What Happened on August 31?

  • Thomas Edison patented the first movie projector. (1897) Edison received the patent for his Kinetograph movie camera. The Kinetograph was the first camera to use celluloid film, which was developed by George Eastman, the founder of Kodak. His invention inspired other inventors to design projectors that could show movies to large audiences, leading to the types of projectors we use today.

  • Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed were killed in a car crash. (1997) The couple's driver, Henri Paul, lost control of the car while trying to evade the paparazzi. The only survivor of the crash was the body guard, Trevor Rees Jones, who was the only occupant wearing a seatbelt. Ten paparazzi photographers were arrested in connection with the accident, but it was later determined that the accident was caused because Paul — the driver — was intoxicated.

  • The world's first solar-powered car was demonstrated. (1955) William Cobb, who worked at General Motors Corp., showed off his 15-inch solar-powered car, called "Sunmobile," at an auto show in Chicago.

  • Residents in Los Angeles, California, captured the "Night Stalker" serial killer. (1985) City residents recognized Richard Ramirez on the street and mobbed him, nearly killing him. Ramirez murdered at least 12 people before he was caught; he was sentenced to death for the crimes.

  • US President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Neutrality Act. (1935) The act was part of a series of neutrality acts passed by the US Congress during the 1930s in an attempt to keep the US from engaging in warfare on behalf of foreign countries. The laws were in large part a reaction to the extraordinary expense of the US involvement in World War I.

  • The Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) declared a ceasefire. (1994) The ceasefire brought a temporary end to a 25-year battle between the IRA and Britain. There wasn't a complete end to the IRA armed military campaign against the British until 2005.

  • Serial killer Jack the Ripper killed his first victim. (1888) Mary Ann Nichols was found murdered in London. In all, Jack the Ripper killed five women — all prostitutes — before his killing spree ended. He was never caught.

  • Nine-month-old Henry VI became the King of England. (1422) Until King Henry was 15, the government was run by regents.

  • A panic during a religious march across a bridge in Baghdad killed nearly 1,200 people. (2005) The panic on the Al-Aaimmah bridge started after rumors spread that a suicide bomber was going to blow it up. The ensuing stampede crushed some marchers to death, while others were forced over the railing and died falling into the river. The bridge was not blown up.

  • Hurricane Carol hit New England in the United States, causing 70 deaths. (1954) The Category 3 hurricane was one of the worst to hit that area of the US, causing $460 million US Dollars (USD) — $3.7 billion in 2010 USD — in damage.

Discussion Comments


Though it's obvious that Jack the Ripper is dead, as his murdering spree happened in 1888, I'm surprised to hear that he was never caught. Not only does this make his murders more of a mystery, but in some ways, it makes him a legend as well. After all, notice how even the media has made spin-offs and parodies of Jack the Ripper. They can best be described as clever tributes to a mass murderer.


The third bullet point leads me to wonder why there are no solar powered cars in this day and age. After all, hasn't technology already advanced far enough to where this can be a possibility? On the other hand, it can definitely create some issues. Obviously, the weather won't always be sunny, and you won't be able to get around if it's rainy outside. Overall, I think it shows how even though technology can be inventive, you should always weigh the pros and cons. Unless there's a workaround, technology is full of setbacks.


While I don't live in California, and I wasn't around during 1985, this case about the "Night Stalker" really intrigues me. Although I'm not aware of the crimes that he committed, I think it's interesting that he was dubbed this name. This is especially taking into consideration that fact that he was stalking others after dark. In fact, have you ever noticed that many criminals decide to attack others only at night? Not only is this creepy, but more importantly, it really shows how most people prefer to attack at night, because they want to avoid being seen. the "Night Stalker" further pushes that point, and he paid the price for his crimes.

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