• On Dec. 13, 1621, the first American furs to be exported from the continent leave for England. The colonists developed an economic system in which their chief crop, Indian corn, was traded with Native Americans to the north for highly valued beaver skins, which were in turn profitably sold in England.
• On Dec. 12, 1913, two years after it was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris, Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece “Mona Lisa” is recovered inside Italian waiter Vincenzo Peruggia’s hotel room in Florence. Peruggia had participated in the heist with a group of accomplices dressed as Louvre janitors.
• On Dec. 9, 1926, young clarinetist Benny Goodman records his first solo, 16 bars of a song called “He’s the Last Word.” Sadly, his father was hit by a car and killed on the same day Goodman recorded the solo.
• On Dec. 11, 1936, after ruling for less than one year, Edward VIII becomes the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne. He chose to abdicate after the British government, public and the Church of England condemned his decision to marry American divorcée Wallis Warfield Simpson.
• On Dec. 10, 1963, Frank Sinatra Jr., who was kidnapped in Lake Tahoe, Calif., is allowed to talk briefly to his father. The kidnappers revealed the drop point for the ransom money and the location where Frank Jr. could be found. To avoid a public scene, law enforcement officials picked up the young Sinatra and brought him home in the trunk of their car.
• On Dec. 14, 1980, a CIA report claims that the Soviet Union delivered nearly $7 billion worth of military assistance to Third World nations such as Syria, Iraq and South Yemen. The report suggested that Soviet arms sales were dangerously increasing instability and the chances for war.
• On Dec. 8, 1993, the North American Free Trade Agreement is signed into law by President Bill Clinton. NAFTA was heavily criticized by Reform Party presidential candidate Ross Perot, who argued that if NAFTA was passed, Americans would hear a “giant sucking sound” of American companies fleeing the United States for Mexico.
(c) 2008 King Features Synd., Inc.