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• On Jan. 5, 1643, in the first record of a legal divorce in the American colonies, Anne Clarke of the Massachusetts Bay Colony is granted a divorce from her absent and adulterous husband, Denis Clarke, by the Quarter Court of Boston.
• On Jan. 1, 1818, “Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus” is published. The book by 20-year-old Mary Shelley is frequently called the world’s first science fiction novel. In Shelley’s tale, a scientist animates a creature constructed from dismembered corpses.
• On Jan. 8, 1835, President Andrew Jackson achieves his goal of entirely paying off the United States’ national debt. It was the only time in U.S. history that the national debt stood at zero, and it precipitated one of the worst financial crises in American history, the Panic of 1837.
• On Jan. 12, 1932, Ophelia Wyatt Caraway of Arkansas becomes the first woman elected to the U.S. Senate. Caraway had been appointed earlier to fill the vacancy left by her late husband, Thaddeus Horatio Caraway.
• On Jan. 3, 1961, President Dwight Eisenhower closes the American embassy in Havana and severs diplomatic relations between the United States and Fidel Castro’s government in Cuba. The action signaled that the U.S. was prepared to take extreme measures to oppose Castro’s regime.
• On Jan. 2, 1974, President Richard Nixon signs the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, requiring states to limit highway speeds to 55 mph or lose federal highway funding. It was a result of fuel shortages caused by the Arab oil embargo.
• On Jan. 6, 1975, “Wheel of Fortune,” the longest-running syndicated game show in American television, premieres on NBC. In over 7,000 episodes, show hostess Vanna White has never worn the same gown twice.
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