• On Dec. 18, 1777, the new United States celebrates its first national day of thanksgiving, commemorating the American victory at the Battle of Saratoga after the surrender of Gen. John Burgoyne and 5,000 British troops that October.
• On Dec. 22, 1808, Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony has its world premiere in Vienna. The concert venue was freezing cold and the orchestra played poorly enough to force the nearly deaf composer — also acting as conductor and pianist — to stop the ensemble partway into one passage and start again from the very beginning.
• On Dec. 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, N.C., Orville and Wilbur Wright make the first successful flight of a self-propelled aircraft. Orville piloted the gasolinepowered, propeller-driven biplane, which stayed aloft for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet on its inaugural flight.
• On Dec. 19, 1917, four teams of the National Hockey League play the league’s first two games. At the time of its inception, the NHL was made up of the Canadiens and the Wanderers (both of Montreal), the Ottawa Senators, the Quebec Bulldogs and the Toronto Arenas.
• On Dec. 23, 1968, the crew and captain of the U.S. intelligence gathering ship Pueblo are released after 11 months imprisonment by the government of North Korea. The ship, and its 83-man crew, was seized by warships on Jan. 23 and charged with intruding into North Korean waters.
• On Dec. 20, 1989, “Roger & Me,” a documentary by Michael Moore about his quest to interview Roger Smith, then chairman and chief executive officer of General Motors, opens in theaters. The film examines the devastating impact on the people of Moore’s hometown of Flint, Mich., following the closing of several General Motors auto plants in the area.
(c) 2012 King Features Syndicate, Inc.