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What Happened on January 7?

  • The first US presidential election was held. (1789) The only people eligible to vote were white, land-owning males, who elected the first members of the electoral college. The college then went on to choose George Washington, as expected.

  • Two men rode across the English Channel in a hot air balloon. (1785) Frenchman Jean-Pierre Blanchard and American John Jeffries were the first to cross the English Channel by air. The attempt very nearly failed because of all the extraneous equipment they took with them, including anchors and a pair of oars with which they hoped to row through the air. When the balloon made it to Calais, they were forced to throw all the equipment overboard, which allowed them to land safely.

  • US President Truman announced that the US had created the first hydrogen bomb. (1953) The development of the bomb came almost in direct response to the news that the USSR had exploded an atomic bomb three years earlier. It was one of the first instances of the technological and military one-upmanship that characterized the Cold War.

  • Japanese Emperor Hirohito died. (1989) Hirohito had been emperor for more than 60 years, and had been instrumental in Japanese surrender in World War II. Even after he was stripped of power after World War II, Hirohito continued to remain a symbol of Japanese culture and tenacious development in the face of tragedy.

  • Trans-Atlantic telephone service began between London and New York. (1927) In the first 24 hours of it opening, over 500 calls were placed.

  • Cambodian dictator Pol Pot was overthrown. (1979) Best known as the leader of the Khmer Rouge, Pol Pot had instituted a brutal series of reforms and ethnic cleansing in Cambodia. It is estimated that more than two million Cambodians were executed or died from hard labor or famine during his three year rule.

  • The Leaning Tower of Pisa was closed to the public. (1990) The tower had become unstable due to the increasing lean. Over the next decade, engineers tried various ways to stabilize the tower without causing it to lose its famous lean. The tower reopened in 2001, and was declared stable for the next 300 years.

  • Galileo discovered three of Jupiter's moons. (1610) He originally thought they were stars, but soon realized his mistake. This was one of the first major space discoveries made with a telescope, and it proved the usefulness of the telescope to the scientific community.

  • France took Calais, Britain's last continental possession. (1558) Calais had been under British control for more than 200 years, and had been fought over on and off. The French Duke of Guise finally succeeded in capturing it, which ended the era of British continental possessions.

  • US officials recognized Castro's government in Cuba. (1959) Though the US had backed Castro's predecessor, Batista, it hoped to avoid causing a more radical revolution in Cuba and Latin America by trying to work with Castro's government, not against it.

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