Published On: Dec 31 2012 04:21:32 PM ESTUpdated On: Jan 01 2015 02:00:00 AM EST
2013: Singer and actress Patti Page, one of the most successful female recording artists of all time, dies at age 85 in Encinitas, California. She was the best-selling female artist of the 1950s and sold more than 100 million records off the strength of hits such as "Tennessee Waltz," "With My Eyes Wide Open, I'm Dreaming," "All My Love (Bolero)," "I Went to Your Wedding" and "(How Much Is That) Doggie in the Window."
2001: Actor Ray Walston, best known for his roles in the TV sitcom "My Favorite Martian" (pictured) and as high school teacher Mr. Hand in the movie "Fast Times at Ridgemont High," dies of complications from lupus at the age of 86 in Beverly Hills, California. Walston is also remembered for his roles in "South Pacific," "Damn Yankees" and "The Sting" and as Judge Henry Bone on the TV drama series "Picket Fences."
2000: After years of preparation for Y2K, only minor computer-related problems are reported, including a problem with Hotmail, with a nuclear power plant in Japan and with apartment heating in Korea.
1999: The euro is officially introduced as an accounting currency, replacing the former European Currency Unit at a ratio of 1:1. However, actual physical euro coins and banknotes wouldn't enter circulation until three years later, on Jan. 1, 2002.
1997: Country singer-songwriter Townes Van Zandt dies at the age of 52 in Smyrna, Tennessee, from health problems stemming from years of substance abuse. Although he struggled to find success while alive, the 2000s saw a resurgence of interest in his music. Today, many of his songs, including "Pancho and Lefty," "If I Needed You," "To Live is to Fly" and "No Place to Fall," are considered standards of their genre.
1995: The last "Far Side" cartoon, created by Gary Larson in 1980, is published. The single-panel comic was carried by more than 1,900 daily newspapers, translated into 17 languages, and collected into calendars and 23 compilation books during its 15-year run.
1995: The World Trade Organization officially commences. The WTO oversees the implementation, administration and operation of trade agreements and provides a forum for negotiations and for settling disputes.
1994: Actor Cesar Romero, who played a wide range of screen roles but is perhaps best remembered for playing The Joker on the 1960s "Batman" TV series, dies of bronchitis and pneumonia at age 86 in Santa Monica, California. Romero is also known for roles in movies such as "The Thin Man," "Ocean's 11," "Captain from Castile" and "Public Enemy's Wife" and on TV in shows including "Chico and the Man" and "Falcon Crest."
1994: The North American Free Trade Agreement, creating a trilateral trade bloc in North America, comes into effect.
1993: Czechoslovakia is peacefully dissolved in what is dubbed by media as the "Velvet Divorce," resulting in the creation of the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
1985: VH-1 premieres as an adult contemporary music video channel with Marvin Gaye's "Star Spangled Banner" video.
1984: The original American Telephone & Telegraph Company is divested of its 22 Bell System companies as a result of the settlement of the 1974 United States Department of Justice antitrust suit against AT&T. The company's local operations were split into seven independent Regional Holding Companies, also known as Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs), or "Baby Bells."
1966: Effective on this day, all cigarette packages in the United States begin carrying the health warning: "Caution: Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health." This resulted from landmark federal legislation enacted in 1965 that required health warnings on cigarette packages.
1961: The first AFL Championship Game takes place, with the Houston Oilers beating the Los Angeles Chargers 24-16 at Jeppesen Stadium in Houston, Texas.
1960: American actress Margaret Sullavan, best known for her roles in movies such as "Three Comrades," "The Shopworn Angel" and "The Shop Around the Corner" (pictured here with James Stewart), dies of an overdose of barbiturates at the age of 50 in New Haven, Connecticut. Sullavan was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance in 1938's "Three Comrades."
1960: Johnny Cash plays the first of his jailhouse shows when he performs at San Quentin prison in San Rafael, California. Among those in the captive audience is 20-year-old Merle Haggard, who was serving time for burglary.
1959: Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista is overthrown by Fidel Castro's forces during the Cuban Revolution. Batista immediately fled the island with an amassed personal fortune to the Dominican Republic and eventually found political asylum in Portugal. Castro (right) is seen here with fellow revolutionary Camilo Cienfuegos entering Havana on Jan. 8, 1959.
1953: Country singer-songwriter Hank Williams, best known for such songs as "Lovesick Blues," "Honky Tonkin'" and "Your Cheatin' Heart," dies suddenly in the early morning hours at the age of 29 from heart failure brought on by pills and alcohol. He was riding in the backseat of a Cadillac somewhere in Virginia or West Virginia on the way to a New Year's Day show in Canton, Ohio, when he died.
1942: The Declaration by United Nations, the basis of the modern United Nations, is signed by 26 nations during World War II.
1942: The Rose Bowl is played in Durham, North Carolina, due to fears of a Japanese attack on the West Coast of the United States following the attack on Pearl Harbor. Oregon State beat Duke 20-16 in the first and only time the game has been played outside of Pasadena, California.
1942: Country Joe McDonald, who was the lead singer of the 1960s psychedelic rock group Country Joe and the Fish, is born in Washington, D.C. McDonald's best known song is his "The 'Fish' Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-to-Die Rag," a novelty song about the Vietnam War featuring the familiar chorus "One, two, three, what are we fighting for?" that is well known to the Woodstock generation and Vietnam veterans of the 1960s and '70s. He's seen here at a Woodstock reunion in 1979.
1938: Actor Frank Langella, best known for roles in movies such as "Dave," "Good Night, and Good Luck" and "Frost/Nixon," is born in Bayonne, New Jersey. He earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for portraying former U.S. President Richard Nixon on "Frost/Nixon."
1937: The first Cotton Bowl football game is played in Dallas, Texas, with Texas Christian University beating Marquette 16-6.
1935: The first Sugar Bowl, held at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans; the first Orange Bowl, held at Miami Field in Miami, Florida; and the first Sun Bowl, held at El Paso (Texas) High School Stadium; take place. They are the second-oldest college bowl games after the Rose Bowl.
1927: Pro Football Hall of Fame halfback and kicker Doak Walker, who won two NFL championships in his six years with the Detroit Lions, is born in Dallas, Texas. Walker led the NFL in scoring twice (1950 and 1955) and tallied 534 points in his career (330 on field goals and extra points). He was named the NFL Rookie of the Year in 1950 and also earned the Heisman Trophy as a junior at Southern Methodist University in 1948. The Doak Walker Award, first awarded in 1990, honors the top college football running back in America. Walker, who died at age 71 on Sept. 27, 1998, is also an inductee of the College Football Hall of Fame.
1919: Boxer Rocky Graziano, considered one of the greatest knockout artists in boxing history, is born Thomas Rocco Barbella in Brooklyn, New York. Graziano beat Tony Zale in 1947 to become the middleweight champion of the world, but lost the title in a rematch with Zale the following year. He compiled a career record of 67 wins (52 by knockout), 10 losses and six draws. He died from cardiopulmonary failure on May 22, 1990, at the age of 71.
1919: Novelist J. D. Salinger, best known for his 1951 novel "The Catcher in the Rye" and his reclusive lifestyle, is born in New York City. Salinger died of natural causes at age 91 on Jan. 27, 2010, at his home in Cornish, New Hampshire.
1915: Aspirin is made available for the first time in tablet form. The medicine had previously been sold in powder form since May 1, 1899.
1911: Hall of Fame baseball player Hank Greenberg, one of the premier power hitters of his generation, is born in New York City. Greenberg, who played all but one season of his 13-season MLB career with the Detroit Tigers, was a five-time All-Star, was twice named the American League's Most Valuable Player and won two World Series titles with the Tigers. He still holds the AL record for most RBIs in a single season by a right-handed batter and also became famous as the first Jewish superstar in American professional sports. He died of kidney cancer at age 75 on Sept. 4, 1986.
1902: The Rose Bowl, then titled the "Tournament East-West football game," is held for the first time in Pasadena, California, starting the tradition of New Year's Day bowl games. The game, which was added to help fund the cost of the Rose Parade, featured Michigan and Stanford, with Michigan winning 49-0 after Stanford quit in the third quarter. The game was so lopsided that for the next 15 years Tournament of Roses officials instead turned to chariot races, ostrich races and other events instead of football. The next Rose Bowl game was held on New Year's Day in 1916.
1895: J. Edgar Hoover is born in Washington, D.C. Hoover, seen here in 1961, would become director of the Bureau of Investigation, the predecessor to the FBI, in 1924, and was instrumental in founding the FBI in 1935, where he remained director until his death in 1972.
1894: Heinrich Hertz, the German physicist who conclusively proved the existence of electromagnetic waves, dies of granulomatosis with polyangiitis, an inflammation of blood vessels, at age 36 in Bonn, German Empire. The scientific unit of frequency was named the "hertz" in his honor.
1892: New York's new Immigration Depot opens at Ellis Island to provide improved facilities for the massive numbers of arrivals. The first immigrant to pass through Ellis was a "rosy-cheeked Irish girl," Annie Moore, age 15, from County Cork. She came with her two younger brothers to join their parents in New York City. That first day, three large ships were waiting to land, and 700 immigrants passed through Ellis Island. In the first year, nearly 450,000 immigrants passed through the island.
1890: The Tournament of Roses Parade in Pasadena, California, is first held. The first event, staged by Pasadena's Valley Hunt Club, featured horse-drawn carriages covered in flowers, followed by foot races, polo matches and a game of tug-of-war on the town lot. Pictured is the parade from 1893.
1879: Author E. M. Forster, best known for novels such as "Howards End," "A Room with a View" and "A Passage to India," is born in London, England.
1863: U.S. President Abraham Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation, which declares that all slaves in the rebel states are free.
1808: The importation of slaves into the United States is banned.
1773: The hymn that became known as "Amazing Grace," then titled "1 Chronicles 17:16–17" is first used to accompany a sermon led by John Newton in the town of Olney, England.
1772: The first traveler's cheques, issued by the London Credit Exchange Company and useable in 90 European cities, go on sale in London, England.
1752: Betsy Ross is born Elizabeth Griscom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Ross is widely credited with making the first American flag, although there is no credible historical evidence that the story is true.
1735: Paul Revere, the American patriot most famous for alerting Colonial militia of approaching British forces before the battles of Lexington and Concord, is born in Boston, Massachusetts.