Today's Highlight in History:
On Dec. 20, 1803, the Louisiana Purchase was completed as ownership of the territory was formally transferred from France to the United States.
On this date:
In 1790, the first successful cotton mill in the United States began operating at Pawtucket, R.I.
In 1812, German authors Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm published the first volume of the first edition of their collection of folk stories, "Children's and Household Tales."
In 1860, South Carolina became the first state to secede from the Union as all 169 delegates to a special convention in Charleston voted in favor of separation.
In 1864, Confederate forces evacuated Savannah, Ga., as Union Gen. William T. Sherman continued his "March to the Sea."
In 1912, the play "Peg O' My Heart," a "comedy of youth" by John Hartley Manners starring his wife, actress Laurette Taylor, opened on Broadway.
In 1945, the Office of Price Administration announced the end of tire rationing, effective Jan. 1, 1946.
In 1963, the Berlin Wall was opened for the first time to West Berliners, who were allowed one-day visits to relatives in the Eastern sector for the holidays.
In 1973, singer-songwriter Bobby Darin died in Los Angeles following open-heart surgery; he was 37.
In 1987, more than 4,300 people were killed when the Dona Paz, a Philippine passenger ship, collided with the tanker Vector off Mindoro island.
In 1989, the United States launched Operation Just Cause, sending troops into Panama to topple the government of Gen. Manuel Noriega.
In 1998, Nkem Chukwu gave birth in Houston to five girls and two boys, 12 days after giving birth to another child, a girl. (However, the tiniest of the octuplets died a week later.)
In 1999, the Vermont Supreme Court ruled that homosexual couples were entitled to the same benefits and protections as wedded couples of the opposite sex.
Ten years ago: Spain's prime minister, Jose Maria Aznar, paid a surprise visit to Spanish soldiers in Iraq. Friends and relatives of Michael Jackson descended on his Neverland Ranch to show their support for the entertainer as he fought child molestation charges (Jackson was later acquitted).
Five years ago: A Continental Airlines Boeing 737-500 taking off from Denver veered off the runway into a ravine, injuring 37 people. Olga Lepeshinskaya, the Bolshoi Ballet's prima ballerina for three decades during Soviet times, died in Moscow at age 92. Movie director Robert Mulligan ("To Kill a Mockingbird") died in Lyme, Conn. at age 83.
One year ago: The State Department acknowledged major weaknesses in security and errors in judgment exposed in a scathing independent report on the deadly Sept. 11, 2012 assault on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya. The National Hockey League announced the cancellation of the 2012-13 regular-season schedule through Jan. 14. Michael Phelps was named The Associated Press male athlete of the year. In a series of posts to her Twitter account, three-time Olympic runner Suzy Favor Hamilton acknowledged working as an escort following a report on The Smoking Gun website about her double life.
Today's Birthdays: Actor John Hillerman is 81. Original Mouseketeer Tommy Cole (TV: "The Mickey Mouse Club") is 72. Rock musician-music producer Bobby Colomby is 69. Rock musician Peter Criss is 68. Psychic/illusionist Uri Geller is 67. Producer Dick Wolf ("Law & Order") is 67. Rock musician Alan Parsons is 65. Actress Jenny Agutter is 61. Actor Michael Badalucco is 59. Actress Blanche Baker is 57. Rock singer Billy Bragg is 56. Rock singer-musician Mike Watt (The Secondmen, Minutemen, fIREHOSE) is 56. Actor Joel Gretsch is 50. Country singer Kris Tyler is 49. Rock singer Chris Robinson is 47. Actress Nicole deBoer is 43. Movie director Todd Phillips is 43. Singer David Cook ("American Idol") is 31. Actor Jonah Hill is 30. Singer JoJo is 23.
Thought for Today: "Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art. ... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival." — C.S. Lewis, British author (1898-1963).