Jim Jones, leader of the Peoples Temple, led more than 900 people in a mass murder-suicide. (1978) The cult group had been living in Jonestown, Guyana. Jones encouraged all members to drink a cyanide-laced substance after five people were murdered, including US Congressman Leo Ryan, who was visiting the area as part of a Congressional investigation into the group. 913 people were found dead, including 276 children.
Railroads in the US and Canada established time zones for the North American continent. (1883) Railroad controllers insisted time zones were needed to avoid confusion as more and more people and freight were being moved across the continent. Many cities adopted the new zones, but confusion continued until March 19, 1918 when the US Congress adopted the Standard Time Act, establishing the zones as law.
The first push-button phone became available commercially. (1963) The telephone push-button technology existed in 1941, but was not made commercially available until this day. The first phones of this type were produced by the Bell Telephone labs. The first users of the touch-tone dialing service had to pay an extra fee for the cutting-edge technology.
Spain shed its dictator-run government and became a democracy. (1976) The Spanish parliament approved a bill that would end the 37-year dictatorship and replace it with a democratic government format. The most recent dictator, Francisco Franco, had died the previous year on November 20, and motions were put into place to move toward a democracy.
Swiss crossbow expert William Tell shot an apple off his son's head. (1307) After being accused of an affront against Albrecht Gessler, the ruler of his town of Altdorf, Tell was arrested. Gessler told him he either had to shoot an apple off his son's head or he and his son would be executed. When Tell set up the shot, he took out two crossbow bolts. After he successfully shot the apple off his son's head, Gessler asked him why he removed two bolts. Tell explained that had he missed and killed his son, he planned to kill him with the other.
The Louvre opened in Paris. (1793) The Louvre is one of the biggest art museums in the world and ranks as the most visited. The museum houses more than 35,000 pieces of art in more than 650,000 square feet (about 60,000 square meters) of space.
The first animated cartoon to be successfully synchronized with sound debuted. (1928) The cartoon, Steamboat Willie, was a Disney cartoon production that featured Mickey and Minnie Mouse in their third film appearance. The film premiered in New York City.
US President Ronald Reagan established a new law allowing drug traffickers who commit murder to be sentenced to death. (1988) The bill that President Reagan signed also created the position of drug czar in the US Cabinet. The bill was part of the larger War on Drugs campaign.
The US House of Representatives ratified the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). (1993) The agreement established the largest trade bloc in the world in terms of GDP. The agreement was signed by the US, Mexico and Canada.
The first book to be printed on a printing press in England was produced. (1477) Dictes or Sayengis of the Philosophres was produced by an English merchant and printer named William Caxton. The modern system of book printing on printing presses was invented by Johannes Gutenberg around 1440.