Fun Facts for Today – December 31

December 31

It’s Make Up Your Mind Day, Unlucky Day and New Year’s Eve (Oh, and in Scotland it’s Hogmanay)


1599 The British East India Company is chartered
1695 A window tax is imposed in England, causing many to brick up their windows to avoid the tax
1744 James Bradley announces discovery of Earth’s motion of nutation (tidal forces)
1813 Westminster Bridge in London is illuminated with gas lights
1831 Gramercy Park is deeded to New York City
1879 Thomas Edison demonstrates incandescent lighting to the public for the first time
1891 A new immigration depot is opened on Ellis Island
1897 Brooklyn’s last day as a city before it is incorporated as a borough of New York City
1904 The first New Year’s Eve celebration is held in Times Square, then known as Longacre Square
1909 The Manhattan Bridge opens
1923 The chimes of Big Ben are broadcast on radio for the first time by the BBC
1929 Guy Lombardo performs Auld Lang Syne at the Roosevelt Hotel in NYC for the first time
1935 A patent is issued for the game of Monopoly to Parker Brothers, Inc.
1938 The “drunkometer,” the first breath test for car drivers, invented by Dr Rolla N. Harger of Indiana University School of Medicine, is officially introduced
1955 General Motors becomes the first U.S. corporation to make over USD $1 billion in a year
1960 The farthing coin ceases to be legal tender in the United Kingdom
1966 The Monkees “I’m a Believer” hits #1 and stays there for seven weeks
1981 CNN Headline News debuts
1983 The AT&T Bell System is broken up by the United States Government
1984 Def Leppard drummer Rick Allen loses his arm in a car crash
1990 Sci-Fi Channel begins transmitting
1991 The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics is officially dissolved
1995 Cartoonist Bill Watterson ends his “Calvin and Hobbes” comic strip
1997 Microsoft buys Hotmail E-mail service
1997 More Swedes died than were born in 1997; the first time this has happenned since 1809
1997 Will Smith marries Jada Pinkett
1999 The United States Government hands control of the Panama Canal Zone over to Panama
1999 The London Eye opens by the banks of the Thames
2006 The United Kingdom pays final installment of Second World War debt to the United States
2007 Billie Piper weds Laurence Fox


1738 Lord Charles Cornwallis, British military commander/statesman (“Fire when ready Gridley”)
1869 Henri Matisse, painter (The Joy of Life)
1880 George C. Marshall, United States Secretary of State/Nobel Laureate
1897 Orry-Kelly, three time Oscar-winning costume designer (Gypsy, Les Girls, An American in Paris)
1899 Dr. Occult, supernatural detective (according to DC Comics)
1908 Simon Wiesenthal, Holocaust survivor/Nazi hunter
1919 G. Wood, actor (MASH, Harold and Maude)
1920 Rex Allen, actor/singer (Under Mexicali Stars, Down Laredo Way)
1926 Tom Marvolo Riddle aka Lord Voldemort, evil wizard (according to J.K. Rowling)
1932 George Schlatter, Emmy-winning writer/producer/director (Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In, The Judy Garland Show)
1937 Anthony Hopkins, Oscar-winning actor (Silence of the Lambs, Lion in Winter)
1938 Rosalind Cash, actress (The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension, Dr. Black, Mr. Hyde)
1940 Tim Considine, actor (The Adventures of Spin and Marty, The Shaggy Dog)
1941 Sarah Miles, actress (Hope and Glory, Blow Up)
1942 Andy Summers, musician/composer (The Police)
1943 Pete Quaife, musician (The Kinks)
1943 Ben Kingsley, Oscar-winning actor (Gandhi, Sexy Beast)
1943 John Denver, musician/actor (Oh, God!, The Muppet Show)
1945 Connie Willis, multiple Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author (The Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog)
1945 Vernon Wells, actor (Fortress, Billy Frankenstein)
1945 Diane von F├╝rstenberg, fashion designer
1947 Tim Matheson, actor (National Lampoon’s Animal House, The West Wing, Drop Dead Fred)
1948 Donna Summer, Queen of Disco
1949 Ellen Datlow, multiple Hugo, World Fantasy, Bram Stoker and Locus Award-winning editor (The Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, Black Thorn, White Rose)
1952 George Thorogood, musician (“Bad to the Bone,” “Cocaine Blues”)
1953 Jane Badler, actress (V, Falcon Crest)
1953 James Remar, actor (The Warriors, Dexter)
1956 Steve Rude, four-time Eisner Award-winning comic book artist (Nexus, The Moth)
1958 Bebe Neuwirth, actress (Frasier, Deadline)
1959 Val Kilmer, actor (Real Genius, Willow, Tombstone)
1959 Jonathan Short, set designer (My Boyfriend’s Back, Big Fish)
1959 Paul Westerberg, musician (The Replacements)
1962 Heather McCartney, adopted daughter of Paul McCartney/potter
1964 Michael McDonald, actor/comedian (MADtv)
1965 Nicholas Sparks, author (Message in a Bottle, The Notebook)
1972 Joey McIntyre, singer/actor (Boston Public, New Kids on the Block)
1973 Malcolm Middleton, musician (Arab Strap)


0192 Lucius AA Commodus, Emperor of Rome (180-192), is murdered at 31
1719 John Flamsteed, the first Astronomer Royal (1675-1719) who established the Greenwich Observatory, dies at 73
1971 Pete Duel, actor (Alias Smith and Jones, Gidget), commits suicide at 31
1972 Roberto Clemente, Hall of Fame Baseball player, is killed in a plane crash at 38
1980 Raoul Walsh, director (The Thief of Bagdad, The Roaring Twenties) dies at 93
1985 Sam Spiegel, three-time Oscar-winning producer (On the Waterfront, The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia) dies at 84
1985 Ricky Nelson, actor/musician (Rio Bravo, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet) is killed in a plane crash at 45
1986 Lloyf Haynes, actor (Ice Station Zebra, General Hospital) dies at 52
1990 Vasili Grigoryevich Lazarev, Soviet Cosmonaut (Soyuz 12, Soyuz 18a) dies at 62
1993 Brandon Teena (the subject of the Academy Award-winning film Boys Don’t Cry) is murdered at 21
1994 Woody Strode, actor (Spartacus, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance), dies at 80
1997 Billie Dove, actress (The Black Pirate, The Painted Angel), dies at 94
2001 Eileen Heckart, Oscar and Emmy Award-winning actress (Butterflies are Free, The Bad Seed), dies at 82

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