The Link: December “Firsts”

December might be the last month of the year, but it’s hosted a wide variety of interesting firsts. From the arts to books, from new inventions to technological beginnings, and from movies and television to historical events, December has proven to be an interesting month. So as the year comes to an end check out some famous – and not so famous – beginnings.

Firsts in the Arts:

December 22, 1808 – Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony given world premiere in Vienna, This Day in History (find it on the ipl2)

Beethoven’s Fifth is arguably one of the world’s most recognizable songs, but despite its popularity, when it premiered on December 22, 1808 the song received extremely harsh reviews, since it is not uncommon for German winters reach below freezing, the instruments and the performers suffered. However Fifth Symphony quickly began to gain traction with critics like ETA Hoffman, who gave the symphony high praise in 1810. During World War II the song opened BBC broadcasts, and has been repurposed and covered in many Pop songs throughout time. Despite the harsh beginnings Beethoven’s Fifth has become an iconic piece of music throughout history.

December 12, 1913 – Stolen Mona Lisa is Recovered, This Day in History (find it on the ipl2)

On August 21, 1911 the famous painting of Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre. The heist quickly became known as the theft of the century. Newspapers across the world gave this story front page billing, directors of the museum were fired and suspended, and the Parisian Police blamed the museum’s poor security. It wasn’t until December 1913 when the painting was recovered in Florence, Italy. The thief Vincenzo Peruggia cited patriotic reasons for the theft, and spent 14 months in Jail. This was the first major art heist and recovery of the 20th century

December 1, 1933 – George Washington University, The Art of the New Deal 

NEW! The Art of the New Deal, Public Works Administration is set up

In times of economic hardship, when food and jobs are scarce, how important is art to a country’s sustainability? This question was answered for the first time in the 20th century for America as Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) implemented the New Deal, a set of reforms with the aim of getting America’s economy prospering again after the Great Depression. The Public Works Administration (PWA) was institution on December 1st, 1933 as a part of this New Deal. The PWA’s goal was to fund construction of over 30,000 projects ranging from airports, schools, libraries, and museums. The PWA was instrumental in providing jobs for artists during the last legs of the Depression and during the recovery. Without the PWA the 30’s would have been a black hole in American Art History. FDR dismantled the PWA on December 4th, 1942, and, while controversial for some, it was a sign that the economy was recovering.

December 3, 1947 – A Streetcar Named Desire Premiers on Broadway

Internet Broadway Database (find it on the ipl2)

The Tennessee Williams play first premiered on December 3rd, and was one of the first times in the modern era that a play used method acting and melodramatics to portray mental instability and produce a satire on the society. This play has become a classic that has been reproduced on Broadway, in film, in opera, and for the TV. In many high schools across the US this play is considered required reading.

December 12, 1980 – Da Vinci notebook sells for over 5 million, This Day in History (find it on the ipl2)

The sale of the Da Vinci manuscripts was the first time that a manuscript ever sold for that high of a price: $5.12 million. Da Vinci is often also considered the first Renaissance Man, as he was a master of science, literature, painting, anatomy and many others.  Later in 1994, Bill Gates would purchase this manuscript for over $30 million, and he to this day Gates loans out the manuscripts to various museums across the US.

Firsts in Trademarks and Patents:

December 1, 1948 Scrabble History

Official Scrabble Homepage (find on the ipl2)

On December 1st, 1948, Scrabble, the beloved word building board game, was copyright registered by its inventor, Alfred Mosher Butts. This classic game and creative versions of it continue to be popular today, especially online. For a history of the game’s development check out the Hasbro site.

December 5, 1905 & December 9, 1924 – The History of Chewing Gum and Bubble Gum

Inventors (find on the ipl2)

December was a good month for chewing gum inventors! Chiclets gum, colorful and candy-coated, was trademark registered on December 5, 1905, and Wrigley’s gum was trademark registered on December 9, 1924.

December 10, 1878 – Black Inventors and Their Inventions List

NEW! Museum of Black Inventions and Innovations

The door knob and the door stop were invented by Osborn Dorsey and first patented on December 10, 1878. Documents for this patent and other exhibits are part of a touring collection of artifacts from the Museum of Black Inventions and Innovations which informs its audiences about Black, Latino and Native American inventors, achievers, pioneers and scientists. These exhibits appear at various venues throughout North America, including universities and professional conferences.

December 19, 1871 – Mark Twain Granted His First Patent on December 19, 1871

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (find it on the ipl2)

Samuel L. Clemens, iconic American humorist and author known as Mark Twain, was also an inventor who held three patents. His first patent was granted for “an Improvement in Adjustable and Detachable Straps for Garments” to replace suspenders, which he felt were uncomfortable.

Firsts in Books:

December 5, 1768 – First edition of Encyclopaedia Britannica published

Encyclopedia Britannica (find it on the ipl2)

Though it took 3 years for the whole encyclopaedia to be published, the first section was released in December of 1768. Although it wasn’t as long as some of the previous encyclopaedias that had been published, it was unique in its plan and the new way that it provided information on a more specific level.

December 1, 1835 – Hans Christian Andersen’s first book of fairy tales published

Hans Christian Andersen: Fairy Tales and Stories (find it on the ipl2)

Hans Christian Andersen is one of the most famous tellers of fairy tales. He was collecting and writing tales for years, but his first book was published in 1835. The full text of many of his stories are available to read for free.

December 19, 1843 – Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol first published

The Man Who Invented Christmas: Charles Dickens (find it on the ipl2)

This famous book which has become a major part of many people’s Christmas traditions and has inspired too many adaptations in books, tv, and film to count was first published about a week before Christmas in 1843. By Christmas Eve it had already sold 6,000 copies and it continues to sell well to this day.

December 1887 – First time Sherlock Holmes appeared

Sherlockian (find it on the ipl2)

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes story, “A Study in Scarlet” appeared in the Beeton’s Christmas Annual in 1887 and was then published in book form the following year. The story wasn’t that successful, but the idea of Sherlock Holmes was and Doyle went on to publish an additional 55 stories starring the world famous detective.

Firsts in TV and Movies:

December 1934 – Bright Eyes was first released (Find it on the ipl2)

In December 1934, the movie Bright Eyes, starring Shirley Temple, was released for the first time. Rotten Tomatoes is a comprehensive movie review site which captures the consensus of professional critics from across the nation, and gives information and ratings about Bright Eyes. Shirley temple went on to win her first award for the song “The Good Ship Lollipop” which was featured in the movie.

December 12, 1937 – Broadcast Firsts  (Find it on the ipl2)

This site contains information on “characters, places and things that appeared on television programs broadcast from the 1940s to the present (during prime time and Saturday mornings).”

On December 12, 1937, the first mobile television units for outdoor events were obtained from RCA Manufacturing Company in Camden, New Jersey by NBC station W2XBT in New York City

December 21, 1937 – Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs released (find it on the ipl2)

On December 21, 1937, the animated version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released to RKO Radio Pictures. The film was based off of Brother’s Grimm Fairy Tales and produced by Walt Disney. Snow White was  the first animated feature film produced in America, the first produced in full color, the first to be produced by Walt Disney Productions, and the first in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series. Learn more about the film at

December 15, 1939 – Gone with the Wind

Georgia (Find it on the ipl2)

On December 15, 1939, Gone with the Wind starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh premiered for the first time. The New Georgia Encyclopedia gives readers a look at Gone with the Wind from the adaptation of the novel to film, along with information about the first premiere.

December 24, 1966 – The Good Old Yule Log Spreads To HDTV  (Find it on the ip l2)

Dec 24, 1966  the Yule Log Christmas Special premieres for the first time in New York City on WPIX. The Yule Log Christmas Special ran every year from 1966 to 1989, but returned in 2001. gives the history behind the Yule Log and its transformation to HDTV.

Firsts in Technology:

December 11, 1901 – First wireless transmission across the Atlantic Ocean

PBS (find it on the ipl2)

Guglielmo Marconi, who is considered the father of radio, is also the first man to have figured out a way to send a wireless transmission across the Atlantic Ocean. Although he only sent Morse code of the letter “s,” he did make history that day and confirmed that such a feat was possible.

December 1, 1956 – The first color photograph of Earth taken from Space

The Epoch Times (find it on the ipl2)

The first photo was taken in 1946, but was black and white, and taken just above the New Mexico’s atmosphere. On December 1, 1959 the United States launched the Thor missile into space. On board was a color camera.  This camera was the first color camera to take photos of Earth from space. However the photos weren’t seen until February 16th, 1960, when the data capsule would come back to Earth.  Today telescopes are launched into space that are able to see ultraviolet light and are able to take photos of distant stars and galaxies.

December 1975 – First Digital Camera

Kodak (Find it on the ipl2)

In December of 1975 Steve Sasson, an engineer at Kodak, invented the first digital camera. It was about the size of a toaster, but it would revolutionize the way the world captured memories forever.

December 3, 1994 – First Sony Playstation

How Stuff Works (find it on the ipl2)

The first Sony Playstation was released on December 3, 1994 in Japan. Although it wasn’t the first gaming system, it did become one of the most popular, and it also marked the movement away from the cartridge system of Nintendo and into the CD-ROM world of gaming.

Firsts in History:

December 7, 1787 – First ratified state of the USA

Stately Knowledge (Find it on the ipl2)

Delaware was ratified as the first state of the newly formed United States of America on Dec 7, 1787. Pennsylvania followed 5 days later with New Jersey 6 days after that, becoming the first 3 states of the new union. Delaware was originally a part of Pennsylvania, but it fought as a separate entity during the American Revolutionary War and was the first to ratify the Constitution. Find out more information about when each state joined the union on the ipl2 via the link above!

December 6, 1884 – Washington Monument is Completed

America’s Library (find it on the ipl2)

The nation’s first president was honored with a monument in 1884. The Washington Monument is 555 ½ feet tall and was designed to resemble Ancient Egyptian Obelisk, which Pharaohs often used to mark the entrance of temple, mark a grave, or praise the Sun god.  The fact that the Washington Monument was designed in this fashion gave George Washington a god-like legacy. Throughout history this monument has seen protests, rallies, and community celebrations.

December 26-January 1, 1966 – First Kwanzaa celebrated

Official Kwanzaa Website (find it on the ipl2)

Kwanzaa is an African-American and pan-African holiday which is celebrated in honor of family, community, and culture. Its roots go back to “first fruits” celebrations which have taken place since ancient times. The modern celebration was founded by Dr. Maulana Karengo as a way to preserve the culture and history of African American culture.

December 3, 1967 – First human heart transplant

NEW! Western Cape Government

Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa became famous when Professor Christiaan Barnard performed the first human heart transplant. Although the patient unfortunately died a few days later, this revolutionary procedure led the way for future transplants that would be complete successes and save thousands of lives.

December 08, 1980 – John Lennon is shot

John Lennon: The Official Site (find it on the ipl2)

John Lennon was the first of the Beatles to die after being shot by Mark David Chapman. Chapman shot Lennon on New York’s Upper West Side and later pled insanity. Psychiatrists determined that Chapman was psychotic, vicious, and violent. Chapman has been denied parole 7 times.

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