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Moments in Time




 

 

• On Dec. 24, 1851, a devastating fire at the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., destroys about two-thirds of its 55,000 volumes. The first library catalog, dated April 1802, listed 964 volumes and nine maps.

• On Dec. 28, 1869, the Knights of Labor, a labor union of tailors in Philadelphia, hold the first Labor Day ceremonies in American history. In 1894, Congress designated the first Monday in September a legal holiday.

• On Dec. 30, 1903, a fire in the Iroquois Theater in Chicago kills 591 people. There were no fire escapes or ladders, and an asbestos stage curtain that could have contained the fire to backstage turned out to be made of paper. All 30 fire exits were locked.

• On Dec. 25, 1938, producer David O. Selznick asks Vivien Leigh to play Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone With the Wind.” Author Margaret Mitchell received an unprecedented $50,000 for the rights to her novel.

• On Dec. 29, 1940, London suffers its most devastating air raid when Germans firebomb the city. The next day, a newspaper photo of St. Paul’s Cathedral standing undamaged amid the smoke and flames seemed to symbolize the capital’s unconquerable spirit during the Battle of Britain.

• On Dec. 26, 1974, beloved comedian Jack Benny dies of cancer. Benny was born Benjamin Kubelsky in 1894. Despite the stingy skinflint image he cultivated on the air, Benny was known for his generosity and modesty in real life.

(c) 2007 King Features Synd., Inc.

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