1803 The Louisiana Purchase is completed at a ceremony in New Orleans, Louisiana.
1812 Sacagawea (died), American member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition (born 1788)
1862 Robert Knox (died), Scottish surgeon and zoologist (born 1791)
1868 Harvey Samuel Firestone (born), American businessman, founded the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company (died 1938)
1901 Robert J. Van de Graaff (born), American physicist, invented the Van de Graaff generator (died 1967)
1941 World War II: First battle of the American Volunteer Group, better known as the “Flying Tigers” in Kunming, China.
1942 World War II: the Japanese bomb Calcutta.
1946 The popular Christmas film It’s a Wonderful Life is first released in New York, New York.
1948 Alan Parsons (born), English keyboard player and producer (The Alan Parsons Project)
1951 The EBR-1 in Arco, Idaho becomes the first nuclear power plant to generate electricity. The electricity powered four light bulbs.
1957 Boeing’s first jet-powered aircraft, the 707, makes its first flight.
1968 John Steinbeck (died), American author, Nobel Prize laureate (born 1902)
1971 Roy O. Disney (died), American businessman, co-founded The Walt Disney Company (born 1893)
1982 Arthur Rubinstein (died), Polish-American pianist (born 1887)
1988 The United Nations Convention Against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances is signed in Vienna, Austria.
1989 The United States sends troops into Panama to overthrow government of Manuel Noriega. This is also the first combat use of purpose-designed stealth aircraft.
1994 Dean Rusk (died), American diplomat, 54th United States Secretary of State (born 1909)
1996 Carl Sagan (died), American astronomer and author (born 1934)
1996 NeXT merges with Apple Computer, starting the path to Mac OS X.
1999 Macau is handed over to China by Portugal.
2001 Foster Brooks (died) American actor and comedian (born 1912)
2004 A gang of thieves steal £26.5 million worth of currency from the Donegall Square West headquarters of Northern Bank in Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, one of the largest bank robberies in British history.
2005 US District Court Judge John E. Jones III rules against mandating the teaching of “intelligent design” in his ruling in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District.
2007 Elizabeth II becomes the oldest monarch of the United Kingdom, surpassing Queen Victoria, who lived for 81 years, 7 months and 29 days.
2007 The Portrait of Suzanne Bloch (1904), by the Spanish artist Pablo Picasso, and O Lavrador de Café by Brazilian modernist painter Candido Portinari, are stolen from the São Paulo Museum of Art.