2008: American author Donald E. Westlake, a three-time Edgar Award winner with more than 100 novels and non-fiction books to his credit, dies of a heart attack at the age of 75 in Mexico. He specialized in crime fiction, especially comic capers, with his most famous characters being the criminals Parker and John Dortmunder. Several of his books were made into movies, including "The Hot Rock," "Cops and Robbers," "Bank Shot" and "What's the Worst that Could Happen?" He also was a screenwriter, writing the scripts for 1987's "The Stepfather" and 1990's "The Grifters," for which he earned an Oscar nomination.
2004: Taipei 101, the tallest skyscraper in the world at the time, standing at a height of 1,670 feet, officially opens. It held the record as the world's tallest building until the opening of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai in 2010.
1999: Boris Yeltsin, the first president of Russia, makes a surprise announcement of his resignation, leaving his chosen successor, then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, as acting president, with elections set for March 26, 2000.
1999: The United States government relinquishes control of the Panama Canal, as well as all the adjacent land to the canal known as the Panama Canal Zone, to Panama, complying with the signing of the 1977 Torrijos–Carter Treaties.
1999: The London Eye, the world's largest Ferris wheel at the time, opens by the banks of the River Thames. The 443-foot tall wheel was surpassed first by the 520-foot Star of Nanchang in China in 2006 and then the 541-foot Singapore Flyer in 2008.
1995: Cartoonist Bill Watterson ends his "Calvin and Hobbes" comic strip after 10 years and 3,150 strips. At the height of its popularity, the strip was featured in more than 2,400 newspapers worldwide.
1995: Gymnast Gabby Douglas, who won gold medals in both the individual and team all-around competitions at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, is born in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
1990: Pro Football Hall of Fame coach George Allen, who never had a losing season in 12 seasons with the Los Angeles Rams and Washington, dies of ventricular fibrillation at the age of 72 in Palos Verdes Estates, California. He ranked 10th all-time in coaching victories at time of retirement and has the fourth best winning percentage in the NFL.
1985: Ricky Nelson, the former teen idol who rose to fame thanks to his role along with his family on "The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet," dies when his private plane attempts an emergency landing and hits some trees near De Kalb, Texas. Nelson, who was one of seven killed in the incident, was 45 at the time.
1984: Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen loses his left arm in an auto accident in England. He would help design an electronic drum kit that allowed him to continue playing drums with one arm and stay with the band as it exploded with its fourth album, 1987's "Hysteria."
1977: South Korean singer and rapper PSY, who broke through with his worldwide hit "Gangnam Style" in 2012, is born Park Jae-sang in Seoul, South Korea.
1976: The Cars give their debut performance at Pease Air Force Base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.
1973: Australian hard rock band AC/DC makes their live debut at Chequers Nightclub in Sydney, Australia.
1973: Rock band Journey makes their concert debut at the Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco, California.
1972: Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente, 38, dies in a plane crash off the coast of Isla Verde, Puerto Rico, immediately after takeoff for a relief mission to earthquake victims in Nicaragua. Clemente, who won two World Series titles during his 18 seasons with the Pittsburgh Pirates, was the 1966 National League MVP, a 15-time All-Star, a 12-time Gold Glove winner, and a member of the 3,000 hit club. He would be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1973.
1972: Dick Clark begins a new holiday tradition with his first "New Year's Rockin' Eve" broadcast. The inaugural event was hosted by rock band Three Dog Night, with performances by Helen Reddy, Al Green, and Blood, Sweat and Tears. Clark himself reported live from New York City's Times Square for the countdown to midnight. He would take over full hosting duties in 1974 and continue through 2004. After suffering a stroke and missing the 2005 version, he returned in a limited role from 2006 through the 2011 edition.
1972: Singer-songwriter and actor Joey McIntyre, best known as the youngest member of the boy band New Kids on the Block, is born in Needham, Massachusetts.
1970: Paul McCartney sues to dissolve The Beatles' contractual partnership and breaks ties with Allen Klein, who the other three members had chosen to manage their affairs. Legal disputes would continue long after the band's break-up, and the dissolution wouldn't be formalized until Jan. 9, 1975.
1967: The Youth International Party, a radically youth-oriented and countercultural revolutionary offshoot of the free speech and anti-war movements of the 1960s, popularly known as the "Yippies," is founded. Pictured is a poster advertising the 1968 Festival of Life in Chicago.
1967: The Green Bay Packers win the National Football League championship game by defeating the Dallas Cowboys 21-17 at Lambeau Field in Green Bay, Wisconsin. The game is known as the "Ice Bowl" since it was played in a wind chill of 40 degrees below zero. By winning the game, the Packers earned the right to move on to face American Football League champion Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II.
1966: The Monkees' "I'm a Believer" hits No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart, where it would stay for seven weeks.
1965: Author Nicholas Sparks, best known for his novels that have been adapted into films, including "Message in a Bottle," "A Walk to Remember," "The Notebook," "Dear John" and "The Last Song," is born in Omaha, Nebraska.
1961: The Beach Boys play a show under this name for the first time at the Ritchie Valens Memorial Dance in Long Beach, California. The concert was headlined by Ike & Tina Turner.
1959: Actor Val Kilmer, best known for movies such as "Top Gun," "Willow," "The Doors," "Heat," "Tombstone" and "Batman Forever," is born in Los Angeles.
1959: Rock musician Paul Westerberg, best known as the former lead singer, guitarist, and songwriter of The Replacements in the 1980s, is born in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
1958: Actress Bebe Neuwirth, best known for playing Dr. Lilith Sternin on "Cheers" and "Frasier" and for her Tony-winning roles on Broadway, is born in Princeton, New Jersey.
1955: The General Motors Corporation becomes the first U.S. corporation to make more than $1 billion in a year.
1951: The Marshall Plan expires after distributing more than $13.3 billion in foreign aid to rebuild Europe following World War II. Pictured is a construction project in Recklinghausen, Germany, in the early 1950s that was undertaken with funding from the Marshall Plan.
1948: Singer-songwriter Donna Summer, known for her 1970s disco anthems like "Last Dance" and "I Feel Love," is born in Boston, Massachusetts. Summer, who died of lung cancer at age 63 on May 17, 2012, was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2013.
1947: Actor Tim Matheson, best known for playing Eric "Otter" Stratton in 1978's "National Lampoon's Animal House" and Vice President John Hoynes in the TV series "The West Wing," is born in Glendale, California.
1944: Filmmaker Taylor Hackford, best known for directing movies such as "An Officer and a Gentleman," "Against All Odds," "White Nights," "Proof of Life" and "Ray," is born in Santa Barbara, California. Hackford received an Academy Award for Live Action Short Film for "Teenage Father" in 1979 and was nominated for Oscars for Best Director and Best Picture for 2004's "Ray." He's seen here with his wife, Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren, in 2012.
1943: Singer-songwriter John Denver is born in Roswell, New Mexico. Denver would go on to earn 12 gold and four platinum albums over a 35-year career with his signature songs "Thank God I'm a Country Boy," "Take Me Home, Country Roads," "Rocky Mountain High" and "Sunshine on My Shoulders." He died at age 53 when his experimental aircraft crashed into the Pacific Ocean on Oct. 12, 1997.
1943: Actor Ben Kingsley, best known for his Oscar-winning portrayal of Mohandas Gandhi in the 1982 film "Gandhi," is born in Snainton, North Riding of Yorkshire, England. Kingsley, seen here at left with fellow actor Bruce Willis, is also known for roles in movies such as "Bugsy," "Schindler's List," "House of Sand and Fog," "Sexy Beast" and "Hugo."
1938: Police in Indianapolis, Indiana, put the "drunkometer," invented in 1931 by Indiana University professor Rolla N. Harger and patented in 1936, to its first practical New Year's Eve test as a breath analyzer. A suspected drunken driver would breathe into a balloon and the breath sample was then pumped through an acidified potassium permanganate solution. If there was alcohol in the breath sample, the solution changed color. The greater the color change, the more alcohol there was present in the breath. Pictured here with Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Police Chief William Hershner is the 1950s model.
1937: Actor Anthony Hopkins, best known for his Oscar-winning performance as Hannibal Lecter in 1991's "The Silence of the Lambs," is born in Port Talbot, Glamorgan, Wales. Hopkins is also known for roles in movies such as "The Elephant Man," "Bram Stoker's Dracula," "Legends of the Fall," "The Remains of the Day," "Nixon" and "Amistad."
1935: A patent is issued for the game of Monopoly assigned to Parker Brothers, Inc., by Charles Darrow of Pennsylvania (No. 2,026,082). The patent titled it a "Board Game Apparatus" and described it as "intended primarily to provide a game of barter, thus involving trading and bargaining" in which "much of the interest in the game lies in trading and in striking shrewd bargains." The company had already acquired all of Darrow's rights to the game and begun selling its version earlier in the year.
1907: New York City's Times Square holds its first New Year's Eve ball drop, with hundreds of thousands of people congregating to watch an iron and wood ball, lit with 100 25-watt bulbs, weighing 700 pounds and measuring 5 feet in diameter, being lowered on a pole atop the One Times Square building. The celebration replaced a lavish fireworks display from the top of the building that was held from 1904 to 1906, but stopped by city officials because of the danger of fire.
1880: George C. Marshall, who served as the U.S. Army chief of staff during World War II and as the chief military adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, is born in Uniontown, Pennsylvania. He also served as secretary of state and secretary of defense under President Harry S. Truman, winning a Nobel Peace Prize for his part in crafting the program to help rebuild European economies after World War II that became known as the Marshall Plan.
1879: Thomas Edison demonstrates incandescent lighting to the public for the first time, in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
1879: Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera "Pirates of Penzance" premieres at the Fifth Avenue Theatre in New York City.
1870: Goodrich, Tew & Co. is formed as a partnership by B.F. Goodrich and his brother-in-law, Harvey W. Tew, with others in Akron, Ohio, to become the first rubber manufacturer west of the Appalachians. It would incorporate as the B.F. Goodrich Company in 1880.
1869: Painter Henri Matisse, one of the leading figures in modern art, is born in Le Cateau-Cambrésis, Nord, France.
1862: Swamped by high waves during a heavy storm while under tow by the USS Rhode Island, the Union ironclad ship USS Monitor sinks off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Sixteen of the ship's 62 crewmen were lost in the storm.
1857: Queen Victoria chooses Ottawa, then a small logging town, as the capital of Canada. Pictured is the capital's parliament building under construction in 1863.
1759: Arthur Guinness signs a 9,000-year lease at £45 per annum for an unused four-acre brewery at St. James's Gate in Dublin, Ireland, and starts brewing Guinness.
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