December 16th in History

“The Destruction of Tea at Boston Harbor,” Nathaniel Currier for Currier & Ives.

Today in History

  • Vasco da Gama rounds the Cape of Good Hope (1497)
  • Oliver Cromwell becomes Lord Protector (1653)
  • The Boston Tea Party takes place (1773)
  • The most powerful earthquakes to hit the eastern United States in recorded history take place near New Madrid, Missouri (1811)
  • The American Great White Fleet begins its circumnavigation of the world (1907)
  • Two men attempt to escape from Alcatraz and are never seen again (1937)
  • The Battle of the Bulge begins (1944)
  • The Catholic Church officially revokes the Edict of Expulsion of Jews from Spain (1968)
  • The Indo-Pakistani War/Bangladesh Liberation War ends with the surrender of the Pakistan Army (1971)
  • Cleveland, Ohio, becomes the first US city to default on its financial obligations since the Great Depression (1978)
  • John Gotti becomes leader of the Gambino crime family (1985)


  • Catherine of Aragon, English queen, wife of Henry VIII (1485)
  • Gebhard Lebericht von Blücher, German field marshal (1742)
  • Ludwig van Beethoven, composer (1770)
  • Jane Austen, author (1775)
  • George Santayana, philosopher (1863)
  • Wassily Kandinsky, painter (1866)
  • Noël Coward, playwright (1899)
  • Margaret Mead, anthropologist (1901)
  • Piet Hein, mathematician and poet (1905)
  • Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction writer (1917)
  • Randall Garrett, science fiction writer (1927)
  • Philip K. Dick, science fiction writer (1928)
  • Morris Dees, co-founder, Southern Poverty Law Center (1936)
  • Liv Ullmann, actress (1938)
  • Lesley Stahl, television journalist (1941)
  • Steven Bochco, screenwriter and producer (1943)


  • Wilhelm Grimm, anthropologist and author (1859)
  • Camille Saint-Saëns, composer (1921)
  • Giovanni Agnelli, founder of Fiat (1945)
  • W. Somerset Maugham, author (1968)
  • Colonel Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken (1980)
  • Paul Castellano, mobster (1985)
  • Lee Van Cleef, actor (1989)
  • Kenneth Bulmer, science fiction writer (2005)
  • Roy E. Disney, businessman (2009)
  • Ray Price, country musician (2013)

Holidays and Celebrations

  • বিজয় দিবস (Bijôy Dibôs, or Victory Day) (Bangladesh)
  • Day of Reconciliation (South Africa)
  • First day of Hispanidad/Las Posadas/Simbang Gabi (the nine-day celebration of Mary and Joseph’s search for a place to stay where Jesus could be born)
  • Independence Day (Kazakhstan)
  • National Day (Bahrain)
  • National Sports Day (Thailand)
  • O Sapienta (Anglicanism)
  • Vijay Diwas (Victory Day) (India)
Informal and made-up holidays include National Chocolate Covered Anything Day. Some sources list December 16 as Zionism Day.
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December 16 is the 350th day of the year (351st in leap years). There are 15 days remaining until the end of the year.