1492: Christopher Columbus notes in his journal the use of tobacco among Indians -- the first recorded reference to tobacco.
1630: German astronomer and mathematician Johannes Kepler, a key figure in the 17th century scientific revolution best known for his laws of planetary motion, dies at the age of 58 in what is now Regensburg, Germany.
1777: After 16 months of debate, the Continental Congress approves the Articles of Confederation, a precursor to the U.S. Constitution.
1806: During his expedition to explore and document the southern portion of the Louisiana Purchase, Lt. Zebulon Pike spies a distant mountain peak while near the Colorado foothills of the Rocky Mountains that he calls "Grand Peak." Pike tried to climb the peak, hoping to get a view of the surrounding area to record on maps, but the party was ill equipped to scale the 14,000-foot summit in the snow. The mountain would later be named Pikes Peak in his honor.
1859: The first modern revival of the Olympic Games takes place in Athens, Greece. The games, the brainchild of Greek businessman Evangelos Zappas, saw athletes compete in a variety of events, including running, discus, javelin throwing, wrestling, jumping and pole climbing. The "Zappas Olympics" would be held again in 1870 and 1875, helping inspire the 1896 Summer Olympics, the first to come under the auspices of the International Olympic Committee and officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad. Pictured is a ticket from the 1859 Zappas Olympics.
1864: The day after his army burned most of Atlanta, Ga., to the ground, Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman starts Sherman's March to the Sea. The march ended with the capture of the port of Savannah on Dec. 21, inflicting significant damage, particularly to the Confederacy's industry and infrastructure, and also to civilian property, along the way and hastened the end of the American Civil War.
1882: Felix Frankfurter, who would go on to become a U.S. Supreme Court justice from 1939 to 1962, is born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary. The Harvard Law School grad, who was a noted advocate of judicial restraint in the judgments of the Supreme Court, also helped found the American Civil Liberties Union.
1887: Painter Georgia O'Keeffe, best known for her large-format paintings of enlarged blossoms and New Mexico landscapes, is born near Sun Prairie, Wis. O'Keefe is seen here in a 1918 photograph by Alfred Stieglitz.
1891: Erwin Rommel, who would go become a highly decorated German officer in World War I and a German Field Marshal of World War II, is born in Heidenheim in the Kingdom of Württemberg (then part of the German Empire). Rommel's leadership of German and Italian forces in World War II's North African campaign earned him the nickname Desert Fox. He would also later commanded the German forces opposing the Allied cross-channel invasion in Normandy.
1905: Composer Annunzio Paolo Mantovani, better known by just his last name, is born in Venice, Italy. The light orchestra-styled entertainer would prove to be one of England's most successful album acts prior to The Beatles, becoming the first British act to sell more than one million stereo albums. In 1959, he had six albums simultaneously in the U.S. Top 30.
1919: Judge Joseph Wapner, who would find fame as a celebrity TV judge on "The People's Court" from 1981 to 1993, is born in Los Angeles.
1920: The first general assembly of the League of Nations is held in Geneva, Switzerland. The league, which was founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended World War I, was the first international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace.
1928: Singer C. W. McCall, best known for his truck-themed outlaw country songs, including the 1976 No. 1 hit "Convoy," is born William Dale Fries Jr. in Audubon, Iowa.
1929: Actor Ed Asner, best known for his Emmy Award-winning role as Lou Grant on both the TV sitcom "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and its spin-off series, "Lou Grant," is born in Kansas City, Mo. Asner is also known for his roles in the TV miniseries "Roots" and "Rich Man, Poor Man," and for voicing the role of Carl Fredricksen in Pixar's award-winning animated 2009 film "Up."
1932: Singer Petula Clark, best known for her 1960s upbeat pop hits, including the Grammy-winning songs "Downtown" and "I Know a Place," is born in Epsom, Surrey, England.
1939: In Washington, D.C., President Franklin D. Roosevelt lays the cornerstone of the Jefferson Memorial. Construction on the memorial to former President Thomas Jefferson was completed in 1943, with a bronze statue of Jefferson added in 1947.
1939: The Social Security Administration approves the first unemployment check.
1940: The comedy film "One Night in the Tropics" is released. It was the first movie for the comedy team of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello. The team play minor roles but steal the picture with five classic routines, including an abbreviated version of "Who's On First?" Their work would earn them a two-picture deal with Universal, and their next film, "Buck Privates," would make them bona fide movie stars.
1940: Actor Sam Waterston, best known for the TV series "Law & Order" and his Oscar-nominated role in 1984's "The Killing Fields," is born in Cambridge, Mass.
1942: During World War II, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal between Japanese and American forces in the Solomon Islands, east of Papua New Guinea, ends in a decisive Allied victory. The battle secured an airfield on the island of Guadalcanal that had been the focus of fighting since Allied forces took it over in August. Here one of four Japanese transports, Kinugawa Maru, beached and destroyed at Guadalcanal is seen a year after the battle.
1949: Following a year-long trial, Nathuram Godse (pictured) and his co-conspirator Narayan Apte are executed for their roles in the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi. Godse, a Hindu nationalist activist who resented what he considered was Gandhi's partiality to India's Muslims, shot Gandhi in the chest three times at point blank range on Jan. 30, 1948, in New Delhi, India. The death sentence was opposed by India's prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru and by Gandhi's two sons on the grounds that it would dishonor the legacy of a man opposed to all forms of violence.
1951: Actress Beverly D'Angelo, best known for her roles in "National Lampoon's Vacation," "Coal Miner's Daughter" and "Entourage," is born in Columbus, Ohio.
1952: Professional wrestler Randy "Macho Man" Savage, who held 20 championships, including six world titles between the WWF and WCW, during a career that lasted more than three decades, is born Randy Mario Poffo in Columbus, Ohio. Savage died of cardiac arrhythmia at age 58 while driving with his second wife Barbara Lynn Payne, in Seminole, Fla., on the morning of May 20, 2011.
1954: Actor Lionel Barrymore, who won an Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in 1931's "A Free Soul" and was best known for the role of the villainous Mister Potter in Frank Capra's 1946 film "It's a Wonderful Life," dies of a heart attack at the age of 76 in Van Nuys, Calif. Barrymore, a member of the theatrical Barrymore family and the grand-uncle of actress Drew Barrymore, also directed films, earning an Oscar nomination for 1929's "Madame X."
1956: Elvis Presley makes his acting debut in the western "Love Me Tender." The movie premiered at the Paramount Theater in New York City and went into wide release a week later, grossing $540,000 in its first week to debut at No. 2 at the box office, behind only James Dean's posthumous release "Giant." Despite being released late in the year, it still would finish 1956 as the 23rd highest grossing movie of the year.
1957: Kevin Eubanks, the guitarist and composer best known as the leader of The Tonight Show Band with host Jay Leno from 1995 to 2010, is born in Philadelphia, Pa.
1958: Actor Tyrone Power, known for swashbuckler roles or romantic leads in movies such as "The Mark of Zorro," "Blood and Sand," "The Black Swan" and "The Black Rose," dies of a heart attack at the age of 44 in Madrid, Spain.
1959: Four members of the Herbert Clutter family are murdered at their farm outside Holcomb, Kansas (pictured). The quadruple murder would inspire Truman Capote to travel to Kansas and write about the crime even before any suspects were arrested. The killers, Richard "Dick" Hickock and Perry Smith, would be arrested six weeks after the murders, and Capote ultimately spent six years working on what would become the book "In Cold Blood." The book is regarded by critics as a pioneering work of the true crime genre.
1966: Gemini 12 completes the program's final mission when it splashes down safely in the Atlantic Ocean. Astronauts Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldrin are seen here aboard the aircraft carrier USS Wasp after the splash down.
1968: Rapper Ol' Dirty Bastard, a founding member of the rap group Wu-Tang Clan, is born under the birth name Russell Tyrone Jones in Brooklyn, N.Y. He died on Nov. 13, 2004, of a drug overdose, two days before his 36th birthday.
1969: In Columbus, Ohio, Dave Thomas opens the first Wendy's restaurant, naming it after his fourth child, Melinda Lou "Wendy" Thomas. Within a year he had opened a second Wendy's restaurant in Columbus. Today, it is the world's third largest hamburger fast food chain with approximately 6,650 locations, trailing only McDonald's and Burger King.
1969: "I Want You Back" becomes the first record by The Jackson 5 to enter the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. The song, the band's debut major-label single, would eventually become a No. 1 hit for the band and the Motown label in early 1970.
1971: Intel announces the world's first commercial single-chip microprocessor, the 4004, in an advertisement in the magazine Electronic News.
1974: Singer Chad Kroeger, the lead singer of the rock band Nickelback, is born in Hanna, Canada.
1977: The sci-fi drama "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," starring Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Melinda Dillon and Teri Garr, and directed by Steven Spielberg, premieres in New York City. The movie, about a lineman in Indiana whose life changes after a close encounter with a UFO, debuted to critical and financial success, grossing $337 million compared to its $20 million budget.
1979: A package from the Unabomber, who later would be identified as Ted Kaczynski, begins smoking in the cargo hold of a flight from Chicago to Washington, D.C., forcing the plane to make an emergency landing. Twelve passengers have to be treated afterward for smoke inhalation. It was later determined that the bomb was powerful enough to have destroyed the aircraft, but a faulty timer stopped it from working correctly. Although the attack was not Kaczynski's first, since an airliner bombing is a federal crime it was the first to bring the Unabomber to the FBI's attention.
1984: "Baby Fae," an infant who had received a baboon's heart to replace her own congenitally deformed one, dies at Loma Linda University Medical Center in California three weeks after the transplant. The procedure initially seemed successful, but Fae developed a kidney infection.
1986: The Beastie Boys release their debut album "Licensed To Ill." The album would be certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America on Feb. 2, 1987, and eventually certified nine-times platinum on Sept. 5, 2001.
1988: In the Soviet Union, the unmanned Shuttle Buran makes its only space flight. The shuttle's computer's memory limitations limited the flight to two orbits over the course of a little more than three hours before re-entry and a safe automatic touchdown. Russia authorized the Buran ("Snowstorm") shuttle program in 1976 in response to the United States' space shuttle program, but funding was cut after its maiden mission and canceled all together in 1993.
1988: While in exile in Algiers, the Palestine Liberation Organization's National Council approves the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, establishing an independent State of Palestine defined by pre-1967 Palestinian territories boundaries with Jerusalem as its capital. Despite the territory claimed by the PLO being under Israeli control, 75 states had recognized Palestine by mid-December, rising to 89 states by February 1989.
1991: Actress Shailene Woodley, known for her roles on the TV series "The Secret Life of the American Teenager" and alongside George Clooney in the 2011 movie "The Descendants," is born in Simi Valley, Calif.
1992: Ozzy Osbourne performs in Costa Mesa, Calif., the last date in what he called his retirement "No More Tours" concert tour. However, within three years he was back on the road in what he dubbed "The Retirement Sucks Tour."
1993: A judge in Mineola, N.Y., sentences Joey Buttafuoco to six months in jail for the statutory rape of Amy Fisher. Fisher, meanwhile, was serving a prison sentence for shooting and wounding Buttafuoco's wife, Mary Jo, on May 19, 1992. A 17-year-old at the time, Fisher was having an affair with Buttafuoco.
1996: Lawyer, diplomat and author Alger Hiss dies of emphysema at age 92 in New York City. The former U.S. State Department official was convicted in January 1950 of perjury in connection with accusations of being a Soviet spy in 1948. Hiss was also involved in the establishment of the United Nations both as a U.S. State Department and U.N. official.
1998: Civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael (at center in profile), who rose to prominence in the 1960s first as a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and later as the "Honorary Prime Minister" of the Black Panther Party, dies of prostate cancer at the age of 57 in Conakry, Guinea.
2002: The fantasy film "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets," the second installment in the Harry Potter film series, opens in theaters. The movie, starring Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter, alongside Rupert Grint and Emma Watson, would earn $879 million at the worldwide box office, making it the fifth highest-grossing film ever at the time and the second highest-grossing film of 2002 worldwide behind "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers."
2006: Andy Warhol's painting of Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong sells for $17.4 million. At the same auction, Warhol's "Orange Marilyn" and "Sixteen Jackies" sold for $16.2 million and $15.6 million, respectively.
2007: Cyclone Sidr makes landfall in Bangladesh, killing at least 5,000 people, causing $1.7 billion in damage and destroying the world's largest mangrove forest, Sunderban.
2011: The New York Police Department clears Occupy Wall Street protesters from Zucotti Park, the privately owned public space they had occupied since Sept. 17, 2011, to stage their protest, due to its purportedly unsanitary and hazardous conditions. The police arrested some 200 people in the process. After several unsuccessful attempts to re-occupy the original location, protesters would instead turn their focus to occupying banks, corporate headquarters, board meetings, college and university campuses.