On This Day, January 18th
1. 1778: The Hawaiian Islands were discovered by English explorer
It was on this date in 1778 that Captain James Cook became the first European to discover the Hawaiin Islands when he sailed past the island of Oahu. Shortly thereafter he landed at Waimea on the island of Kauai where he was welcomed by the Hawaiians. They were fascinated by the English explorers with their fancy ships and most importantly, the way they utilized iron. Cook took advantage of that fascination and was able to fully provision his ships just by trading pieces of scrap metal. The men on his crew took iron nails and traded them for companionship with the local females before eventually setting sail again. Although we know them as the Hawaiian Islands now, Cook apparently attempted to name the grouping of islands the “Sandwich Islands” in honor of the Earl of Sandwich, John Montague.
2. 1919: The opening of the Paris Peace Conference
President Woodrow Wilson and many other of the most powerful men in the world met on this day in 1919 for the opening of the Paris Peace Conference. It was the start of long and complicated negotiations following WWI between the victorious Allied Powers such as the United States, Great Britain, France, and Italy, to determine the peace terms for the defeated Central Powers. More than 32 countries were in attendance for the conference that would last almost exactly one year before it came to an end on January 21, 1920. President Wilson wanted to make sure that Germany wasn’t treated too harshly whereas many other Allied leaders felt that punishing them adequately and ensuring their weakness was the only way to justify the immense costs involved in WWI. Eventually, the Treaty of Versailles was signed in June of 1919, but the anger and resentment of German extremists festered over the decades to come and almost directly led to the equally devastating WWII, the exact thing the Paris negotiations were intended to prevent.
3. 1990: Mayor Marion Barry arrested
Former Mayor of Washington D.C. Marion Barry was arrested on this date in 1990 for possession of crack-cocaine, as well as smoking the substance on camera with a woman named Rasheeda Moore. The arrest was made possible thanks to a joint sting operation between the D.C. police department and FBI agents. Moore was actually part of the sting after she agreed to set up Barry in exchange for a reduced sentence on a prior drug charge. Barry and Moore were at the Vista International Hotel smoking crack when suddenly the door was kicked open and he was rushed by officers and agents and arrested. It was just over a year before Barry was sentenced to six months in prison for his crimes. It would seem as if that would be the end of his political career, however, that wasn’t the case. After his release, Barry was elected to the city council and in 1994 he was re-elected as the Mayor for his fourth term in office before retiring in 1999.