On Dec. 31, 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light in Menlo Park, N.J.
On this date:
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 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.
In 1909, the Manhattan Bridge, spanning the East River between Manhattan and Brooklyn, was officially opened to vehicular traffic.
In 1942, Frank Sinatra opened a singing engagement at New York's Paramount Theater.
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 1993, Brandon Teena, a 21-year-old female-born transgender, was slain along with two other people at a farmhouse near Humboldt, Neb. (Convicted murderer John Lotter is on Nebraska's death row; co-defendant Thomas Nissen is serving a life sentence. The case inspired the 1999 movie "Boys Don't Cry.")
Ten years ago: A car bomb ripped through a crowded restaurant hosting a New Year's Eve party in Baghdad, Iraq, killing eight Iraqis.
Five years ago: The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting on an Arab request for a binding and enforceable resolution condemning Israel and halting its military attacks on Gaza. A man left four gift-wrapped bombs in downtown Aspen, Colo., in a bank robbery attempt, turning New Year's Eve celebrations into a mass evacuation. (The man, identified as James Chester Blanning, 72, shot and killed himself.) A woman gave birth aboard Northwest Airlines Flight 59 while en route from Amsterdam to Boston.
One year ago: Racing the clock, the White House reached a New Year's Eve accord with Senate Republicans to block across-the-board tax increases and spending cuts in government programs due to take effect at midnight. Recreational marijuana clubs opened in Colorado, less than a month after Gov. John Hickenlooper signed into law a constitutional amendment allowing recreational pot use. Seven NFL coaches and five general managers were fired in a flurry of sackings the day after the regular season ended.
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