What Happened on January 21?

  • Black Monday began the Great Recession. (2008) Stock markets around the world tanked, many reaching lows not seen since the September 11 terrorist attacks. The FTSE index had its biggest single-day drop, and other stock markets dropped up to 15 percent.

  • US spy Alger Hiss was convicted of perjury. (1950) Hiss had formerly worked with the US State Department before he was accused of being a communist and passing on state secrets to enemy governments. Though Hiss continually protested his innocence, he was still convicted in a move that many chalk up to 1950s McCarthyist hysteria.

  • US President Carter pardoned draft dodgers. (1977) The Vietnam War had been intensely unpopular, and there was a large movement of draft dodgers, many of whom burned their draft cards or moved to Canada to avoid armed service. Carter pardoned more than 100,000 men who had left the country to avoid armed service, sparking controversy among veterans' groups.

  • Russian revolutionary Vladmir Lenin died. (1924) Vladmir Lenin was instrumental in the Bolshevik's seizure of power in Russia, transforming Russia from a monarchy to a communist country. Lenin died of a massive cerebral hemorrhage, and his death sparked hysteria and widespread mourning in Russia. His body was preserved and remains on display in Moscow.

  • King Louis XVI was guillotined. (1793) Louis XVI was the last French monarch, and was executed by revolutionaries for "conspiring with foreign powers." Nine months later, his wife, Marie Antoinette, was executed as well, and France became a republic.

  • New York City made it illegal for women to smoke in public. (1908) The city government passed the Sullivan Ordinance, which made it illegal for women to smoke in public, and several women were arrested. The mayor vetoed the measure two weeks later, and smoking remained largely unregulated until the 2000s.

  • The Concorde began commercial service. (1976) The first supersonic passenger plane, the Concorde was able to cut trans-Atlantic trip times in half. On this day, two Concordes took off, carrying passengers from London to Bahrain and from Paris to Rio de Janeiro.

  • The first atomic submarine was launched. (1954) The USS Nautilus, named after the submarine in Jules Vernes' Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea was the first submarine to ever run on nuclear power. First lady Mamie Eisenhower launched the submarine, which went on to break many submarine distance and depth records.

  • The first Monte Carlo Rally began. (1911) The rally went on to become one of the most well-known and challenging auto races in the world. Out of the four cars that finished the first race, three were Mini Coopers.

  • Jefferson Davis, future president of the Confederate South, resigned from Congress. (1861) Senator Davis resigned from the Senate along with four other prominent Southern Senators. Davis would go on to be extremely influential in the American Civil War, and was the first and only President of the Confederate States of America.

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