What Happened on December 6?

  • Edison demonstrated the first sound recording. (1877) His recitation of Mary Had a Little Lamb was the first recording of the human voice. It was recorded on a cylinder wrapped in foil. He later said of the experience, "I was never so taken aback in my life."

  • The 13th Amendment was ratified, abolishing slavery in the US. (1865) Though Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation had theoretically freed slaves two years earlier, it was not until the states ratified the 13th Amendment that slavery became officially illegal.

  • Spanish voters approved a new constitution, ending decades of dictatorship. (1978) The constitution was approved through a referendum that turned Spain into a constitutional monarchy with the intention of preventing leaders like Franco from coming to power again.

  • The first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica went on sale (1768) Scotsmen Colin Macfarquhar and Andrew Bell decided to publish a conservative encyclopedia in response to the French Diderot's Encyclopedie, which was considered heretical at the time. The first Encyclopedia Britannica was produced in 100 "numbers" or chapters, which were later bound into three volumes.

  • The Washington monument was completed. (1884) The monument measured 555 feet and 5 and 1/8 inches (about 170 meters) tall, and was the tallest structure in the world until the Eiffel Tower surpassed it in 1889.

  • Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein announced that he would release all foreign hostages in Kuwait and Iraq.(1990) Citing changes in US foreign policy, Hussein released over 800 Americas, Japanese, and Kuwaiti hostages.

  • The Nefertiti bust was discovered.(1912) The iconic bust of the Egyptian queen Nefertiti in her tall headdress was discovered by German archaeologists in a sculptor's workshop, and has become a cultural symbol of Egypt.

  • The first edition of the Washington Post was published. (1877) The original Post was published six days a week. It added a Sunday paper in 1900, making it the first newspaper to publish seven days a week.

  • The Maltese Falcon was auctioned. (1994) Christie's auction house in London auctioned the fifty pound (about 22 kg) statuette used for the 1941 Humphrey Bogart movie of the same name for $398,590 US Dollars (USD).

  • The US ban on James Joyce's Ulysses was lifted. (1933) The book had been banned on grounds of indecency since 1921, and several magazine publishers were fined for attempting to publish serial versions of the book, including one who tried to publish it as erotica. The ban only served to make the book more desirable to American readers, and visitors to Paris regularly brought copies back for their friends. The first authorized copy of Ulysses was published in the US the year after the ban was lifted.

Discussion Comments


I was too young to remember Dec. 6, 1990, so I had no idea that Hussein had that many people held captive! I had heard stories of prisoners of war from this time, but 800 is an astounding number. I am sure that Dec. 6 was a very happy day for many families.


Wow! It is hard to believe that Encyclopedia Brittanica dates back to the 1700s!

I had a collection of these encyclopedias on my bookshelf as a child. I used them for just about every school report I had to do, and I sometimes referred to them just for fun.

I heard that they stopped printing them in 2010, so they are a collector's item now. They still run a website, but you have to pay a fee to read the articles.

Who would have thought that something that went as far back as December 6th of 1768 would still be around in the twenty-first century? That's pretty amazing.

Post your comments
Forgot password?