• On Dec. 18, 1620, passengers on the British ship Mayflower come ashore at Plymouth, Mass., to begin their new settlement, Plymouth Colony. That winter of 1620-21 was brutal, and by spring, 50 of the original 102 Mayflower passengers were dead.
• On Dec. 16, 1811, in the Mississippi River Valley near New Madrid, Mo., an earthquake of an estimated 8.6 magnitude on the Richter scale slams the region. The quake raised and lowered parts of the Mississippi Valley by as much as 15 feet and changed the course of the Mississippi River.
• On Dec. 23, 1888, Dutch painter Vincent van Gogh, suffering from severe depression, cuts off the lower part of his left ear with a razor while staying in Arles, France. He later documented the event in a painting titled Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear.
• On Dec. 22, 1939, two express trains collide in Magdeburg, Germany, killing 132 people. The accident was probably due to the fact that the country’s best rail engineers had all been conscripted into the military.
• On Dec. 20, 1957, rock-androll star Elvis Presley receives his draft notice for the U.S. Army. Fans sent tens of thousands of letters asking for him to be spared, but Elvis would have none of it. He was sworn in as an Army private in Memphis, Tenn., on March 24, 1958.
(c) 2007 King Features Synd., Inc.