May 31

1790

The first U.S. Copyright Law was enacted, protecting books, maps, and other original materials.

1889

Heavy rains caused the South Fork Dam to collapse, sending 20 million tons of water into Johnstown, Pa. Over 2,200 people were killed and the town was nearly destroyed.

1911

The hull of the Titanic was launched in Belfast. At the ceremony, a White Star Line employee claimed, “Not even God himself could sink this ship.”

1961

South Africa became an independent republic.

1962

Former Gestapo official Adolf Eichmann was hanged in Israel.

1970

An earthquake in Peru left more than 50,000 dead.

2004

Alberta Martin, 97, one of the last widows of a U.S. Civil War veteran, died. She had married Confederate veteran William Martin in 1927 when she was 21 and he was 81.

2010

Nine people are dead after an Israeli navy commando attacks a flotilla of cargo ships and passenger boats on their way to Gaza to provide aid and supplies for the area.

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