On Dec. 31, 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed an enabling act paving the way for Virginia's western counties to become the state of West Virginia, which took place in June 1863.
On this date:
In 1759, Arthur Guinness founded his famous brewery at St. James's Gate in Dublin.
In 1775, during the Revolutionary War, the British repulsed an attack by Continental Army generals Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold at Quebec; Montgomery was killed.
In 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light in Menlo Park, N.J.
In 1909, the Manhattan Bridge, spanning the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, was officially opened to vehicular traffic.
In 1946, President Harry S. Truman officially proclaimed the end of hostilities in World War II.
In 1951, the Marshall Plan expired after distributing more than $12 billion in foreign aid.
In 1969, Joseph A. Yablonski, an unsuccessful candidate for the presidency of the United Mine Workers of America, was shot to death with his wife and daughter in their Clarksville, Pa., home by hitmen acting at the orders of UMWA president Tony Boyle.
In 1972, Major League baseball player Roberto Clemente, 38, was killed when a plane he'd chartered and was traveling on to bring relief supplies to earthquake-devastated Nicaragua crashed shortly after takeoff from Puerto Rico.
In 1985, singer Rick Nelson, 45, and six other people were killed when fire broke out aboard a DC-3 that was taking the group to a New Year's Eve performance in Dallas.
In 1986, 97 people were killed when fire broke out in the Dupont Plaza Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico. (Three hotel workers later pleaded guilty in connection with the blaze.)
In 1987, Robert Mugabe, prime minister of Zimbabwe, was sworn in as the country's first executive president.
In 1992, President George H.W. Bush visited Somalia, where he saw firsthand the famine racking the east African nation, and praised U.S. troops who were providing relief to the starving population.
Ten years ago: Emerging from holiday seclusion at his Texas ranch, President George W. Bush told reporters an attack by Saddam Hussein or a terrorist ally "would cripple our economy." North Korea accused the United States of planning an invasion and vowed to fight "to the last man" hours after it expelled two U.N. monitors, leaving its nuclear program shrouded in secrecy. An explosion at a clandestine fireworks factory in the Mexican port city of Veracruz ignited an entire city block, killing 28 people.
Five years ago: President George W. Bush signed legislation to allow states and local governments to cut investment ties with Sudan because of the violence in Darfur. Sara Jane Moore, who took a shot at President Gerald R. Ford in San Francisco in 1975, was paroled after 32 years behind bars.
One year ago: President Barack Obama signed a wide-ranging defense bill into law despite having "serious reservations" about provisions that regulated the detention, interrogation and prosecution of suspected terrorists. A NASA spacecraft fired its engine and slipped into orbit around the moon in the first of two back-to-back arrivals over the New Year's weekend.
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