49 B.C.: After the Roman Senate ordered Julius Caesar to lay down his military command and return to Rome, he refuses and instead crosses the Rubicon River with a legion to march into the city itself. The move signaled the start of civil war, from which Caesar would emerge as the unrivaled leader of Rome.
1776: Thomas Paine anonymously publishes the pamphlet "Common Sense." The 48-page pamphlet, which presented an argument for freedom from British rule at a time when the question of seeking independence was still undecided, would become an instant success.
1778: Swedish botanist and explorer Carl Linnaeus, who was the first to establish a precise biological classification, with a uniform system for naming organisms by genus and species, dies at the age of 70 near Uppsala, Sweden, from the effects of his third stroke in a four-year span.
1812: The New Orleans, the first steamboat to sail down the Mississippi River, arrives in New Orleans, La. It had left Pittsburgh, Pa., on Oct. 20, 1811, reaching Louisville, Ky., in four days, and then spent three weeks traveling between Louisville and Cincinnati while waiting for the waters of the Ohio River to rise enough to safely continue to New Orleans. The 138-foot ship had a 30-foot beam and was propelled by a stern-wheel, assisted at times by sails, and reached a sped of 10 miles per hour. Its journey helped usher in the era of commercial steamboat navigation on the country's western rivers.
1843: Outlaw Frank James, who, with his brother, Jesse James, robbed banks, stagecoaches and trains as members of one gang or another following the Civil War, is born in Clay County, Mo. He's seen here in 1898.
1862: American firearms inventor Samuel Colt, who made the mass-production of the revolver commercially viable for the first time, dies of gout at the age of 47 in Hartford, Conn.
1863: The London Underground, the world's oldest underground railway, opens to the public with a four-mile line running between Paddington (Bishop's Road) and Farringdon Street.
1883: Dr. Samuel A. Mudd, who was convicted and imprisoned for aiding and conspiring with John Wilkes Booth in the 1865 assassination of President Abraham Lincoln, dies of pneumonia at the age of 49 in Waldorf, Md. Mudd, who met with Booth several times before the assassination and set, splinted and bandaged Booth's broken leg afterward, was pardoned by President Andrew Johnson and released from prison in 1869.
1901: Capt. Anthony F. Lucas, a Louisiana mining engineer and oil prospector, makes the first major discovery of oil in Texas at Spindletop, Texas. The "Lucas Gusher" would spray oil more than 150 feet in the air for nine days before being capped and soon produced more than 100,000 barrels of oil per day. The frenzy of oil exploration and the economic development it generated in the state became known as the Texas Oil Boom.
1904: Actor and dancer Ray Bolger, best known for playing the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz," is born in Boston, Mass. He died of bladder cancer at age 83 on Jan. 15, 1987.
1917: American frontiersman William "Buffalo Bill" Cody dies of kidney failure at the age of 70 in Denver, Colo. Cody, a soldier, buffalo hunter and showman, was one of the most colorful figures of the American Old West and became famous for the "Wild West" shows he organized with cowboy themes.
1920: The Treaty of Versailles takes effect, officially ending World War I and establishing the League of Nations.
1927: Fritz Lang's futuristic film "Metropolis" is released in Germany. The film is notable for its technical achievements and is often rated as one of the greatest silent films ever made.
1929: "The Adventures of Tintin," one of the most popular European comic books ever, is first published in Le Petit Vingtième, a children's supplement to the Belgian newspaper Le XXe Siècle. The comic was created by Belgian artist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name of Hergé, and follows the adventures of Tintin, a young Belgian reporter.
1935: Rockabilly musician Ronnie Hawkins, best known for songs such as "Who Do You Love?," "Hey Bo Diddley" and "Suzie Q," is born in Huntsville, Ark.
1936: Historian Stephen Ambrose, the biographer of U.S. Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon and the author of many best selling volumes of American popular history, is born in Lovington, Ill. Among his most popular books are 1992's "Band of Brothers, E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne: From Normandy to Hitler's Eagle's Nest" and 1996's "Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West." He died of lung cancer at age 66 on Oct. 13, 2002.
1938: Hall of Fame baseball player Willie McCovey, one of the most intimidating power hitters of his era, is born in Mobile, Ala. McCovey hit 521 home runs in a 22-year career spent mostly with the San Francisco Giants.
1939: Actor Sal Mineo, best known for movies such as "Rebel Without a Cause," "Giant" and "Exodus," is born in The Bronx, N.Y. Mineo, an Oscar nominee for "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Exodus," was stabbed to death in an alley behind his apartment building in West Hollywood, Calif., at the age of 37 on Feb. 12, 1976.
1940: Film director Walter Hill, best known for movies such as "The Warriors," "Brewster's Millions," "48 Hrs." and "Red Heat," is born in Long Beach, Calif.
1943: Singer-songwriter Jim Croce, best known for such songs as "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown," "You Don't Mess Around with Jim" and "Time in a Bottle,", is born in South Philadelphia, Pa. Croce died at age 30 in a Sept. 20, 1973, plane crash in Natchitoches, La., along with five others while on his way to Sherman, Texas, for a concert.
1945: Rock singer Rod Stewart, who first became famous as a member of the Jeff Beck Group and Faces before finding solo success, is born in Highgate, North London, England. Some of Stewart's best known songs include "Maggie May," "Reason to Believe," "Every Picture Tells a Story," "You Wear it Well," "Hot Legs," "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?," "Young Turks" and "Downtown Train."
1946: The first General Assembly of the United Nations convenes in the Methodist Central Hall Westminster in London with representatives of 51 nations.
1948: Donald Fagen, best known as the co-founder and lead singer of the rock band Steely Dan, is born in Passaic, N.J.
1949: RCA introduces the "single," the 7-inch diameter 45 rpm record in the U.S. A single could play eight minutes of sound per side. Columbia had introduced the 12-inch long-playing vinyl 33 rpm as a new format the previous year and both formats greatly improved upon the old 78 rpm records, which were limited to only five minutes per side on a 12-inch disk. The 45 rpm singles would soon find favor among the youth and became even more successful with the onset of rock 'n' roll.
1949: Linda Susan Boreman, better known by her stage name Linda Lovelace and for her role in the enormously successful 1972 adult film "Deep Throat," is born in Yonkers, N.Y. In her third autobiography, 1980's "Ordeal," she claimed she had been hypnotized, beaten and threatened at gunpoint to have sex in front of the cameras and spent the rest of her life campaigning against pornography. "Deep Throat" achieved unprecedented popularity among mainstream audiences and quickly became a pop culture reference, most notably when then–Washington Post managing editor Howard Simons chose the film's title as the pseudonym for a Watergate informant. Boreman died at the age of 53 on April 22, 2002, from injuries she suffered in a car accident 19 days earlier.
1949: Boxer George Foreman, an Olympic gold medalist and former two-time World Heavyweight Champion, is born in Marshall, Texas.
1951: Sinclair Lewis, the first writer from the United States to be awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, dies from advanced alcoholism at the age of 65 in Rome, Italy. Among his most popular works are the novels "Main Street," "Babbitt," "Arrowsmith," "Elmer Gantry" and "Dodsworth."
1953: Singer Pat Benatar, a four-time Grammy winner whose hits include the 1980s songs "Hit Me with Your Best Shot," "Love Is a Battlefield," "We Belong" and "Invincible," is born in Brooklyn, N.Y. Benatar is seen here in 2009.
1961: American writer Dashiell Hammett, best known for his hard-boiled detective novels and short stories, including "The Maltese Falcon" and "The Thin Man," dies of lung cancer at the age of 66 in New York City.
1964: The Beatles' first album in the United States, "Introducing... The Beatles," is released. The album, released by Vee-Jay Records 10 days before Capitol Records' "Meet the Beatles!," was the subject of much legal wrangling. Ultimately, Vee-Jay was permitted to sell the album until late 1964, by which time it had sold more than 1.3 million copies.
1967: Sen. Edward W. Brooke, R-Mass., the first black person elected to the U.S. Senate by popular vote, takes his seat. Brooke, who served two terms, would remain the only black person sent to the Senate in the 20th century until Democrat Carol Moseley Braun of Illinois in 1993.
1968: The Surveyor 7 space probe makes a soft landing on the moon. It was the last of America's unmanned explorations of the lunar surface.
1969: Unable to tolerate any longer the tensions within the group, George Harrison walks out during recording sessions for what would become the "Let It Be" album and quits the band for five days, making him the second Beatle to do so. Ringo Starr had left the group for a brief period a year earlier.
1971: French fashion designer Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel, who founded the Chanel Company, dies at age 87 in Paris, France. Her influence expanded beyond just clothing to jewelry, handbags and fragrance, with her signature scent, Chanel No. 5, becoming an iconic product. She's seen here in 1920.
1971: "Masterpiece Theatre" premieres on PBS. The anthology series, which presents acclaimed British productions, remains in production today, renamed "Masterpiece," making it America's longest-running weekly prime time drama series.
1976: Blues singer and musician Howlin' Wolf, known for such blues standards as "Smokestack Lightnin'," "Little Red Rooster," "Back Door Man," "Killing Floor" and "Spoonful," dies from complications of kidney disease at the age of 65 in Hines, Ill.
1980: The TV series "The Rockford Files," starring James Garner as Los Angeles-based private investigator Jim Rockford, airs for the last time after 122 episodes over six seasons.
1982: Comedian and actor Paul Lynde, best known for his roles on the sitcom "Bewitched" and in the musical "Bye Bye Birdie," dies of heart attack at age 55 in Beverly Hills, Calif. Lynde was also the regular "center square" guest on the game show "Hollywood Squares" from 1968 to 1981.
1984: The United States and Vatican City establish full diplomatic relations after a lapse of 117 years. The United States had maintained consular relations with the Papal States from 1797 to 1867, but those relations lapsed when Congress passed legislation on Feb. 28, 1867, prohibiting any future funding to U.S. diplomatic missions to the Holy See because of mounting anti-Catholic sentiment in America.
1984: The "Fluffy Bun" commercial for the Wendy's fast-foot chain, featuring actress Clara Peller (right) asking "Where's the Beef?," airs for the first time. The catchphrase caught on, inspiring sequel ads, promotional items and even a hit novelty single.
1990: Time Warner is formed from the merger of Time Inc. and Warner Communications.
2000: In an interview published in Rolling Stone magazine, singer Melissa Etheridge announces that David Crosby of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame is the biological father of two children her partner, Julie Cypher, gave birth to by means of artificial insemination.
2004: Actor and screenwriter Spalding Gray, 62, is last seen alive leaving his Manhattan apartment. He would be declared missing the following day and his body would be found in New York City's East River in March 2004. It's believed that Gray, who had been suffering from increasingly deep episodes of clinical depression resulting from injuries suffered in a June 2001 car accident, committed suicide by jumping off the side of the Staten Island Ferry. He was best known for his monologues, three of which were turned into the movies "Swimming to Cambodia," "Monster in a Box" and "Gray's Anatomy." He also appeared as an actor in movies such as "The Killing Fields," "Beaches," "Straight Talk" and "The Paper."
2007: President George W. Bush announces in a televised address to the nation that he will send a "surge" of 21,500 U.S. forces to Iraq.
2011: A judge orders former U.S. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to serve three years in prison for his role in a scheme to illegally funnel corporate money to Texas candidates in 2002. DeLay remained free on bail while appealing his conviction, which was eventually overturned on Sept. 19, 2013.