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What Happened on May 31?

  • The Ford Motor Company signed a deal with the USSR. (1929) The agreement was not only significant industrially, but politically as well — the US had not officially recognized the USSR yet, and the Ford agreement was seen as a huge step in connecting the USSR to the Western world in a peaceful way.

  • The identity of Deep Throat was revealed. (2005) Deep Throat was the confidential FBI informant for Washington Post journalists Woodward and Bernstein as they broke the news on the Watergate Scandal. Deep Throat's identity was revealed in Vanity Fair and confirmed by Woodward and Bernstein on this day.

  • The first federal copyright act was passed in the US. (1790) The Copyright Act of 1790 passed on this day, less than two years after the US Constitution was ratified. Though most states already had some form of copyright laws on their books, this was the first federal statute, and laid the groundwork for later copyright legislation.

  • The BBC banned a Sex Pistols single. (1977) The BBC banned the counter-culture rant God Save the Queen, which was already making waves since it was released around the time of Queen Elizabeth's Silver Jubilee. It was deemed as being "in gross bad taste," but was extremely popular with youth, and sold hundreds of thousands of copies.

  • Seinfeld premiered. (1990) Considered by many the consummate '90s sitcom, Seinfeld was a slow starter, but by 1993 became one of the most watched shows in America. When it ended in 1998, almost 80 million viewers watched the final episode, and advertising time during the program went for over $1 million US Dollars (USD) per 30 seconds.

  • The Titanic was launched. (1911) The luxury liner was launched on this day, just two years after construction began. Its first and only voyage took place the following April, when it was famously sunk by an iceberg.

  • The first stone of the Pont Neuf was laid. (1578) Henri III laid the first stone for the bridge, which outlasted all of its contemporaries to become the oldest bridge in Paris. It went on to become a busy market area in Paris, and is now a popular tourist destination.

  • All theatrical productions were banned in Pennsylvania. (1759) The province of Pennsylvania repeatedly banned theater productions because of their association with prostitution and indecency, but the laws were continually struck down by the British government.

  • Bomber Eric Rudolph was arrested. (2003) Rudolph had bombed several abortion clinics, then disappeared into the woods of Western North Carolina while a massive FBI manhunt went on. He was finally arrested outside of a grocery store after living in the woods for more than five years.

  • Walt Whitman was born. (1819) Whitman is considered one of the greatest and most innovative American poets, and several of his poems, notably, Oh Captain, My Captain, are still learned by many American schoolchildren.

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