On this January Day in History

January 1, 1660. Samuel Pepys began writing his famous diary in which he chronicled life in London  - including the Great Plague during 1664 and 1665, and the Great Fire of 1666.

January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation was issued by President Abraham Lincoln, freeing the slaves in the states rebelling against the Union.

January 1, 1892. Ellis Island was opened in New York Harbor. Over 20 million immigrants were processed there until it closed in 1954.

January 1, 1993. Czechoslovakia was broken into separate Czech and Slovak republics

Alaska : saga of a bold land by Walter R. Borneman

January 3, 1959.  Alaska was admitted to the Union as the 49th state.

The Battle of New Orleans by Robert V. Remini

January 8, 1815. During  the War of 1812, The Battle of New Orleans was fought as General Andrew Jackson and American troops defended themselves against a British attack. The battle resulted in over 2,000 casualties. Unfortunately, both armies  were unaware that peace had been declared two weeks earlier with the signing of the Treaty of Ghent .

Common sense by Thomas Paine

January 10, 1776Common Sense, a fifty page pamphlet by Thomas Paine, was published. Advocating independence from Great Britain to people in the thirteen American colonies, It sold over 500,000 copies in America and Europe, influencing, among others, the authors of the Declaration of Independence.

January 11, 1964. The U.S. Surgeon General declared cigarettes may be hazardous to health, the first such official government report.

January 15, 1559. Elizabeth Tudor, the daughter of Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn, was crowned as Elizabeth I in Westminster Abbey.

January 19, 1966. Indira Gandhi was elected prime minister of India.

January 20, 1945. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated to an unprecedented fourth term as president of the United States. His first term began in 1933.

January 23, 1968. The American ship USS Pueblo, a Navy intelligence vessel, was seized by North Koreans in the Sea of Japan amid claims the ship was engaged in spying. The Pueblo was confiscated and its crew held in captivity until December.

January 24, 1848. The California gold rush began with the accidental discovery of the precious metal on the bank of the American River near Coloma, California, during construction of John Sutter's sawmill. 

January 24, 1895. Hawaii's monarchy ended as Queen Liliuokalani was forced to abdicate, and Hawaii was annexed by the United States.  It remained a territory until becoming the 50th state in 1959.

January 24, 1965. Former British prime minister Winston Churchill died.

January 25, 1533. Henry VIII married his second wife, Anne Boleyn, in defiance of the Pope  who had refused to annul his first marriage.

Auschwitz : a new history by Laurence Rees

January 27, 1945. Auschwitz the death camp located near Krakow in Poland, was liberated by the Russian Army.The Nazis had systematically murdered an estimated 2,000,000 persons at the camp,  including 1,500,000 Jews.

January 27, 1967. Three American astronauts  - Virgil Grissom, Edward White, and Roger Chaffee - were killed as a fire erupted inside Apollo 1 during a launch simulation test at Cape Kennedy, Florida.

January 28, 1986. The U.S. Space Shuttle Challenger exploded 74 seconds into its flight.

January 29, 1919. The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was ratified, declaring the production, transport, and sale of alcohol (though not the consumption or private possession) illegal. It was repealed in 1933 by ratification of the 21st Amendment.

January 30, 1968. The Tet Offensive began in Vietnam as North Vietnamese troops attacked 36 provincial capitals and 5 major cities in South Vietnam, including an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Saigon and the presidential palace.

Stalingrad by Antony Beevor

January 31, 1943. German troops surrendered at Stalingrad - the first big defeat of Hitler's armies in World War II. 160,000 Germans were killed and 90,000 taken prisoner during the Battle of Stalingrad,

The execution of Private Slovik by William Bradford Huie

January 31, 1945. Eddie Slovik, a 24-year-old U.S. Army private, was executed by a firing squad after being sentenced to death for desertion. This was the first execution  in the U.S. Army since the Civil War.