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What Happened on December 18?

  • The Mayflower landed in Plymouth. (1620) Though the ship filled with English pilgrims had been anchored in Plymouth harbor for over a month, fears of American Indians and poor weather had prohibited the pilgrims from going ashore. Despite losing almost half their members within a year of landing at Plymouth, the settlement grew and became an extremely profitable fishing and ship building center.

  • The United Nations condemned South African apartheid. (1960) This was one of the first, formal, international condemnations of South Africa's system of apartheid, though its racist policies would not end for another 44 years.

  • The first official American Thanksgiving was observed. (1777) The first national day of Thanksgiving was observed in the US. The purpose for this celebratory meal was not, as many think, to remember the pilgrims, but rather to give thanks for the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga. It was the first holiday that the colonies celebrated collectively.

  • The first voice recording was heard from space. (1958) The US successfully launched the first communications satellite on this day, which then sent back a recording of a Christmas message from then-president Eisenhower.

  • Carthage defeated Rome in the Battle of the Trebia. (218 BC) Led by Hannibal, the Carthaginians had marched over the Alps in Autumn, a previously unheard of feat for an army, before falling on Rome from the North. Despite losing many soldiers and 25 elephants in the Alps, Hannibal was still able to defeat the Roman commander Sempronius Longus, which was extremely frightening and dispiriting to Rome. Because of his epic march through the Alps and his defeat of the Romans, Hannibal remains an icon of ingenious generalship today.

  • The first live giant panda arrived in the US. (1936) Ruth Harkness, a Manhattan socialite, smuggled the bear out of Tibet, where she had been trekking. The panda's name was Su-Lin, and she ended up living at the San Francisco Zoo for two years before tragically choking to death.

  • Mother Goose first appeared in print. (1719) Boston publisher Thomas Fleet published Mother Goose's Melodies for Children, based on his mother-in-law's stories. The book went on to become a classic compendium of children's nursery rhymes.

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas premiered. (1966) The original cartoon version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, featuring Boris Karloff as the narrator and Grinch, was broadcast as a 26-minute special. It became smash hit, and is shown annually by many American networks.

  • Ebonics was officially declared a language by an Oakland, California school. (1996) The resolution was extremely controversial, since it declared that Ebonics was "a language of African-Americans," and many felt that using it to teach in schools was inappropriate.

  • One of the first car speed records — a sizzling 39 mph (62 kph) — was set in France. (1898) French racecar driver Count Gaston de Chasseloup-Laubat set this record in an electric car as part of a competition for a French auto magazine.

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