January 2nd in history:
At the start of what turned out to be his last year in the White House, President Richard Nixon signed a national speed limit bill on January 2nd, 1974. The speed limit was set at 55 mph nationwide, to save gasoline during an energy shortage.
Nixon was vice president in January of 1960, and he became the Republican nominee that year to succeed lame-duck president Dwight Eisenhower. On January 2nd of 1960, Nixon’s eventual Democratic opponent, Senator John F. Kennedy, launched his presidential campaign.
Kennedy won the 1960 election, but did not live to run again in 1964. While many people thought Nixon might run for president again in ’64, the GOP nomination that year went to Arizona Senator Barry Goldwater — who was born on January 2nd of 1909.
January 1st in history:
On New Year’s Day of 1863, President Abraham Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves that were living in Confederate states.
The people of Cuba were free from the rule of dictator Fulgencio Batista on January 1st, 1959 — only to see rebel leader Fidel Castro take over and rule for nearly 50 years. Batista fled to the Dominican Republic, taking millions of dollars with him.
Two colonists associated with the birth of the United States were born on January 1st: Silversmith Paul Revere (1735) was 40 years old when he and others rode to warn people in the Boston area that British forces were coming; and seamstress Betsy Ross (1752) was in her twenties when she proposed a design for the country’s first thirteen-star flag.