Today's History Trivia for December 24
1955 NORAD's Tracking Santa Clause A Colorado Springs Colorado Sears store runs an ad asking children to call Santa. However, a misprint gave the CONAD (forerunner to NORAD) phone number. The CONAD soldiers answered the calls, starting a holiday tradition that is now carried on by NORAD.
1865 Ku Klux Klan The first KKK group is organized, in Pulaski, Tennessee by six former member of the Confederate Army. Its initial stated purpose was "ludicrous initiations, the baffling of public curiosity, and the amusement for members." However, it quickly turned into a white supremacist group that used assassinations and violence to achieve its goals. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest became the first Grand Wizard, the Klan's national leader. The original KKK disbanded in the early 1870s due to federal legislation targeting hate crime groups, only to reform again in 1915, and regain popularity in the 1950s.
1492 Columbus Sinks the Santa Maria While Columbus was sleeping the steersman decided to take a nap, leaving only a cabin boy to steer the ship; a practice forbidden by Columbus. The ship struck a sandbank in Haiti sinking the next day.
1992 Nannygate Pres. Clinton's announces Zoë Baird as his choice for U.S. Attorney General (who is in charge of INS). Later she withdrew her nomination after it was revealed she had hired illegal aliens and not paid their social security taxes.
1951 First Opera Written for Television in the US Amahl and the Night Visitors by Gian Carlo Menotti is broadcast on NBC. The live broadcast was watched by an estimated five million people, the largest audience ever to see a televised opera. It is still one of the most-performed operas of all time.
1942 First surface-to-surface guided missile is launched, by German engineer Wernher von Braun.
1928 The Voice of Firestone debuts on radio.
1906 First Long-Range Radio Transmission of Voice Reginald Fessenden transmits from Brant Rock, Massachusetts to ships at sea.
1844 Mormons Brigham Young is elected president of the Mormon Church.
1818 Silent Night, Holy Night The famous Christmas carol is written; it was performed for the first time later that night. Source: An Almanac of the Christian Church
1814 War of 1812 Treaty of Ghent is signed ending the war between the U.S. and Britain. This news did not arrive in time to prevent the Battle of New Orleans.
336 The First Recorded Celebration of Christmas Although Christmas celebrations started in the early 300s, the first celebration of Christmas that we have recorded evidence for occurs in Rome in A.D. 336.
Today's Birthdays for December 24
1974 Ryan Seacrest American radio personality, television host, and producer. TV: American Idol (host).
1922 Ava Gardner d. 1990 American actress, Hollywood's leading lady of the 1940s and '50s.
1905 Howard Robard Hughes, Jr d. 1976 American billionaire, world-class aviator, motion picture executive. His eccentricity is described in the book I Caught Flies for Howard Hughes and the film The Aviator (2004).
1898 Irvin Charles Mollison d. 1962 American judge. He was the first black U.S. Customs Court judge (1945).
1868 Emanuel Lasker d. 1941 German chess master, world chess champion (1894-1921).
1818 James Prescott Joule d. 1889 English physicist, for whom Joule's Law is named.
1818 Eliza Cook d. 1889 English author. Her poem The Old Armchair made her a household word in England and America.
1809 Kit Carson d. 1868 (Christopher Carson), American frontiersman.
1491 Saint Ignatius of Loyola d. 1556 Spanish ecclesiastic, in 1535 he founded the Society of Jesus (Jesuit order).
Deaths for December 24
2016 Richard Adams b. 1920 English novelist. His book, Watership Down, about a group of rabbits, was turned down by seven publishers. It then went on to sell 50,000,000 copies and win numerous awards. Writings: Watership Down (1972).
2015 William Guest b. 1941 American Rock and Roll Hall of Fames singer, one of Gladys Knight's Pips. Music: Midnight Train to Georgia (1973, #1).
2012 Jack Klugman b. 1922 American Emmy-winning actor. TV: The Odd Couple (1970-75, Oscar Madison) and Quincy M.E. (1976-83). Film: 12 Angry Men (1957).
2012 Charles Durning b. 1923 American Tony-winning actor. TV: Evening Shade (Dr. Elldrige). He was awarded the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and Purple Heart for his service during WWII.
1994 Rossano Brazzi b. 1916 Italian actor, specializing in Continental lover roles. Film: The Barefoot Contessa (1954), Summertime (1955), and South Pacific (1958). TV: The Survivors (Riakos).
1993 Norman Vincent Peale b. 1898 American minister, author, and founder of Guideposts magazine (1945). Writings: The Power of Positive Thinking (1952). Radio: The Art of Living. His life was portrayed in the movie One Man's Way (1964).
1992 Pierre Culliford b. 1928 Belgian cartoonist, creator of the Smurfs (1958).
1985 Robert Todd Lincoln Beckwith b. 1904 Abraham Lincoln's great-grandson, and last of President Lincoln's descendants.
1984 Peter Lawford b. 1923 British-born American actor. TV: The Thin Man (Nick Charles).
1957 Norma Talmadge b. 1894 American silent film actress. According to legend, she accidently stepped into wet cement at Grauman's Chinese Theater (1927), starting a long tradition. She was one of the biggest stars during the silent film era.
1873 Johns Hopkins b. 1795 American businessman, philanthropist, contributed money for the Johns Hopkins University and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
1863 William Makepeace Thackeray b. 1811 English novelist, Vanity Fair (1847-48) and Pendennis (1850). Quote: "I never knew whether to pity or congratulate a man on coming to his senses."