On This Day Alert

On this day in 1973, future President Jimmy Carter files a report with the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), claiming he had seen an Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) in October 1969. Carter promised that, if elected president, he would encourage the government release "every piece of information" about UFOs available to the public and to scientists. After winning the presidency, though, Carter backed away from this pledge, saying that the release of some information might have "defense implications" and pose a threat to national security. Learn More

On this day in 1908, Buick Motor Company head William Crapo Durant spends $2,000 to incorporate General Motors in New Jersey. Durant, a high-school dropout, had made his fortune building horse-drawn carriages, and in fact he hated cars-he thought they were noisy, smelly, and dangerous. Nevertheless, the giant company he built would dominate the American auto industry for decades. Learn More


On this day in 2004, TV talk-show host Oprah Winfrey gives a brand-new Pontiac G-6 sedan, worth $28,500, to everyone in her studio audience: a total of 276 cars in all. Oprah had told her producers to fill the crowd with people who "desperately needed" the cars, and when she announced the prize mayhem-crying, screaming, delirium, fainting-broke out all around her. It was, as one media expert told a reporter, "one of the great promotional stunts in the history of television." Learn More

On this day in 1940, near Montignac, France, a collection of prehistoric cave paintings are discovered by four teenagers who stumbled upon the ancient artwork after following their dog down a narrow entrance into a cavern. The 15,000- to 17,000-year-old paintings, consisting mostly of animal representations, are among the finest examples of art from the Upper Paleolithic period. Learn More

On this day in 1987, the thriller Fatal Attraction, about a married man who has a fling with a woman who then becomes obsessed with him and stalks his family, premieres in U.S. theaters. Fatal Attraction, which starred Michael Douglas and Glenn Close, was a box-office hit and garnered six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress. Learn More

On this day in 1977, at Baumetes Prison in Marseille, France, Hamida Djandoubi, a Tunisian immigrant convicted of murder, becomes the last person executed by guillotine. The guillotine first gained fame during the French Revolution when physician and revolutionary Joseph-Ignace Guillotin won passage of a law requiring all death sentences to be carried out by "means of a machine." Decapitating machines had been used earlier in Ireland and England, and Guillotin and his supporters viewed these devices as more humane than other execution techniques, such as hanging or firing squad.  Learn More

On this day in 1957, "On the Road"  by Jack Kerouac is published. When the book was originally released, The New York Times hailed it as "the most beautifully executed, the clearest and the most important utterance yet made by the generation Kerouac himself named years ago as 'beat,' and whose principal avatar he is." In 1998, the Modern Library ranked On the Road 55th on its list of the 100 best English-language novels of the 20th century. The novel was chosen by Time magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. Learn More

On this day in 1972, U.S. swimmer Mark Spitz won his seventh gold medal at the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich. Spitz swam the fly leg of the 400-meter medley relay, and his team set a new world-record time of 3 minutes, 48.16 seconds. Remarkably, Spitz also established new world records in the six other events in which he won the gold. At the time, no other athlete had won so many gold medals at a single Olympiad. The record would stand until Michael Phelps took home eight gold medals at the Beijing Games in 2012. Learn More

On this day in 1783, the American Revolution officially came 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 2005, Hurricane Katrina makes landfall near New Orleans, Louisiana, as a Category 4 hurricane. Despite being only the third most powerful storm of the 2005 hurricane season, Katrina was the worst natural disaster in the history of the United States. After briefly coming ashore in southern Florida on August 25 as a Category 1 hurricane, Katrina gained strength before slamming into the Gulf Coast on August 29th. Learn More

On this day in 1955, the first edition of "The Guinness Book of Records" is published in Great Britain; it quickly proves to be a hit. The inspiration for the record book can be traced to November 1951, when Sir Hugh Beaver, managing director of the Guinness Brewery  was on a hunting trip in Ireland. After failing to shoot a golden plover, Beaver and the members of his hunting party debated whether the creature was Europe's fastest game bird but were unable to locate a book with the answer. Learn More

On this day in 1978, Frankie Valli's "Grease"-reached the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. 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. Learn More

On this day in 1970, lead singer and primary songwriter Lou Reed played his last gig with the Velvet Underground at the famous Manhattan rock club Max's Kansas City. Arguably the most influential American band of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Velvet Underground had an impact on modern rock and roll that was well out of proportion to the popularity they achieved in their short-lived heyday. Learn More

On this day in 1864, the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick of Armies in the Field is adopted by 12 nations meeting in Geneva. The agreement, advocated by Swiss humanitarian Jean-Henri Dunant, called for nonpartisan care to the sick and wounded in times of war and provided for the neutrality of medical personnel. It also proposed the use of an international emblem to mark medical personnel and supplies. In honor of Dunant's nationality, a red cross on a white background-the Swiss flag in reverse-was chosen. Learn More

On this day in 1959, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signed 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 1920, seven men, including legendary all-around athlete and football star Jim Thorpe, met to organize a professional football league at the Jordan and Hupmobile Auto Showroom in Canton, Ohio. The meeting led to the creation of the American Professional Football Conference (APFC), the forerunner to the successful National Football League. Learn More

On this day in 1985, Michael Jackson purchased the publishing rights to the vast majority of the Beatles' catalog for $47 million, outbidding McCartney himself. It was during their collaboration on 1983's "Say Say Say" that former Beatle Paul McCartney is said to have advised King of Pop Michael Jackson to invest some of his enormous wealth in music publishing. LEARN MORE

On this day in 1982, the teenage coming-of-age comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High opens in theaters around the United States. Written by Cameron Crowe and directed by Amy Heckerling, the film follows a year in the life of high school students. The ensemble cast featured the then relatively unknown future A-list actors Sean Penn, Nicolas Cage and Forest Whitaker, as well as Judge Reinhold, Eric Stoltz, Ray Walston and Anthony Edwards.  Learn More

On this day in 1988, Edmonton Oilers center Wayne Gretzky is traded to the Los Angeles Kings. At age 27, Gretzky was already widely considered the greatest player in hockey history and was the owner of 43 National Hockey League scoring records. Learn More

On this day in 1988, the Chicago Cubs host the first night game in the history of Wrigley Field. The first-ever night game in professional baseball took place nearly 60 years earlier.  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.  Learn More

On this day in 1981, MTV: Music Television goes on the air for the first time ever, with the words "Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll." The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" was the first music video to air on the new cable television channel, which initially was available only to households in parts of New Jersey. Learn More

On the morning of this day in 1975, James Riddle Hoffa, one of the most influential American labor leaders of the 20th century, is officially reported missing after he failed to return home the previous night. Though he is popularly believed to have been the victim of a Mafia hit, conclusive evidence was never found and Hoffa's fate remains a mystery. 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. Learn More

On this day in 1958, the U.S. Congress passed legislation establishing the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), a civilian agency responsible for coordinating America's activities in space. Learn More

On this day in 1978, Louise Joy Brown, the world's first baby to be conceived via in vitro fertilization (IVF) is born at Oldham and District General Hospital in Manchester, England, to parents Lesley and Peter Brown. The healthy baby was delivered shortly before midnight by caesarean section and weighed in at five pounds, 12 ounces.  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 2005, the French made documentary about emperor penguins in Antarctica opened in theaters across the U.S. It would win numerous awards, including an Oscar on its way to becoming one of the highest-grossing documentaries in movie history. Learn More

On this day in 1879, Doc Holliday committed his first murder, killing a man for shooting up his New Mexico saloon. Despite his formidable reputation as a deadly gunslinger, Doc Holliday only engaged in eight shootouts during his life, and it has only been verified that he killed two men. Learn More

On this day in 64, the great fire of Rome broke out and destroyed much of the city. Despite the well-known stories, there is no evidence that the Roman emperor, Nero, either started the fire or played the fiddle while it burned. Learn More

On this day in 1955, Disneyland opened. Sitting on 160 acres of former orange groves in Anaheim, California the amusement park cost $17 million to construct. Today, it generates roughly $3 billion in annual sales. 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. Learn More

On this day in 2006, the San Francisco-based podcasting company Odeo officially releases Twttr-later changed to Twitter-its short messaging service (SMS) for groups, to the public. Learn More

On this day in 1979, "Disco Demolition" night at Chicago's Comiskey Park took place. The event, which led to at least nine injuries, 39 arrests and the cancellation and forfeit of a Major League Baseball game, is widely credited-or, depending on your perspective, blamed-with dealing disco its death blow.  Learn More

On this day in 1979, Parts of Skylab, America's first space station, come crashing down on Australia and into the Indian Ocean five years after the last manned Skylab mission ended. No one was injured. Learn More

On this day in 1863, Confederate General Robert E. Lee's last attempt at breaking the Union line ends in disastrous failure, bringing the most decisive battle of the American Civil War to an end.  Learn More

On this day in 1997, the science fiction-comedy movie Men in Black, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, opens in theaters around the United States.  Learn More

On this day in 1953, workers at a Chevrolet plant in Flint, Michigan, assemble the first Corvette, a two-seater sports car that would become an American icon. The first completed production car rolled off the assembly line two days later, one of just 300 Corvettes made that year. Learn More

On this day in 1939, one of the most famous scenes in movie history is filmed-Rhett Butler and Scarlett O'Hara parting in Gone with the Wind. Director Victor Fleming also shot the scene using the alternate line, "Frankly, my dear, I just don't care," in case the film censors objected to the word "damn." The censors approved the movie but fined producer David O. Selznick $5,000 for including the curse. Learn More

On this day in 1997, U.S. Air Force officials release a 231-page report dismissing long-standing claims of an alien spacecraft crash in Roswell, New Mexico, almost exactly 50 years earlier.  Learn More

On this day in 1975, Jaws, a film directed by Steven Spielberg that made countless viewers afraid to go into the water, opens in theaters.  Learn More

On this day in 1789, English Captain William Bligh and 18 others, cast adrift from the HMS Bounty seven weeks before, reach Timor in the East Indies after traveling nearly 4,000 miles in a small, open boat. Learn More

On this day in 1986, Bishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the 1984 Nobel Prize for Peace, meets with South African President P.W. Botha to discuss the nationwide state of emergency declared by Botha in response to the anti-apartheid protests.  Learn More

On this day in 1987, in one of his most famous Cold War speeches, President Ronald Reagan challenges Soviet Leader Mikhail Gorbachev to "tear down" the Berlin Wall, a symbol of the repressive Communist era in a divided Germany.  Learn More

On this day in 1986, the hit John Hughes-directed teen comedy "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" was released. It starred Matthew Broderick as a popular high school student in suburban Illinois who fakes an illness in order to score a day off from school.  Learn More

On this day in 1949, George Orwell's novel of a dystopian future, 1984, is published. The novel's all-seeing leader, known as "Big Brother," becomes a universal symbol for intrusive government and oppressive bureaucracy. Learn More

On this day in 2005, the family of W. Mark Felt ended 30 years of speculation, identifying Felt, the former FBI assistant director, as "Deep Throat," the secret source who helped unravel the Watergate scandal. Learn More

On this day in 1796, Edward Jenner, an English country doctor from Gloucestershire, administers the world's first vaccination as a preventive treatment for smallpox, a disease that had killed millions of people over the centuries. Learn More

On this day in 1971, celebrating his 21st birthday, Stevie Wonder left Motown Records. Berry Gordy had signed 11-year-old Steveland Hardaway Morris to a contract at the age of 11. Learn More

On this day in 1994, in his inaugural address, Mandela, who spent 27 years of his life as a political prisoner of the South African government, declared that "the time for the healing of the wounds has come." Learn More

On this day in 1963, with the release of Dr. No, moviegoers get their first look-down the barrel of a gun-at the super-spy James Bond, the immortal character created by Ian Fleming in his now-famous series of novels and portrayed onscreen by the relatively unknown Scottish actor Sean Connery. Learn More

The channel tunnel, or "Chunnel," connects Folkstone, England, with Sangatte, France, 31 miles away. The Chunnel cut travel time between England and France to a swift 35 minutes and eventually between London and Paris to two-and-a-half hours. Learn More

Co-created by Stan Lee, the legendary writer-editor behind Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, X-Men and the Incredible Hulk, among others, Iron Man made his first appearance in the pages of Marvel's comic books in 1963. Learn More

Months before its release, Orson Welles' landmark film Citizen Kane began generating such controversy that Radio City Music Hall eventually refused to show it. Instead, Citizen Kane, now revered as one of the greatest movies in history, made its debut at the smaller RKO Palace Theater on this day in 1941. Learn More

The impresarios behind Studio 54 were Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager, college roommates at Syracuse University who got into the nightclub business after their first venture, a chain of steak restaurants, failed to flourish. Learn More