16 December 1901

Beatrix Potter publishes The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

On December 16, 1901, Beatrix Potter published The Tale of Peter Rabbit. It was privately published and became one of the best selling books of all time, eventually selling 45 million copies.

Peter Rabbit is a mischievous bunny who gets in trouble by disobeying his mother and going into Mr. McGregor’s garden. After many adventures, he returns safely to his mother.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit was rejected by many publishers for various reasons?—?some wanted to change the text extensively or have Potter do so, others wanted her to change the illustrations. But Potter, whose parents had encouraged her interests in education, was insistent on how the book should look. Among her varied interests, she was an artist.

So, she published it privately at first, but eventually reached agreement with Frederick Warne & Co on how the book should look. She also had a lot of ideas of how to merchandise the book.

16 December 1903

The Taj Mahal Palace & Tower hotel in Bombay opens.

The Taj Mahal Palace Hotel is a “Heritage Grand” class five-star hotel in the Colaba region of Mumbai, Maharashtra, India, next to the Gateway of India. Historically it was known as the “Taj Mahal Hotel” or the “Taj Palace Hotel”. or simply “the Taj”.

Part of the Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, this hotel is considered the flagship property of the group and contains 560 rooms and 44 suites. There are some 1,600 staff including 35 butlers. From a historical and architectural point of view, the two buildings that make up the hotel, the Taj Mahal Palace, and the Tower are two distinct buildings, built at different times and in different architectural designs. In 2017, the Taj Mahal Palace Hotel has acquired an image trademark. It is the first building in the country to get intellectual property rights protection for its architectural design.

The hotel has hosted many notable guests, from presidents to captains of industry and stars of show business.

The new wing called Taj Mahal Tower.

The original entrance on the west side; now the site of the hotel pool.
The hotel’s original building was commissioned by Tata and first opened its doors to guests on 16 December 1903.

It is widely believed that Jamsetji Tata decided to build the hotel after he was refused entry to one of the city’s grand hotels of the time, Watson’s Hotel, as it was restricted to “whites only”. However, this story has been challenged by some commentators that suggest that Tata was unlikely to have been concerned with ‘revenge’ against his British adversaries. Instead, they suggest that the Taj was built at the urging of editor of The Times of India who felt a hotel “worthy of Bombay” was needed.

The original Indian architects were Sitaram Khanderao Vaidya and D. N. Mirza, and the project was completed by an English engineer, W. A. Chambers. The builder was Khansaheb Sorabji Ruttonji Contractor who also designed and built its famous central floating staircase. The cost of construction was £250,000.

Originally the main entrance was on the other side, where now the pool exists, and the ocean was at the back, although it is now always viewed and photographed from the ocean side.

Between 1915 and 1919, work proceeded at Apollo Bundar to reclaim the land behind the hotel where the Gateway of India was built in 1924. Gateway of India soon became a major focal point in Bombay.

The original clientele were mainly the Europeans, the Maharajas and the elites. Many world-renowned personalities have since stayed there, from Somerset Maugham and Duke Ellington to Lord Mountbatten and Bill Clinton.

When it opened in 1903, the hotel was the first in India to have: electricity, American fans, German elevators, Turkish baths and English butlers. Later it also had the city’s first licensed bar, India’s first all-day restaurant, and the India’s first discotheque, Blow Up. Initially in 1903, it charged Rs 13 for rooms with fans and attached bathrooms, and Rs 20 with full board.

During World War I the hotel was converted into a hospital with 600 beds.

Jinnah’s estranged wife Ratanbai Petit lived here during her last days in 1929. By 1966, the building was run-down, perhaps as a results of losing the British customers in 1948.

The Taj Hotel was home to legendary Jazz musician Micky Correa, “The Sultan of Swing” from 1936-1960.

The Taj Mahal Tower, an additional wing of the hotel, was opened in 1973. It was designed by jointly by Daraius Batliwala & Rustom Patell with the latter having a greater focus later on. Also in 1970s Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces was organized that built new properties and converted palaces into heritage hotels. In 1980, it expanded overseas.

The hotel received extensive international exposure in 2008 and reopened after extensive repairs.

16 December 1920

An estimated 200,000 are killed when a magnitude 8.5 hits the Gansu province in China.

The earthquake that hit China’s remote Gansu Province in late 1920 was the world’s second deadliest of the twentieth century. It struck in the evening of the 16th of December in the rural district of Haiyuan near Inner Mongolia, leading to the deaths of more than 200,000 people and to severe destruction over an area of 20,000 square kilometers. Occurring in the early years of escalating civil war in the Chinese Republic, the disaster was overshadowed by major political and humanitarian crises elsewhere in the country that year, and remains a remarkably little known event despite the scale of its destructive powers and human toll.

Based on county reports from 50 counties, the estimates of total human deaths due to the earthquake ranged from 234,117 to 314,092.Many of the dead – possibly a majority – were among the region’s Chinese Hui Muslim population, which lost the most prominent Islamic figure in China at the time, Sufi sect leader Ma Yuanzhang, who was at prayer when the quake hit in the predominantly Muslim valleys of Longde district where a third of the population was killed.