On this day in 1826, fifty years to the day after the Declaration of Independence is adopted, former presidents John Adams and Thomas Jefferson both die. The coincidence goes unnoticed.

On this day in 1845, American writer Henry David Thoreau begins his two-year experiment in simple living at Walden Pond, near Concord, Mass., recording his every thought and observation as it relates to the most minute of natural phenomena, with breaks to do commercials for a local car dealership. ("Hi, I'm Hank Thoreau, and you could be behind the wheel of a new Ford Fairlane by this afternoon.")

On this day in 1872, the 30th president of the United States, Calvin Coolidge, is born in Plymouth, Vt., without emotion.

On this day in 1966, President Johnson, in a secret session, signs the Freedom of Information Act.

On this day in 1987, Klaus Barbie is convicted by a French court of crimes against humanity. Barbie is sentenced to life in prison. Barbie's friend, Ken, is placed on probation.

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