IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Today in History - Dec. 31

Celebrity birthdays, highlights in history, plus more facts about this day
/ Source: The Associated Press

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Dec. 31, 1879, Thomas Edison first publicly demonstrated his electric incandescent light in Menlo Park, N.J.

On this date:

In 1775, the British repulsed an attack by Continental Army Gens. Richard Montgomery and Benedict Arnold at Quebec; Montgomery was killed.

In 1857, Britain’s Queen Victoria decided to make Ottawa the capital of Canada.

In 1862, President Lincoln signed an act paving the way for West Virginia statehood.

In 1877, President and Mrs. Hayes celebrated their silver anniversary (actually, a day late) by re-enacting their wedding ceremony in the White House.

In 1946, President Truman officially proclaimed the end of hostilities in World War II.

In 1974, private U.S. citizens were allowed to buy and own gold for the first time in more than 40 years.

In 1980, Canadian communications theorist Marshall McLuhan died at age 69.

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 to charges in connection with the blaze.)

In 1991, representatives of the government of El Salvador and rebels reached agreement at the United Nations on a peace accord to end 12 years of civil war.

Ten years ago: Leftist rebels in Peru released two diplomats, leaving 81 hostages in the besieged Japanese embassy residence in Lima.

Five years ago: New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani spent his final day in office praising police, firefighters and other city employees, and said he had no regrets about returning to private life. Notre Dame tapped Tyrone Willingham to be its football coach, replacing George O’Leary, who’d resigned because of misstatements about his academic and athletic achievements on his resume; Willingham became the first black head coach in any sport for the Irish. Actress Eileen Heckart died in Norwalk, Conn., at age 82.

One year ago: In central Indonesia, suspected Islamic militants set off a powerful bomb at a busy market frequented by Christians, killing seven people. Dick Clark, in his first television appearance since his stroke in 2004, helped to ring in the new year in Times Square.

Today’s Birthdays: Folk and blues singer Odetta is 76. Actor Sir Anthony Hopkins is 69. Actor Tim Considine (“My Three Sons”) is

66. Actress Sarah Miles is 65. Rock musician Andy Summers is 64. Actor Ben Kingsley is 63. Rock musician Peter Quaife (The Kinks) is

63. Producer-director Taylor Hackford is 62. Actor Tim Matheson is

59. Pop singer Burton Cummings (The Guess Who) is 59. Singer Donna Summer is 58. Actor Joe Dallesandro is 58. Rock musician Tom Hamilton (Aerosmith) is 55. Actor James Remar is 53. Actress Bebe Neuwirth is 48. Actor Val Kilmer is 47. Singer Paul Westerberg is

47. Rock musician Ric Ivanisevich (Oleander) is 44. Rock musician Scott Ian (Anthrax) is 43. Actress Gong Li is 41. Pop singer Joe McIntyre is 34.

Thought for Today: “Though the past haunt me as a spirit, I do not ask to forget.” — Felicia Dorothea Browne Hemans, English poet (1793-1835).