1492 - Christopher Columbus becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola
1766 - In London, James Christie holds his first sale (he later founded Christie's, the world's oldest auction house).
1776 - At the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Phi Beta Kappa is founded as the first scholastic fraternity in the United States.
1831 - Former US President John Quincy Adams takes a seat in the United States House of Representatives.
1848 - California gold rush: In a message before the United States Congress, US President James Knox Polk confirms that large amounts of gold had been discovered in California.
1873 - In Boston, Massachusetts, Warren Avenue Baptist Church sexton Thomas Piper strangles and beats to death his first victim, Bridget Landregan (the press later dubbed the then unknown serial killer "The Boston Belfry Murderer").
1933 - Prohibition ends: Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 3/4th of states needed to enact the amendment (this overturned the 18th Amendment which had outlawed alcohol in the United States).
1934 - Italian troops attack Wal Wal in Ethiopia (it took four days to capture the city).
1936 - The Soviet Union adopts a new constitution.
1941 - The nonfiction book Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck is published (Steinbeck used knowledge gained writing this book to develop the marine biologist character Doc in Cannery Row).
1945 - Flight 19, a United States Navy training flight was lost in the Bermuda Triangle.
1952 - The Abbott and Costello Show starring comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, debuts.
1955 - The trade unions American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations decided to merge and form the AFL-CIO.
1964 - For his heroism in battle earlier in the year, Captain Roger Donlon of Saugerties, New York is awarded the first Medal of Honor of the war.
1974 - The last new episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus is broadcast on the BBC.
1978 - The Soviet Union signs a 'friendship treaty' with the communist government of Afghanistan.
1979 - Sonia Johnson is formally excommunicated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for her outspoken support for the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
1782 - Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the United States and first US President born in the United States (d. 1862)
1830 - Christina Rossetti, poet (d. 1894)
1839 - George Armstrong Custer, American general (d. 1876)
1841 - Marcus Daly, American mining tycoon (d. 1900)
1870 - Vitezslav Novk, composer (d. 1949)
1879 - Clyde Cessna, founder Cessna Aircraft Company (d. 1954)
1886 - Rose Wilder Lang, writer (d. 1968)
1890 - David Bomberg, painter (d. 1957)
1890 - Fritz Lang, film director (d. 1976)
1901 - Werner Karl Heisenberg, physicist (d. 1976)
1901 - Walt Disney, film producer (d. 1966)
1902 - Strom Thurmond, American politician (d. 2003)
1906 - Otto Preminger, director, producer (d. 1986)
1914 - Hans Hellmut Kirst, author (d. 1989)
1927 - Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand (r. 1946-)
1932 - Little Richard, singer
1932 - Sheldon Lee, physicist
1934 - Joan Didion, writer
1935 - Calvin Trillin, writer
1944 - Jeroen Krabb, actor
1946 - Jos Carreras, singer
1947 - Jim Plunkett, American football star
1947 - Jim Messina, musician
1956 - Krystian Zimerman, pianist
1968 - Margaret Cho, comedian, actress
1663 - Severo Bonini, composer
1758 - Johann Friedrich Fasch, composer
1784 - Phillis Wheatley, poet
1791 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer
1870 - Alexandre Dumas pre, writer
1926 - Claude Oscar Monet, impressionist painter
1931 - Vachel Lindsay, poet
1940 - Jan Kubelk, violinist
1950 - Shri Aurobindo, guru
1963 - Karl Amadeus Hartmann, composer
1991 - Richard Speck, murderer
2001 - Franco Rasetti, physicist
2002 - Roone Arledge, sports broadcasting pioneer
2002 - Ne Win, Burmese dictator