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What Happened on January 23?

  • US President Nixon announced that a peace settlement had been reached in Vietnam. (1973) The Vietnam War was one of the longest wars in American history, and had become an intensely controversial and unpopular subject in America. Nixon announced that America had won "peace with honor," and would begin withdrawing troops shortly.

  • The International Opium Convention took place at the Hague. (1912) It was the first large drug control treaty, and was signed by the US, China, the UK, Russia, and France, among others. The treaty was later incorporated into the Treaty of Versailles, making it the first global drug control treaty.

  • Elizabeth Blackwell became the first female physician. (1849) Blackwell was the first recognized female doctor in the United States. She was extremely influential in the development of gynecology and obstetrics, and also began the first woman's medical college in the US.

  • One of the worst earthquakes in history hit China. (1556) The Shaanxi earthquake is often considered the deadliest earthquake in history due to its over 800,000 person death toll. The quake affected 97 counties, and killed up to 60 percent of the population in some areas.

  • Elva Zona Heaster, the Greenbrier Ghost, was found dead. (1897) Heaster's death would have remained unremarkable except for the fact that her ghost's testimony was accepted at the subsequent trial. Authorities originally thought Heaster had died of natural causes, but her mother later claimed that Elva's ghost visited her and told her otherwise, leading to her widowed husband's arrest and conviction. It was one of the few times in American legal history that the testimony of a ghost was taken into account at trial.

  • The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inducted its first members. (1986) Among the inductees were founding rock and rollers Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly, and Elvis Presley.

  • The first Frisbee® was produced. (1957) The Wham-O toy company began producing the flying discs after seeing university students tossing pie pans to each other. The pie pans were produced by the William Frisbie pie company — hence the name Frisbee®.

  • One of the main trials of the Stalinist purges occurred. (1937) There were 17 men put on trial for participating in a Trotskyist plot to overthrow Stalin. Of the 17, 13 were sentenced to death, while the other five were sent to labor camps.

  • The Royal Exchange opened in London. (1565) The Royal Exchange was one of the first major official centers of commerce in London, and continued to serve as a major financial center into the 21st century. Interestingly, all stock brokers were banned from the exchange in the 17th century due to their "poor manners," and were required to operate out of neighboring coffeehouses.

  • The TV miniseries "Roots" began showing on ABC. (1977) The extremely popular series was based on Alex Haley's novel of the same name, which followed the life of Kunta Kinte, an African warrior who later becomes a slave. The finale of the series was one of the highest-ever rated US television programs.

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