• On Dec. 10, 1690, a near-mutiny forces the Massachusetts Bay Colony to issue the first paper currency in the Western Hemisphere. Soldiers were typically paid in coins, but shortages forced armies to temporarily issue IOUs — in one case, in the form of cut-up playing cards.
• On Dec. 7, 1787, in Dover, Delaware, the U.S. Constitution is unanimously ratified by all 30 delegates to the Delaware Constitutional Convention, making Delaware the first state of the modern United States. Government under the U.S. Constitution took effect on March 4, 1789.
• On Dec. 9, 1921, an engineer at General Motors discovers that when he added tetraethyl lead to gasoline, it eliminated the knocking sound of internal-combustion engines. In the 1970s, the Environmental Protection Agency phased out leaded gasoline due to health concerns.
• On Dec. 8, 1941, Jeannette Rankin, the first woman elected to Congress and a lifelong pacifist, casts the sole Congressional vote against the U.S. declaration of war on Japan. She also had voted against U.S. involvement in World War I.
• On Dec. 11, 1978, a half-dozen masked robbers raid the Lufthansa Airlines cargo building at JFK Airport in New York, making off with more than $5 million in cash ($20 million in today’s dollars) and almost $1 million in jewelry.
• On Dec. 12, 1989, Leona Helmsley, nicknamed the “Queen of Mean,” is sentenced to four years in prison, 750 hours of community service and a $7.1 million tax-fraud fine in New York. Helmsley once quipped that “only the little people pay taxes.”
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