Today in History – December 17

1777 – American Revolution: France formally recognized the United States.

1790 – The Aztec calendar stone was discovered at El Zócalo, Mexico City.

1835 – The second Great Fire of New York destroyed 53,000 square metres (13 acres) of New York City’s Financial District.

1837 – A fire in the Winter Palace of Saint Petersburg killed 30 guards.

1843 – Henry Cole, founder of London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, commissioned printing of the first Christmas card.

1862 – American Civil War: General Ulysses S. Grant issued General Order No. 11, which expelled Jews from parts of Tennessee, Mississippi, and Kentucky.

1892 – First issue of Vogue was published.

1900 – The French Academy of Science offered a prize of 100,000 francs to the first person to make contact with an alien civilization. Provided that it was anything but Martian.  That was considered too easy. 

1900 – New Ellis Island Immigration station was completed at a cost of $1.5 million.

1903 – The Wright brothers made the first controlled powered, heavier-than-air flight in the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

1933 – The first NFL Championship Game was played at Wrigley Field in Chicago between the New York Giants and Chicago Bears. The Bears won 23–21.

1938 – Otto Hahn discovered the nuclear fission of the heavy element uranium, the scientific and technological basis of nuclear energy.

1957 – The United States successfully launched the first Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile at Cape Canaveral, Florida.

1957 – The last episode of The Nat King Cole Show aired on NBC due to lack of national sponsorship.

1962 – The Beatles made their first British TV appearance.

1964 – “Goldfinger”, the third James Bond film, which starred Sean Connery and Honor Blackman, premiered in London.

1965 – The Houston Astrodome opened; Its first event was a concert by Judy Garland with The Supremes as opening act.

1965 – Largest newspaper published.  It was a Sunday New York Times at 946 pages.  It cost just 50 cents.

1967 – Harold Holt, Prime Minister of Australia, disappeared while swimming near Portsea, Victoria, and was presumed drowned.

1969 – Project Blue Book: The United States Air Force closed its study of UFOs.

1979 – The Budweiser rocket car reached 1190 kph (739.4 mph) and broke the speed record for a wheeled vehicle.

1981 – American Brigadier General James L. Dozier was abducted by the Red Brigades in Verona, Italy.

1983 – Provisional IRA members detonated a car bomb at Harrods Department Store in London. Three police officers and three civilians were killed.

1986 – American mafia hitman Richard Kuklinski was arrested at a roadblock.

1989 – The Simpsons premiered on television with the episode “Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire”.

2003 – SpaceShipOne, piloted by Brian Binnie, made its first powered and first supersonic flight.

2003 – “The Return of the King” the third Lord of the Ring films was released. It took in $72 million opening weekend and was the second film to gross over $1 billion worldwide.

2003 – Sex work rights activists established December 17 (or “D17”) as International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers to memorialize victims of a serial killer who targeted prostitutes, and highlight State violence against sex workers by police and others 

2014 – The United States and Cuba re-established diplomatic relations after severing them in 1961.

2017 – “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” took in more than $450 million worldwide in its opening weekend.  It was the second largest opening in North America ($220m).

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