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It Happened Today: January 1st

Quite a few events – especially institutional events – happened on January 1st, as it is the start of the calendar year. Some of them are listed below – without the aim of being exhaustive. There are also other ones that didn’t need to happen on the first day of the year, though….

January 1st, 1863

Following the statements he made after the US Civil War battle of Antietam, President Abraham Lincoln made the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all 3.1 million slaves in the Confederate States. It’s important to understand that this didn’t outlaw slavery and didn’t make the freed slaves citizens but it made the eradication of slavery an explicit war goal. Another million slaves (approximately) were still in the Union States and were not affected by the Proclamation. Slavery was outlawed only when the Thirteenth Amendment was ratified in 1865.

January 1st, 1892

Ellis Island, located in Upper New York Bay, starts as an immigration gateway into the United States, replacing Castle Garden Immigration Depot in lower Manhattan. Ellis Island operated until 1954, having processed more than 12 million immigrants into the United States. It is estimated that over 100 million Americans – roughly one third of the population – can trace their ancestry to somebody arriving in America at Ellis Island.

January 1st, 1901

It’s not only the first day of the year but also the first day of the century!
The Commonwealth of Australia was proclaimed.
The Australian continent was originally inhabited by indigenous Australians, who spoke various languages and idioms, grouped into roughly 250 language groups.
After Dutch explorers discovered the continent in 1606, Australia’s oriental part was claimed by the United Kingdom in 1770. Starting from January 26th 1788, the institution of the Penal Colony of New South Wales marked the start of British utilisation of the territory. Later, additional five self-governing Crown Colonies were established. The Commonwealth of Australia federated the six colonies into a constitutional monarchy.

January 1st, 1912

Following the Xinhai Revolution in 1911, the island of Taiwan, formerly known as “Formosa”, becomes the Republic of China and has been keeping this official name until today.

January 1st, 1942

During the Arcadia Conference, representatives of twenty-six Allied countries signed the Declaration by United Nations, as a World War II document, that would be later used as a basis for the United Nations.

January 1st, 1947

The Canadian Citizenship Act enters into effect and the first person to become a Canadian citizen is the Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King. Canadians were converted from British subjects into Canadian citizens.

January 1st, 1959

Cuba was governed by the US-supported dictator Fulgencio Batista. On January 1st 1959, Batista flees and Fidel Castro takes over the country, after about one year of revolution. Castro later became premier in February of 1959. He stayed in power until February 19th 2008, when he resigned. His brother Raúl was elected President on February 24th.

January 1st, 1985

British comedian Ernie Wise makes the first mobile phone call in Britain: from St. Katharine’s Docks in London to Vodafone Headquarters in Newbury, Berkshire. As reported by BBC, for the first nine days of 1985, Vodafone was the only firm with a mobile network in the UK.

January 1st, 2000

Two events for that day!

The Millenium Bug day

A big concern arose prior to that date. It was originally believed that a worldwide computer crisis would happen after the clock struck midnight on December 31st 1999: the fear was that the year “2000” could be read by most computers as the year “1900”. People were writing books about how to prepare for this crisis, which could affect not only offices but roads, homes, amusement parks, and so on. Some also prepared water, food, and other emergency items in case the worst case scenario would become a reality. Fortunately, it didn’t happen: probably, the world was so scared that it would happened that it spent over and above the amount of money needed to ensure that it wouldn’t happen….

The Panama canal

On January 1st 2000, the United States handed over the Panama Canal to the Panama Government, ending nearly a century of American control over one of the world most strategic waterways. The Panama canal is nearly 50 miles long joining the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and has been run by the US Defense Department since it opened in August 1914.

The European Union

A separate point is dedicated to the European Union – which looks to like January 1st very much!

January 1st, 1973

The United Kingdom became a fully-fledged member of the European Economic Community (EEC – it wasn’t the EU yet), together with Ireland and Denmark. Before that date, the members of EEC – which was founded on March 25th 1957 by the Treaty of Rome – were Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and Netherlands.

January 1st, 1981

Greece became the tenth member of the EEC.

January 1st, 1986

Portugal and Spain joined the EEC, bringing it to twelve members.

January 1st, 1993

Czechoslovakia ceased to exist: it split into Czech Republic and Slovakia. Ironically, eleven years after the separation, both countries would join the EU together, on May 1st 2004.

January 1st, 1995

Austria, Finland and Sweden joined the EU, making it a fifteen-members union.

January 1st, 1998

The European Central Bank is created prior to the introduction of the Euro, when it would become responsible for monetary policy covering member States of the Eurozone.

January 1st, 1999

Eleven nations (Austria, Belgium, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain) made the Euro, a new and virtual currency, their currency. This was one of the most important efforts to re-unite Europe after World War II. For the time being, the Euro was supposed to be used only in stock markets, financial transactions between banks, cheques and credit cards. The Euro bank notes and coins would come later.

January 1st, 2001

Greece joined the other eleven partners in the adoption of the Euro.

January 1st, 2002

The resdients of the twelve countries of the Euro zone can finally physically manipulate Euro bank notes and coins!

January 1st, 2008

Cyprus and Malta adopted the Euro.

January 1st, 2009

Slovakia adopted the Euro.

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