On Feb. 6, 1778, during the American Revolutionary War, the United States won official recognition and military support from France with the signing of a Treaty of Alliance in Paris.
In 1788, Massachusetts became the sixth state to ratify the U.S. Constitution.
In 1815, the state of New Jersey issued the first American railroad charter to John Stevens, who proposed a rail link between Trenton and New Brunswick. (The line, however, was never built.)
In 1862, during the Civil War, Fort Henry in Tennessee fell to Union forces.
In 1899, a peace treaty between the United States and Spain was ratified by the U.S. Senate.
In 1911, Ronald Wilson Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, was born in Tampico, Illinois.
In 1922, Cardinal Archille Ratti was elected pope; he took the name Pius XI.
In 1933, the 20th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, the so-called “lame duck” amendment, was proclaimed in effect by Secretary of State Henry Stimson.
In 1952, Britain’s King George VI, 56, died at Sandringham House in Norfolk, England; he was succeeded as monarch by his 25-year-old elder daughter, who became Queen Elizabeth II.
In 1993, tennis Hall of Famer and human rights advocate Arthur Ashe died in New York at age 49.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed a bill changing the name of Washington National Airport to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport. Carl Wilson, a founding member of The Beach Boys, died in Los Angeles at age 51.
In 2000, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton launched her successful candidacy for the U.S. Senate.
In 2008, the Bush White House defended the use of the interrogation technique known as waterboarding, saying it was legal — not torture as critics argued — and had saved American lives.