December 5 is the 339th day (340th in leap years) of the year in the Gregorian calendar. There are 26 days remaining.
- 1484 - Pope Innocent VIII writes a Papal Bull that sets the inquisition into full swing and kills hundreds of thousands (perhaps millions) of innocent people accused of being witches
- 1492 - Christopher Columbus becomes the first European to set foot on the island of Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic).
- 1560 - Francis II of France dies and is succeeded by Charles IX of France.
- 1766 - In London, James Christie holds his first sale (he later founded Christie's, the world's oldest auction house).
- 1776 - At the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, the Phi Beta Kappa is founded as the first scholastic fraternity in the United States.
- 1791 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart dies impoverished in Vienna, Austria at age 35.
- 1831 - Former US President John Quincy Adams takes a seat in the United States House of Representatives.
- 1848 - California gold rush: In a message before the United States Congress, US President James Knox Polk confirms that large amounts of gold had been discovered in California.
- 1873 - In Boston, Massachusetts, Warren Avenue Baptist Church sexton Thomas Piper strangles and beats to death his first victim, Bridget Landregan (the press later dubbed the then unknown serial killer "The Boston Belfry Murderer").
- 1926 - Sergei Eisenstein's "Battleship Potemkin," debuts
- 1932 - German physicist Albert Einstein granted a visa
- 1933 - Prohibition ends: Utah becomes the 36th U.S. state to ratify the Twenty-first Amendment to the United States Constitution, thus establishing the required 3/4th of states needed to enact the amendment (this overturned the 18th Amendment which had outlawed alcohol in the United States).
- 1934 - Italian troops attack Wal Wal in Ethiopia (it took four days to capture the city).
- 1936 - The Soviet Union adopts a new constitution.
- 1941 - The nonfiction book Sea of Cortez by John Steinbeck is published (Steinbeck used knowledge gained writing this book to develop the marine biologist character Doc in Cannery Row).
- 1945 - Flight 19, a United States Navy training flight was lost in the Bermuda Triangle.
- 1952 - The Abbott and Costello Show starring comedians Bud Abbott and Lou Costello, debuts.
- 1955 - The trade unions American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations decided to merge and form the AFL-CIO.
- 1964 - Vietnam War: For his heroism in battle earlier in the year, Captain Roger Donlon of Saugerties, New York is awarded the first Medal of Honor of the war.
- 1974 - The last new episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus is broadcast on the BBC.
- 1978 - The Soviet Union signs a 'friendship treaty' with the communist government of Afghanistan.
- 1979 - Sonia Johnson is formally excommunicated by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints for her outspoken criticism of the church concerning the proposed Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.
- 1992 - Kent Conrad of North Dakota resigns his seat in the United States Senate and is sworn into the other seat from North Dakota, becoming the only US Senator ever to have held two seats on the same day.
- 2003 - Johannes Heesters, the world's oldest living actor, turns 100.
- 1443 - Pope Julius II
- 1537 - Ashikaga Yoshiaki, Ashikaga shogun (d. 1597)
- 1782 - Martin Van Buren, 8th President of the United States and first US President born in the United States (d. 1862)
- 1822 - Elizabeth Cary Agassiz, American educator, first president of Radcliffe College (d. 1907)
- 1830 - Christina Rossetti, poet (d. 1894)
- 1839 - George Armstrong Custer, American general (d. 1876)
- 1841 - Marcus Daly, American mining tycoon (d. 1900)
- 1870 - Vitezslav Novák, composer (d. 1949)
- 1871 - Bill Pickett, rodeo star (d. 1932)
- 1875 - Arthur Currie, soldier (d. 1933)
- 1879 - Clyde Cessna, founder Cessna Aircraft Company (d. 1954)
- 1886 - Rose Wilder Lane, writer, reporter (d. 1968)
- 1890 - David Bomberg, painter (d. 1957)
- 1890 - Fritz Lang, film director (d. 1976)
- 1901 - Werner Heisenberg, physicist (d. 1976)
- 1901 - Walt Disney, film producer (d. 1966)
- 1902 - Strom Thurmond, American politician (d. 2003)
- 1903 - Johannes Heesters, singer and actor
- 1906 - Otto Preminger, director, producer (d. 1986)
- 1914 - Hans Hellmut Kirst, author (d. 1989)
- 1927 - Bhumibol Adulyadej, King of Thailand (r. 1946-)
- 1932 - Little Richard, singer
- 1932 - Sheldon Lee Glashow, physicist
- 1934 - Joan Didion, writer
- 1935 - Calvin Trillin, writer
- 1940 - Peter Pohl, Swedish writer
- 1944 - Jeroen Krabbé, actor
- 1946 - José Carreras, singer
- 1947 - Jim Messina, musician
- 1947 - Jim Plunkett, American football star
- 1950 - Camarón de la Isla, flamenco cantaore
- 1956 - Krystian Zimerman, pianist
- 1962 - José Cura, Argentine tenor
- 1968 - Margaret Cho, comedian, actress
- 1973 - Lubos Motl, physicist
- 1975 - Ronnie O'Sullivan, English snooker player
- 1985 - Frankie Muniz, actor
- 1624 - Gaspard Bauhin, botanist
- 1663 - Severo Bonini, composer
- 1758 - Johann Friedrich Fasch, composer
- 1784 - Phillis Wheatley, poet
- 1791 - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, composer
- 1819 - Friedrich Leopold Graf zu Stolberg, German poet (b. 1750)
- 1870 - Alexandre Dumas pčre, writer
- 1926 - Claude Monet, impressionist painter
- 1931 - Vachel Lindsay, poet
- 1940 - Jan Kubelík, violinist
- 1950 - Shri Aurobindo, guru
- 1951 - Shoeless Joe Jackson, of baseball's "Black Sox" scandal
- 1963 - Sri Deep Narayan Mahaprabhuji, Hindu saint
- 1963 - Karl Amadeus Hartmann, composer
- 1989 - John Pritchard, English conductor (b. 1921)
- 1991 - Richard Speck, murderer
- 2001 - Sir Peter Blake, New Zealand sailor and environmentalist, (shot by pirates on the Amazon River)
- 2001 - Franco Rasetti, physicist
- 2002 - Roone Arledge, sports broadcasting pioneer
- 2002 - Einar Skinnarland, SOE agent
- 2002 - Ne Win, Burmese dictator
Holidays and observances
December 4 - December 6 - November 5 - January 5 -- listing of all days
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