- 1851 – Giuseppe Verdi’s opera, Rigoletto, receives its premiere. Rigoletto is one of the most popular operas of all time. The piece was premiered at the Teatro La Fenice in Venice, Italy.
- 1861 – The Constitution of the Confederate States of America is adopted.
- 1918 – The ‘Spanish’ influenza first reached America as 107 soldiers become sick at Fort Riley, Kansas. One quarter of the U.S. population eventually became ill from the deadly virus, resulting in 500,000 deaths. The death toll worldwide approached 22 million by the end of 1920.
- 1927 – The Roxy Theatre opens in New York City.
- 1941 – During World War II, the Lend-Lease program began allowing Britain to receive American weapons, machines, raw materials, training and repair services. Ships, planes, guns and shells, along with food, clothing and metals went to the embattled British while American warships began patrolling the North Atlantic and U.S troops were stationed in Greenland and Iceland. “We must be the great arsenal of democracy,” President Roosevelt declared concerning the fight against Hitler’s Germany. The initial appropriation was $7 Billion, but by 1946 the figure reached $50 Billion in aid from the U.S. to its Allies.
- 1985 – Mikhail Gorbachev becomes the Soviet leader.
- 1990 – Patricio Aylwin becomes Chile’s first democratically elected president since the end of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship. Pinochet had been in power since a CIA-backed coup d’état in 1973. Under his command, thousands of political opponents were interned, tortured, and killed.
- 1990 – Lithuania becomes the first Soviet republic to declare its independence. The Baltic country’s secession marked an important step in the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
- 1993 – Janet Reno becomes the first female Attorney General of the United States.
- 2004 – 191 people die as several bombs explode on Madrid commuter trains. The bombings were conducted by an Islamist terrorist cell and came 3 days before Spain’s general elections.
- 2011 – The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster strikes Japan. The nuclear meltdowns occurred after a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami. It was the worst nuclear accident since the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.
- 1903 – Lawrence Welk (Bandleader)
- 1916 – British prime minster and statesman Harold Wilson (1916-1995) was born in Huddersfield, Yorkshire
- 1931 – Rupert Murdock (Media mogul)
- 1934 – Sam Donaldson (News Anchor)
- 1936 – Antonin Scalia (Supreme Court Justice)
- 1950 – Bobby McFerrin (Singer)
- 1952 – Douglas Adams (English/American author, playwright)
- 1971 – Johnny Knoxville (Actor and daredevil)
- 1978 – Didier Drogba (Ivorian footballer)
- 1874 – Charles Sumner (American politician)
- 1898 – William Rosecrans (American general, diplomat)
- 1955 – Alexander Fleming (Scottish scientist, Nobel Prize laureate)
- 1971 – Philo Farnsworth (American inventor, invented the Fusor)
- 2006 – Slobodan Milošević (Serbian politician, 3rd President of Serbia, Montenegro)