On Dec. 18, 1865, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery, was declared in effect by Secretary of State William H. Seward. (Getty Images)
Dec. 18, 1892: Tchaikovsky’s ballet “The Nutcracker” publicly premiered in St. Petersburg, Russia.
Dec. 19, 1777: Gen. George Washington led his army of about 11,000 men to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, to camp for the winter.
Dec. 19, 1843: “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, was first published in England.
Dec. 19, 1915: German psychiatrist Alois Alzheimer, who discovered the pathological condition of dementia, died in Breslau (now Wroclaw), Poland, at age 51.
Dec. 20, 1790: The first successful cotton mill in the United States began operating at Pawtucket, R.I.
Dec. 20, 1803: The Louisiana Purchase was completed as ownership of the territory was formally transferred from France to the United States during ceremonies in New Orleans.
Dec. 21, 1620: Pilgrims aboard the Mayflower went ashore for the first time at present-day Plymouth, Massachusetts.
Dec. 21, 1937: Walt Disney’s first animated feature, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs,” had its world premiere in Los Angeles.
Dec. 22, 1937: The first, center tube of the Lincoln Tunnel connecting New York City and New Jersey beneath the Hudson River was opened to traffic. (The second tube opened in 1945, the third in 1957.)
Dec. 23, 1788: Maryland passed an act to cede an area “not exceeding ten miles square” for the seat of the national government; about 2/3 of the area became the District of Columbia.
Dec. 23, 1823: The poem “Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas” was published anonymously in the Troy (New York) Sentinel; the verse, more popularly known as “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas,” was later attributed to Clement C. Moore.
Dec. 23, 1893: The Engelbert Humperdinck opera “Haensel und Gretel” was first performed, in Weimar, Germany.
Dec. 23, 1913: The Federal Reserve System was created as President Woodrow Wilson signed the Federal Reserve Act.
Dec. 24, 1814: The United States and Britain signed the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812 following ratification by both the British Parliament and the U.S. Senate.
Dec. 24, 1955: The Continental Air Defense Command Operations Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, found itself fielding phone calls from children wanting to know the whereabouts of Santa Claus after a newspaper ad mistakenly gave the Center’s number; the result was a tradition continued by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) of tracking Santa’s location the night before Christmas.
Dec. 24, 1968: The Apollo 8 astronauts, orbiting the moon, read passages from the Old Testament Book of Genesis during a Christmas Eve telecast.
Compiled by Lori Sears and Paul McCardell.