US President Abraham Lincoln announced his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. (1862) President Lincoln issued the proclamation that would free more than three million slaves in the US. He indicated he would announce a second proclamation if the slave states didn't voluntarily abide by the first order. The final Emancipation Proclamation was announced on January 1, 1863, after only one state abided by the first order — the District of Columbia.
The first US spy was executed. (1776) Nathan Hale, a soldier in the American Revolutionary War, was caught by the British while trying to gather intelligence information. He was sentenced to death by hanging. Before his execution, he famously said, "I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country."
The US penny's first redesign in 50 years was unveiled. (2008) The US penny historically featured US President Lincoln's portrait on the front and the Lincoln Memorial on the back. The front remained unchanged, but the US Mint offered four new designs for the reverse to honor President Lincoln's 200th birthday. In 2010, the Lincoln Union Shield was selected for the reverse side of the coin.
The Peace Corps was established. (1961) US President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps as a sort of weapon against communism. The new government agency sent volunteers to third-world and underdeveloped countries to help people and to improve communities. President Kennedy hoped this would sway the nations away from communism. The Peace Corps continued its mission after the Cold War and continues to send volunteers to struggling countries today.
War broke out between Iran and Iraq. (1980) The war would last eight years and cause more than 400,000 deaths and 750,000 injuries. In 1988, the United Nations convinced the two sides to sign a cease-fire agreement. The United States and Russia proclaimed neutrality with eachother throughout the war.
The Office of the US Postmaster General was established. (1789) A similar office worked under the Continental Congress; this office was established under the new US Constitution. The first person to hold the new office was Samuel Osgood.
The magazine National Geographic published its first issue. (1888) The magazine started just nine months after the National Geographic Society was founded. Today, it is published in 32 languages for more than 50 million monthly readers.
The first American-made car was unveiled. (1893) Charles and Frank Duryea were pioneers of the automobile industry. They unveiled their gasoline-powered car on this day. The two started the Duryea Motor Wagon Company, which was the first to commercially produce automobiles in the US.
The Dead Sea Scrolls were made publicly available for the first time. (1991) The Huntington Library in California displayed the ancient scrolls. They since have been digitized and made available on the Internet.
The most deadly train accident in Amtrak's history took place. (1993) Outside Mobile, Alabama, a barge hit the Big Bayou Canot railway bridge, derailing an Amtrak passenger train. 47 people were killed and more than 100 injured.