Today is Saturday, May 31, the 151st day of 2014. There are 214 days left in the year.
On May 31, 1889, some 2,200 people in Johnstown, Pennsylvania, perished when the South Fork Dam holding back Lake Conemaugh collapsed, sending 20 million tons of water rushing through the town.
On this date:
In 1594, Italian artist Tintoretto died in Venice in his mid-70s.
In 1669, English diarist Samuel Pepys wrote the final entry of his journal, blaming his failing eyesight for his inability to continue.
In 1790, President George Washington signed into law the first U.S. copyright act.
In 1910, the Union of South Africa was founded.
In 1913, U.S. Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan proclaimed the 17th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, providing for popular election of U.S. senators, to be in effect.
In 1935, movie studio 20th Century Fox was created through a merger of the Fox Film Corp. and Twentieth Century Pictures.
In 1949, former State Department official and accused spy Alger Hiss went on trial in New York, charged with perjury (the jury deadlocked, but Hiss was convicted in a second trial).
In 1961, South Africa became an independent republic as it withdrew from the British Commonwealth.
In 1962, former Nazi official Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel a few minutes before midnight for his role in the Holocaust.
In 1977, the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, three years in the making, was completed.
In 1989, House Speaker Jim Wright, dogged by questions about his ethics, announced he would resign. (Tom Foley later succeeded him.)
In 1994, the United States announced it was no longer aiming long-range nuclear missiles at targets in the former Soviet Union.
Ten years ago: Presidential politics took a back seat on Memorial Day as President George W. Bush paid tribute at Arlington National Cemetery to America’s fighting forces while Sen. John Kerry visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. A bomb ripped through a Shiite Muslim mosque in Karachi, Pakistan, during evening prayers, killing at least 19 people. Alberta Martin, one of the last widows of a Confederate veteran of the Civil War, died in Enterprise, Alabama, at age 97.
Five years ago: Dr. George Tiller, a rare provider of late-term abortions, was shot and killed in a Wichita, Kansas, church. (Gunman Scott Roeder was later convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole for 50 years.) Millvina Dean, the last survivor of the 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic, died in Southampton, England at 97.
One year ago: A tornado in the Oklahoma City metro area claimed eight lives, including those of storm chasers Tim Samaras, his son, Paul, and Carl Young; 13 people died in flash flooding. Four firefighters searching for people in a blazing Houston motel and restaurant were killed when part of the structure collapsed. Actress Jean Stapleton, who played Archie Bunker’s far better half, the sweetly naive Edith, in TV’s groundbreaking 1970s comedy “All in the Family,” died in New York at age 90.
Today’s birthdays: Actor-director Clint Eastwood is 84. Singer Peter Yarrow is 76. Former Anglican Church envoy Terry Waite is 75. Singer-musician Augie Meyers is 74. Actress Sharon Gless is 71. Football Hall-of-Famer Joe Namath is 71. Actor Tom Berenger is 64. Actor Gregory Harrison is 64. Actor Kyle Secor is 57. Actress Roma Maffia is 56. Comedian Chris Elliott is 54. Actress Lea Thompson is 53. Singer Corey Hart is 52. Actor Hugh Dillon is 51. Rapper DMC is 50. Actress Brooke Shields is 49. Country musician Ed Adkins (The Derailers) is 47. TV host Phil Keoghan (“The Amazing Race”) is 47. Jazz musician Christian McBride is 42. Actress Archie Panjabi is 42. Actor Colin Farrell is 38. Rock musician Scott Klopfenstein (Reel Big Fish) is 37. Actor Eric Christian Olsen is 37. Rock musician Andy Hurley (Fall Out Boy) is 34. Country singer Casey James (“American Idol”) is 32. Actor Jonathan Tucker is 32. Rapper Waka Flocka Flame is 28. Actor Curtis Williams Jr. is 27.
Thought for today: “The genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges, or churches, or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors, but always most in the common people.” — Walt Whitman, American poet and essayist (born this date in 1819, died in 1892).