." Learn More

On this day in 1947, Kon-Tiki, a balsa wood raft captained by Norwegian anthropologist Thor Heyerdahl, completes a 4,300-mile, 101-day journey from Peru to Raroia in the Tuamotu Archipelago, near Tahiti. Heyerdahl wanted to prove his theory that prehistoric South Americans could have colonized the Polynesian islands by drifting on ocean currents. Learn More

On this day in 1911, Lucille Desiree Ball, one of America's most famous redheads and beloved comic actresses, is born near Jamestown, New York. At age 15, Ball went to New York City to attend drama school and become an actress. However, she received little encouragement and was rejected multiple times from Broadway chorus lines. In 1951 she would gain fame from her starring role on her namesake TV show, "I Love Lucy". Learn More

On this day in 1777, a 19-year-old French aristocrat, Marie-Joseph Paul Roch Yves Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette, accepts a commission as a major-general in the Continental Army-without pay. During his service as the Continental Congress' secret envoy to France, Silas Deane had, on December 7, 1776, struck an agreement with French military expert, Baron Johann DeKalb, and his protege, the Marquis de Lafayette, to offer their military knowledge and experience to the American cause. Learn More

On this day in 2003, the last of 21,529,464 Volkswagen Beetles built since World War II rolls off the production line at Volkswagen's plant in Puebla, Mexico. One of a 3,000-unit final edition, the baby-blue vehicle was sent to a museum in Wolfsburg, Germany, where Volkswagen is headquartered. The car produced in Puebla that day was the last so-called "classic" VW Beetle, which is not to be confused with the redesigned new Beetle that Volkswagen introduced in 1998. Learn More

On this day in 1967, The Doors "Light My Fire," earned the top spot in the Billboard Hot 100. It transformed The Doors from cult favorites of the rock cognoscenti into international pop stars and avatars of the 60s counterculture. It was the follow-up to the now classic debut single "Break On Through" which had failed to make the national sales charts. Learn More

On this day in 1978, National Lampoon's Animal House, a movie spoof about 1960s college fraternities starring John Belushi, opens in U.S. theaters. Produced with an estimated budget of $3 million, Animal House became a huge, multi-million-dollar box-office hit, spawned a slew of cinematic imitations and became part of pop-culture history with such memorable lines as "Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life, son." Learn More

On this day in 1921, at the University of Toronto, Canadian scientists Frederick Banting and Charles Best successfully isolate insulin-a hormone they believe could prevent diabetes-for the first time. Within a year, the first human sufferers of diabetes were receiving insulin treatments, and countless lives were saved from what was previously regarded as a fatal disease. Learn More

On this day in 1911,  American archeologist Hiram Bingham gets his first look at Machu Picchu, an ancient Inca settlement in Peru that is now one of the world's top tourist destinations. Tucked away in the rocky countryside northwest of Cuzco, Machu Picchu is believed to have been a summer retreat for Inca leaders, whose civilization was virtually wiped out by Spanish invaders in the 16th century. Learn More

On this day in 1933, American aviator Wiley Post returns to Floyd Bennett Field in New York, having flown solo around the world in 7 days, 18 hours, and 49 minutes. He was the first aviator to accomplish the feat. Post began the journey on July 15, flying nonstop to Berlin. After a brief rest, he flew on to the Soviet Union, where he made several stops before returning to North America, with stops in Alaska, Canada, and finally a triumphant landing at his starting point in New York. Learn More

On this day in 2011, NASA's space shuttle program completes its final, and 135th, mission, when the shuttle Atlantis lands at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. During the program's 30-year history, its five orbiters-Columbia, Challenger, Discovery, Atlantis and Endeavour carried more than 350 people into space and flew more than 500 million miles. Learn More

On this day in 1969, at 10:56 p.m. EDT, American astronaut Neil Armstrong, 240,000 miles from Earth, speaks these words to more than a billion people listening at home: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." Stepping off the lunar landing module Eagle, Armstrong became the first human to walk on the surface of the moon. Learn More

On this day in 1955, Disneyland, Walt Disney's metropolis of nostalgia, fantasy, and futurism, opened. The $17 million theme park was built on 160 acres of former orange groves in Anaheim, California, and soon brought in staggering profits. Today, Disneyland hosts more than 14 million visitors a year, who spend close to $3 billion. Learn More

On this day in 1995, Amazon officially opens for business as an online bookseller. Within a month, the fledgling retailer had shipped books to all 50 U.S. states and to 45 countries. Founder Jeff Bezos's motto was "get big fast," and Seattle-based Amazon eventually morphed into an e-commerce colossus, selling everything from groceries to furniture to live ladybugs, and helping to revolutionize the way people shop. Learn More

On this day in 1988, Die Hard, an action film starring Bruce Willis as wisecracking New York City cop John McClane, opens in theaters across the United States. A huge box-office hit, the film established Willis as a movie star and spawned three sequels. Die Hard also became Hollywood shorthand for describing the plot of other actions films, as in "Speed is Die Hard on a bus." Learn More

On this day in 1789, Parisian revolutionaries and mutinous troops storm and dismantle the Bastille, a royal fortress and prison that had come to symbolize the tyranny of the Bourbon monarchs. This dramatic action signaled the beginning of the French Revolution, a decade of political turmoil and terror in which King Louis XVI was overthrown and tens of thousands of people, including the king and his wife Marie-Antoinette, were executed. Learn More

On this day in 1985, at Wembley Stadium in London, Prince Charles and Princess Diana officially open Live Aid, a worldwide rock concert organized to raise money for the relief of famine-stricken Africans. Continued at JFK Stadium in Philadelphia and at other arenas around the world, the 16-hour "superconcert" was globally linked by satellite to more than a billion viewers in 110 nations. Learn More

On this day in 1925, in Dayton, Tennessee, the so-called Scopes Monkey Trial begins with John Thomas Scopes, a young high school science teacher, accused of teaching evolution in violation of a Tennessee state law. The law, which had been passed in March, made it a misdemeanor punishable by fine to "teach any theory that denies the story of the Divine Creation of man as taught in the Bible, and to teach instead that man has descended from a lower order of animals." Learn More

On this day in 1962, "This here ain't no protest song or anything like that, 'cause I don't write no protest songs." That was how Bob Dylan introduced one of the most eloquent protest songs ever written when he first performed it publicly. It was the spring of his first full year in New York City, and he was onstage at Gerde's Folk City in Greenwich Village, talking about a song he claims to have written in just 10 minutes: "Blowin' In The Wind." A few weeks later Dylan walked into a studio and recorded the song that would make him a star. Learn More

On this day in 1951, Paris, the capital city of France, celebrates turning 2,000 years old. In fact, a few more candles would've technically been required on the birthday cake, as the City of Lights was most likely founded around 250 B.C. The history of Paris can be traced back to a Gallic tribe known as the Parisii, who sometime around 250 B.C. settled an island (known today as Ile de la Cite) in the Seine River, which runs through present-day Paris. Learn More

On this day in 2019, after a dominating tournament showing, the U.S. women's national team brings home a record fourth FIFA World Cup title-its second in a row. The team set a women's World Cup record with 26 goals and 12 straight wins, tying Germany as the only teams to score repeat championships. With four World Cup wins-in 1991, 1999, 2015 and 2019-the U.S. is the only team to have won more than two titles. Learn More