What Happened on December 5?

  • Prohibition ended in the US. (1933) Utah became the 36th state to ratify the 21st Amendment, which repealed the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol. This gave the amendment the three-fourths majority of state's approval that it needed to pass.

  • President Polk confirmed reports of gold in California, starting the Gold Rush. (1848) Though gold was first discovered in California in January of 1848, the news did not reach the east coast until August, when it was reported in the New York Times. It was Polk's confirmation of the discovery in an address to Congress, however, that really started the nation-wide rush.

  • The Dow Jones rose above 1,500 points for the first time. (1985) This day also marks the largest one-day rise of the Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA).

  • The American Federation of Labor (AFL) and Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) merged. (1955) The two organizations were actually rivals for about ten years before merging into the AFL-CIO, which became the largest worker's union in the US.

  • James Christie, founder of Christie's auction house, held his first sale. (1766) The sale included two chamberpots, a set of sheets and pillowcases, and two irons. Since that time, Christie's has auctioned some of the most famous items in the world, including Degas'L'Absinthe, the Star of South Africa (a famous 47 carat diamond), Van Gogh's Sunflowers and 79 of Princess Diana's dresses.

  • Albert Einstein was granted a US visa. (1932) When asked if he was a communist or anarchist as part of his visa application, Einstein replied "What is this, an inquisition? I don't propose to answer such silly questions...If I'm going to enter your country as a suspect, I don't want to go at all."

  • Columbus discovered Hispaniola. (1492) Hispaniola, which is now the Dominican Republic and Haiti, was the last stop on Columbus' first voyage (he hit El Salvador and Cuba first) before he returned to Spain.

  • The "Lost Squadron" crashed in the Bermuda Triangle. (1945) The disappearance of the five Navy torpedo bombers off the coast of Florida was one of the events that started the Bermuda Triangle legend.

  • Televangelist and Praise the Lord (PTL) congregation leader Jim Bakker was indicted. (1988) Bakker was indicted for over twenty counts of fraud and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.

  • Benjamin Spock and Allen Ginsberg were arrested for protesting the Vietnam War. (1967) The two met when they were held in the same pen, and hit it off after Ginsberg taught Spock to meditate.

Discussion Comments


@irontoenail - The very sad thing about Dr Spock was that he loved children and was one of the first people to try and help people to make them happier and healthier. But he managed to get something seriously wrong in his writing, which led to a lot of deaths.

He was the one who told women to put babies on their stomachs, so that if they vomited when they were sleeping they wouldn't swallow it. But, putting babies on their stomachs has now been shown to contribute to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. Tens of thousands of babies have died over the last few decades because his advice was considered to be the last word and no one questioned it.

It's one of the reasons that people need to make sure they understand the difference between someone's opinion and something that's been proved by science.


@MrsPramm - Likewise, Dr Benjamin Spock was a decent person and I didn't know he was arrested for protesting the Vietnam War on the 5th of December. I did know that his books encouraged people to try and be more permissive with their children, treating them like individuals rather than like items off an assembly line, and that people thought that had led to the rise of hippies and protesters to the war.


I just love Einstein. It seems like he was not only intelligent in science and mathematics but also in social ideas.

There aren't many back in those days who would have even even realized there was something wrong with being asked those questions, but he not only realized it, he had the courage to question it, even though he was potentially in a dangerous position. Such a great man.

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