• On Jan. 26, 1788, the first 736 convicts banished from England to Australia land in Botany Bay. Over the next 60 years, approximately 50,000 criminals were transported. Among the first group was a 70-year-old woman who had stolen cheese to eat.
• On Jan. 24, 1860, French inventor Etienne Lenoir is issued a patent for the first successful internal-combustion engine. Lenoir’s engine was a converted steam engine that burned coal gas.
• On Jan. 27, 1888, the National Geographic Society is founded in Washington, D.C. National Geographic magazine quickly became known for its stunning and pioneering photography, being the first to print natural-color photos of sky, sea and the North and South Poles.
• On Jan. 25, 1926, the Central Casting Corporation opens. The company provided pools of extras for film production. By 1929, more than 17,000 extras were registered with the bureau.
• On Jan. 21, 1959, Carl Dean Switzer, the actor who as a child played “Alfalfa” in the Our Gang comedy film series, dies at age 31 in a fight, allegedly about money. Alfalfa, the freckle-faced boy with a warbling singing voice and a cowlick protruding from the top of his head, was Switzer’s best-known role.
• On Jan. 23, 1968, the U.S. intelligence-gathering ship Pueblo is seized by North Korean naval vessels and charged with spying and violating North Korean territorial waters. Negotiations to free the 83-man crew of the U.S. ship dragged on for nearly a year.
• On Jan. 22, 1973, the Supreme Court decriminalizes abortion by handing down its decision in the case of Roe v. Wade. For most of the country’s first 100 years, abortion was not a criminal offense. Abortion only became a criminal offense in the period between 1860 and 1880 when the American Medical Association decided that abortion practitioners were unwanted competition.
(c) 2008 King Features Synd., Inc.