Today in History
March 31

1282   The great massacre of the French in Sicily The Sicilian Vespers comes to an end.
1547   In France, Francis–king since 1515–dies and is succeeded by his son Henry II.
1776   Abigail Adams writes to husband John that women are “determined to foment a rebellion” if the new Declaration of Independence fails to guarantee their rights.
1779   Russia and Turkey sign a treaty by which they promise to take no military action in the Crimea.
1790   In Paris, France, Maximilien Robespierre is elected president of the Jacobin Club.
1836   The first monthly installment of The Pickwick Papers by Charles Dickens is published in London.
1862   Skirmishing between Rebels and Union forces takes place at Island 10 on the Mississippi River.
1880   The first electric street lights ever installed in the United States are turned on in Wabash, Indiana.
1889   The Eiffel Tower in Paris officially opens on the Left Bank as part of the Exhibition of 1889.
1916   General John Pershing and his army rout Pancho Villa‘s army in Mexico.
1917   The United States purchases the Virgin Islands from Denmark for $25 million.
1918   Daylight Saving Time goes into effect throughout the United States for the first time.
1921   Great Britain declares a state of emergency because of the thousands of coal miners on strike.
1933   To relieve rampant unemployment, Congress authorizes the Civilian Conservation Corps .
1939   Britain and France agree to support Poland if Germany threatens to invade.
1940   La Guardia Airport in New York officially opens to the public.
1941   Germany begins a counter-offensive in North Africa.
1945   The United States and Britain bar a Soviet supported provisional regime in Warsaw from entering the U.N. meeting in San Francisco.
1948   The Soviet Union begins controlling the Western trains headed toward Berlin.
1949   Winston Churchill declares that the A-bomb was the only thing that kept the Soviet Union from taking over Europe.
1954   The siege of Dien Bien Phu, the last French outpost in Vietnam, begins after the Viet Minh realize it cannot be taken by direct assault.
1960   The South African government declares a state of emergency after demonstrations lead to the deaths of more than 50 Africans.
1966   An estimated 200,000 anti-war demonstrators march in New York City.
1967   President Lyndon Johnson signs the Consular Treaty, the first bi-lateral pact with the Soviet Union since the Bolshevik Revolution.
1970   U.S. forces in Vietnam down a MIG-21, the first since September 1968.
1980   President Jimmy Carter deregulates the banking industry.
1991   Albania offers a multi-party election for the first time in 50 years.
Born on March 31
1596   René Descartes, French philosopher and scientist.
1621   Andrew Marvell, English poet and politician.
1693   John Harrison, Englishman who invented the chronometer.
1732   Franz Joseph Haydn, Austrian composer.
1809   Edward Fitzgerald, American writer.
1809   Nikolai V. Gogol, Russian writer (The Inspector General, Dead Souls).
1811   Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, chemist; inventor of the Bunsen burner.
1854   Sir Dugald Clerk, inventor of the two-stroke motorcycle engine.
1878   Jack Johnson; the first African-American boxer to become the world heavyweight champion.
1914   Octavio Paz, Mexican diplomat and Nobel Prize-winning writer.
1915   Henry Morgan, comedian, radio performer.
1926   John Fowles, English novelist (The Collector, The French Lieutenant’s Woman).
1936   Marge Piercy, poet and novelist.
1948   Al Gore, Vice President to President William J. Clinton (1993-2001).

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