They say nothing changes on New Year’s Day. (Yes “they” = U2.) And while that might be true for most of us, some really big changes actually have happened on January 1st. Here are 21 events that changed the world, all of which happened on New Year’s Day.
1502 – The Portuguese first landed in what is now Rio de Janeiro. Hence the translation “January River.”
1773 – The world first heard “Amazing Grace” (then titled “1 Chronicles 17:16–17″), as it accompanied a sermon in Olney, England led by John Newton.
1801 – The United Kingdom was formed. Though England had been gradually acquiring control of Ireland since the mid-16th century, on January 1st, 1801 it was made official.
1808 – The importation of slaves into the United States was declared illegal.
1818 – Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published anonymously.
1853 – The first horse-drawn fire engine entered service in the U.S.
1862 – The first U.S. income tax is introduced. The taxation rates are 3% of incomes over $600 and 5% of incomes over $10,000.
1863 – The Emancipation Proclamation went into effect.
1885 – Time zones and the concept of standard time were adopted by 25 nations.
1892 – Ellis Island opens. Millions of immigrants passed through the island before it closed in 1954.
1896 – The world is introduced to x-rays. On New Year’s Day, Wilhelm Röntgen announced his discovery.
1898 – The City of Greater New York was formed. While New York City had already annexed the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens (and later Staten Island) were brought in as boroughs.
1902 – The first Rose Bowl took place in Pasadena. The game between Michigan and Stanford was the first American college football bowl game.
1907 – President Theodore Roosevelt set a new record by shaking 8,513 hands in 1 day. Did this change the world? Maybe not. But it probably permanently changed Teddy’s right arm.
1908 – The first ball dropped in Times Square at midnight this year.
1925 – Our universe expanded. On January 1st, astronomer Edwin Hubble announced the discovery of galaxies outside the Milky Way.
1934 – Alcatraz Island becomes a United States federal prison. Though it will be more than 60 years before Sean Connery escapes from it.
1971 – Cigarette advertisements were banned from American television and radio. Although President Nixon signed the legislation on January 1st, the law didn’t take effect until the next day. The last televised cigarette ad ran at on January 1st, 1971 at 11:50 p.m. during The Johnny Carson Show.
1985 – VH1 debuted on television.
1999 – The currency of the Euro was introduced.
2000 – The world didn’t end. Midnight on New Year’s Eve 1999 came and went and Y2K didn’t destroy civilization as we know it. Hooray!