Today's History Trivia for December 31
1879 First Public Demonstration of Edison's Incandescent Light Bulb Thomas A. Edison makes the first public demonstration his incandescent lamp by lighting up a street in Menlo Park. Although incandescent lights had been around for about 40 years, Edison's was the first practical one.
1994 NOTHING happens in Kiribati This date is skipped altogether in Kiribati as the Phoenix Islands and Line Islands change time zones. The International Date Line bisected the island republic into two halves with the western part of the republic 24 hours ahead of its eastern part. To put an end to this situation, the president of Kiribati announced that on 1 January 1995 the International Date Line would henceforth run along the eastern boundary of the republic, thus eliminating December 31, 1994.
1974 U.S. ban on private possession of gold lifted The 41-year-old ban had allowed only industrial and numismatic purchases.
1970 Smoking The last day for cigarette commercials on U.S. TV.
1961 The Beach Boys The surfer group plays their first gig under that name at the Ritchie Valens Memorial Concert in Long Beach, California.
1909 Manhattan bridge opens.
1890 Ellis Island opens.
1793 Thomas Jefferson resigns as secretary of state.
Today's Birthdays for December 31
Leroy Edgar Burney
U.S. Surgeon General (1956-61). He was the first U.S. federal official to acknowledge the connection between smoking and cancer (1957). The American Medical Association, which for years had investments in tobacco, countered in 1959 that there was insufficient evidence to warrant the assumption that smoking was the principal factor for the increase in lung cancer.
1972 Joe McIntyre American pop musician, member of New Kids on the Block.
1959 Val Kilmer American actor. Film: Real Genius (1985), Willow (1988), The Doors (1991, Jim Morrison), and Tombstone.
1948 Donna Summer d. 2012 (LaDonna Gaines), American Grammy-winning singer. Music: Last Dance (1978) and She Works Hard for the Money (1983).
1947 Tim Matheson American child actor. TV: Johnny Quest (voice of Johnny).
1943 John Denver d. 1997 (Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.), American Grammy-winning singer. Music: Rocky Mountain High (1972), Thank God I'm A Country Boy (1975, #1), and wrote Leaving On A Jet Plane (1969). He died when the small aircraft he was piloting crashed off the coast of California.
1943 Ben Kingsley English Oscar-winning actor. Film: Gandhi (1982, Oscar, title role).
1942 Andy Summers (Andrew Somers), British guitarist, with Police. Music: Roxanne (1978), Message In A Bottle (1979, #1), and Every Breath You Take (1983, #1).
1940 Crystal Lee Sutton d. 2009 American union organizer. Due to poor working conditions, she helped unionize the workers at the J.P. Stevens textile plant in North Carolina. The film Norma Rae (1979, starring Sally Field) was based on her efforts.
1937 Anthony Hopkins British Oscar-Emmy-winning actor. Film: Silence of the Lambs (Oscar, he never met a man he didn't like - to eat) and Bram Stoker's Dracula (1993, Prof. Von Helsing).
1920 Rex Allen d. 1999 American singing cowboy, "The Arizona Cowboy," actor, and narrator of numerous Walt Disney nature films.
1912 John Frost d. 1993 British World War II hero, he was portrayed by Sir Anthony Hopkins in the 1977 movie A Bridge to Far.
1905 Jule Styne d. 1994 American Tony-Oscar-winning composer. Broadway: Gypsy (1959) and Funny Girl (1964). Film: Three Coins in a Fountain (1954, Oscar).
Deaths for December 31
2016 William Christopher b. 1932 American actor. TV: M*A*S*H (1972-83, Father Mulcahy) and Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C (1965-68, Private Lester Hummel).
2015 Wayne Rogers b. 1933 American actor. TV: M*A*S*H (Trapper John).
2015 Natalie Cole b. 1950 American Grammy-winning singer.
1996 Wesley Addy b. 1913 American actor. TV: Loving (Cabot Alden).
1985 Rick Nelson b. 1940 (Eric Hilliard Nelson), American actor, singer, teen-idol. TV: The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (playing himself). Music: Poor Little Fool (1958, #1) and Hello Mary Lou (1961, #1).
1979 Virgil Brown b. 1877 American bottler, developed the six-pack beverage carton. He also was a pioneer in vending machines and parking meters.
1948 Malcolm Campbell b. 1885 British auto racer. He was the first to travel five miles in a minute in an automobile.
1891 Samuel Adjai Crowther b. circa 1809 African missionary. He was a bishop the Anglican Church (1864), the first black African to receive the honor.
1864 George Mifflin Dallas b. 1792 11th U.S. Vice-President (1845-49).
1808 John Nixon b. 1733 American patriot. He gave the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence (July 8, 1776).
1802 Francis Lewis b. 1713 American patriot, signer of the Declaration of Independence.
1691 Robert Boyle b. 1627 British physicist. Father of Chemistry, creator of Boyle's Law (1662, "The pressure of gas is proportional to the number of molecules in a given space and their temperature"). Boyle is regarded as the first modern chemist.
1384 John Wycliffe b. circa 1330 English religious reformer. He directed the first English translation of the Bible (1382). In 1415, the Roman Catholic Church declared him a heretic, banned his writings, and declared his remains were to be removed from sacred ground. Source: An Almanac of the Christian Church
335 Saint Sylvester I b. ???? Italian religious leader, 33rd Pope (314-335), performed (324 A.D.) the first public consecration of a Catholic church, the Basilica of the Most Holy Savior (now known as St. John the Lateran).