Jan. 16

1919: The 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, prohibiting the “manufacture, sale or transportation of intoxicating liquors for beverage purposes,” is ratified by the requisite number of states. The movement for the prohibition of alcohol began in the early 19th century, when Americans concerned about the adverse effects of drinking began forming temperance societies. By the late 19th century, these groups had become a powerful political force, campaigning on the state level and calling for total national abstinence. In December 1917, the 18th Amendment, also known as the Prohibition Amendment, was passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.

Jan. 17

1997: The Republic of Ireland legally grants a divorce for the first time following a 1995 referendum. The first divorce in Ireland, granted to a terminally ill man who wished to marry his new partner, was a harbinger of the decline of the Catholic Church’s power over the Republic. The Irish Constitution of 1937 specifically forbade divorce. Though the constitution prohibits the state from adopting an official religion, Ireland is an overwhelmingly Catholic country, and the original document contained many elements of Catholic doctrine.

Jan. 18

1919: In Paris, France, some of the most powerful people in the world meet to begin the long, complicated negotiations that would officially mark the end of the First World War. Leaders of the victorious Allied powers — France, Great Britain, the United States and Italy — would make most of the crucial decisions in Paris over the next six months. For most of the conference, U.S. President Woodrow Wilson struggled to support his idea of a “peace without victory” and make sure that Germany, the leader of the Central Powers and the major loser of the war, was not treated too harshly. In the end, Wilson compromised on the treatment of Germany in order to push through the creation of his pet project, an international peacekeeping organization called the League of Nations.

Jan. 19

1972: On this day, 36-year-old Sandy Koufax, the former Los Angeles Dodgers star, becomes the youngest player elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame. “This is the only thing that’s made having to retire early a little easier,” said Koufax, who retired at age 30. “This is the biggest honor I’ve ever been given, not just in baseball, but in my life.” Koufax made his Major League Baseball debut in 1955, but was inconsistent early in his career. Before 1961, his biggest claim to fame was leading the majors in wild pitches in 1958. In 1961, however, Koufax led the National League with 269 strikeouts and made the National League All-Star Team. 

Jan. 20

1981: Minutes after Ronald Reagan’s inauguration as the 40th president of the United States, the 52 U.S. captives held at the U.S. embassy in Teheran, Iran, are released, ending the 444-day Iran Hostage Crisis. On Nov. 4, 1979, the crisis began when militant Iranian students, outraged that the U.S. government had allowed the ousted shah of Iran to travel to New York City for medical treatment, seized the U.S. embassy in Teheran. The Ayatollah Khomeini took over the hostage situation, refusing all appeals to release the hostages, even after the U.N. Security Council demanded an end to the crisis in a unanimous vote. However, two weeks after the storming of the embassy, the Ayatollah began to release all non-U.S. captives, and all female and minority Americans, citing these groups as among the people oppressed by the government of the United States. The remaining 52 captives remained at the mercy of the Ayatollah for the next 14 months.

Jan. 21

1977: U.S. President Jimmy Carter grants an unconditional pardon to hundreds of thousands of men who evaded the draft during the Vietnam War. In total, some 100,000 young Americans went abroad in the late 1960s and early ‘70s to avoid serving in the war. Ninety percent went to Canada, where after some initial controversy they were eventually welcomed as immigrants. Still others hid inside the United States. In addition to those who avoided the draft, a relatively small number — about 1,000 — of deserters from the U.S. armed forces also headed to Canada. While the Canadian government technically reserved the right to prosecute deserters, in practice they left them alone, even instructing border guards not to ask too many questions.

Jan. 22

1984: During a break in the action of Super Bowl XVIII, audiences first see a commercial that is now widely agreed to be one of the most powerful and effective of all time. Apple’s “1984” spot, featuring a young woman throwing a sledgehammer through a screen on which a Big Brother-like figure preaches about “the unification of thought,” got people around the United States talking and heralded a new age for Apple, consumer technology and advertising. The ad was directed by Ridley Scott, who directed the genre-defining dystopian science fiction film Blade Runner in 1982.

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