This Day in History - August 31

August 31

1303 – Charles of Valois and Frederick, future ruler of Sicily, reach an agreement to end Valois’ invasion of Sicily and the War of Vespers

1688 – English author and preacher John Bunyan dies

1756 – British surrender to Louis Montcalm of France at Fort William Henry, New York

1777 – During American Revolution, Samuel Mason and Patriot captain in command of Fort Henry on the Ohio frontier survives an Indian attack. Mason would go on to become a thief, prison escapee, and murderer, and will be killed by a member of his own gang for reward money

1802 – Captain Meriwether Lewis leaves Pittsburgh to join Captain William Clark and begin journey to the Pacific Ocean

1811 – French poet and novelist Theophile Gautier is born

1864 – General George B. McClellan is nominated for president at the Democratic convention in Chicago

1864 – During the Civil War, General William T. Sherman launches an attack to finally secure Georgia for the Union at the Battle of Jonesboro

1870 – Educator and founder of the Montessori schools, Maria Montessori is born

1885 – Novelist, poet, and dramatist Dubose Heyward is born

1886 – More than 100 are killed, and hundreds of buildings are destroyed by a 7.6 magnitude earthquake in Charleston, South Carolina, the largest recorded quake in the history of the Southeastern US

1888 – Prostitute Mary Ann Nichols becomes the first victim of London serial killer “Jack the Ripper.”

1897 – Thomas Edison patents the Kinetograph, his movie camera

1899 – Writer Lynn Riggs is born

1903 – Radio and television personality Arthur Godfrey is born

1905 – Influential acting teacher Sanford Meisner is born

1907 – Editor of The New Yorker, William Shawn is born

1908 – Author and playwright William Saroyan is born

1916 – Harry Butters, an American soldier serving in the British army during World War I is killed by a German shell during the Battle of the Somme

1918 – Playwright and lyricist Alan Jay Lerner is born

1918 – Journalist Daniel Schorr is born

1919 – The Communist Labor Party in Chicago is founded

1927 – American military commander Andranik Ozanian dies

1935 – Political activist and author Eldridge Cleaver is born

1935 – President Franklin Roosevelt signs the Neutrality Act

1936 – Innovative educator Marva Collins is born

1939 – Nazi leader Adolf Hitler signs an order to attack Poland and Nazi troops stage a phony invasion of Germany to blame on Poland

1940 – Joseph Avenol steps down as Secretary-General of the League of Nations

1942 – In the Battle of Alam Halfa in Egypt, the British army under General Bernard Law Montgomery defeats Field Marshal Erwin Rommel’s Afrika Korps

1944 – The German Gothic Line in Italy is penetrated by the British Eighth Army during World War II

1945 – Irish singer and songwriter Van Morrison is born

1945 – Violinist Itzhak Perlman is born

1948 – Screenwriter, director, producer, and actor Lowell Ganz is born

1949 – Actor Richard Gere is born

1949 – Six of the 16 surviving Union veterans of the Civil War attend the last-ever encampment of the Grand Army of the Republic in Indianapolis, Indiana

1951 – The 1st Marine Division begins its attack on Bloody Ridge in Korea. This 4-day battle will result in 2,700 Marine casualties

1955 – The world’s first solar-powered automobile is introduced as “Sunmobile” by William G. Cobb of the General Motors Corp

1959 – Brooklyn Dodgers lefty Sandy Koufax strikes out 18 batters, setting a new National League record for most strikeouts in a single game

1962 – Trinidad and Tobago gain independence from Great Britain

1965 – The Department of Housing & Urban Development is created by Congress

1965 – President Johnson signs a bill making it illegal to destroy or mutilate a US draft card

1967 – Senate Preparedness Investigating Committee calls to step up the bombing of North Vietnam in the Vietnam War

1968 – In northeast Iran, the Dasht-e Bayaz earthquake of 7.3 magnitudes destroys five villages and severely damages six others

1970 – The first person convicted in the New Haven Black Panther Trials is Lonnie McLucas, convicted of torturing and murdering fellow Panther member Alex Rackle

1970 – Singer, songwriter, producer, actress Deborah Ann “Debbie” Gibson is born

1970 – Wife of King Abdullah II, Queen Rania of Jordan is born

1972 – US weekly casualty figures of five dead and three wounded are the lowest recorded since the record keeping began in 1965, during the Vietnam War

1973 – American director John Ford dies

1977 – American singer, painter, wrestler and writer Jeff Hardy is born

1979 – American singer and wrestler Mickie James is born

1979 – Indian composer Yuvan Shankar Raja is born

1980 – Polish government is forced to sign Gdansk Agreement with Gdansk shipyard workers allowing creation of the trade union Solidarity

1985 – Richard Ramirez, “Night Stalker” is captured by an angry mob that recognized his photo, before being rescued by police. Ramirez was wanted for a string of gruesome murders that stretched from Mission Viejo to San Francisco

1985 – Australian Nobel Prize winning biologist Frank Macfarlane Burnet dies

1986 – The cruise ship Admiral Nakhimov is hit by a Russian cargo ship, killing 398

1987 – After 11 deaths, 500 injuries and 400 arrests, the longest mine strike in South Africa’s history ends

1990 – The legal and political systems of East and West Germany are united by the Treaty of Unification between East and West Germany

1990 – Ken Griffey and Ken Griffey Jr. become first father and son to play on the same team, Seattle Mariners, simultaneously in professional baseball

1994 – The last Russian troops leave Estonia and Latvia, officially ending its military presence in the former East Germany and the Baltic states

1994 – The Irish Republican Army announces a “complete cessation of military operations” opening the way to a political settlement in Ireland for the first time in a quarter of a century

1997 – Diana, Princess of Wales, is killed in a car crash in Paris, along with her companion Dodi Fayed and driver Henri Paul, while fleeing from paparazzi

1997 – The #23 from first baseman, coach, and manager Don Mattingly is retired by the New York Yankees

2006 – Painting by Edvard Munch known as The Scream is recovered by Norwegian police, having been stolen on August 22


Written by Crystal McCann

Crystal is the Chief Operating Officer of Lanterns Media Network and the owner of Madisons Media. She lives in Texas with her husband and dogs and is the proud mother of two adult children.

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