The 90s were full of political change and advances in knowledge, and so we’ve comprised here a full list of important 1991 events. From the Gulf War, to the dismantling of the Soviet Union the world saw many changes. The creation of the first ever webpage during this year also launched the human race into the future. This was indeed an important year in history, and if it’s also important on a personal level our archive of 1991 newspapers will contain the ideal memento.

1991 timeline

United States Air Base during the Gulf War
Image: Wikimedia Commons


1991 Timeline


  • January

    January 1: The law criminalising stalking goes into effect in California. The law was passed in 1990, following several high-profile murders.

    January 2: Salvadoran rebels in El Salvador shoot down an American Army helicopter and kill all three crew members. It is believed that two crew members initially survived and were executed on the ground.

    January 8: Two people die and more than 500 are injured when a train crashes at Cannon Street station in London. An inquiry finds that the driver was to blame.

    January 16: In Florida, Aileen Wuornos confesses to murdering six men. She claims the killings were self-defence.

    January 16: America begins Operation Desert Storm as troops are deployed to Iraq.

    January 17: On Iceland, volcano Hekla erupts. This eruption continues until 11th March.

    January 17: The British Royal Air Force joins the Gulf War as air strikes are launched on Iraq.

    January 22: Around 600 oil fields in Kuwait are set ablaze by Iraqi troops. These fires continue until April when the final one is extinguished by Allied forces.

    January 27: The New York Giants take on the Buffalo Bills at Tampa Stadium, Florida. Super Bowl XXV is a close victory for the Giants who win 20-19.

    January 29: In South Africa, talks begin between the African National Congress and the Inkatha Freedom Party. They agree to stop the violence between their organisations.

    1991 timeline

    Burning oil field in Kuwait
    Image: Wikimedia Commons


  • February

    February 1: USAir Flight 1493 collides with a smaller aircraft when it comes to land at LA International Airport. SkyWest Airlines flight 5569, a small 19 seater plane had been taxiing onto the runway for take-off when the Boeing 737-300 crushed it before careering off the runway and catching fire. 35 people in total die, including all 12 aboard the crushed flight 5569.

    February 1: Bestselling novel of the year The Firm by John Grisham is published.

    February 5: American physician Dr. Jack Kevorkian is banned from assisting in the euthanasia of his patients.

    February 7: 10 Downing Street is hit by a mortar attack during a cabinet meeting. The bombing was carried out by the Provisional Irish Republican Army but thanks to bomb-proof windows, no politicians were hurt.

    February 11: In The Hague, Netherlands, the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) is formed.

    February 14: The Silence of the Lambs is released in the US. The film is based on Thomas Harris’ novel of the same name.

    February 18: London is attacked again by the Provisional Irish Republican Army as both Paddington station and Victoria station in London are bombed. The Paddington bomb causes no fatalities but one person dies and 38 are injured in Victoria.

    February 27: President Bush orders a cease-fire in Iraq as Gulf War victory is declared.

    February 23: 38-storey office building One Meridian Plaza Philadelphia, Pennsylvania catches fire. Three firefighters die while fighting the blaze, which destroys eight storeys of the building.

    February 28: A Princeton University student is exposed as an impostor. James Hogue, 31 had been masquerading as a sophomore (usually aged 19-20) calling himself Alexi Indris-Santana.


  • March

    March 3: Four Los Angeles police officers are videoed repeatedly beating a black motorist, Rodney King. The amateur footage is sent to a local news station, before being picked up by stations worldwide.

    March 3: Passenger flight United Airlines Flight 585 crashes in Colorado Springs. All 25 people on board are killed.

    March 10: America begins Operation Phase Echo of the Gulf War. The operation aims to withdraw all 540,000 American troops as quickly and safely as possible.

    March 11: In South Africa, a curfew is imposed on black townships after 49 people are killed during fights between rival political gangs.

    March 13: Exxon Shipping Company agrees to pay $1 billion for the clean-up of the oil spill in Alaska caused by their tanker Exxon Valdez in March 1989.

    March 13: Canada and America sign the Acid Rain Treaty agreeing to reduce air pollution caused by the two countries.

    March 14: A UK court determines that police fabricated evidence when convicting the Birmingham six for taking part in a Provisional Irish Republican Army bombing incident. The six men are released after 16 years’ imprisonment.

    March 15: France, the UK, the US and the Soviet Union relinquish all remaining rights from when they occupied Germany during WWII.

    March 25: The Oscar for best picture is awarded to Dances with Wolves starring Kevin Costner.

    March 28: In Sheffield an inquisition into fatalities during the Hillsborough disaster in 1989 records a verdict of accidental death. Many families of the victims openly criticise the verdict in court, as many hoped for a verdict of unlawful killing, and criminal charges to be brought against police who patrolled the match.


    April

    April 4: Seven people are killed when a helicopter collides with a private plane over Merion, Pennsylvania. Aboard the plane is Senator John Heinz of Pennsylvania.

    April 4: In the Orkney Islands, Scotland, nine children are returned to their homes after being removed in February by social services on suspicion of satanic abuse. The claims are unfounded and the social services are heavily criticised for their handling of the situation.

    April 4: In an electronics store in Sacramento, California 41 people are taken hostage by four gunmen. The incident is the biggest hostage negotiation in the US and three of the gunmen are killed along with three hostages.

    April 5: Former US Senator John Tower is killed in an airplane crash as his plane attempts to land at Brunswick Airport, Georgia. Aboard was also one of Tower’s daughters who dies along with 20 others.

    April 10: 140 people are killed when Italian ferry Moby Prince collides with an oil tanker in off the coast of Livorno, Italy. The collision is caused by dense fog.

    April 10: For the first time weather satellites document a South Atlantic tropical cyclone in the Southern Hemisphere off the coast of Angola.

    April 14: 20 paintings are stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. Within an hour the paintings, worth $500 million, are found near the museum in an abandoned car.

    April 26: Across the central United States, 55 tornadoes break out. The most powerful tornado strikes Andover, Kansas. 21 people are killed.

    April 29: In Bangladesh, 138,000 people are killed by a tropical cyclone.

    April 29: In Racha, Georgia 270 people are killed by an earthquake with a magnitude of 7.

    1991 timeline

    Wheat Field With Crows, one of the 20 paintings stolen on April 14th
    Image: Wikipedia


  • May

    May 5: In the Mount Pleasant neighbourhood of Washington DC, a riot breaks out following the shooting of a handcuffed Salvadorean man by police. Around 400 youths battle with police for several hours, police cars are torched and numerous shops looted.

    May 6: Arsenal are announced as Football League champions, their second league title in three seasons. 

    May 6: Time magazine publishes an article highly criticising Scientology under the title “The Thriving Cult of Greed and Power”.

    May 15: France elects their first female prime minister, Édith Cresson.

    May 15: Beating FC Barcelona 2-1, Manchester United win the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

    May 16: Queen Elizabeth II visits Washington, D.C. becoming the first British monarch to address the United States Congress.

    May 18: For a record eighth time Tottenham Hotspur win the FA Cup. They beat Nottingham Forest 2–1 at Wembley.

    May 18: The first British person in space, Helen Sharman launches aboard the Soviet Soyuz TM-12 mission.

    May 21: In India, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is assassinated by suicide bomber. The explosion takes place at a public meeting in Sriperumbudur, 14 others are killed in the explosion.

    May 22: The breakthrough of the North rail tunnel between England and France occurs. The M20 motorway is also opened, meaning the unbroken motorway link with London has already been completed an estimated three years before the first trains move between Britain and France.


  • June

    June 3: Three IRA gunmen in Northern Ireland are killed by the British Army. One of the men killed is Peter Ryan who had been on the run for ten years after escaping from prison in Belfast.

    June 3: In Japan Mount Unzen erupts, the resulting pyroclastic flow kills 46 people.

    June 4: The largest solar flare to ever be recorded triggers an anomalously large aurora which can be seen as far south as Pennsylvania.

    June 5: In South Africa, the laws that racially segregated places of residence and employment are repealed.

    June 7: Over 200,000 people attend a parade in Washington, D.C. to celebrate the return of 8,800 from the Persian Gulf War.

    June 10: In Meyers, California, 11-year-old Jaycee Lee Dugard is kidnapped leaving school. She will not be found for eighteen years.

    June 13: A spectator at the US Open is struck by lightning and killed. 

    June 14: The British Royal Air Force qualifies Julie Ann Gibson as its first female pilot.

    June 15: Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines erupts in the second largest terrestrial eruption of the 20th century. 800 people die as a result.

    June 28: The Greater Los Angeles Area is hit by the Sierra Madre earthquake. Two people die and up to 40 are injured.


  • July

    July 1: 12 million customers are affected when a software bug affects telephone services in Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

    July 3: Michael Shorey, the boyfriend of Eastenders star, Sandy Ratcliffe is found guilty of murdering two women he lived with. Ratcliffe, who provided him with an alibi is subsequently convicted of perjury.

    July 8: Two IRA suspects seize their opportunity while leaving a Sunday church service and shoot their way out of Brixton Prison in London. Pearse McAuley and Nessan Quinlivan then steal a prison officer’s car before fleeing back to the Republic of Ireland.

    July 11: A total eclipse happens over the Pacific Ocean and can be seen over Hawaii, then South America. The moon blocks the sun for a total of 6 minutes, making it the longest duration of an eclipse on record.

    July 11: Nigeria Airways Flight 2120 catches fire and crashes soon after taking off from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. All all 261 people on board are killed.

    July 22: Mike Tyson is arrested for the rape of Desiree Washington, a former Miss Black America contestant, three days earlier.

    July 22: In Milwaukee, Wisconsin the remains of 11 men and boys are found in Jeffrey Dahmer’s apartment by police. The serial killer goes on to confess to murdering 17 young men.

    July 25: British astronomers discover a planet outside our solar system, a claim which they later retract.

    July 27: In the state of Washington, Olympic Park suffers from effects of an oil spill from a Japanese fish-processing vessel that sank July 22.

    July 29: In New York City, the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) is charged with of the largest bank fraud in history. The bank was accused of defrauding depositors of $5 billion.

    July 31: America and the Soviet Union sign a treaty known as START I, agreeing to limit the number of strategic nuclear weapons each nation owns.

    1991 timeline

    Presidents George H. W. Bush and Mikhail Gorbachev signing START I Treaty
    Image: Wikimedia Commons


    August

    August 4: The 571 passengers aboard cruise liner MTS Oceanos are rescued by South African Air Force helicopters when it sinks off the coast of South Africa. The vessel had begun taking on sea water and staff on deck abandon ship, neglecting to help passengers.

    August 6: The first ever website, info.cern.ch, is created by Tim Berners-Lee.

    August 8: The Warsaw radio mast, in Poland, collapses. The tower remains the tallest structure ever built, until the Burj Khalifa is completed in 2009

    August 8: British journalist, John McCarthy, is freed after being held hostage in Lebanon for over five years.

    August 9: The first ever appearance of Steve Coogan’s character Alan Partridge takes place during BBC Radio 4 show On the Hour.

    August 17: In a shopping centre in Strathfield, Sydney Australia, a taxi driver kills seven people and injures six others before shooting himself.

    August 18: Hurricane Bob hits the American East Coast and 17 people are killed. $1.5 billion in damage is caused in North Carolina and New England.

    August 19: While he holidays in Crimea, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev is placed under house arrest. His imprisonment is ordered by Vice President Gennady Yanayev who led an attempted coup, which lasts less than 72 hours.

    August 23: Super Nintendo is released in the United States with a price tag of $200.

    August 30: In Tokyo, Japan at the World Athletics Championships, Britain wins its first gold medal. Scottish runner Liz McColgan comes in first during the 10,000 metres event.


  • September

    September 2: Another event in the 1991 timeline of the breakdown of the Soviet Union: Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania are recognised by America as independent and the US government reopens its embassies there.

    September 3: 25 people are killed in Hamlet, North Carolina in a grease fire at the Imperial Foods chicken processing plant. 55 workers are also injured, and it’s found that the plant’s fire doors were locked.

    September 6: St. Petersburg becomes the new name of Russian city, Leningrad.

    September 9: Following the recent death of two teenagers during a police pursuit, riots take place across the Meadow Well council estate on Tyneside, England. Many Asian owned shops are hit by looting and arson attacks.

    September 19: A mummified body is found in the Italian Alps. Named Ötzi the Iceman, the body is thought to be from between 3400 and 3100 BCE.

    September 20: Two nurses and several patients are held hostage at Alta View Hospital in Sandy, Utah. Richard Worthington, the husband of a former patient kills one nurse for trying to wrestle his shotgun from him. The incident lasts 18 hours before Worthington eventually surrenders to police.

    September 22: One of the famous events in 1991 for scholars; the Huntington Library in California makes the ancient manuscripts known as the Dead Sea Scrolls available to the general public for the first time.

    September 23: United Nations UNESCOM inspectors discover secret documents in Baghdad which detail plans for Iraq to make nuclear weapons. The Iraqi Army refuse to let the inspectors leave with the documents, leading to a 4-day standoff.

    September 24: Former British RAF fighter pilot, Jackie Mann is released by his Lebanese captors after more than two years of being held hostage.

    September 24: Nevermind is released by Nirvana and goes on to sell 11 million copies in the United States alone.

    September 30: In southeastern Brazil, the city of Itu is hit by a tornado, killing 16 and leaving more 176 injured.


  • October

    October 3: Nadine Gordimer, South African writer and political activist is awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. Gordimer’s work was once suppressed due to its criticism of Apartheid.

    October 6: On the 50th anniversary of the Babi Yar massacres, where over 33,500 Jews were killed, President Gorbachev releases a statement condemning Antisemitism in the Soviet Union.

    October 9: In the Royal Albert Hall in London, a sumo tournament begins. This is the first Sumo match to take place outside of Japan.

    October 10: In New Jersey, USA, Joseph Harris kills four people. Three of whom are his former colleagues in the US postal service.

    October 15: Bryan Adam’s single (Everything I Do) I Do It for You, enters its fifteenth successive week at number one in the UK singles charts, setting a world record.

    October 16: In the deadliest mass shooting in US history (until 2007), George Hennard shoots 23 people in a cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. Hennard begins a shootout with police before shooting himself.

    October 20: A wildfire devastates Oakland Hills in California, destroying 3,469 homes and killing 25 people.

    October 21: Jesse Turner, a maths professor who was kidnapped in 1987 is finally freed by his Lebanese kidnappers.

    October 28: Caused by an unnamed hurricane and a combination of high and low pressure fronts, the Perfect Storm strikes the United States causing over $200 million of damage and killing 12 people. 

    October 29: The NASA’s Galileo spacecraft becomes the first probe to visit an asteroid when it approaches asteroid 951 Gaspra.

    1991 timeline

    Satellite image of the Perfect Storm, (also known as Halloween storm) around the time of peak intensity
    Image: Wikimedia Commons


    November

    November 1: Former alumni of Iowa University, Gang Lu shoots and kills three members of faculty and one student before committing suicide.

    November 5: Robert Maxwell, British media mogul, is found dead off the coast of Tenerife; his cause of death is unconfirmed, but reports suggest that he has committed suicide.

    November 6: The KGB officially stops all its operations.

    November 7: Magic Johnson reveals he is HIV positive. The Los Angeles Lakers point guard includes in his public announcement that he will retire immediately.

    November 14: Following investigations by the FBI and British authorities, arrest warrants are issued against two Libyan nationals for their connection to the Lockerbie bombing.

    November 14: After being fired for insubordination, postal worker Thomas McIlvane goes on a shooting rampage in Royal Oak, Michigan. Four people are killed and five wounded before McIlvane commits suicide.

    November 16: St Albans, Hertfordshire is bombed by the IRA. The bomb was due to detonate to coincide with crowds leaving a concert in the Alban Arena but explodes prematurely, killing the two IRA members planting it.

    November 22: Disney releases Beauty and the Beast. The film goes on to become the first animated film ever nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture.

    November 24: One day after announcing he is suffering from AIDS, Queen lead singer Freddie Mercury dies.

    November 30: The final of the first ever FIFA Women’s World Cup takes place in China Norway is defeated by the United States 1-2.


    December

    December 1: The Ukraine votes to become independent from the Soviet Union.

    December 4: Kidnapped Journalist Terry A. Anderson is released by his captors in Beirut after seven years’ captivity. He is the last and longest-held American hostage in Lebanon.

    December 4: After a failed deal to save the company from complete bankruptcy, Pan American World Airways ceases all operations.

    December 4: Fire captain and arson investigator for Glendale, California, John Leonard Orr, is arrested. Orr is charged with arson and is thought to have set up to 2,000 fires. One of his fires resulted in the deaths of four people.

    December 12: Homosexuality is no longer a criminal offence in the Ukraine. It is the first post-Soviet republic to do so.

    December 15: In the Red Sea, Egyptian ferry the Salem Express strikes reef off the Egyptian coast. The ship sinks within minutes killing everyone on board.

    December 19: The world’s longest cable-stayed bridge opens in Norway. The Skarnsund Bridge spans 530 metres (1,739 ft). It remains the longest bridge of this kind until Yangpu Bridge is completed in China in 1993.

    December 20: In Missouri Palestinian militant Zein Isa and his wife Maria are sentenced to death for the honour killing of their daughter, Palestina.

    December 23: 16 years after its first release Bohemian Rhapsody returns to the top of the British charts. All proceeds are donated to HIV charity the Terence Higgins Trust.

    December 25: The Soviet flag is lowered over the Kremlin for the final time. The hammer and sickle is replaced by Russia’s tricolour flag, marking the end of the Soviet Union. Mikhail Gorbachev resigns leaving Boris Yeltsin as president of independent Russia.


    Gulf War/Operation Desert Storm

    Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, the United Nations issued warnings to Iraqi leader Saddam Hussain to cease their invasion. When their requests were ignored, a coalition of 35 countries, led by the United States, was deployed to Kuwait to protect their oil reserves and push out the invading forces. Operation Desert Storm is the combat stage of this defensive operation.


  • Dissolution of the Soviet Union

    The collapse of the Soviet Union began in the 1980s when Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev began to introduce radical reform, believing that improving the Soviet economy depended on stronger links with other countries. However, the dissolution of the union  was not completed until the end of 1991, when all states within the union declared themselves independent. 1989 saw the fall of the Berlin Wall and protests from numerous nations for the right to democracy, rather than communist rule. Soviet leader Gorbachev is placed under house arrest by communist party members staging a coup as a last-ditch attempt to regain control over the union. The coup lasted only three days before failing as ultimately the union had already begun to fracture.


  • “Going Postal”

    Though the number of people employed by the United States Postal Service is less than 1% of the American population, the number of mass shootings carried out by postal workers is abnormally high in comparison. 1991 saw two incidents of ex-postal workers engaging in killing sprees after being fired from their jobs, adding further meaning to the slang term going postal.