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What Happened on January 31?

  • The US House of Representatives passed the 13th Amendment, abolishing slavery. (1865) The amendment abolished slavery in the US, a decision which remained controversial even as the Civil War was ending. Although Lincoln had previously declared some slaves to be free in the Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th Amendment freed them all.

  • The first STD clinic opened. (1747) The London Lock Hospital was the first clinic specifically designated for treating venereal diseases. It specialized in the treatment of syphilis, but also provided obstetrics and gynecology, and later, leprosy treatment. The hospital continued to operate until the 1950s.

  • Germany began unrestricted submarine warfare. (1917) German U-boat action had become extremely unpopular in 1915 when u-boats blew up the American passenger ship the Lusitania. After the destruction of the Lusitania, Germany pledged to only bomb military targets, which it revoked on this day in 1917, in a last-ditch attempt to win World War I.

  • President Truman announced that he had authorized the creation of a hydrogen bomb. (1950) The US was scrambling to regain nuclear supremacy after the USSR successfully detonated an atomic bomb. The US tested the first successful H-bomb about two years later, blowing up an island in the Pacific Ocean. The "hell bomb," as it was called, served to greatly heighten US-USSR tensions in the Cold War.

  • The first McDonald's opened in the USSR. (1990) A sign of changing times in Russia, people flocked to try the new American food. Though some people decried the capitalist extravagance of the brand, it still went on to become an institution in Russia and many other places in the world.

  • Robert E. Lee was named general-in-chief of the Confederate army. (1865) Lee had originally been offered the command of the Union army at the beginning of the Civil War, but declined because his home was in Virginia. He was a gifted military strategist, and a major influence on the Confederate army in the Civil War even before he was promoted.

  • Guy Fawkes was executed. (1606) Fawkes was the main force behind a plan to blow up Parliament and overthrow King James I. He and his eight co-conspirators were all found guilty of high treason, and hanged, drawn, and quartered.

  • Scotch® Tape goes on sale. (1930) The tape was originally marketed as a means of sealing cellophane, another new invention at the time.

  • Tokugawa Ieyasu was born. (1534) Tokugawa was an incredibly important figure in Japanese history, since he was the founder of the Tokugawa Shogunate which ruled Japan for over 200 years. His legacy continues in Japan even today in the political and military events both he and his family members participated in.

  • Private Eddie Slovik was executed. (1945) Slovik became the first soldier to be executed for desertion since the American Civil War. Although he appealed his case multiple times, General Eisenhower upheld the court's decision, and Slovik was executed by a firing squad.

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