• On Jan. 9, 1768, Englishman Philip Astley stages the first modern circus in London. Astley, a former cavalry sergeant major, found that if he galloped in a tight circle, centrifugal force allowed him to perform seemingly impossible feats on a horse’s back. He invited the public to see him wave his sword in the air while he rode with one foot on the saddle and one on the horse’s head.
• On Jan. 6, 1838, Samuel Morse’s telegraph system is demonstrated for the first time at the Speedwell Iron Works in Morristown, N.J. The telegraph eventually would revolutionize longdistance communication, reaching the height of its popularity in the 1920s and 1930s.
• On Jan. 5, 1933, construction begins on the Golden Gate Bridge, as workers started excavating 3.25 million cubic feet of dirt for the structure’s huge anchorages. The Golden Gate Bridge officially opened on May 27, 1937. At 3,000 feet, it was the longest bridge span in the world at the time.
• On Jan. 7, 1927, the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team, formerly known as the Savoy Big Five, travels 48 miles west from Chicago to play its first game, in Hinckley, Ill. The Globetrotters won 101 out of 117 games that first season.
• On Jan. 8, 1946, Elvis Presley receives a $6.95 guitar from the Tupelo Hardware Co. store for his 11th birthday. It’s said that what Elvis really wanted for his birthday that year was a rifle or a bicycle.
• On Jan. 4, 1974, President Richard Nixon refuses to hand over tape recordings and documents that had been subpoenaed by the Senate Watergate Committee. Marking the beginning of the end of his presidency, Nixon would resign from office in disgrace eight months later.
• On Jan. 3, 1990, Panama’s General Manuel Antonio Noriega, after holing up for 10 days at the Vatican embassy in Panama City, surrenders to U.S. military troops to face charges of drug trafficking. In 1992, the former dictator was convicted of drug trafficking, money laundering and racketeering and sentenced to 40 years in prison.
(c) 2010 King Features Synd.