I started high school in 1991 and was about to go on a musical journey of discovery. We were still watching VHS movies on VCR and enjoying M-Net Open Time. We didn’t even own a CD player yet, so I was still rolling with my cassette player. I was also still riding around everywhere on my bicycle.
All of what I mentioned now is totally insignificant if you look at the grander scale of things. A lot of interesting things happened that year…
Here are 20 Notable Events in 1991:
1. The British Government had to clearly define the difference between a cake a biscuit
The British Government was forced to do this thanks to a high profile court case. In the end they published an official ruling that a cake is defined by its propensity to harden over time, whereas a biscuit has a propensity to soften.
2. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was re-released and reached number 1 in the UK
This was Freddie Mercury’s dying wish. “Bohemian Rhapsody” was re-issued in order to raise money for AIDS charities. Freddie Mercury died on the 24th of November 1991. The cause of death was bronchial pneumonia resulting from AIDS.
3. Twenty paintings were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam
Fortunately they were recovered 35 minutes after the robbery occurred because the robbers got a flat tyre.
4. Jason Alexander threatened to quit Seinfeld in the third season
After the table read of “The Pen”, which features only Jerry and Elaine, Alexander pulled Larry David aside and said “if you write me out again, do it permanently.” In 9 seasons, that was the only episode he wasn’t in.
5. The record for the most passengers on an airplane was set in 1991
1086 Ethiopian jews were evacuated on a Boeing 747 to Jerusalem. The plane landed with 1088 passengers. Two babies were also born during the flight.
6. A man found a first printing of the US Declaration of Independence
He found inside the frame of a $4 painting he’d bought at a flea market in Adamstown, Pennsylvania. It sold at auction for $2.4 million.
7. Jeremy Wade Delle shot himself in front of his English class in Richardson, Texas
This event (which happened on the 8th of January 1991) was the inspiration for the Pearl Jam song “Jeremy”.
8. Jeffrey Dahmer was arrested on the 22nd of July 1991
Police found body parts and severed heads in the serial killer’s fridge, freezer and filing cabinet. Dahmer killed 17 people between 1978 and 1991. He was sentenced to 15 consecutive life terms in jail in 1992. He was beaten to death by a fellow inmate in 1994.
9. Kentucky Fried Chicken officially changed its name to KFC
It turns out that the team behind the brand just wanted to shorten their name to something that’s catchy and easy to say. They are still selling actual chicken (contrary to what some conspiracy theorists believe).
10. The Gulf War ended on the 28th of February 1991
The war between the USA (and 34 coalition nations) and Iraq had lasted for 6 months, 3 weeks and 5 days. Iraqi forces (who had invaded in August 1990) were expelled from Kuwait and the Kuwaiti monarchy was restored.
Before the war ended, the Iraqi army set fire to or damaged more than 700 oil wells, storage tanks, refineries and facilities in Kuwait.
11. The USSR was officially disolved on the 25th of December 1991
On this date Mikhail Gorbachev resigned as the President of the USSR and declared the office extinct. The flag of the USSR was lowered for the last time, the Russian tri-colour flag was raised and he handed over power Boris Yeltsin.
Uzbekistan, Tajikstan, Kyrgyzstan, Axerbaijan, Ukraine, Moldova, Lithuania, Latvia, Belarus and Estonia gained independence when the USSR was dissolved.
12. Terminator 2: Judgment Day was the biggest movie of 1991
It was the first film to use of natural human motion for a computer-generated character and the first with a partially computer-generated main character. T2 earned more than $52 million at the box office on its opening weekend in the USA. The film earned more than $509 million at the box office worldwide.
13. Metallica released their self-titled 5th album in August 1991
The album which many refer to as “The Black Album” made its debut at number 1 on the Billboard 200 chart. To date more than 16 million copies of this album has been sold in the USA alone.
14. Nirvana released Nevermind in September 1991
This was Nirvana‘s second album which contained the now infamouse track “Smells Like Teen Spirit”. It was produced by Butch Vig. To date the album has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide.
15. Los Angeles police officers severely beat motorist Rodney King
The beating happened in March 1991. It was captured on amateur video and later lead to the Los Angeles riots when the police officers were acquitted.
16. The Population Registration Act was repealed in South Africa in June 1991
The act (which was implemented in 1950) required each inhabitant of SA had to be classified and registered in accordance with his or her racial characteristics as part of the system of Apartheid. The Group Areas Act, Native Land Act, Native Trust and Land Act and Asiatic Land Tenure Act were also repealed.
17. The suspension of South Africa from the International Olympic Committee was lifted in July 1991
South Africa did not compete at Olympic Games from 1964 to 1988. This was part of the sporting boycott of South Africa during the Apartheid era. SA was expelled from the IOC in 1970.
18. The Greek-owned cruise ship Oceanos sank off the coast at Coffee Bay
This happened in August 1991. All 571 passengers on board were safely evacuated by South African Air Force helicopters. Coffee Bay is located in the Wild Coast region in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa.
19. The first web site was built at CERN labs and put online on the 6th of August 1991
The first web site was dedicated to information on the World Wide Web project. It was made by Tim Berners-Lee and ran on a NeXT computer. The website is still live, it’s address is http://info.cern.ch/hypertext/WWW/TheProject.html
20. HP introduced the first colour scanner in 1991
It was called the HP Scanjet IIc. The scanner featured single-pass color scanning at 400-dpi resolution (pushing it to 800-dpi resolution with software interpolation techniques). It carried a pricetag of $1995.
Well, there you have it, 20 Notable Events in 1991. If I skipped something important, feel free to leave a comment and let me know.
Watch this space for updates in the History category on Interesting Facts.
Scroll down to view related articles to get more facts. If you want to stay in the loop, feel free to subscribe to our newsletter.
If you live in South Africa and you're looking for a live music gig or music festival to attend, feel free to check The SA Gig Guide on our sister site (SA Music Zone).