60 years ago today, Johnny Cash played a free concert for the inmates of San Quentin prison. In the audience was a 19-year-old guy named Merle Haggard, who was serving a 15-year sentence for armed robbery. Haggard was released on parole the following year after joining the prison’s country band, inspired by Cash. The singer–songwriter, guitarist, and fiddler went on to score 38 number-one hits on the country charts between the 1960s and the 80s. (1959)

MORE Good News on this Date:

  • The importation of slaves into the United States was banned (1808)
  • President Abraham Lincoln signed an Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in US Confederate rebel states and leading to new attitudes about slavery (1863)
  • The Commonwealth of Australia was formed (1901)
  • The United Nations Declaration was signed by 26 nations (1942)
  • Haiti became the first independent country in the West Indies (1804); Spanish rule ended in Cuba (1899); Italy embraced a Constitution (1948)
  • UN Cease-fire orders in Kashmir stopped the war between India and Pakistan (1949)
  • Gaining Independence: Republic of the Sudan (1956), Cameroon (1960), Western Samoa (1962), The Sultanate of Brunei (1984)
  • The feared Y2K computer bugs caused none of the problems predicted to arise with the new millenium date (2000)
  • Norwegian 19 year-old Magnus Carlsen, became the youngest chess grandmaster ever to top the world rankings (2010)

And, on this day in 1892,  Ellis Island opened as a new immigration depot in the New York City harbor. Over 40 percent of the U.S. population — 100 million Americans — can trace their roots back to this doorway.

17 million immigrants took their first steps towards freedom and opportunity at the Ellis Island processing center. A small sample of those who came through Ellis Island reveals some of the greatest names in literature, entertainment, politics, and science.

  1. Singer Enrico Caruso
  2. Olympiad Johann Weismuller
  3. Comedian Henry (Henny) Youngman
  4. Circus founders John and Mabel Ringling
  5. Composer and Conductors, Gustav Mahler and Arturo Toscanini
  6. Physicians Carl Jung and Sigmund Freud
  7. Filmmaker Charles Chaplin
  8. Conductors Leopold Stokowski and Sergei Rachmaninoff
  9. Future presidents Woodrow Wilson, William H. Taft, Theodore Roosevelt and Herbert Hoover
  10. Writers Joseph Conrad, Rudyard Kipling, and F. Scott Fitzgerald
  11. Songwriters George Gershwin, George M. Cohan, Israel Beilin (Irving Berlin) and Cole Porter
  12. Animator Walter Elias Disney
  13. Albert Einstein