1356: The Basel earthquake, the most significant historic seismological event north of the Alps, destroys the town of Basel, Switzerland, and causes much destruction in a vast region extending into France and Germany. The earthquake is envisioned here in this late-19th century painting by Swiss painter Karl Jauslin.
1775: The Burning of Falmouth (now Portland, Maine) by the Royal Navy prompts the Continental Congress to establish the Continental Navy.
1851: Herman Melville's "Moby-Dick" is first published as a three-volume edition titled "The Whale" by Richard Bentley of London.
1867: The United States takes possession of Alaska after purchasing it from Russia for $7.2 million. The transfer was officially marked with a flag-raising ceremony at Fort Sitka and is now celebrated annually in the state as Alaska Day.
1892: The American Telephone and Telegraph Company opens the first long-distance telephone line, between Chicago and New York. The circuit could handle only one call at a time and the price was $9 for the first five minutes.
1898: The United States takes possession of Puerto Rico, with the last Spanish troops leaving San Juan for Spain. Here, the United States flag is raised over San Juan for the first time.
1921: Jesse Helms, who would go on to become a five-term Republican U.S. senator from North Carolina and one of the most stridently conservative politicians of the post-1960 era, is born in Monroe, N.C.
1922: The British Broadcasting Company (later Corporation) is founded by a consortium of six telecommunications companies to establish a nationwide network of radio transmitters to provide a national broadcasting service.
1926: Guitarist and singer-songwriter Chuck Berry, one of the pioneers of rock 'n' roll music, is born in St. Louis, Mo. Some of his best-known songs include "Maybellene," "Roll Over Beethoven" and "Johnny B. Goode."
1927: Actor George C. Scott, best known for his roles in such movies as "Patton" (pictured), "Dr. Strangelove," "The Hustler" and "Anatomy of a Murder," is born in Wise, Va. He won an Academy Award for his performance in "Patton" but famously turned down the award.
1931: Inventor and businessman Thomas Edison, who developed many devices that greatly influenced life around the world, including the phonograph, the motion picture camera and a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb, dies from complications of diabetes at the age of 84 in West Orange, N.J.
1933: Pro Football Hall of Fame offensive tackle Forrest Gregg is born in Birthright, Texas. He was a part of six championships, five of them with the Green Bay Packers before closing out his NFL career with the Dallas Cowboys with a win in Super Bowl VI. He also went on to serve as a head coach of the Cleveland Browns, Cincinnati Bengals and the Packers, as well as in the Canadian Football League.
1935: Actor Peter Boyle, best known for his roles in the sitcom "Everybody Loves Raymond" and in the movie spoof "Young Frankenstein," is born in Norristown, Pa.
1938: Actress Dawn Wells, best known for playing farm girl Mary Ann Summers on the 1960s sitcom "Gilligan's Island," is born in Reno, Nev.
1939: Former NFL coach and Hall of Fame tight end Mike Ditka, one of only two people to win Super Bowls as a player, an assistant coach and a head coach, is born in Carnegie, Pa.
1939: Lee Harvey Oswald, the sniper who would assassinate President John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas, on Nov. 22, 1963, is born in New Orleans.
1947: Singer-songwriter and pianist Laura Nyro, best known for writing hit songs such as "Wedding Bell Blues," "Stoned Soul Picnic," "And When I Die" and "Eli's Coming," is born in The Bronx, N.Y. Nyro, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012 five years after her death from ovarian cancer, also received critical acclaim with her own recordings, particularly the late-1960s albums "Eli and the Thirteenth Confession" and "New York Tendaberry." Her best-selling single was her recording of Carole King and Gerry Goffin's "Up on the Roof."
1950: Cornelius McGillicuddy Sr., better known as Connie Mack, retires at age 87 as manager of the Philadelphia Athletics after 50 years. Mack, who was also at least part-owner of the team from 1901 to 1954, was the first manager to win the World Series three times and set records for wins (3,731), losses (3,948), and games managed (7,755).
1951: Actress Pam Dawber, best known for the sitcoms "Mork & Mindy" (pictured) and "My Sister Sam," is born in Detroit, Mich.
1954: Texas Instruments and Industrial Development Engineering Associates, which manufactured home television antenna boosters, announce the world's first commercially produced transistor radio, the Regency TR-1. The initial cost of the radio, which went on sale in November 1954, was $49.95 (the equivalent of roughly $400 today) and it sold about 150,000 units.
1956: Tennis player Martina Navratilova, who would go on to amass more singles titles (167) and doubles titles (177) than any woman or man in the Open Era, is born in Prague, Czechoslovakia.
1960: Actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, best known for his martial arts action films including "Bloodsport," "Kickboxer," "Universal Soldier" and "Hard Target," is born under the birth name Jean-Claude Camille François Van Varenberg in Brussels, Belgium.
1960: Actress Erin Moran, best known for playing Joanie Cunningham on "Happy Days" and its spinoff "Joanie Loves Chachi," is born in Burbank, Calif.
1961: The musical "West Side Story," starring Natalie Wood, Richard Beymer, Russ Tamblyn, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris, and directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins, premieres in New York City. The film, adapted from the Broadway musical based on William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," would go on to win 10 Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Chakiris and Best Supporting Actress for Moreno.
1961: Jazz trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, a nine-time Grammy winner and the first jazz musician to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music, is born in New Orleans.
1967: The Soviet probe Venera 4 reaches Venus and becomes the first spacecraft to measure the atmosphere of another planet.
1967: The American League grants permission for the Kansas City Athletics to move to Oakland, Calif. To appease Kansas City and Seattle, which had also sought the Athletics, the league also announced it would expand to the two cities no later than the 1971 MLB season.
1967: Walt Disney's animated movie "The Jungle Book" premieres in Los Angeles. The movie, the 19th animated movie from The Walt Disney Company, was also the last to be produced by Walt Disney, who died during its production. The film would prove to be a success, earning $73 million in just its domestic release, mostly due to the popularity of its musical numbers, including the Oscar-nominated song "The Bare Necessities."
1969: Rod Stewart joins the rock band Small Faces, which changes its name to Faces. Stewart, already becoming a star in his own right, and the rest of the band became as well known for living the rock 'n' roll lifestyle to the extreme during the band's short six-year history as they were for their music.
1973: Animator and cartoonist Walt Kelly, best known for creating the comic strip "Pogo," dies from diabetes complications at age 60 in Woodland Hills, Calif. Kelly began his animation career in 1936 at Walt Disney Studios, contributing to "Pinocchio" and "Fantasia." He created "Pogo" in 1948 and worked on the strip until his death, although the strip was continued through July 20, 1975, under the guidance of his widow Selby and son Stephen.
1977: Five days after it was hijacked and a day after it landed in Mogadishu, Somalia, Lufthansa Flight 181 is stormed by a team of German GSG 9 commandos, who rescue all 86 passengers. The plane had been hijacked over the Mediterranean Sea by four members of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine in an attempt to secure the release of imprisoned Red Army Faction leaders. Here, the hostages are seen deboarding the plane at the Cologne-Bonn Airport, where they were flown after being rescued.
1977: Reggie Jackson hits three home runs in the clinching Game 6 of the 1977 World Series, tying a single-game World Series mark set twice by Babe Ruth in 1923 and 1926, as the New York Yankees beat the Los Angeles Dodgers 8-4 at Yankee Stadium.
1982: Bess Truman, the first lady of the United States from 1945 to 1953 as the wife of President Harry S. Truman, dies at age 97 in Independence, Mo. She lived the longest of any U.S. first lady.
1982: Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson release the single "The Girl is Mine." It was released as the first single for Jackson's sixth solo album, "Thriller," and would top the R&B singles chart and reach No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 8 in the United Kingdom.
1984: Actress Freida Pinto, known for roles in movies such as "Slumdog Millionaire" and "Rise of the Planet of the Apes," is born in Mumbai, India.
1984: Jazz bassist and singer Esperanza Spalding, who won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2011, is born in Portland, Ore.
1984: Alpine ski racer Lindsey Vonn, who has won four overall World Cup championships and two Olympic medals (one gold and one bronze), is born in St. Paul, Minn.
1987: Actor and singer Zac Efron, best known for roles in such movies as "High School Musical," "Charlie St. Cloud" (pictured), "New Year's Eve" and "The Lucky One," is born in San Luis Obispo, Calif.
1990: Author, advocate and reality TV personality Bristol Palin, the daughter of 2008 Republican vice presidential candidate and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, is born in Wasilla, Alaska.
1991: The drama "Cool As Ice," starring rapper Vanilla Ice in his feature film debut, premieres in theaters. The film, developed as a vehicle for the rapper, proved to be a commercial and critical flop.
2007: A suicide attack on a motorcade carrying former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (pictured) kills 139 and wounds 450 more. Bhutto herself was not injured, but she would be killed in another attack two months later on Dec. 27, 2007, two weeks before the scheduled 2008 general election in which she was a leading opposition candidate.