Happy Anniversary: From top hat frights to public flirts

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WE BEGIN the new year of dates with a celebration of some of the odder happenings of this week in history, a period traditionally full of innovation and bounce, writes William Hartston.

3 January

1888: Paper drinking straws are patented in the United States.

1915: Tear gas is first used in warfare, by the Germans fighting the Russians in Poland.

1961: The one millionth Morris Minor comes off the production line in Oxford.

4 January

1835: The first chess column in any newspaper appears in Bell's Life in London.

1885: In Iowa, Dr William West Grant performs the first appendectomy. The patient, a 22-year-old farm girl, made a complete recovery and lived until 1919.

1910: Britain's first juvenile courts open for business in London.

1936: The first nationally based popular music chart is published by Billboard in the United States.

1961: The longest strike in history ends when apprentice barbers return to work in Copenhagen. They had been out since 1938.

1982: Erika Roe achieves instant fame, streaking at the England-Australia rugby international at Twickenham.

5 January

1797: John Hetherington appears before the Lord Mayor of London accused of wearing a top hat 'calculated to frighten timid people'. It was the first time such apparrel had been seen in public. He was bound over to keep the peace in consideration of a sum of pounds 50.

1964: The first automatic ticket barrier on the London underground comes into operation at Stamford Brook station.

1971: A washed-out Test match ushers in the age of instant cricket with the first one-day international, between Australia and England at Melbourne.

1976: President Giscard d'Estaing proclaims French the only permissible language for use in advertisements.

6 January

1926: The German airline Lufthansa is founded.

1991: John Major says the poll tax will not be abolished.

7 January

1610: Galileo discovers four moons of Jupiter, naming them Io, Europa, Callisto and Ganymede, after three women and a youth loved by Zeus.

1785: First balloon crossing of the English Channel.

1857: The London Central Omnibus Company starts regular services.

1904: The universal distress signal CQD comes into operation - CQ for 'seek you' and D for distress. It does not catch on and is replaced by SOS two years later.

1927: Abraham Sapperstein of Chicago founds the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

1990: The Leaning Tower of Pisa is declared unsafe and closed to the public for the first time in more than 700 years.

8 January

1800: The first soup kitchens for the poor start serving in London.

1902: The New York State legislature outlaws flirting in public.

1921: David Lloyd George becomes the first Prime Minister to take up residence at Chequers.

9 January

1811: The first women's golf tournament is held at Musselburgh in Scotland.

1951: The French film La Vie Commence Demain becomes the first to be given a British 'X' certificate.

1988: Edgar Dakin of Yorkshire patents the 'Dakin Plastic Tombstone'.

(Photograph omitted)