Stories of the Month

December 2017

1
School Fire - Chicago 1958
One of the worst American school disasters occurred on the 1st of December, 1958 - eighty-seven years after the ''Great Chicago Fire.''æ The cause of the blaze was never officially determined, although investigators suspected arson.
Rosa Parks Keeps Her Bus Seat 1955
\"Rosa Parks - traveling home from work on a Montgomery, Alabama bus - refused to give up her seat to a white man on December 1, 1955.ææ Called ''the mother'' of the modern-day civil rights movement, Mrs. Parks ushered in an era which changed America.
2
Femi and the First Self-Sustaining Nuclear Reaction 1942
With the help of the first nuclear reactor - dubbed ''Chicago Pile 1'' - Enrico Fermi and his team of 48 additional scientists changed the world when they initiated the first man-made, self-sustaining, controlled nuclear reaction.
3
Andrew Jackson, a Controversial U.S. President, Is Elected 1828
Andrew Jackson, who would eventually become known for both his ''pros'' and ''cons'' is elected as America's 7th President. Later he was known for his role in the Cherokee Nations' ''Trail of Tears.''
Galileo and the Telescope 1621
A professor at the University of Padua, Galileo had substantially improved a new device - called the telescope - by the 3rd of December, 1621. His work, on this new device, would help to change the world as he, and others, began to ''look up.''
4
Sherman's March to the Sea 1864
Union General William T. Sherman began his ''March to the Sea'' - from Atlanta to the Atlantic Ocean - without getting prior permission from decision-makers in Washington.
General George Washington ''Retires'' 1783
Thinking he would retire from public life, General George Washington bids his officers farewell at the end of the Revolutionary War. The event takes place at Fraunces Tavern in New York City on December 4, 1783. His retirement lasts about 5 years.
5
Japanese ships steal towards the Hawaiian Islands in 1941
On the 5th of December, 1941, ships of the Japanese fleet maintained strict radio silence as they made their way toward the Hawaiian Islands. Why had negotiations broken-down between the U.S. and Japan?
Prohibition is over today ... in 1933
On December 5, 1933, America officially ended the country's experiment with Prohibition. Here's the chapter which matches it.
6
Halifax Explosion 1917
Five years after the people of Halifax buried so many of Titanic's victims, another ship caused a catastrophe in their own town. It remains Canada's worst man-made disaster. Learn what happened on December 6, 1917.
Destruction of the Babri Mosque 1992
On the 6th of December, 1992, a rushing crowd of activists completely destroyed the Babri Mosque in northern India. This clip shows the crowd in action.
7
Galileo - A Spacecraft Visits Jupiter 1989
After a long journey, which began in October of 1989, a spacecraft called ''Galileo'' began orbiting the planet Jupiter on December 7, 1995.æ What did Galileo ''see'' during its 34 orbits?æ Why was it destroyed?
Pearl Harbor Attack 1941
If American planes from the mainland had not been expected to reach Hawaii on the 7th of December, 1941, would the radar reports of incoming planes have been viewed differently? Radar was in its infancy.
8
Remembering John Lennon 1980
John Lennon was killed during the evening hours of December 8, 1980. Earlier in the day, he had given an interview about his current life and his hopes for the future. This clip features an excerpt from that interview, conducted by Dave Sholin.
Napoleon Crowns Himself Emperor 1804
Believing that no one was above him, Napoleon Bonaparte crowned himself emperor of France on December 2, 1804. Whatever possessed the French people to give such sweeping powers to this man?
9
Harsh Treatment in Puritan America 1640
On the 9th of December, 1640, Hugh Bewitt was banished from the Massachusetts Colony. His crime was declaring that he was free from original sin.
John Milton 1608
John Milton, the famous British scholar, writer, philosopher and Parliamentarian supporter (during England's Civil War) was born on December 9, 1608. Why is his work, like ''Paradise Lost,'' still relevant?
10
George Macdonald - "Father of Fantasy" - Born 1824
George Macdonald, a Scottish writer who is often called the ''Father of Fantasy,'' influenced J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Mark Twain, Lewis Carroll (among others). He was born on the 10th of December, in 1824, and lived for nearly 81 years.
Luther Burns the Papal Edit
Pope Leo X ordered Martin Luther to recant some of his positions against the Catholic Church or be excommunicated. On the December 10, 1520, Luther publicly burned the Pope’s edict.
11
Abdication of King Edward VIII 1936
On the 11th of December, 1936, King Edward VIII signed an Instrument of Abdication by which he gave up the British throne. A few hours later, he was introduced, on air, by the BBC's director general, Sir John Reith.
Whaling - The Real World of Moby Dick
''In the Heart of the Sea'' opens on Dec 11, 2015. That new film prompts questions: What was the real world of ''Moby Dick'' like? Why did whalers sail so far away to catch sperm whales? Why do sperm whales have so much oil in their gigantic heads?
Louis XVI - Charged with Treason 1792
On the 11th of December, 1792, the King of France - Louis XVI - was charged with treason. He had earlier predicted something like this would occur, having studied what happened to Charles I of Britain (who'd lost his head).
12
Keiko, the Orca in "Free Willy" 2003
Keiko, the famous Orca (Killer Whale) who starred in ''Free Willy,'' was released ''into the wild'' after regaining his health. He died in Norway, at about age 27, on the 12th of December, 2003. Some experts think he may have developed pneumonia.
When Beethoven met Hayden 1792
When Joseph Hayden - then Europe's most-famous composer - learned about Beethoven's talents, he invited Ludwig to become his pupil. Beethoven, at the age of 22, received his first lesson from Hayden on December 12, 1792.
Edvard Munch 1863
Edvard Munch, the famous Norwegian painter who created ''The Scream,'' was born on December 12, 1863. His life was marked by great sadness and family illnesses (including his own bout with ''Spanish Flu''). Learn the story behind his famous painting.
13
Meet Charles Dickens 1843
The famous English author was born in the English seaport of Portsmouth. We can investigate the details of his youth in this clip, narrated by Ian Dickens (his great-great-grandson).
Charles Dickens - In Animated Fashion 1843
How did Charles Dickens become a writer? In this animated clip, narrated by ''Mrs. Jellyby,'' we learn how some of the worst circumstances of young Charles' life helped him to become a great writer.
A Christmas Carol - by Charles Dickens 1843
To provide for his growing family, Charles Dickens wrote his novella, ''A Christmas Carol,''over a three-week period in 1843. It was published, to great acclaim, on the 13th of December that year. History records that 6,000 copies were soon sold.
The Battle of Fredericksburg 1862
General Ambrose Burnside, in charge of Union forces during December of 1862, was on his way to Richmond, capital of the Confederate states. Before he could capture Richmond, however, he needed to secure Fredericksburg, a Virginia town.
14
Princess Mary becomes Mary, Queen of Scots
When she was six days old, Mary Stewart (Stuart) became Queen Mary I of Scotland. Better known as Mary, Queen of Scots, she had a tragic life.
George Washington Dies at Mt Vernon 1799
America's only unanimously elected President, George Washington was nearly 67 years old when he died at his beloved Mt Vernon home on December 14, 1799. Learn more about him in this series of video clips.
15
Gone with the Wind 1939
''Gone with the Wind,'' based on Margaret Mitchell's book, had its world premiere in Atlanta on December 15, 1939. Years later a researcher discovered that some of the characters and scenes were based on real people. Check out this video clip.
Death of Sitting Bull 1890
Sitting Bull was known as Tatanka-Iyotanka in his own language. Famous for resisting westward expansion, he fought General Custer at the Battle of Little Big Horn. He was shot to death on the 15th of December, 1890.
16
Boston Tea Party, Part 2 1773
Part 2 of the animated story highlighting the famous ''Boston Tea Party.''
Battle of the Bulge 1944
On the 16th of December, more than 250,000 German troops commenced a surprise attack on the Allies. This was known as the Ardennes Offensive.
Boston Tea Party 1773
American colonials were tired of taxes imposed on them by Britain's Parliament (in which they had no representation). Read the story and see what a group of colonials did as an act of defiance - on the 16th of December, 1773.
17
Wright Brothers - How Did They Do It? 1903
In this video clip, from ''The Wright Brothers' Flying Machine,'' we retrace the Wright Brothers' steps during their journey of invention. We can even hear the sound of an original Wright Brothers' engine which powered one of their planes.
First Powered Flight 1903
Ever since 1878, when their father brought home a toy helicopter powered by a rubber band, Wilbur and Orville Wright wanted to fly. On the 17th of December, 1903, these normally cautious, bicycle-shop-owning brothers did something surprising.
Wright Brothers - Powered Flight at Kitty Hawk 1903
On the 17th of December, 1903, the Wright Brothers did a remarkable thing. For the first time, in the history of the world, they flew an engine-powered airplane. This clip, from a NASA-produced video, shows how it happened.
18
Japanese-American Internment Ends
The U.S. Supreme Court unanimously holds that loyal Japanese-Americans can no longer be held against their will in internment camps. The case, brought by a female plaintiff, allows Japanese-Americans to eventually return to their western U.S. homes.
Battle of Verdun Finally Ends
After nearly 1 million casualties in ten months, the Battle for Verdun (in France) ends. It symbolizes the deadly nature of trench warfare during WWI.
Archduke Franz Ferdinand Born 1863
Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is born on the 18th of December in 1863. His assassination in Sarajevo, in 1940, sets-off a ''domino effect'' in Europe, leading to WWI.
19
Titanic, the Movie, Opens 1997
One of the world's highest-grossing films, ''Titanic'' opens on December 19, 1997. The film is based on the fatal voyage of the famous ship which sank on her first transatlantic crossing. See the ship and the iceberg which caused her demise.
Thomas Paine and His Pamphlets 1776
During the days of the American Revolution, Thomas Paine knew how to put things in perspective.
The Hubble Telescope Gets 'Glasses' 1993
For many years, we have seen amazing pictures from space. The Hubble telescope (really a floating space observatory) is responsible for many of those images.
20
Branch Rickey Breaks MLB's Color Line - Born 1881
Branch Rickey revolutionized major league baseball when he started the ''farm system'' and decided to hire an African-American baseball star (Jackie Robinson). He was born on December 20, 1881.
Richard the Lion-Heart Captured
On his way home to England, after making peace with Saladin (thereby ending the Third Crusade), Richard the Lion-Heart is captured and imprisoned by Leopold V of Austria. Who was this famous medieval king?
21
Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims
When the Pilgrims came to America, did they really step onto a rock now-known as Plymouth Rock? How did the story get started? Can we still see the rock?
Marie and Pierre Curie Discover Radium
Marie and Pierre Curie, married scientists who discovered radium on the 21st of December, 1898, also isolated radioactive radium sales (from mineral pitchblende) 45 months later. Marie died from four decades of exposure to radioactive substances.
Lockerbie Disaster
On the 21st of December, 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 left Heathrow (in London) headed for New York City. On board were people from twenty-one different countries. All died when a bomb exploded at 31,000 feet.
22
Battle of the Bulge - 101st Airborne in Trouble
Surrounded by Germans, at the town of Bastogne, the 101st Airborne refused to surrender. Their General sent a one-word reply to the German command: “NUTS!” Thus began the \"greatest land battle ever fought by American troops in the 20th century
Beethoven and His Freezing-Cold Concert
People attending Beethoven’s concert in Vienna, in which he introduced several new works including his 5th Symphony, learned that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
23
Clement Moore's Night before Christmas 1822
Clement Moore writes a poem called ''A Visit from Saint Nicholas'' on Christmas Eve, 1822. A year later, someone publishes the poem we know as ''The Night before Christmas'' in the ''Troy Sentinel.'' Moore, a scholar, wasn't pleased about that.
Vincent van Gogh and the Ear Episode 1888
The brilliant Dutch artist, Vincent van Gogh, suffered from periods of intense psychological turmoil. Scholars also think he may have had Meniere's Disease which impacts a person's inner ear and sense of balance.
24
Who Was St. Nicholas? 343
For centuries people have asked: ''Is there really a St. Nicholas?'' This purveyor of holiday cheer, known as Santa Claus in America, comes in many different forms in many different countries. But as it happens, there really was a St. Nicholas.
Scrooge Gets a Ghostly Visit from Old Marley
Ebenezer Scrooge enters the world of holiday characters when Dickens publishes his story in December of 1843. See what happens when ''Old Marley,'' who was ''as dead as a door-nail,'' pays Scrooge a ghostly visit.
25
Fall of the Wall Concert - Beethoven's 9th Symphony 1989
It is said that when Beethoven's Ninth Symphony premiered in Vienna (on the 7th of May, 1824), the deaf maestro kept conducting even after the audience was cheering and applauding.
"A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens
Enjoy Dickens' story about Scrooge - abridged, dramatized and illustrated!
William the Conqueror Becomes King of Britain 1066
Everyone knows about the Battle of Hastings, in 1066, which totally changed the history of Britain. William the Conqueror became King of the country on December 25, that year.
Fighting Foot Soldiers, Part 2 1066
This is part two of the story of William the Conqueror's path to the British throne - told from the standpoint of Britain foot soldiers.
26
Churchill's Address to the American Congress 1941
Soon after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Winston Churchill became the first British Prime Minister to address a joint session of the American Congress. During that speech he spoke some of his famous lines.
Massive Earthquake and Tsunami 2004
A massive underwater earthquake traumatized the coastal areas of the Indian Ocean on December 26, 2004. What caused this disaster which claimed so many lives, destroyed so much property and is depicted in a movie called ''The Impossible?''
27
The Story of Peter Pan 1904
When J.M. (James Matthew) Barrie first wrote the play we know as Peter Pan, he used a different working title: The Great White Father. After he read the first draft of his play to a friend, Herbert Tree, the reaction was not good.
Louis Pasteur is Born 1822
When he was 8, young Louis Pasteur witnessed the horrific treatment of people bitten by rabid dogs who were branded with a red-hot iron. Years later, he would change the world when he and his team developed a rabies vaccine.
28
Wilhelm Roentgen Publishes His X-Ray Paper 1895
On December 28, 1895, Wilhelm Roentgen releases a paper detailing his discovery of a new type of radiation, which we know as x-rays. Revolutionizing the medical world, Roentgen refuses to patent his discoveries so everyone can freely benefit.
Solzhenitsyn Publishes GULAG Archipelago
Nobel-winning author, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, experiences life as a ''zek'' in a Siberian forced-labor camp. Using his own story, plus those of 227 other prisoners, he exposes the Stalinist-era nightmare when he publishes ''The Gulag Archipelago.''
29
Murder of Gregory Rasputin 1916
Rasputin, who was known as a ''mad monk,'' wielded great influence over the Russian court, especially the Empress Alexandra. On December 29, 1916, a Romanov family member murdered the monk. Before his death, Rasputin made an eerie prediction.
Murder of Thomas Becket 1170
In the 12th century, the King of England was vexed by Thomas Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury. In the presence of English Barons, Henry II cried out: ''Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?'' This clip is a recreation of what happened.
30
Vladimir Lenin Forms the Soviet Union 1922
On the 30th of December, in 1922, Vladimir Lenin and his colleagues founded the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (also known as the USSR and the Soviet Union). It was the world's first government to employ communist principles.
Rudyard Kipling and His Famous Poems 1865
Rudyard Kipling was born on December 30, 1865. The youngest-ever Nobel Laureate for Literature, Kipling's popularity continues. In 1995, people in the UK voted ''If-'' their most-favorite poem. Hear the poem and learn something about Rudyard Kipling
31
Anthony Hopkins and His Multi-Role Career 1937
Philip Anthony Hopkins was born in Margam, Wales on December 31, 1937. In addition to other roles, Sir Anthony plays Hrothgar in the film ''Beowulf.'' In this video clip, he explains the technique which transformed him into that character.
General George Marshall's Birthday 1880
During WWII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt relied heavily on his Army Chief of Staff. So important was George Marshall to FDR that he reportedly told the General: ''I feel I could not sleep at night with you out of the country.''

Dec 1: School Fire - Chicago 1958

Dec 1: Rosa Parks Keeps Her Bus Seat 1955

Dec 2: Femi and the First Self-Sustaining Nuclear Reaction 1942

Dec 3: Andrew Jackson, a Controversial U.S. President, Is Elected 1828

Dec 3: Galileo and the Telescope 1621

Dec 4: Sherman's March to the Sea 1864

Dec 4: General George Washington ''Retires'' 1783

Dec 5: Japanese ships steal towards the Hawaiian Islands in 1941

Dec 5: Prohibition is over today ... in 1933

Dec 6: Halifax Explosion 1917

Dec 6: Destruction of the Babri Mosque 1992

Dec 7: Galileo - A Spacecraft Visits Jupiter 1989

Dec 7: Pearl Harbor Attack 1941

Dec 8: Remembering John Lennon 1980

Dec 8: Napoleon Crowns Himself Emperor 1804

Dec 9: Harsh Treatment in Puritan America 1640

Dec 9: John Milton 1608

Dec 10: George Macdonald - "Father of Fantasy" - Born 1824

Dec 10: Luther Burns the Papal Edit

Dec 11: Abdication of King Edward VIII 1936

Dec 11: Whaling - The Real World of Moby Dick

Dec 11: Louis XVI - Charged with Treason 1792

Dec 12: Keiko, the Orca in "Free Willy" 2003

Dec 12: When Beethoven met Hayden 1792

Dec 12: Edvard Munch 1863

Dec 13: Meet Charles Dickens 1843

Dec 13: Charles Dickens - In Animated Fashion 1843

Dec 13: A Christmas Carol - by Charles Dickens 1843

Dec 13: The Battle of Fredericksburg 1862

Dec 14: Princess Mary becomes Mary, Queen of Scots

Dec 14: George Washington Dies at Mt Vernon 1799

Dec 15: Gone with the Wind 1939

Dec 15: Death of Sitting Bull 1890

Dec 16: Boston Tea Party, Part 2 1773

Dec 16: Battle of the Bulge 1944

Dec 16: Boston Tea Party 1773

Dec 17: Wright Brothers - How Did They Do It? 1903

Dec 17: First Powered Flight 1903

Dec 17: Wright Brothers - Powered Flight at Kitty Hawk 1903

Dec 18: Japanese-American Internment Ends

Dec 18: Battle of Verdun Finally Ends

Dec 18: Archduke Franz Ferdinand Born 1863

Dec 19: Titanic, the Movie, Opens 1997

Dec 19: Thomas Paine and His Pamphlets 1776

Dec 19: The Hubble Telescope Gets 'Glasses' 1993

Dec 20: Branch Rickey Breaks MLB's Color Line - Born 1881

Dec 20: Richard the Lion-Heart Captured

Dec 21: Plymouth Rock and the Pilgrims

Dec 21: Marie and Pierre Curie Discover Radium

Dec 21: Lockerbie Disaster

Dec 22: Battle of the Bulge - 101st Airborne in Trouble

Dec 22: Beethoven and His Freezing-Cold Concert

Dec 23: Clement Moore's Night before Christmas 1822

Dec 23: Vincent van Gogh and the Ear Episode 1888

Dec 24: Who Was St. Nicholas? 343

Dec 24: Scrooge Gets a Ghostly Visit from Old Marley

Dec 25: Fall of the Wall Concert - Beethoven's 9th Symphony 1989

Dec 25: "A Christmas Carol," by Charles Dickens

Dec 25: William the Conqueror Becomes King of Britain 1066

Dec 25: Fighting Foot Soldiers, Part 2 1066

Dec 26: Churchill's Address to the American Congress 1941

Dec 26: Massive Earthquake and Tsunami 2004

Dec 27: The Story of Peter Pan 1904

Dec 27: Louis Pasteur is Born 1822

Dec 28: Wilhelm Roentgen Publishes His X-Ray Paper 1895

Dec 28: Solzhenitsyn Publishes GULAG Archipelago

Dec 29: Murder of Gregory Rasputin 1916

Dec 29: Murder of Thomas Becket 1170

Dec 30: Vladimir Lenin Forms the Soviet Union 1922

Dec 30: Rudyard Kipling and His Famous Poems 1865

Dec 31: Anthony Hopkins and His Multi-Role Career 1937

Dec 31: General George Marshall's Birthday 1880

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