1492: Christopher Columbus becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola, now Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
1766: In London, James Christie, founder of the famous British auction house Christie's, holds his first sale.
1776: At The College of William and Mary, Phi Beta Kappa is founded and becomes the first American college fraternity. It is also the oldest honor society for the liberal arts and sciences and among the oldest undergraduate societies in the United States.
1782: Martin Van Buren, who would go on to become the first native-born president of the United States in 1837, is born in Kinderhook, N.Y.
1791: Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, who composed more than 600 works and is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, dies at the age of 35 in Vienna, Austria. Although researchers have suggested at least 118 causes of death for the composer, with the official record listing "severe miliary fever," the most widely accepted hypothesis is that Mozart died of acute rheumatic fever.
1792: Running unopposed, U.S. President George Washington is re-elected for a second term.
1804: U.S. President Thomas Jefferson is re-elected for a second term, easily defeating Federalist Charles Cotesworth Pinckney with nearly 73 percent of the popular vote.
1831: Former U.S. President John Quincy Adams takes his seat in the House of Representatives, becoming the only president later elected to the U.S. House.
1832: U.S. President Andrew Jackson is re-elected for a second term, winning 219 of the 286 electoral votes cast, defeating Henry Clay, the candidate of the National Republican Party.
1839: George Armstrong Custer, a United States Army officer and cavalry commander in the Civil War and the Indian Wars, is born in New Rumley, Ohio. Custer's early military accomplishments would be overshadowed by his disastrous final battle. Custer and all his men were killed at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, fighting against a coalition of Native American tribes in a battle that would become known as "Custer's Last Stand."
1848: In a message before the U.S. Congress, President James K. Polk confirms that large amounts of gold had been discovered in California, helping set off the state's gold rush. The California Gold Rush would bring 300,000 new arrivals to the state and help push California toward statehood.
1870: French writer Alexandre Dumas, best known for his novels "The Three Musketeers" and "The Count of Monte Cristo," dies at the age of 68 in Puys, Seine-Maritime, France.
1890: Film director Fritz Lang (far right), whose most famous films would include "Metropolis" and "M," is born in Vienna, Austria-Hungary.
1901: Walt Disney, the co-founder of Walt Disney Productions who would create the iconic character Mickey Mouse in 1928, is born in Chicago, Ill.
1906: Film director, producer and actor Otto Preminger, best known for films such as "Laura," "The Man with the Golden Arm," "Anatomy of a Murder" and "The Cardinal," is born in Wiznitz, Austria–Hungary.
1908: The University of Pittsburgh becomes the first football team to wear numbers on its jerseys.
1926: Claude Monet, the founder of French impressionist painting, dies of lung cancer at the age of 86 in Giverny, France.
1932: German-born Swiss physicist Albert Einstein is granted an American visa, allowing him to work in the United States. He would become a U.S. citizen eight years later.
1932: Singer and pianist Little Richard, one of the architects of rock 'n' roll with such classics as "Tutti Frutti," "Long Tall Sally" and "Good Golly, Miss Molly," is born Richard Wayne Penniman in Macon, Ga.
1933: Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the 21st Amendment to the United States Constitution, bringing an end to prohibition. The amendment repeals the 18th Amendment, which had made the manufacture, sale or transportation of alcohol illegal in the United States in 1920. While it wouldn't become officially effective until Dec. 15, people started drinking openly before that date.
1938: Singer-songwriter and guitarist J.J. Cale, one of the originators of the "Tulsa Sound" musical style and the author of songs such as "Cocaine," "After Midnight" and "Call Me the Breeze," is born John Weldon Cale in Oklahoma City, Okla. He died of heart failure at age 74 on July 26, 2013.
1942: U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signs an executive order lowering the minimum draft age from 21 to 18. The order also lowered the maximum draft age from 45 to 38 and ended voluntary enlistment. The change was made in order to generate up to 200,000 new draftees per month for the remainder of World War II.
1951: Baseball player Shoeless Joe Jackson, best remembered for being part of the Chicago White Sox team that threw the 1919 World Series, dies of a heart attack at the age of 64 in Greenville, S.C. As a result of the scandal, which became known as the Black Sox Scandal, Jackson and seven other members of the team were banned from baseball after the 1920 season.
1952: A cold fog descends upon London and combines with air pollution, mostly from the use of coal, to form a thick layer of smog that would hang over the city for five days. Medical reports from the time estimated that 4,000 people died prematurely from the smog, although more recent research pegs the number of deaths that can be blamed on the incident at around 12,000.
1955: The American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations merge and form the AFL-CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States.
1955: The Montgomery Bus Boycott begins four days after Rosa Parks (pictured) was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a Montgomery, Ala., city bus to a white passenger. The boycott would last until Dec. 20, when a U.S. District Court ruling ended segregation on Montgomery public buses.
1963: The suspense thriller "Charade," starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn, and directed by Stanley Donen, premieres in theaters. Grant and Hepburn would earn Golden Globe nominations for their roles and Henry Mancini's title song, with lyrics by Johnny Mercer, would be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1964.
1964: For his heroism in battle earlier in the year, Capt. Roger Donlon is awarded the first Medal of Honor of the Vietnam War. Donlon is also the first member of the Special Forces so honored. On July 6, 1964, Donlon led a successful effort to repel an attack by two battalions of Vietcong forces on an outpost at Nam Dong, about 15 miles from Vietnam's border with Laos.
1967: Country music singer-songwriter Gary Allan, best known for the No. 1 country hits "Man to Man," "Tough Little Boys," "Nothing On but the Radio" and "Every Storm (Runs Out of Rain)," is born Gary Allan Herzberg in La Mirada, Calif.
1968: Comedian and actress Margaret Cho is born in San Francisco, Calif.
1973: Paul McCartney's band, Wings, releases their third album, "Band on the Run," in the United States. The album, which would become the band's most successful record, was released two days later in the United Kingdom.
1973: "Serpico," starring Al Pacino and directed by Sidney Lumet, premieres in theaters. The movie is based on the biography of NYPD officer Frank Serpico, who went undercover to expose corruption in the force. It would earn Pacino his first Golden Globe for Best Actor. Pacino would also earn an Academy Award nomination for his performance, with the film also earning an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
1974: The Birmingham Americans win what would eventually be the only World Bowl in World Football League history, beating the Florida Blazers by a score of 22-21. The short-lived football league would fold midway through its second season in 1975.
1974: After 45 episodes over five years, the sketch comedy series "Monty Python's Flying Circus" airs for the last time on the BBC. The show, which made Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam and Michael Palin famous, originally premiered on Oct. 5, 1969.
1975: Actress Paula Patton, best known for her roles in the films "Déjà Vu," "Swing Vote," "Precious" and "Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol," is born in Los Angeles.
1978: The American space probe Pioneer Venus 1, orbiting Venus, begins beaming back its first information and picture of the planet.
1983: The video arcade game "NFL Football" is unveiled in Chicago. It is the first video arcade game to be licensed by the National Football League.
1984: The Eddie Murphy action-comedy "Beverly Hills Cop" premieres in theaters. Murphy shot to international stardom playing Axel Foley, a street-smart Detroit cop who heads to Beverly Hills to solve the murder of his best friend. The movie would earn $234 million at the domestic box office, narrowly making it the biggest hit of 1984 just ahead of "Ghostbusters."
1985: The Dow Jones industrial average rises above 1,500 for the first time.
1985: Actor Frankie Muniz, best known for his role on the TV sitcom "Malcolm in the Middle" and for movie roles in "My Dog Skip" and "Agent Cody Banks," is born in Ridgewood, N.J.
1990: Author Salman Rushdie, ordered to death by Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini for blasphemy in his fourth novel, "The Satanic Verses," appears in public for the first time in two years.
1994: Republicans choose Newt Gingrich to be the first Republican speaker of the House in four decades.
1997: The drama "Good Will Hunting," starring Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Minnie Driver, Robin Williams and Stellan Skarsgard, and directed by Gus Van Sant, premieres in theaters. The movie would earn Academy Awards for Damon and Affleck for their screenplay and Williams for Best Supporting Actor, and gross more than $225 million at the domestic box office.
2007: Nineteen-year-old Robert A. Hawkins opens fire with a semi-automatic rifle at the Von Maur department store in the Westroads Mall in Omaha, Neb., killing eight people before taking his own life.
2008: A judge in Las Vegas, Nev., sentences O.J. Simpson to 33 years in prison, with eligibility for parole after nine years, for an armed robbery of various sports memorabilia at the Palace Station hotel.
2010: Football player and broadcaster Don Meredith, an original member of the "Monday Night Football" broadcast team, dies at age 72 in Santa Fe, N.M., after suffering a brain hemorrhage. Meredith, who starred as a quarterback at Southern Methodist University and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, also played nine seasons in the NFL for the Dallas Cowboys. He also had an acting career, appearing in multiple movies and television shows, including a recurring starring role as Detective Bert Jameson on "Police Story."
2012: Jazz pianist and composer Dave Brubeck, who wrote a number of jazz standards, including "In Your Own Sweet Way" and "The Duke," dies of heart failure at the age of 91 in Norwalk, Conn. Brubeck is also known for heading up the Dave Brubeck Quartet, whose best remembered piece, "Take Five," has endured as a jazz classic, and for writing soundtracks for television, including the animated mini-series "This Is America, Charlie Brown."