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Edgar Allan Poe is born

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/edgar-allan-poe-is-born

On January 19, 1809, poet, author and literary critic Edgar Allan Poe is born in Boston, Massachusetts.

By the time he was three years old, both of Poe’s parents had died, leaving him in the care of his godfather, John Allan, a wealthy tobacco merchant. After attending school in England, Poe entered the University of Virginia (UVA) in 1826. After fighting with Allan over his heavy gambling debts, he was forced to leave UVA after only eight months. Poe then served two years in the U.S. Army and won an appointment to West Point. After another falling-out, Allan cut him off completely and he got himself dismissed from the academy for rules infractions.

Dark, handsome and brooding, Poe had published three works of poetry by that time, none of which had received much attention. In 1836, while working as an editor at the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, Virginia, Poe married his 13-year-old cousin, Virginia Clemm. He also completed his first full-length work of fiction, Arthur Gordon Pym, published in 1838. Poe lost his job at the Messenger due to his heavy drinking, and the couple moved to Philadelphia, where Poe worked as an editor at Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and Graham’s Magazine. He became known for his direct and incisive criticism, as well as for dark horror stories like “The Fall of the House of Usher” and “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Also around this time, Poe began writing mystery stories, including “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter”–works that would earn him a reputation as the father of the modern detective story.

In 1844, the Poes moved to New York City. He scored a spectacular success the following year with his poem “The Raven.” While Poe was working to launch The Broadway Journal–which soon failed–his wife Virginia fell ill and died of tuberculosis in early 1847. His wife’s death drove Poe even deeper into alcoholism and drug abuse. After becoming involved with several women, Poe returned to Richmond in 1849 and got engaged to an old flame. Before the wedding, however, Poe died suddenly. Though circumstances are somewhat unclear, it appeared he began drinking at a party in Baltimore and disappeared, only to be found incoherent in a gutter three days later. Taken to the hospital, he died on October 7, 1849, at age 40.

READ MORE: The Riddle of Edgar Allan Poe’s Death

First air raid on Britain

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/first-air-raid-on-britain

During World War I, Britain suffers its first casualties from an air attack when two German zeppelins drop bombs on Great Yarmouth and King’s Lynn on the eastern coast of England.

The zeppelin, a motor-driven rigid airship, was developed by German inventor Ferdinand Graf von Zeppelin in 1900. Although a French inventor had built a power-driven airship several decades before, the zeppelin’s rigid dirigible, with its steel framework, was by far the largest airship ever constructed. However, in the case of the zeppelin, size was exchanged for safety, as the heavy steel-framed airships were vulnerable to explosion because they had to be lifted by highly flammable hydrogen gas instead of non-flammable helium gas.

In January 1915, Germany employed three zeppelins, the L.3, the L.4, and the L.6, in a two-day bombing mission against Britain. The L.6 turned back after encountering mechanical problems, but the other two zeppelins succeeded in dropping their bombs on English coastal towns.

READ MORE: London’s World War I Zeppelin Terror

NHL is integrated

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/nhl-is-integrated

On January 18, 1958, hockey player Willie O’Ree of the Boston Bruins takes to the ice for a game against the Montreal Canadiens, becoming the first black to play in the National Hockey League (NHL).

Born in 1935 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, O’Ree was the son of a civil engineer, in one of Fredericton’s only two black families. He began skating at the age of three, and joined a nearby hockey league when he was only five. During five years playing with his older brother on teams in Fredericton, O’Ree became known as one of the best players in New Brunswick. After one season with the Quebec Frontenacs of the Quebec Junior Hockey League, he joined the Kitchener Canucks of the Ontario Hockey Association Junior “A” Hockey League, setting a career-high mark of 30 goals during the 1955-56 season. That year, a puck struck O’Ree in the right eye during a game, robbing him of 95 percent of the vision in that eye.

O’Ree managed to conceal the injury and continue his hockey career, joining the Quebec Aces of the prestigious Quebec Hockey League in 1956. During his second season with Quebec, the Boston Bruins of the NHL called up the 22-year-old O’Ree to replace an injured player. On January 18, 1958, the Bruins were playing the two-time Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens at Quebec’s Montreal Forum. O’Ree took to the ice as a forward with the Bruins’ third line, as the Bruins pulled off an upset 3-0 victory. He didn’t score, or record a penalty, and the historic event took place amid little fanfare.

After only two games, O’Ree was sent back to the Aces, though he played several games that season with the Springfield Indians of the American Hockey League (AHL). For the 1959-60 season, O’Ree joined the Kingston Frontenacs of the Eastern Professional Hockey League, notching 21 goals and 25 assists in 50 games. Moving to the Hull-Ottawa Canadiens, he scored 19 points in 16 games. O’Ree rejoined the Bruins at the end of 1960, and on January 1, 1961, in another game against the Canadiens, he scored his first NHL goal. O’Ree played 43 games with the Bruins that season, scoring a total of four goals and adding 10 assists.

The Bruins sold O’Ree’s contract to the Los Angeles Blades of the Western Hockey League (WHL) the next season, and O’Ree spent most of the rest of his career out west, playing 11 years with the Blades and the San Diego Gulls and twice winning the WHL’s scoring title. After one season with the New Haven Nighthawks of the AHL, he went back to California. He took a two-year break from playing in the late 1970s, then returned for a final season with the Pacific Hockey League’s San Diego Hawks in 1978-79. He retired at the end of that season, at the age of 43, after a professional hockey career of 19 seasons and 10 teams.

China and Soviet Union recognize Democratic Republic of Vietnam

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/china-and-soviet-union-recognize-democratic-republic-of-vietnam

The People’s Republic of China formally recognizes the communist Democratic Republic of Vietnam and agrees to furnish it military assistance; the Soviet Union extended diplomatic recognition to Hanoi on January 30. China and the Soviet Union provided massive military and economic aid to North Vietnam, which enabled North Vietnam to fight first the French and then the Americans. Chinese aid to North Vietnam between 1950 and 1970 is estimated at $20 billion. It is thought that China provided approximately three-quarters of the total military aid given to Hanoi since 1949, with the Soviets providing most of the rest. It would have been impossible for the North Vietnamese to continue the war without the aid from both the Chinese and Soviets.

Post-World War I peace conference begins in Paris

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/post-world-war-i-peace-conference-begins-in-paris

On January 18, 1919, in Paris, France, some of the most powerful people in the world meet to begin the long, complicated negotiations that would officially mark the end of the First World War.

Leaders of the victorious Allied powers–France, Great Britain, the United States and Italy–would make most of the crucial decisions in Paris over the next six months. For most of the conference, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson struggled to support his idea of a “peace without victory” and make sure that Germany, the leader of the Central Powers and the major loser of the war, was not treated too harshly. On the other hand, Prime Ministers Georges Clemenceau of France and David Lloyd George of Britain argued that punishing Germany adequately and ensuring its weakness was the only way to justify the immense costs of the war. In the end, Wilson compromised on the treatment of Germany in order to push through the creation of his pet project, an international peacekeeping organization called the League of Nations.

Representatives from Germany were excluded from the peace conference until May, when they arrived in Paris and were presented with a draft of the Versailles Treaty. Having put great faith in Wilson’s promises, the Germans were deeply frustrated and disillusioned by the treaty, which required them to forfeit a great deal of territory and pay reparations. Even worse, the infamous Article 231 forced Germany to accept sole blame for the war. This was a bitter pill many Germans could not swallow.

The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28, 1919, five years to the day after a Serbian nationalist’s bullet ended the life of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and sparked the beginning of World War I. In the decades to come, anger and resentment of the treaty and its authors festered in Germany. Extremists like Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist (Nazi) Party capitalized on these emotions to gain power, a process that led almost directly to the exact thing Wilson and the other negotiators in Paris in 1919 had wanted to prevent–a second, equally devastating global war.

READ MORE: World War I—in Color

GM auctions off historic cars

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/gm-auctions-off-historic-cars

January 18, 2009, marks the final day of a weeklong auction in which auto giant General Motors (GM) sells off historic cars from its Heritage Collection. GM sold around 200 vehicles at the Scottsdale, Arizona, auction, including a 1996 Buick Blackhawk concept car for $522,500, a 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL-1 COPO Coupe for $319,000 and a 1959 Chevrolet Corvette convertible for $220,000. Other items included a 1998 Cadillac Brougham, which was built for the pope. (That vehicle was blessed by the pope but never used because of safety issues; it sold for more than $57,000.) Most were preproduction, development, concept or prototype cars.

The vehicles came from GM’s Heritage Center, an 81,000 square foot facility in Sterling, Michigan, that houses hundreds of cars and trucks from GM’s past, along with documents chronicling the company’s history and other artifacts and “automobilia.” Rumors spread that the financially troubled GM was selling off its entire fleet of historic vehicles, but that was not the case. As The New York Times reported shortly after the January auction: “Much has been made of the timing of the sale coinciding with G.M.’s current situation, but G.M. is simply doing the same thing that many large-scale collectors and museums regularly do in culling certain pieces from their collections. This was hardly a wholesale dumping of G.M.’s heritage.”

Captain Cook reaches Hawaii

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/cook-discovers-hawaii

On January 18, 1778, the English explorer Captain James Cook becomes the first European to travel to the Hawaiian Islands when he sails past the island of Oahu. Two days later, he landed at Waimea on the island of Kauai and named the island group the Sandwich Islands, in honor of John Montague, who was the earl of Sandwich and one his patrons.

In 1768, Cook, a surveyor in the Royal Navy, was commissioned a lieutenant in command of the H.M.S. Endeavor and led an expedition that took scientists to Tahiti to chart the course of the planet Venus. In 1771, he returned to England, having explored the coast of New Zealand and Australia and circumnavigated the globe. Beginning in 1772, he commanded a major mission to the South Pacific and during the next three years explored the Antarctic region, charted the New Hebrides, and discovered New Caledonia. In 1776, he sailed from England again as commander of the H.M.S. Resolution and Discovery and in 1778 made his first visit to the Hawaiian Islands.

Cook and his crew were welcomed by the Hawaiians, who were fascinated by the Europeans’ ships and their use of iron. Cook provisioned his ships by trading the metal, and his sailors traded iron nails for sex. The ships then made a brief stop at Ni’ihau and headed north to look for the western end of a northwest passage from the North Atlantic to the Pacific. Almost one year later, Cook’s two ships returned to the Hawaiian Islands and found a safe harbor in Hawaii’s Kealakekua Bay.

It is suspected that the Hawaiians attached religious significance to the first stay of the Europeans on their islands. In Cook’s second visit, there was no question of this phenomenon. Kealakekua Bay was considered the sacred harbor of Lono, the fertility god of the Hawaiians, and at the time of Cook’s arrival the locals were engaged in a festival dedicated to Lono. Cook and his compatriots were welcomed as gods and for the next month exploited the Hawaiians’ good will. After one of the crewmembers died, exposing the Europeans as mere mortals, relations became strained. On February 4, 1779, the British ships sailed from Kealakekua Bay, but rough seas damaged the foremast of the Resolution, and after only a week at sea the expedition was forced to return to Hawaii.

The Hawaiians greeted Cook and his men by hurling rocks; they then stole a small cutter vessel from the Discovery. Negotiations with King Kalaniopuu for the return of the cutter collapsed after a lesser Hawaiian chief was shot to death and a mob of Hawaiians descended on Cook’s party. The captain and his men fired on the angry Hawaiians, but they were soon overwhelmed, and only a few managed to escape to the safety of the Resolution. Captain Cook himself was killed by the mob. A few days later, the Englishmen retaliated by firing their cannons and muskets at the shore, killing some 30 Hawaiians. The Resolution and Discovery eventually returned to England.

Robert Falcon Scott reaches the South Pole

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/scott-reaches-the-south-pole

After a two-month ordeal, the expedition of British explorer Robert Falcon Scott arrives at the South Pole only to find that Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian explorer, had preceded them by just over a month. Disappointed, the exhausted explorers prepared for a long and difficult journey back to their base camp.

Scott, a British naval officer, began his first Antarctic expedition in 1901 aboard the Discovery. During three years of exploration, he discovered the Edward VII Peninsula, surveyed the coast of Victoria Land–which were both areas of Antarctica on the Ross Sea–and led limited expeditions into the continent itself. In 1911, Scott and Amundsen began an undeclared race to the South Pole.

Sailing his ship into Antarctica’s Bay of Whales, Amundsen set up base camp 60 miles closer to the pole than Scott. In October, both explorers set off; Amundsen using sleigh dogs and Scott employing Siberian motor sledges, Siberian ponies, and dogs. On December 14, 1911, Amundsen’s expedition won the race to the pole. Encountering good weather on their return trip, they safely reached their base camp in late January.

Scott’s expedition was less fortunate. The motor sleds soon broke down, the ponies had to be shot, and the dog teams were sent back as Scott and four companions continued on foot. On January 18, they reached the pole only to find that Amundsen had preceded them by over a month. Weather on the return journey was exceptionally bad, two members perished, and Scott and the other two survivors were trapped in their tent by a storm only 11 miles from their base camp. Scott wrote a final entry in his diary in late March. The frozen bodies of he and his two compatriots were recovered eight months later.

READ MORE: The Treacherous Race to the South Pole

President Eisenhower warns of military-industrial complex

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/eisenhower-warns-of-military-industrial-complex

On January 17, 1961, Dwight D. Eisenhower ends his presidential term by warning the nation about the increasing power of the military-industrial complex.

His remarks, issued during a televised farewell address to the American people, were particularly significant since Ike had famously served the nation as military commander of the Allied forces during WWII. Eisenhower urged his successors to strike a balance between a strong national defense and diplomacy in dealing with the Soviet Union. He did not suggest arms reduction and in fact acknowledged that the bomb was an effective deterrent to nuclear war. However, cognizant that America’s peacetime defense policy had changed drastically since his military career, Eisenhower expressed concerns about the growing influence of what he termed the military-industrial complex.

Before and during the Second World War, American industries had successfully converted to defense production as the crisis demanded, but out of the war, what Eisenhower called a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions emerged. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience Eisenhower warned, “[while] we recognize the imperative need for this development…We must not fail to comprehend its grave implications we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence…The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.” Eisenhower cautioned that the federal government’s collaboration with an alliance of military and industrial leaders, though necessary, was vulnerable to abuse of power. Ike then counseled American citizens to be vigilant in monitoring the military-industrial complex.

Ike also recommended restraint in consumer habits, particularly with regard to the environment. “As we peer into society’s future, we–you and I, and our government–must avoid the impulse to live only for today, plundering, for our own ease and convenience, the precious resources of tomorrow,” he said. “We cannot mortgage the material assets of our grandchildren without asking the loss also of their political and spiritual heritage.”

Paula Jones accuses Bill Clinton of sexual harassment

Previously posted at: https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/paula-jones-accuses-bill-clinton-of-sexual-harassment

Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state clerk, files suit against President Bill Clinton in the federal court in Little Rock, Arkansas, on this day in 1994, asking for $700,000 in damages.

Jones claimed that Clinton, while governor of Arkansas, sexually harassed her and then defamed her after she went public with her accusations. The following August, Clinton’s lawyers filed a motion to dismiss Jones’ suit citing presidential immunity. The federal district judge ruled that Clinton could not stand trial until leaving office, but that the investigation into Jones’ allegations could proceed. Jones appealed and in 1996 won the right to proceed to trial in the Supreme Court; Clinton then filed a request to delay the trial until he left office. The timing of the decision, which coincided with the November 1996 presidential election, bought Clinton a reprieve.

The Paula Jones case was one of four major scandals that coalesced to threaten Clinton’s second term. While working on the Paula Jones investigation, independent prosecutor Kenneth Starr uncovered Clinton’s alleged affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Starr was also pursuing ongoing investigations into allegedly illegal real-estate deals made by the Clintons (known as the Whitewater scandal) and a dispute concerning allegations of cronyism in the firing of workers at the White House travel agency. When questioned about the Lewinksy affair, the president was decidedly less than forthcoming, leading to charges of perjury and obstruction of justice. Though Democratic leaders preferred to censure the president, Congress began the impeachment process against Clinton in 1998; a divided House of Representatives impeached him on December 19. The issue then passed to the Senate, where after a 5-week trial, he was acquitted.