On Dec. 18, 1912, the Piltdown Man made its public debut as fossil collector Charles Dawson reported to the Geological Society of London his discovery of supposedly fragmented early human remains at a gravel pit in Piltdown. (More than four decades later, the Piltdown Man was exposed as a hoax.)
On this date:
In 1787, New Jersey became the third state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward.
In 1892, Tchaikovsky's ballet "The Nutcracker" publicly premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia.
In 1915, President Woodrow Wilson, widowed the year before, married Edith Bolling Galt at her Washington home.
In 1940, Adolf Hitler ordered secret preparations for Nazi Germany to invade the Soviet Union. (Operation Barbarossa was launched in June 1941.)
In 1944, in a pair of rulings, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the wartime relocation of Japanese-Americans, but also said undeniably loyal Americans of Japanese ancestry could not continue to be detained.
In 1958, the world's first communications satellite, SCORE (Signal Communication by Orbiting Relay Equipment), nicknamed "Chatterbox," was launched by the United States aboard an Atlas rocket.
In 1962, "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol," an animated musical adaptation of the Charles Dickens story, first aired on NBC-TV.
In 1971, the Rev. Jesse Jackson announced in Chicago the founding of Operation PUSH (People United to Save Humanity).
In 1972, the United States began heavy bombing of North Vietnamese targets during the Vietnam War. (The bombardment ended 11 days later.)
In 1980, former Soviet Premier Alexei N. Kosygin died at age 76.
In 1992, Kim Young-sam was elected South Korea's first civilian president in three decades.
Ten years ago: Embattled Senate Republican leader Trent Lott sustained a double-barreled setback as Rhode Island Senator Lincoln Chafee broke ranks to call for a change in party leadership and Secretary of State Colin Powell forcefully criticized Lott's controversial remarks on race. Robert Johnson, the billionaire founder of Black Entertainment Television, was chosen as owner of the NBA's new Charlotte expansion franchise.
Five years ago: The White House said President George W. Bush had approved "a significant reduction" in the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile, cutting it to less than one-quarter its size at the end of the Cold War. The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously to extend the U.S.-led multinational force in Iraq for one year. Jacob Zuma was elected leader of the African National Congress, South Africa's ruling party, defeating incumbent Thabo Mbeki (TAH'-boh um-BEH'-kee).
One year ago: The last convoy of heavily armored U.S. troops left Iraq, crossing into Kuwait in darkness in the final moments of a nine-year war. Vaclav Havel, 75, the dissident playwright who became Czechoslovakia's first democratically elected president, died in the northern Czech Republic. Medical student Sophie Clarke was crowned the winner of CBS' "Survivor: South Pacific."
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