What Happened on December 19?

  • President Bill Clinton was formally impeached by the House of Representatives. (1998) Clinton was charged by the House of Representatives with lying under oath and obstruction of justice in the investigation of his affair with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Clinton was not required to leave office despite being impeached by the House, since the Senate acquitted him of both charges.

  • Britain agreed to give Hong Kong back to China. (1984) Hong Kong had been leased to Britain in 1898 for a term of 99 years, with the expectation on Britain's part that the lease would be perpetually renewed. Chinese Premier Zhao Ziyang, however, insisted on ending the lease on the original terms, and British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher eventually agreed, as long as Hong Kong was allowed to remain capitalist for 50 years after the handover date. Hong Kong was handed over peacefully in 1997 in what was termed "a landmark in...Anglo-Chinese relations."

  • The Dalai Lama fled Tibet. (1950) The Chinese army had taken control of Tibet about a month earlier, and officials were searching for the Dalai Lama, whom they considered to be the leader of the rebellion. The Dalai Lama eventually left Tibet for an extended exile, which brought Tibet into the spotlight for the first time in the West.

  • Washington's army settled at Valley Forge. (1777) The colonial cause seemed lost since the British had captured major centers like Philadelphia and the American army was starved and grossly under-supplied. The winter at Valley Forge was one of the lowest points of Washington's career, but has since become a symbol of endurance and fortitude.

  • Adolf Hitler took control of the German army. (1941) The German army was stuck outside of Moscow due to freezing temperatures and an impassable Russian perimeter. Frustrated with the lack of progress, Hitler took personal command of the entire German army, removing officers left and right. Despite the shakeup, the German army could not defeat the USSR, and Hitler's cause was lost.

  • Anne, Duchess of Brittany, was married by proxy to Maxmilian I, the Holy Roman Emperor. (1490) One of the richest women in Europe at the time, Anne needed Maxmilian I's political help and protection. Her marriage to Maxmilian was considered a major political provocation to France, which promptly conquered Rennes, Anne's home, and forced her to marry a French prince. Throughout her life, Anne remained a major player in European politics.

  • The BBC began transmitting overseas. (1932) The first edition of BBC World Service broadcast on this day. It became one of most well-recognized and widespread international news services, transmitting in over 32 languages with a weekly audience of over 200 million listeners.

  • Corrugated paper was patented. (1871) Albert L. Jones of New York City patented corrugated paper, more commonly known as corrugated cardboard, on this day. He probably never expected it to become such a widely used packing material.

  • Poor Richard's Almanack was first published. (1732) Benjamin Franklin, writing under the pseudonym of Poor Richard, published his book of proverbs and parables, which became one of the most popular books in colonial America, with over 10,000 copies sold.

  • Mrs. Therese Vaughn admitted to being married 62 times. (1922) 24-year-old Vaughn told court officials in England that she had married 62 men on at least three continents and in 50 cities without ever getting a divorce from any of them.

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