This Month in History: January

Haitian flag, earthquake damage, 7 on Richter scale graph

January 1, 2010 - Massive earthquake in Haiti

Haiti lies in between the North American and Caribbean tectonic plates, with the capital of Port-au-Prince straddling the fault line. When the 7.0 earthquake happened 15 miles outside the capital, the city was devastated. All hospitals, the airport and seaport, telecommunications, major roads, and 300,000 buildings were destroyed. There has been no consensus on the death toll. The Haitian government says it is as high as 316,000. A massive aid effort was launched, raising billions worldwide. Much of those monies never made it to the Haitians in need and years after the quake, many still live in makeshift shelters or tents. An earthquake measuring 7.2 on the Richter scale, struck Haiti on Aug. 14, 2021, but the epicenter was in a more rural location, resulting in around 2,500 fatalities.

To learn more about the 2010 Haiti earthquake:

Adults: Finding Chika: A Little Girl, an Earthquake, and the Making of a Family by Mitch Albom

Haiti After the Earthquake by Paul Farmer

Children: The Haitian Earthquake of 2010 by Peter Benoit

To learn more about earthquakes:

Adults: A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester

Quakeland: On the Road to America's Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles

Children: All About Earthquakes by Libby Romero

Earthquake! by Fran Hodgkins


gold bars and coins, California Gold Rush 1849 postage stamp, pan with gold dust

January 24, 1848 - California Gold Rush begins

The California Gold Rush began when James Wilson Marshall discovered gold flakes in the American River while building a water-powered sawmill for landowner John Sutter. Sutter tried keeping the discovery a secret, but word got out, and within six months, most of the male population of San Francisco had left for the gold mines. In December 1848, President Polk spoke of the discovery of gold in California, and men traveled by land and sea to find their fortunes. In 1849, the non-native population of California went from 20,000 to 100,000. This massive migration resulted in the miners being dubbed 49ers – hence the San Francisco 49ers football team. The gold rush peaked in 1852 with $81 million pulled from the earth. Hydraulic mining began in 1853, resulting in the destruction of the region’s landscape and independent miners forced into wage labor with big mines.

To learn more about the California Gold Rush:

Adults: The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the Birth of Modern America by H.W. Brands

The Rush: American's Fevered Quest for Fortune: 1848-1853 by Edward Dolnick

Children: Hurry Freedom: African Americans in Gold Rush California by Jerry Stanley

If You Were a Kid During the California Gold Rush by Josh Gregory

Life During the California Gold Rush by Bethany Onsgard

To learn more about gold:

Adults: Gold: The Race for the World's Most Seductive Metal by Matthew Hart

Seven Elements that Changed the World: An Adventure of Ingenuity and Discovery by John Browne

Children: Gold: From Greek Myth to Computer Chips by Ruth Kassinger

The Story Behind Gold by Elizabeth Raum


railroad tracks into Auschwitz, barbed wire barracks, entrance to Auschwitz

January 27, 1945 - Liberation of Auschwitz

At Auschwitz, the largest extermination and concentration camp run by the Nazis, over 1 million people were murdered, mostly Jews. The Red Army liberated the Auschwitz camps after defeating German forces in Krakow, Poland. Shortly before the Russians arrived, SS soldiers ordered 65,000 prisoners on death marches towards German territory. When the army entered the camp, there were about 7000 people in dire health and warehouses full of other people’s belongings. There was evidence that the German soldiers tried to cover up their crimes by destroying buildings and burning plundered possessions and paper records. Auschwitz consisted of three main camps with many smaller sub-camps. Auschwitz I was a concentration camp, Auschwitz II – Birkenau, was for extermination, and Auschwitz III – Monowice, was a forced labor camp. After the war, former prisoners and the Polish government turned the camp into a museum and memorial. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum was created in 1947 and receives more than 1 million visitors each year.

To learn more about Auschwitz:

Adults: The Auschwitz Photographer: The Forgotten Story of the WWII Prisoner Who Documented Thousands of Lost Souls by Luca Crippa

The Dressmakers of Auschwitz: The True Story of the Women Who Sewed to Survive by L.J. Adlington

999: The Extraordinary Young Women of the First Official Transport to Auschwitz by Heather Dune Macadam

The Sisters of Auschwitz: The True Story of Two Sisters' Resistance in the Heart of Nazi Territory by Roxane van Iperen

Children: Auschwitz Explained to My Child by Annette Wieviorka

The Magician of Auschwitz by Kathy Kacer

To learn from Auschwitz survivors in their own words:

Adults: The Boy Who Drew Auschwitz: A Powerful True Story of Hope and Survival by Thomas Geve

A Delayed Life: The True Story of the Librarian of Auschwitz by Dita Kraus

The Happiest Man on Earth by Eddie Jaku

Children: My Survival: A Girl on Schindler's List by Rena Finder


background of baseballs, image of Baseball Hall of Fame wall plaques

January 29, 1936 -  The Baseball Hall of Fame inducts first members

The Baseball Hall of Fame has elected new members annually since 1936. The first members were Babe Ruth, Christy Matthewson, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb, and Walter Johnson. On June 12, 1939, the Hall of Fame building opened in Cooperstown, N.Y. and the first four Hall of Fame classes were inducted. Today there is the Hall of Fame Classic held each Memorial Day weekend, featuring Hall of Famers and players representing each of the 30 Major League Baseball teams. The induction ceremony for new members is held each year during Hall of Fame Weekend in July. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum consists of five buildings holding more than 40,000 three-dimensional objects. It has preserved more than 3 million documents and 250,000 baseball photographs and images. The Museum has as many as 3,000 visitors a day. (National Baseball Hall of Fame from Wikipedia Commons)

To learn more about the Baseball Hall of Fame:

Adults: The Hall: A Celebration of Baseball's Greats: In Stories and Images, the Complete Roster of Inductees by The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

The National Baseball Hall of Fame Collection: Celebrating the Games Greatest Players by James Buckley Jr.

Children: Baseball by James Buckley Jr.

To learn more about baseball legends:

Adults: The Baseball 100 by Joe Posnanski

The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created by Jane Leavy

42 Today: Jackie Robinson and His Legacy edited by Michael G. Long

Children: Hank Aaron: Home Run Hammer by Percy Leed

There Goes Ted Williams: The Greatest Hitter Who Ever Lived by Matt Tavares

Yogi: The Life, Loves, and Language of Baseball Legend Yogi Berra by Barb Rosenstock


Factual information adapted from: History: This Day in HistoryHistory: California Gold Rush, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

By BethN on January 14, 2022