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This Day in History: October 31


1861 – American Civil War: Citing failing health, Union General Winfield Scott resigns as Commander of the United States Army.

1864 – Nevada is admitted as the 36th U.S. state.

1903 – Purdue Wreck, a railroad train collision in Indianapolis, killed 17 people, including 14 players of the Purdue University football team.

1913 – Dedication of the Lincoln Highway, the first automobile highway across United States.

1913 – The Indianapolis Streetcar Strike and subsequent riot begins.

1918 – World War I: Dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

1922 – Benito Mussolini is made Prime Minister of Italy

1926 – Magician Harry Houdini dies of gangrene and peritonitis that develops after his appendix ruptures.

1938 – Great Depression: In an effort to restore investor confidence, the New York Stock Exchange unveils a fifteen-point program aimed to upgrade protection for the investing public.

1940 – World War II: The Battle of Britain ends: The United Kingdom prevents a possible German invasion.

1991 – After 14 years of work, Mount Rushmore is completed.

1941 – World War II: The destroyer USS Reuben James is torpedoed by a German U-boat near Iceland, killing more than 100 U.S. Navy sailors. It is the first U.S. Navy vessel sunk by enemy action in WWII.

1943 – World War II: An F4U Corsair accomplishes the first successful radar-guided interception by a United States Navy or Marine Corps aircraft.

1963 – An explosion at the Indiana State Fair Coliseum (now Pepsi Coliseum) in Indianapolis kills 74 people and injures another 400 during an ice skating show. A faulty propane tank connection in a concession stand is blamed.

1968 – Vietnam War October surprise: Citing progress with the Paris peace talks, US President Lyndon B. Johnson announces to the nation that he has ordered a complete cessation of "all air, naval, and artillery bombardment of North Vietnam" effective November 1.

2002 – A federal grand jury in Houston, Texas indicts former Enron chief financial officer Andrew Fastow on 78 counts of wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy and obstruction of justice related to the collapse of his ex-employer.

2011 – The global population of humans reaches seven billion. This day is now recognized by the United Nations as Seven Billion Day.

2014 – Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo crashes in the Mojave Desert during a test flight.


1737 – James Lovell, American educator and politician (d. 1789)

1860 – Juliette Gordon Low, American scout leader, founded the Girl Scouts of the United States of America (d. 1927)

1876 – Natalie Clifford Barney, American poet and playwright (d. 1972)

1887 – Chiang Kai-shek, Chinese general and politician, 1st President of the Republic of China (Taiwan) (d. 1975)

1896 – Ethel Waters, American singer and actress (d. 1977)

1930 – Michael Collins, American general, pilot, and astronaut

1931 – Dan Rather, American journalist

1942 – David Ogden Stiers, American actor and singer

1943 – Brian Piccolo, American football player (d. 1970)

1947 – Deidre Hall, American actress

1947 – Frank Shorter, American runner and sportscaster

1950 – Jane Pauley, American journalist


1879 – Joseph Hooker, American general (b. 1814)

1926 – Harry Houdini, Hungarian-born American magician and stuntman (b. 1874)

1960 – H. L. Davis, American author and poet (b. 1894)

1983 – George Halas, American football player and coach (b. 1895)

1993 – River Phoenix, American actor and singer  (b. 1970)

2000 – Ring Lardner, Jr., American journalist and screenwriter (b. 1915)

2008 – Studs Terkel, American actor, historian, and author (b. 1912)

2010 – Ted Sorensen, American lawyer, 8th White House Counsel (b. 1928)