What Happened on February 2?

  • Balto the dog led the "Great Race of Mercy." (1925) The residents of Nome were facing a diphtheria epidemic before a relay team of mushers and dogs were able to get the needed antitoxin to the city on this day. The race inspired the modern-day Iditarod.

  • The Battle of Stalingrad ended. (1943) This was a pivotal victory for the USSR, and allied forces in general. It was also one of the bloodiest battles of the war, and lasted for almost six months.

  • The president of South Africa lifted a ban on a major anti-apartheid group. (1990) This was a major political step towards eradicating apartheid. In the same move, the president promised to free Nelson Mandela, who had been imprisoned for almost 30 years.

  • Russia established a fur-trading colony in California. (1812) The colony, which was located on the northern coast of modern-day San Francisco, was known as Fort Ross. The colony was largely a failure, and was later bought by John Sutter, coincidentally the same man who discovered gold in Sacramento Valley, starting the Gold Rush.

  • Groundhog day was celebrated for the first time. (1887) Originally celebrated at Gobbler's Knob in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, in America, versions of Groundhog Day had existed for centuries earlier. The tradition has its origins in early Christian rituals, where candles were used to predict the length of the winter. This was expanded upon in Germany, where people started using a hedgehog to predict the weather, before it moved to America and became a holiday.

  • The lie detector was first tested. (1935) The first polygraph was invented by Detective Leonarde Keeler, who tested it out on two prisoners. The two men were later convicted of assault on the basis of the polygraph results, marking a legal precedent for using lie detector results as testimony.

  • The Mexican-American War ended. (1848) The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed on this day, ending the war in the favor of the US. As part of the settlements, the US gained 525,000 square miles (1,359,743 square km) of land, which would later become Texas, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico and Arizona.

  • Grand Central Terminal opened in New York City. (1913) Often mistakenly called Grand Central Station, the terminal is the largest train passenger terminal in the world, and is an iconic part of New York history.

  • The first ship of Chinese immigrants arrived in California. (1848) The Chinese immigrants would become a major force in the population of the American West, and remain one of the biggest demographic groups in the area.

  • James Joyce was born, and his novel "Ulysses" was published. (1882, 1922) Irish author Joyce was most famous for Ulysses, which became popular partially because it was banned in the US for so long.

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