Today in History

Published 12:01 am Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Today is Wednesday, Jan. 31, the 31st day of 2018. There are 334 days left in the year.

Today’s Highlight in History:

On Jan. 31, 1958, the United States entered the Space Age with its first successful launch of a satellite, Explorer 1, from Cape Canaveral.

Email newsletter signup

On this date:

In 1606, Englishman Guy Fawkes, convicted of high treason for his part in the “Gunpowder Plot,” was set to be hanged, drawn and quartered, but broke his neck after falling or jumping from the scaffold.

In 1797, composer Franz Schubert was born in Vienna.

In 1865, the U.S. House of Representatives joined the Senate in passing the 13th Amendment to the United States Constitution abolishing slavery, sending it to states for ratification. (The amendment was adopted in December 1865.) Gen. Robert E. Lee was named general-in-chief of the Confederate States Army by President Jefferson Davis.

In 1917, during World War I, Germany served notice that it was beginning a policy of unrestricted submarine warfare.

In 1929, revolutionary Leon Trotsky and his family were expelled from the Soviet Union.

In 1934, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Gold Reserve Act.

In 1945, Pvt. Eddie Slovik, 24, became the first U.S. soldier since the Civil War to be executed for desertion as he was shot by an American firing squad in France.

In 1961, NASA launched Ham the Chimp aboard a Mercury-Redstone rocket from Cape Canaveral; Ham was recovered safely from the Atlantic Ocean following his 16 1/2-minute suborbital flight.

In 1971, astronauts Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell and Stuart Roosa blasted off aboard Apollo 14 on a mission to the moon.

In 1980, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands announced she would abdicate on her birthday the following April, to be succeeded by her daughter, Princess Beatrix.

In 1990, McDonald’s Corp. opened its first fast-food restaurant in Moscow.

In 2000, an Alaska Airlines MD-83 jet crashed into the Pacific Ocean off Port Hueneme (wy-NEE’-mee), California, killing all 88 people aboard.

Ten years ago: President George W. Bush, speaking at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, said he would not jeopardize security gains in Iraq by withdrawing U.S. forces too quickly. Pop star Britney Spears was taken from her home by ambulance to UCLA Medical Center, where she was held for a week for psychiatric evaluation.

Five years ago: Chuck Hagel emerged from his grueling confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee with solid Democratic support for his nomination to be President Barack Obama’s next defense secretary. A gas explosion caused three floors of the headquarters of Mexico’s national oil company Pemex to collapse, killing 37 people. Caleb Moore, 25, an innovative freestyle snowmobile rider who’d been hurt in a crash at the Winter X Games in Colorado, died at a hospital in Grand Junction.

One year ago: President Donald Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch, a fast-rising conservative judge, to the U.S. Supreme Court. Singer and bassist John Wetton of the rock group Asia died in Bournemouth, Dorset, England at age 67.

Today’s Birthdays: Actress Carol Channing is 97. Composer Philip Glass is 81. Former Interior Secretary James Watt is 80. Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands, the former queen regent, is 80. Actor Stuart Margolin is 78. Actress Jessica Walter is 77. Former U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-Mo., is 77. Blues singer-musician Charlie Musselwhite is 74. Actor Glynn Turman is 72. Baseball Hall of Famer Nolan Ryan is 71. Actor Jonathan Banks is 71. Singer-musician Harry Wayne Casey (KC and the Sunshine Band) is 67. Rock singer Johnny Rotten is 62. Actress Kelly Lynch is 59. Actor Anthony LaPaglia is 59. Singer-musician Lloyd Cole is 57. Actress Paulette Braxton is 53. Rock musician Al Jaworski (Jesus Jones) is 52. Actress Minnie Driver is 48. Actress Portia de Rossi is 45. Actor-comedian Bobby Moynihan is 41. Actress Kerry Washington is 41. Bluegrass singer-musician Becky Buller is 39. Singer Justin Timberlake is 37. Actor Tyler Ritter is 33. Country singer Tyler Hubbard (Florida Georgia Line) is 31. Folk-rock singer-musician Marcus Mumford (Mumford and Sons) is 31. Actor Joel Courtney is 22.