1493: Christopher Columbus sets sail for Spain from Hispaniola, ending his first voyage to the New World.
1559: Elizabeth I is crowned Queen of England at Westminster Abbey in London, England.
1622: Playwright Molière, considered to be one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature, is born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin in Paris, France. Among Molière's best-known works are "The Misanthrope," "The School for Wives," "Tartuffe or the Impostor," "The Miser," "The Imaginary Invalid" and "The Bourgeois Gentleman."
1759: The British Museum, the world's oldest public national museum, opens to the public in London, England. The public were admitted in small groups, by tickets obtained in advance, for a conducted tour. The present museum buildings date from the mid-19th century.
1844: The University of Notre Dame receives its charter from the state of Indiana.
1870: A cartoon by Thomas Nast titled "A Live Jackass Kicking a Dead Lion" appears in Harper's Weekly. Although the donkey had already been associated with the Democratic Party as early as 1837, Nast's depiction revived the symbol and popularized it for a wider audience.
1889: The Coca-Cola Company, then known as the Pemberton Medicine Company, is originally incorporated in Atlanta, Ga.
1892: The rules for the new game invented by James Naismith (pictured) that would become known as basketball are published for the first time in The Triangle, the Springfield (Mass.) College newspaper. The original rules involved attaching a peach baskets to a suspended board.
1896: Mathew Brady, one of the most celebrated 19th century American photographers, dies in the charity ward of Presbyterian Hospital in New York City from complications following a streetcar accident. He was either 73 or 74 at the time of his death. Brady, best known for his portraits of celebrities and his documentation of the American Civil War, is often credited with being the father of photojournalism.
1913: Actor Lloyd Bridges, best known for his role of Mike Nelson in the syndicated late-1950s TV series "Sea Hunt," is born in San Leandro, Calif. The father of fellow actors Beau and Jeff Bridges, he is also known for roles in movies such as "A Walk In The Sun," "High Noon," "Little Big Horn," "Sahara," "Airplane!" and "Hot Shots!" He's seen here with son Jeff Bridges in 1994.
1919: A large molasses tank in Boston, Mass., bursts and a wave of molasses rushes through the streets, killing 21 people and injuring 150 others.
1929: Martin Luther King Jr., the American civil rights leader and the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, is born in Atlanta, Ga. King, who would be assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2004. Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a U.S. federal holiday in his honor in 1986.
1937: Actress Margaret O'Brien, best known for playing the character of Tootie opposite Judy Garland in 1944's "Meet Me in St. Louis," is born in San Diego, Calif. O'Brien, who won a Juvenile Oscar for her "Meet Me in St. Louis" role, also appeared as a child actress in 1940s movies such as "Journey for Margaret," "Jane Eyre," "The Canterville Ghost," "Our Vines Have Tender Grapes" and "The Secret Garden."
1939: The first "Pro All-Star Game," featuring the 1938 NFL champion New York Giants taking on a team of NFL all-stars as well as three players from the Hollywood Stars and Los Angeles Bulldogs, who were not members of the league, is played at Los Angeles's Wrigley Field. The Giants win the game 13-10.
1941: Rock musician and singer-songwriter Captain Beefheart is born Don Glen Vliet in Glendale, Calif. He took the Captain Beefheart stage name in the mid-1960s and recorded 13 albums with a rotating ensemble of musicians called The Magic Band through 1982. Although he saw little commercial success or critical acclaim during his career, he established a cult following and influenced New Wave, post-punk, experimental and alternative rock musicians before his death in 2010.
1943: The Pentagon, the world's largest office building by floor area, is dedicated in Arlington, Va. Built to hold what was then called the War Department, now the U.S. Department of Defense, it features about 6.5 million square feet of space, of which 3.7 million square feet are used as offices.
1947: The body of Elizabeth "Betty" Short, who would become known as the "Black Dahlia," is found mutilated, her body sliced in half at the waist in Los Angeles' Leimert Park. Short's unsolved murder has been the source of widespread speculation, leading to many suspects, along with several books and film adaptations of the case. Short is seen here in 1943 in a mugshot taken after an arrest for underage drinking.
1948: Rock singer Ronnie Van Zant (third from left), best known as the lead singer for Lynyrd Skynyrd from 1964 until his death along with two other band members in a 1977 plane crash, is born in Jacksonville, Fla.
1953: President Harry S. Truman becomes the first U.S. president to use radio and television to give his farewell address as he leaves office.
1961: The Supremes sign with Motown Records.
1962: The Derveni papyrus, Europe's oldest surviving manuscript dating to 340 BC, is found in northern Greece.
1967: The first Super Bowl, then known as the First AFL-NFL World Championship Game, is played at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum with the Green Bay Packers beating the Kansas City Chiefs 35-10. Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr, who completed 16 of 23 passes for 250 yards and two touchdowns, with one interception, was named the first Super Bowl MVP.
1967: After Ed Sullivan threatens to kick The Rolling Stones off his show if they perform "Let's Spend the Night Together," the band reaches a compromise to change the lyrics to "Let's Spend Some Time Together." While lead singer Mick Jagger agreed to the change, he ostentatiously rolled his eyes at the TV camera while singing them. Years later he would say he never actually changed the lyrics, but rather just mumbled them whenever he came to them in the song.
1970: Moammar Gadhafi, the young Libyan army captain who led the coup that deposed King Idris I in September 1969, is proclaimed premier of Libya by the so-called General People's Congress. He would lead the country until 2011, when he was killed during a civil war in the country. He's here (at left) with Egyptian President Gamal Abdal Nasser in 1969.
1973: Citing progress in peace negotiations, President Richard Nixon announces the suspension of offensive action in North Vietnam. The Paris Peace Accords on "Ending the War and Restoring Peace in Vietnam" would be signed 12 days later, officially ending direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War.
1974: Dennis Rader, aka the BTK Killer, kills his first victims by binding, torturing and murdering Joseph, Joseph II, Josephine and Julie Otero in their Wichita, Kan., house. Rader, who would kill a total of 10 people in and around Wichita through 1991, was particularly known for sending taunting letters to police and newspapers describing the details of his murders. After a long hiatus, Rader resumed sending letters in 2004, leading to his 2005 arrest and subsequent conviction. Rader, seen here on Aug. 18, 2005 during the sentencing phase of his trial, is now serving 10 consecutive life sentences for the murders he committed.
1974: With '50s nostalgia trending, the sitcom "Happy Days" premieres on television with "Rock Around The Clock" as its theme song. The show would run for 11 seasons, spawning two hit TV spin-offs in "Laverne & Shirley" and "Mork & Mindy" along the way, before ending on Sept. 24, 1984.
1976: President Gerald Ford's would-be assassin, Sara Jane Moore, is sentenced to life in prison. Moore was standing in a crowd across the street from the St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco about 40 feet away from Ford when she fired a single shot from a .38-caliber revolver. She missed and was about to shoot again when she was subdued by a bystander. Moore was released from prison on parole at the age of 77 on Dec. 31, 2007, after serving 32 years of her life sentence.
1981: Rapper Pitbull, best known for hit songs such as "Krazy," "I Know You Want Me (Calle Ocho)," "Hotel Room Service" and "Give Me Everything," is born Armando Cristian Pérez in Miami, Fla.
1983: Russian-born gangster Meyer Lansky, who developed a gambling empire that stretched nearly across the country and played a large role in the consolidation of the criminal underworld, dies of lung cancer at the age of 80 in Miami Beach, Fla.
1987: Actor and dancer Ray Bolger, best known for playing the Scarecrow in "The Wizard of Oz," dies of bladder cancer at the age of 83 in Los Angeles, Calif.
1988: Electronic dance musician and singer-songwriter Skrillex, who won two Grammys in 2011 for his second album, "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites," is born Sonny Moore in Los Angeles, Calif.
1992: Johnny Cash headlines a class of inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that also includes Booker T. & the MG's, The Isley Brothers, The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Sam & Dave, The Yardbirds and Bobby "Blue" Bland.
1993: Salvatore Riina, the Mafia boss known as "The Beast," is arrested in Sicily, Italy, after three decades as a fugitive. During his lifelong career in crime, he is believed to have personally killed around 40 people and to have ordered the deaths of several hundreds more. Riina is now serving life in prison.
1993: The soap opera "Santa Barbara" broadcasts its last episode after nearly nine years on the air.
1994: Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Harry Nilsson, best known for the hit singles "Everybody's Talkin'," "Without You" and "Coconut," dies of heart failure at the age of 52 in Agoura Hills, Calif.
1996: Professional billiards player Minnesota Fats, at one time the most publicly recognized pool player in the United States, dies at the age of 82 in Nashville, Tenn. Fats, whose real name was Rudolf Wanderone, adopted his nickname from a character in the 1961 film "The Hustler," claiming that the character was based on him. He parlayed the association with the film into his own book deals and television appearances.
2001: Wikipedia, a free Wiki content encyclopedia, goes online. The site, written collaboratively by volunteers around the world, has since become the largest and most popular general reference work on the Internet.
2008: Actor Brad Renfro, who made his film debut at the age of 11 in the lead role of "The Client," dies of heroin overdose at the age of 25 in Los Angeles, Calif. Renfro, seen here in 2001, also appeared in movies such as "Sleepers," "Apt Pupil" and "Deuces Wild."
2009: Capt. Chesley B. "Sully" Sullenberger, the pilot in command of US Airways Flight 1549, glides the Airbus A320-214 to an emergency landing in the Hudson River after striking a flock of Canada Geese shortly after takeoff from LaGuardia Airport in New York City and losing engine power. All 155 occupants safely evacuated the airliner, which was still virtually intact though partially submerged and slowly sinking, and were quickly rescued by nearby ferries and other watercraft.