This Day in History: Dec. 17

President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari sign NAFTA

On this day, Dec. 17 ...

1992: President George H.W. Bush, Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and Mexican President Carlos Salinas de Gortari sign the North American Free Trade Agreement in separate ceremonies. (After approval by the legislative bodies of the leaders’ respective countries, the treaty would come into force on Jan. 1, 1994.)


Also on this day:

  • 1777: France recognizes American independence.
  • 1865: Franz Schubert’s Symphony No. 8, known as the “Unfinished” because only two movements had been completed, is first performed publicly in Vienna 37 years after the composer’s death.
  • 1903: Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, conduct the first successful manned powered airplane flights near Kitty Hawk, N.C., using their experimental craft, the Wright Flyer.
  • 1944: The U.S. War Department announces it is ending its policy of excluding people of Japanese ancestry from the West Coast.
  • 1957: The United States successfully test fires the Atlas intercontinental ballistic missile for the first time.
  • 1969: The U.S. Air Force closes its Project “Blue Book” by concluding there was no evidence of extraterrestrial spaceships behind thousands of UFO sightings. 
  • 1969: An estimated 50 million TV viewers watch singer Tiny Tim marry his fiancee, Miss Vicky, on NBC’s “Tonight Show.”
  • 1975: Lynette Fromme is sentenced in Sacramento, Calif., to life in prison for her attempt on the life of President Gerald R. Ford. (She would be paroled in August 2009.)
  • 1996: Peruvian guerrillas take hundreds of people hostage at the Japanese embassy in Lima. (All but 72 of the hostages would be released by the rebels; the siege would end April 22, 1997, with a commando raid that resulted in the deaths of all the rebels, two commandos and one hostage).
  • 1996: Kofi Annan of Ghana is appointed United Nations secretary-general.
  • 2011: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il dies after more than a decade of iron rule.
  • 2017: “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” takes in $220 million in its debut weekend in North America, good for the second-best opening ever and behind only its predecessor, “The Force Awakens.”
  • 2017: French sailor Francois Gabart breaks the record for sailing around the world alone, circumnavigating the planet in just 42 days and 16 hours.