Month In History

Discover the global events and personal stories of December

December 17, 1903

The Wright Brothers: Inventing the First Successful Airplane

An Extraordinary Orville Wright Letter: How Watching Birds Led to Manned Flight at Kitty Hawk.

December 17, 1862

The Publication of Jonathan Sarna’s “When General Grant Expelled the Jews”

Running for President, Grant tries to lose the antisemite label engendered by his infamous “Jew Order” during the Civil War.

December 20, 1860

“The Union is Dissolved!”

The Charleston Mercury had already given warning. If the “Black Republican” party succeeded in the upcoming presidential election, it declared in the summer of 1860, “loyalty to the Union will be treason to the South.”

December 20, 1863

Lincoln Swears to Uphold the Emancipation Proclamation

Abraham Lincoln swears he shall not modify the Emancipation Proclamation, nor return to slavery any person freed by it.

December 22, 1937

National Handwriting Day: Herbert Hoover’s “One per Annum” Autograph Letter

The conundrum of the President who is at once both the most common and the rarest in manuscript material, is solved.

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December 25, 1953

Winter Holidays

When young bride Jacqueline Kennedy bought her husband a paint set for Christmas 1953, all the Kennedys descended on it, competing to see who could produce the most paintings in the shortest amount of time. Jacqueline was appalled: her idea had been to allow Jack to emulate his great hero, Winston Churchill, who found in painting a serene distraction from political pressure.

December 30, 1880

Holiday Merry Making in the White House

The Hayes’ White House, famously, was a bastion of Temperance – earning Mrs. Hayes the sobriquet “Lemonade Lucy” – although it was rumored that the disapproving staff served oranges infused with a rum-based Roman Punch.

December 31, 1999

The 20th Anniversary of the Transfer of the Panama Canal

It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century when the United States, led by the intrepid Theodore Roosevelt – ever mindful of naval power – decided that it was not only a vital matter of American lives, time and money, but national principle, to create an American-controlled waterway across the Panamanian isthmus.