Chronology of American History: 15th
| 16th | 17th
| 18th | 19th | 20th
Thomas Jefferson becomes the third president. Because Jefferson
and his running mate Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral
votes, the election was thrown into the House of Representatives,
where Jefferson was elected after six days of balloting and 36
January 20: John Marshall is appointed
chief justice of the Supreme Court. Under his leadership, the
court established the judiciary's right to declare federal and
state laws unconstitutional.
March 4: In his inaugural address,
Jefferson attempts to allay Federalist fears of a Republican reign
of terror by declaring "We are all Republicans, we are all
Federalists." He pledges a frugal government and subsequently
repealed all internal taxes.
April 30: Jefferson purchases
Louisiana Territory from Napoleon, acquiring 800,000 square miles
for $15 million.
The first hotel in the U.S. opens in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.
February 24: The Supreme Court establishes the principle of judicial
review in the case of Marbury v. Madison. For the first time,
the court rules a federal law unconstitutional.
January 1: Jean Jacques Dessalines proclaims Haiti's independence.
May 14: The Lewis and Clark Expedition
sets out from St. Louis. The party will explore 8000 miles along
the Missouri and Columbia Rivers as far as the Pacific, returning
July 11: Federalist party Alexander
Hamilton is killed in a duel with Vice President Aaron Burr. Indicted
by New Jersey for murder, Burr flees to South Carolina and Georgia
until the indictment is quashed.
April 27: "To the Shores of Tripoli." William Eaton
and a small force of Marines and Arab mercenaries march 500 miles
from Egypt to capture Tripoli's port of Derna. Tripoli, which
had enslaved American seamen, ended its demands for tribute.
Aaron Burr is charged with treason for plotting to set up a separate
nation on lands claimed by the United States and Spain. At a trial
presided over by John Marshall, Burr is acquitted.
July 15: While exploring the southern
portion of the Louisiana Purchase, Zebulon Pike sees the famous
peak that now bears his name.
June 22: The British frigate Leopard fires on the American warship
Chesapeake, killing three Americans and forcibly removing four
alleged British navy deserters.
September 4: Robert Fulton sails
his steamship the Clermont on the Hudson River, inaugurating a
new era of steam-powered transportation.
December 22: The Embargo of 1807
prohibits U.S. exports to Britain and France to protest interference
with American shipping. In effect for 18 months, it produced smuggling
January 1: Congress
prohibits the African slave trade.
March 1: The Non-Intercourse Act
prohibits imports from Britain and France and bans their ships
from U.S. ports.
U.S. population: 7,239,881.
The American Board of Commissioners
for Foreign Missions, originally founded by the Congregationalist
Church, begins to send Protestant missionaries to foreign countries
and Indian tribes.
May 1: Macon's Bill No. 2, which
replaces the Non-Intercourse Act, reopens trade with Britain and
France, but provides that if either country agrees to respect
American shipping, the U.S. will cut off trade with the other.
October 27: Following a revolt
by American settlers in West Florida in September, the U.S. annexes
January: A slave insurrection
in Louisiana results in the deaths of some 75 slaves.
November 7: William Henry Harrison
and 800 soldiers defeat Tenskwatawa, the Shawnee prophet, and
The word "gerrymander"
enters the politics after the Massachusetts Republicans reapportion
the state's Senate districts. One district resembles a salamander,
or, as a Federalist put it, a gerrymander (after Gov. Elbridge
June 18: By a vote of 79-49 in
the House and 19-13 in the Senate, the United States declares
war against Britain over interference with American shipping and
impressments of American seamen. Two days earlier, the British
had repealed trade restrictions, but news of the British action
did not reach the United States until August 12.
September 10: Lieut.
Oliver Hazzard Perry announces his naval victory at the battle
of Lake Erie with the famous words: "We have met the enemy
and they are ours."
October 5: The Indian leader Tecumseh
is killed at the battle of the Thames in Canada, ending his hopes
for an Indian confederation resisting American expansion.
Francis Cabot Lowell
opens the first U.S. factory able to convert raw cotton into cloth
using power machinery.
May 27: The Creek Chief Red Eagle
surrenders to General Andrew Jackson after the battle of Horse
Shoe Bend, opening southern and western Alabama to white settlement.
August 24: The British avenge
an American raid on York, Ontario (now Toronto), the capital of
Upper Canada, by setting fire to the White House and the Capitol.
September 14: Lawyer Francis Scott
Key, detained on a British warship, writes "The Star-Spangled
Banner," which was destined to become the country's national
December 15-January 1815: Hartford
Convention. Federalists call for the repeal of the Three-Fifths
compromise; requiring a two-thirds vote for admission of new states
and declarations of war; limiting presidents to one terms; and
forbidding successive presidents to come from the same state.
December 24: A peace treaty ending
the War of 1812 is signed at Ghent, Belgium.
January 8: Unaware of
a peace treaty signed two weeks earlier, General Andrew Jackson
stops a British attack at the Battle of New Orleans. British forces
suffer 2036 casualties; U.S. forces suffer 8 killed and 13 wounded.
July 3: Algiers releases American
captives and agrees to end its demand for tribute payments.
Richard Allen forms
the African Methodist Episcopal Church
The American Bible Society is
April 10: Congress charters the
Second Bank of the United States.
December: The American Colonization
Society was established to transport free blacks to Africa.
Thomas Hopkins Gallaudet
founds a free public school for the deaf in Hartford, Conn.
April 28-29: The Rush-Bagot Convention
begins the process of disarmament along the U.S. Canadian boundary.
July 4: Construction of the Erie
Canal begins. The canal, designed to connect the Great Lakes to
Albany, officially opened in 1825.
December 27: Andrew Jackson marches
into Florida in order to stop raids by Indians, fugitive slaves,
and white outlaws on American territory.
U.S. population: 9,638,453.
The financial Panic of 1819, the
country's first major economic depression, produces political
division and calls for the democratization of state constitutions
and an end to imprisonment for debt.
McCulloch v. Maryland. The Supreme
Court upholds the constitutionality of the Bank of the United
States and rules that a state cannot tax an agency authorized
by the federal government.
Dartmouth v. Woodward. The Supreme
Court bars states from unilaterally altering contracts.
William Ellery Channing's "Unitarian
Christianity" sermon lays out the principles of liberal Protestantism.
February 13. A Firebell in the
Night. A political crisis arises when Rep. James Tallmadge of
N.Y. proposes an amendment to a bill granting statehood to Missouri.
He proposes that all slave children be freed when they reach their
25th birthday and that any further introduction of slaves be barred.
U.S. population: 9,638,453.
English writer Sydney Smith asks:
"In the four quarters of the globe, who reads an American
book? or goes to an American play? or looks at an American picture
March 3: The Missouri Compromise
prohibited slavery north of 36 degrees, 30 minutes north latitude.
Missouri is admitted as a slave state, and Maine (up to then a
part of Massachusetts) is admitted as a free state.
April 24: The Land Act of 1820
reduces the price of land to $1.25 an acre for a minimum of 80
acres (down from $1.64 per acre for a minimum of 160 acres).
Emma Hart Willard opens
the Troy Female Seminary, the first institution in the United
States to offer a high school education for girls.
Benjamin Lundy publishes an early
antislavery newspaper, The Genius of Universal Emancipation.
Stephen F. Austin establishes
an American colony in Texas.
The American Colonization Society
founds Liberia as a colony for free blacks from the United States.
May-June: Denmark Vesey, a former
slave who had purchased his freedom after winning a lottery, organizes
an insurrection in Charleston, S.C. After several slaves informed
their masters of the plot, 131 blacks were arrested and 35 were
December 2: Responding
to a fear that Russia would seize control of the Pacific Coast
and that European powers would assist Spain in reclaiming its
New World colonies, President James Monroe announces what has
become known as the Monroe Doctrine. He declares that the Western
Hemisphere is closed to further European colonization and threatens
to use force to stop further European interventions in the Americas.
"The Red Harlot
of Infidelity," Frances Wright, arrives from Scotland, and
lectures publicly on birth control, women's rights, and abolition.
January 3: In Indiana,
Robert Owen establishes New Harmony, the first secular utopian
The Anti-Masonic Party
was founded after William Morgan of Batavia, N.Y., was kidnapped
and presumably murdered after the threatens to publish a book
revealing the secrets of the Masonic Order.
July 4: Thomas Jefferson and John
Adams die on the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the Declaration
Samuel E. Cornish and
John B. Russwurm publish the first African American newspapers,
Massachusetts enacts the first
law requiring every community with 500 or more families to establish
a high school.
David Walker, a free
black living in Boston, issues his militant Appeal, demanding
the abolition of slavery and an end to racial discrimination.
April 6: Mexico forbids further
U.S. immigration into Texas and reconfirms its constitutional
prohibition on slavery.
U.S. population: 12,866,020.
January 27: "Liberty and
Union, now and forever, one and inseparable!" In his celebrated
debate with Sen. Robert Y. Hayne of South Carolina over federal
land policy, Sen. Daniel Webster of Massachusetts rejected the
idea that the states could nullify federal laws.
April 6: Joseph Smith founds the
April 13: At a Jefferson day dinner,
Jackson expresses his opposition to the doctrine of nullification,
proposing a toast: "Our Union: It must be preserved."
Vice President John C. Calhoun responded: "The Union, next
to our liberty, most dear!"
May 28: President Jackson signs
the Indian Removal Acts, which promises financial compensation
to Indian tribes that agree to resettle on lands west of the Mississippi
September 25: The first national
Negro convention is held in Philadelphia.
January 1: A 25-year-old
Bostonian, William Lloyd Garrison, publishes the first issue of
the Liberator, the first publication dedicated to immediate emancipation
of slaves without compensation to their owners. He promises: "I
will not equivocate--I will not excuse--I will not retreat a single
inch--AND I WILL BE HEARD."
August: William Miller predicts
that the second coming of Christ was imminent and that "cleansing
by fire" would occur between March 21, 1843 and March 21,
August 21: Nat Turner, a Baptist
preacher, leads a slave insurrection in southern Virginia, which
provokes a debate in the Virginia legislature about whether slavery
should be abolished.
John Kaspar Spurzheim
of Vienna introduces phrenology into America. Phrenology, an early
example of the science of human behavior, taught that a person's
character could be determined by studying the shape of a person's
January 21: Sen. William Marcy
of New York defends the Spoils System of party patronage with
the phrase, "To the victor belong the spoils."
April 6: The Black Hawk War begins
when Black Hawk, chief of the Sauk Indians, crosses the Mississippi
River to plant corn on the tribe's old fields in Illinois. The
Sauks had ceded their lands in exchange for new land in Iowa,
but were unable to support themselves there. Capt. Abraham Lincoln
and Lieut. Jefferson Davis took part in the conflict. The Sauk
surrendered in August, after many older men, women, and children
were massacred in Wisconsin while carrying white flags.
August: The United States's first
school for the blind opens under the direction of Dr. Samuel Gridley
November 24: South Carolina declares
the federal tariff null and void.
December 28: John C. Calhoun becomes
the first Vice President after to resign, after he is elected
as a Senator from South Carolina.
Samuel Colt introduces the "six-shooter," the first
handgun with a revolving barrel.
Massachusetts becomes the last
state to end tax support for churches.
March 2: President Andrew Jackson
signs Henry Clay's compromise Tariff of 1833, which reduces duties
on imported goods, and the Force Act, authorizing him to use military
force enforce the federal tariff.
March 15: South Carolina revokes
its Ordinance of Nullification. Three days later, it nullifies
the Force Act.
September 23: Andrew Jackson fires
his Secretary of the Treasury for refusing to withdraw government
deposits from the Second Bank of the United States and place them
in state banks.
December 3: The first coeducational
college in the United States, Oberlin, opens, with a class of
29 men and 15 women. In 1835, Oberlin became the first college
to admit African Americans.
December 4: The American Anti-Slavery
Society is founded in Philadelphia.
Gen. Antonio López
de Santa Anna overthrows Mexico's constitutional government.
March 28: The U.S. Senate votes
to censure Andrew Jackson for removing government deposits from
the Bank of the United States, accusing the President of having
"assumed upon himself authority and power not conferred by
the Constitution and laws." The Senate expunged the censure
American colonists in
Texas revolt against Mexican rule.
January: For the only time in
American history, the United States was free from debt; the Treasury
had a surplus of $400,000.
January 30: The first attempt
on the life of a president occurs. In the U.S. Capitol, Richard
Lawrence fired two pistols at the president at point blank range.
Miraculously, both pistols misfire. Lawrence was later found to
July 8: The Liberty Bell cracks
as it tolls the death of Chief Justice John Marshall.
October 21: A Boston crowd mobs
William Lloyd Garrison and almost lynches him. He is placed in
a jail for his own safety.
The viciously anti-Catholic
novel appears, Awful Disclosure of Maria Monk, as Exhibited
in a Narrative of Her Suffering during a Residence of Five Years
as a Novice, and Two Years as a Black Nun, in the Hotel Dieu Nunnery
March 2: Texas declares its independence
March 6: Mexican troops storm
the Texans at the Alamo, a former San Antonio mission defended
by 182 Texans, including the frontier heroes David Crockett and
James Bowie. The Alamo's defenders included a number of Tejanos.
March 27: Santa Anna orders 330
Texas prisoners executed at Goliad.
April 21: East of present-day
Houston, Gen. Sam Houston's troops defeat the Mexican Army and
capture Santa Anna, forcing him to recognize Texas independence.
May 25: The House of Representatives
adopts the Gag Rule, voting to table all antislavery petitions
July 4: Marcus and Narcissa Prentiss
Whitman and Henry H. and Eliza Hart Spalding establish a mission
near present-day Walla Walla, Washington.
July 11: The Treasury Department
issues the Species Circular, requiring payment in gold or silver
for public lands. President Jackson's critics blamed the Species
Circular for the Panic of 1837.
John Deere introduces
a plow with a steel blade.
March: The Panic of 1837 begins
and lasts until 1843.
August 31: Ralph Waldo Emerson
delivers his "American Scholar" address, in which he
calls for a distinctive national literature rooted in American
November 7: Rev. Elijah P. Lovejoy
becomes the abolitionist movement's first martyr when he is murdered
by a proslavery mob in Alton, Illinois, across from slaveholding
November: Mary Lyon opens the
first woman's college, Mount Holyoke, in South Hadley, Massachusetts.
Samuel F.B. Mores develops
an alphabet of dots and dashes, making communication with the
December: 14,000 Cherokees are
forcibly removed from western Georgia and southeastern Tennessee
and marched down the Trail of Tears to Oklahoma. Some 4,000 died
Enslaved Africans aboard
the Spanish ship L'Amistad revolt. After their capture off Long
Island, the Van Buren administration tried to have the captives
returned to Spain. In 1841, the Supreme Court ruled that the Amistad
captives had been illegally enslaved and set them free.
U.S. population: 17,069,453.
March 31: President Martin Van
Buren institutes a 10-hour work day for federal employees.
The first wagon train
arrives in California.
March: Dorothea Dix is shocked
when she enters the East Cambridge, Mass., House of Correction
and observes the ill-treatment of the mentally ill. After a two-year
investigation, she submits a Memorial to the Massachusetts legislation,
describing the mentally ill confined "in cages, closets,
cellars, stalls, pens--chained naked, beaten with rods, and lashed
April 1: Brook Farm, a utopian
community near Boston inspired by American Transcendentalism,
seeks to combine manual labor and intellectual pursuits.
April 4: President William Henry
Harrison dies after 30 days in office.
October 27: Creole Affair. Slaves
on the brig Creole revolt and sail to the Bahamas. Britain refused
to return the slaves but the U.S. won financial compensation.
The Massachusetts Supreme
Court upholds the right of workers to organize in the case of
Commonwealth v. Hunt.
May: The Dorr War. To protest
Rhode Island's outdated charter of 1663 which restricted voting
rights to property holders and their oldest sons, Thomas Dorr
and his supporters unsuccessfully attempted to capture the armory
at Providence. A new Constitution was subsequently adopted that
granted the vote to citizens who paid a $1 poll tax or owned at
least $134 in real estate.
August 23: Mexico warns
that American annexation of Texas would be "equivalent to
a declaration of war against the Mexican government."
May 3: Rioting erupts
in Philadelphia when anti-Catholic "Native Americans try
to hold a street meeting in the heavily Irish Kensington district.
May 24: Samuel F.B. Morse sends
the first message by telegraph: "What hath God wrought."
He sent the message from Washington to Baltimore.
June 27: A mob storms a Carthage,
Ill., jail, and murders Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism,
and his brother. Smith was being held for destroying the printing
press of a dissident who had attacked the practice of polygamy.
December 3: The House of Representatives
lifts the Gag Rule.
The Baptist Church splits
over the slavery issue.
July: John L. O'Sullivan, the
editor of the U.S. Magazine and Democratic Review, declares that
the United States has a "manifest destiny" to occupy
the North American continent. Manifest destiny became one of the
most influential slogans in American history.
August: A blight devastates the
Irish potato crop. Over 1 million people died and 2 million emigrated,
1.3 million to the United States.
December 29: Texas is admitted
to the Union as a slave state.
January: President James
K. Polk orders Gen. Zachary Taylor to march southward from Corpus
Christi and occupy position near the Rio Grande River, 150 miles
south of the Texas border as defined by the Spanish and Mexican
May 4: Michigan becomes the first
state to abolish capital punishment.
May 13: President Polk tells Congress
that Mexico has "invaded our territory and shed American
blood on American soil." Congress then declares war on Mexico.
June 15: The United States accepts
the 49th parallel as the boundary between the United States and
Canada west of the Great Lakes.
July 23: Henry David Thoreau,
living in a cabin at Walden Pond, near Concord, Mass., was arrested
for refusing to pay a $1 poll tax, his protest against slavery
and the Mexican War. This incident that inspired him to write
the essay Civil Disobedience, in which he argued in behalf of
non-violent protest against unjust government policies. He wrote:
"Any man more right than his neighbor constitutes a majority
August: Rep. David Wilmot submits
an amendment to a military appropriations bill prohibiting slavery
in any territory acquired from Mexico. The proviso passes the
house twice but is defeated in the Senate.
October: A party of pioneers headed
by George Donner is trapped in the Sierras by early snows. In
April 1847, 47 survivors of the original party of 82 finally reached
July 24: The first Mormons
reach the Great Salt Lake.
September 13-14: Mexico City falls
to a U.S. army under Gen. Winfield Scott.
Alexander T. Stewart
opens the first department store on Broadway in New York.
The Free Soil party is formed,
opposing the expansion of slavery into the western territories.
New York State grants married
women the right to own property apart from their husbands.
January 24: James Marshall discovers
gold at John Sutter's sawmill near Sacramento, Calif.
February 2: The Treaty of Guadalupe
Hidalgo ends the Mexico War. The American negotiator, Nicholas
Trist, had been ordered home four months earlier, but had continued
the negotiations. The United States acquired California, Nevada,
Utah, New Mexico, and parts of Arizona, Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming
for $15 million and assumption of $3.25 million in debts owned
by Mexico to Americans.
July 19-20: The first Woman's
Rights Convention in history is held in Seneca Falls, New York.
The convention called for women's suffrage. Only two participants
lived to see the 19th amendment to the Constitution, granting
women the right to vote.
80,000 people migrate
to California; about 55,000 overland and 25,000 by sea. Only about
700 are women.
Elizabeth Blackwell becomes the
United States' first women to receive a medical degree.
U.S. population: 23,191,876.
The U.S. navy and merchant marine
August: Congress adopts the Compromise
of 1850, which admits California to the Union as a free state,
but does not forbid slavery in other territories acquired from
Mexico. It also prohibits the sale of slaves in Washington, D.C.
and includes a strict law requiring the return of runaway slaves
to their masters.
October 23-24: The first national
women's rights convention, held in Worcester, Mass., attracts
delegates from nine states.
Feb. 18: A Boston crowd
rescues Shadrack, a fugitive slave, from court custody.
June 2: Maine adopts a law prohibiting
the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, leading future
prohibition statutes to be called Maine laws.
Mar. 20: Harriet Beecher
Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin, which sells 300,000
copies in a year and a million copies in 16 months. When Stowe
met President Lincoln at the White House, he reportedly asked
her: "Is this the little woman whose book made such a great
Dec. 30: Gadsden Purchase.
Mexico sells the United States 29,640 square miles of territory
south of the Gila River (in what is now southern Arizona and New
Mexico) for $10 million.
Lloyd Garrison publicly burns a copy of the Constitution, calling
it "a covenant with death and an agreement with Hell."
Henry David Thoreau publishes
Walden, which is based on his experiences living beside
Walden Pond near Concord, Mass. From July 1845 to September 1847.
"The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation," he
Jan. 23: Sen. Stephen Douglas
introduces the Kansas Nebraska Act, which repeals the Missouri
Compromises and opens Kansas and Nebraska to white settlement.
Feb. 4: Alvan Bovay, a Ripon,
Wisc., attorney, proposes that opponents of slavery organize a
new political party, the Republican party.
Mar. 31: Commodore Matthew C.
Perry negotiates the Treaty of Kanagawa, opening up Japan to the
Apr. 26: Eli Thayer founds the
Massachusetts Emigrant Aid Society to encourage opponents of slavery
to move to Kansas.
June 2: In Boston, the U.S. government
returns Anthony Burns, a fugitive slave, to slavery.
Oct. 18: Ostend Manifesto. American
ministers James Buchanan, John Y. Mason, and Pierre Soulé,
meeting in Belgium, urge the United States to seize Cuba militarily
if Spain refuses to sell the island. Many Northerners regarded
this as a plot to extend slavery.
Walt Whitman publishes
Leaves of Grass.
Abraham Lincoln writes: "Our
progress in degeneracy appears to me pretty rapid. As a nation,
we began by declaring 'all men are created equal.' We now practically
read it 'all men are created equal except Negroes.' When the Know-Nothings
get control, it will read 'all men are created equal except Negroes
and foreigners and Catholics.' When it comes to this I should
prefer emigrating to some country where they make no pretense
of loving liberty to Russia, for instance, where despotism can
be taken pure and without the base alloy of hypocrisy."
Mar. 30: Pro-slavery forces win
the territorial elections in Kansas. Some 6000 votes are cast
even though only 2000 voters are registered, many by pro-slavery
"border ruffians" from Missouri. The pro-slavery government
passes laws imposing the death penalty for aiding a fugitive slave
and two years hard labor for questioning the legality of slavery.
Antislavery forces respond by setting up an opposing government
May 19: Sen. Charles
Sumner of Massachuetts denounces "The Crime Against Kansas,"
which he describes as the rape of a virgin territory by pro-slavery
forces. In his speech, Sumner accuses a South Carolina Senator
of taking "the harlot Slavery" for his mistress."
May 21: The "Sack of Lawrence."
Pro-slavery forces in Kansas burn a hotel and other buildings
in Lawrence, Kansas.
May 22: Sen. Butler's nephew,
Representative Preston Brooks, beats Sen. Sumner with a cane,
leaving him disabled for three years.
May 25: In reprisal for the "Sack
of Lawrence" and the attack on Sumner, John Brown and six
companions murder five pro-slavery men at Pottawatomie Creek in
Kansas. A war of reprisals left 200 dead in "Bleeding Kansas."
Mar. 6: In the case
of Dred Scott v. Sanford, the Supreme Court rules that the US
Constitution and the Bill of Rights were not intended to apply
to African Americans and that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional.
The decision also denied Congress and territorial legislatures
the right to exclude slavery from the western territories.
Mar. 23: Elisha Otis installs
the first passenger elevator in a New York department store.
Aug. 24: The Financial Panic of
1857 begins; 4,932 business fail by year's end.
June 16: Abraham Lincoln
accepts the Republican nomination for US Senate with the famous
phrase, "A house divided against itself cannot stand."
Aug. 21 to Oct. 15: Stephen Douglas
and Abraham Lincoln, candidates for the US Senate from Illinois,
hold seven debates. The Democratic majority in the Illinois legislature
reelected Douglas to the Senate.
Oct. 25: Senator William Seward
of New York declares that there is an "irrepressible conflict"
between the free North and the slave South.
Daniel Decatur Emmett,
a Northerner from Ohio, composes Dixie for a New York minstrel
May 12: A commercial convention
in Vicksburg, Miss., calls for the African slave trade to be reopened.
Aug. 27: "Colonel" Edwin
L. Drake strikes oil at Titusville, Pa. This was the first deliberate
attempt to drill for oil underground.
Oct. 16: John Brown and some 21
followers seize the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Va. He is
taken prisoner two days later, US Marines, led by Col. Robert
Oct. 31: Refusing to plead insanity
as a defense, John Brown is put on trial and is convicted of treason,
criminal conspiracy, and murder. He is hanged Dec. 2. Ralph Waldo
Emerson hails Brown as a "new saint" who "will
make the gallows glorious like the cross."
US population: 31,443,321.
Publisher Erastus Beadle issues
the first dime novels, which actually sell for a nickel.
Apr. 3: The Pony Express inaugurates
overland male service between St. Joseph, Mo., and Sacramento,
Apr. 23: Southern delegates walk
out of the Democratic National Convention in Charleston, S.C.
The convention adjourns without nominating a presidential candidate.
June 18-23: Northern Democrats,
convening in Baltimore, nominate Stephen Douglas for the presidency.
On June 28, Southern Democrats nominated John C. Breckinridge
as their presidential candidate.
Nov. 6: Abraham Lincoln tops a
four-candidate field to be elected president. Although he received
less than 40 percent of the vote, and no votes in the South, he
won an overwhelming Electoral College victory.
Dec. 20: South Carolina, voting
169-0, secedes from the Union.
Yale University confers
the U.S.'s first Ph.D.
Jan. 9: South Carolina blocks
a federal ship, the Star of the West, from resupplying Fort Sumter
in Charleston harbor.
Feb. 4: Representatives from six
seceding states adopt a Confederate constitution in Montgomery,
Ala. Five days later, they elect Jefferson Davis, a former US
Senator from Mississippi, the president of the Confederate States
Apr. 12: At 4:30 a.m., Confederate
guns fire on Fort Sumter, a federal installation in South Carolina's
Charleston harbor. The fort surrendered after 34 hours of bombardment.
Apr. 19: President Lincoln orders
a blockade of Confederate ports.
July 18: At the first battle of
Bull Run, near Manassass, Va., Confederate forces rout a Union
Aug. 5: To help finance the Civil
War, Congress enacts taxes on real estate and personal income.
Oct. 24: President Abraham Lincoln
receives the first transcontinental telegraph message.
Nov. 7: Union forces capture Port
Royal Island on the South Carolina coast.
The Morrill Land Grant
Act gives each state 30,000 acres per member of Congress to be
used to create colleges of agriculture and mechanical arts. 69
land grant colleges were established on 13 million acres.
Mar. 9: The first battle between
ironclad warships takes place off Hampton Roads, Va., where the
Union's Monitor and the Confederate's Merrimac fight to a draw.
May 1: Capt. David G. Farragut
captures New Orleans.
May 20: President Lincoln signs
the Homestead Act, giving settlers title to 160 acres if they
worked the land for five years. By 1890, 375,000 homesteaders
received 48 million acres.
June 1: Confederate Gen. Robert
E. Lee is appointed commander of the Army of Northern Virginia.
July: General David Hunter organizes
the first black regiment, the First Carolina.
July 22: President Lincoln tells
his cabinet that he intends to issue an emancipation proclamation,
but agrees to wait for a military victory so that this will not
appear to be an act of desperation.
Aug. 18: A Sioux uprising begins
in Minnesota after the government fails to pay cash annuities
agreed to under treaty. About a thousand white settlers die before
the Sioux are defeated in September.
Sept. 17: Union troops under Gen.
George McClellan halt Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's invasion
of the North at the battle of Antietam in western Maryland.
Sept. 22: President Lincoln issues
his preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, declaring that on Jan.
1, 1863 slaves in areas still in rebellion would be declared free.
Dec. 17: Gen. Ulysses S. Grant
issues his notorious Gen. Order #11, which expels Jews from his
department. The order was immediately rescinded by Pres. Lincoln.
a standard track width for railroads: 4' 8 1/2".
Jan. 1: President Lincoln signs
the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in areas in
rebellion (excluding certain parts of Louisiana and Virginia).
The Proclamation immediately freed slaves in parts of Florida,
Louisiana, and South Carolina.
Feb. 25: Congress passes the National
Banking Act, establishing nationally-chartered banks.
Mar. 3: Congress requires all
males between 20 and 45 register for military service. Draftees
could be exempted from service by paying $300 or providing a substitute.
July 3-4: The Battle of Gettysburg.
In an effort to spur European intervention, Gen. Robert E. Lee
and his army invade the North. By accident, Lee's forces encounter
George G. Meade's troops at Gettysburg, Pa., leading to the largest
battle in the western hemisphere. Confederate forces suffered
30,000 casualties; Union troops, 25,000. On July 5, Lee's army
retreated across the Potomac River, and was unable to take the
July 5: A Confederate army at
Vicksburg surrenders to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, giving the Union
control of the Mississippi River. More than 29,000 Confederate
July 11-14: The New York City
Draft Riots. Four days of rioting leave a thousand people dead
or wounded before troops brought from Gettysburg restore order.
Aug. 21: Quantrill's Raiders,
which includes Frank and Jesse James, attack Lawrence, Kansas.,
burning 185 buildings.
Oct.: President Lincoln proclaims
the last Thursday in November as Thanksgiving Day.
Nov. 19: At a ceremony marking
the dedication of a battlefield cemetery delivers the Gettysburg
Mar. 10: Ulysses S.
Grant assumes command of the Union army.
Apr. 12: At Fort Pillow, Tenn.,
Confederate Gen. Nathan Forrest's cavalry massacres African American
soldiers after they had surrendered.
July 30: The Battle of the Crater.
At Petersburg, Va., Union troops dig a 586' tunnel underneath
Confederate Lines and fill it with 8,000 lbs. of gunpowder.
Aug. 5: At the battle of Mobile
Bay, Ala., Union Adm. David Farragut, declaring "Damn the
torpedoes! Go ahead!defeats a Confederate fleet. The torpedoes
were floating casks of gunpowder with contact fuses.
Nov. 8: Pres. Lincoln defeats
Democratic candidate George B. McClellan.
Nov. 29: At dawn, some 700 Colorado
volunteers led by Col. John Chivington attack a camp of 500 Cheyenne
and Arapaho Indians who were flying an American flag and a white
flag of truce. By nightfall, at least 150 Indians, mostly women
and children, had been killed and their body parts taken as trophies.
Mar. 3: Congress establishes
the Freedman's Bureau.
Mar. 13: The Confederacy decides
to permit slaves to serve in the military.
Apr. 9: Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders
to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomatox Courthouse, Va.
Apr. 14: On Good Friday, John
Wilkes Booth shoots President Abraham Lincoln at Washington's
Ford's Theater. As he leaps to the stage (breaking a shinbone),
Booth shouts, "Sic Semper Tyrannis (Thus Always to Tyrants)."
Lincoln died the next morning. Andrew Johnson becomes the 17th
Nov. 10: Confederate Capt. Henry
Wirz, commandant of Andersonville, Ga., prison camp, is hanged
for war crimes. He is accused of ordering prisoners shot on sight,
of sending bloodhounds after escaped prisoners, and injecting
prisoners with deadly vaccines.
Dec. 18: The 13th Amendment to
the US Constitution abolishes slavery.
Dec. 24: The Ku Klux Klan is founded
in Pulaski, Tenn. Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest is appointed
the first Grand Wizard.
The first big cattle
drive takes place when cowboys drive 260,000 head from Texas to
Kansans, Missouri, and Iowa.
The first Young Woman's Christian
Association in the US opens in Boston.
Apr. 9: Congress passes the Civil
Rights Act over President Andrew Johnson's veto, granting citizenship
and civil rights to all persons born in the United States (except
Indians) and providing for the punishment of those who violate
The National Grange
of the Patrons of Husbandry, the first organization of American
farmers, is founded.
Mar. 2: The first Reconstruction
Act imposes martial law on the southern states, splits them into
five military districts, and provides for the restoration of civil
government when they ratify the 14th Amendment.
Mar. 2: Congress passes the Tenure
of Office Act, which denies the president to remove officials
who had been appointed with the Senate's consent.
Mar. 23: The second Reconstruction
Act, passed over President Johnson's veto, provides for the registration
of all qualified voters.
Mar. 30: "Seward's Icebox."
Russia sells Alaska to the United States for $7.2 million, or
less than 2 cents an acre.
July 19: The third Reconstruction
Act requires the southern states to ratify the 15th Amendment
before they are readmitted to the Union.
Feb. 24: The House
of Representatives votes to impeach President Andrew Johnson in
part for violating the Tenure of Office Act, which forbid him
to dismiss a cabinet member without congressional approval. The
Senate trial lasted 11 and a half weeks. On the major charges,
the Senate voted 35-19 for conviction, one vote short of the 2/3s
vote required for removal from office.
June 25: Congress enacts an 8-hour
workday for workers employed by the government.
July 28: The 14th Amendment to
the US Constitution grants citizenship to anyone born in the United
States and guarantees due process and equal protection of the
laws. It serves as the basis for applying the rights specified
in the US Constitution to the states.
Dec. 25: President Johnson grants
amnesty to those who had participated in "insurrection or
rebellion" against the United States.
Jan.: When Commanche
Chief Toch-a-way informs Gen. Philip H. Sheridan that he is a
"good Indian," Sheridan reportedly replied: "The
only good Indian is a dead Indian."
May 10: A golden spike is driven
into a railroad tie at Promontory Point, Utah, completing the
transcontinental railroad. Built in just over three years by 20,000
workers, it had 1,775 miles of track. The railroad's promoters
received 23 million acres of land and $64 million in loans as
US population: 39,818,449.
31-year-old John D. Rockefeller
forms Standard Oil of Ohio.
Feb. 25: Hiram R. Revels of Mississippi
becomes the first African American to serve in the US Senate.
Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina becomes the first black Representative.
Mar. 30: The 15th Amendment to
the US Constitution guarantees the right to vote regardless "of
race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
P.T. Barnum opens his
three-ring circus, hailing it as the "Greatest Show on Earth."
Jan.: Victoria Woodhull petitions
Congress demanding that women receive the vote under the 14th
Mar. 3: Congress declares that
Indian tribes will no longer be treated as independent nations
with whom the government must conduct negotiations.
Oct. 8: The Great Chicago Fire
claims 250 lives and destroys 17,500 buildings.
Montgomery Ward begins
to sell goods to rural customers by mail.
Nov. 5: Susan B. Anthony and other
women's suffrage advocates are arrested for attempting to vote
in Rochester, N.Y.
Mar. 3: The Comstock
Act prohibits the mailing of obscene literature.
Sept. 18: The Financial Panic
of 1873 begins. 5,183 business fail.
The introduction of
barbed wire provides the first economical way to fence in cattle
on the Great Plains.
The discovery of gold leads thousands
of prospectors to trespass on Indian lands the Black Hills in
The Women's Christian Temperance
Union is founded.
Mar. 11: 4-years-old Charley Brewster
Ross is abducted, the country's first kidnapping for ransom. The
child was never found.
Aug. 21: The Reverend Henry Ward
Beecher, the nation's best-known preacher, is sued by newspaper
editor Theodore Tilton for alienation of his wife's affections.
The trial resulted in a hung jury.
Mar. 1: Congress passes
the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to guarantee equal use of public
accommodations and places of public amusement. It also forbids
the exclusion of African Americans from jury duty.
Feb. 14: 29-year-old
Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.
May: The nation celebrates its
centennial by opening an International Exhibition in Philadelphia.
June 25: George A. Custer and
265 officers and enlisted men are killed by Sioux Indians led
by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse at the Little Horn River in Montana.
Charles Elmer Hires
introduces root beer.
Feb. 27: An electoral commission
declares Rutherford Hayes the winner of the disputed presidential
Apr. 10: President Hayes begins
to withdraw federal troops from the South, marking the official
end to Reconstruction.
June to Oct.: Federal troops pursue
and capture Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians of Oregon and
force them to live on an Oklahoma reservation.
July 16: The Great Railroad Strikes
begins in Marinsburg, W. Va., after the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad
imposes a 10 percent wage cut.
Dec. 6: 30-year-old Thomas Edison
invents the phonograph.
German engineer Karl
Benz produces the first automobile powered by an internal combustion
Jan. 10: The Senate defeats a
woman's suffrage amendment 34-16.
Feb. 15: Congress grants
woman attorneys the right to argue cases before the Supreme Court.
Oct. 21: Thomas Edison invents
the light bulb.
US population: 50,155,783
Helen Hunt Jackson's
Century of Dishonor recounts the government's unjust treatment
of Native Americans.
July 2: President James Garfield
is shot by Charles Guiteau, a disgruntled office-seeker. He died
on Sept. 19.
July 4: Booker T. Washington opens
July 19: Sitting Bull and other
Sioux Indians return to the United States from Canada.
In Pace v. Alabama,
the Supreme Court rules that an Alabama law imposing severe punishment
on illegal interracial intercourse than for illegal intercourse
between parties of the same race did not violate the equal protection
clause of the 14th Amendment.
Attorney Samuel Dodd devises the
trust, under which stockholders turn over control of previously
independent companies to a board of trustees.
May 6: Congress passes the Chinese
Exclusion Act, barring Chinese Chinese immigration for ten years.
Joseph Pulitzer purchases the New York World from Jay
Gould. Circulation soars from 20,000 to 250,000 in four years.
Jan. 16: Congress passes the Pendleton
Act, establishing a Civil Service Commission and filling government
positions by a merit system, including competitive examinations.
Oct. 15: The Supreme Court rules
that the Civil Rights Act of 1875 only forbids state-imposed discrimination,
not that by individuals or corporations.
Nov. 18: Railroads in the United
States and Canada adopt a system of standard time.
May 1: Construction
begins in Chicago on the first building with a steel skeleton,
William Jenney's ten-story Home Insurance Company, marking the
birth of the skyscraper.
Oct. 9: Rev. Samuel D. Burchard
of New York calls the Democrats the party of "Rum, Romanism,
and Rebellion." With help of Irish-American voters, Democratic
presidential nominee Grover Cleveland carried New York by 1,149
votes and won the election.
Dr. Stanton Coit opens
the first settlement house in New York to provide social services
to the poor.
May 1: Over 300,000 workers demonstrate
in behalf of an eight-hour work day.
May 4: The Haymarket Square bombing
in Chicago kills seven police officers and wounds sixty.
May 10: The Supreme Court holds
that corporations are persons covered by the 14th Amendment, and
are entitled to due process.
Oct. 28: President Grover Cleveland
unveils the Statue of Liberty.
Dec. 8: The American Federation
of Labor was founded, with Samuel Gompers as president. Membership
was restricted to skilled craftsmen.
Feb. 4: The Interstate
Commerce Act requires railroads to charge reasonable rates and
forbids them from from offering rate reductions to preferred customers.
Feb. 8: The Dawes Severalty Act
subdivides Indian reservations into individual plots of land of
160 to 320 acres. "Surplus" lands are sold to white
Edward Bellamy publishes
his utopian novel, Looking Backward, which predicts a cooperative
New Jersey permits holding
companies to buy up the stock of other corporations.
Apr. 22: President Benjamin Harrison
opens a portion of Oklahoma to white settlement.
May 31: Johnstown flood. An abandoned
reservoir breaks, flooding the city of Johnstown, Pa., and killing
US population: 62,947,714.
The US Bureau of the Census announces
that the western frontier was now closed.
July 2: Congress passes the Sherman
Nov. 1: Mississippi Plan. Mississippi
restricts black suffrage by requiring voters to demonstrate an
ability to read and interpret the US Constitution.
Dec. 15: Indian police kill Sitting
Bull in South Dakota.
Dec. 29: Wounded Knee Massacre.
James Naismith, a physical
education instructor at the YMCA Training College in Springfield,
Mass., invents basketball.
Mar. 14: A New Orleans mobs breaks into a prison and kills eleven
Sicilian immigrants accused of murdering the city's police chief.
May 19: The Populist party is
founded in Cincinnati, Ohio.
Sept. 22: 900,000 acres of land
ceded to the Sauk, Fox, and Pottawatomi Indians is opened to white
The boll weevil arrives
Jan. 1: Ellis Island opens to
screen immigrants. Twenty million immigrants passed through it
before it was closed in 1954.
July 2: Homestead. Henry Clay
Frick, who managed Andrew Carnegie's steelworks at Homestead,
Pa., cuts wages, precipitating a strike that begins June 26. In
a pitched battle with Pinkerton guards, brought in to protect
the plant, ten strikers and three Pinkertons are killed. Pennsylvania's
governor then sent in the state militia to protect strikebreakers.
The strike ended Nov. 20.
July 4: The Populist party nominates
James Baird Weaver, a former Union general from Iowa, for president.
A banner across the stage states: "We Do Not Ask for Sympathy
or Pity. We Ask for Justice."
Oct. 12: The World's Columbian
Exhibition opens in Chicago to commemorate the 300th anniversary
of Columbus's discovery of the New World. The first features the
first Ferris Wheel.
Frederick Jackson Turner
delivers his address on "The Significance of the Frontier
in American History," exploring the the frontier experience's
role in shaping American character.
Jan. 17: Pro-American interests
depose Queen Liliuokalani of Hawaii.
May 1: Coxey's Army.
Jacob Coxey leads a march on Washington by the unemployed.
May 10: Pullman Strike. Workers
at the Pullman sleeping car plant in Chicago go on strike after
the company cut wages without reducing rents in company-owned
housing. On June 26, the American Railway Union begins to boycott
trains carrying Pullman cars.
July 3: Federal troops enforce
a court injunction forbidding the American Railway Union from
interfering with interstate commerce and delivery of the mail.
May 20: The Supreme
Court strikes down an income tax.
May 18: Plessy v. Ferguson.
The US Supreme Court rules that segregation of blacks and whites
was permitted under the Constitution so long as both races receive
July 7: "You shall not crucify
mankind upon a cross of gold." William Jennings Bryan electrified
the Democratic convention with his "Cross of Gold" speech
and received the party's nomination, but was defeated Nov. 3 by
Republican William McKinley.
Feb. 9: The de Lome
letter, written by the Spanish minister to the United States,
characterizes Pres. McKinley as a weakling lacking integrity.
It is printed in William Randolph Hearst's New York Journal.
Feb. 15: The battleship Maine
blows up and sinks while anchored in Cuba's Havana harbor.
Apr. 25 to Aug. 12: Spanish-American
War. As a result of the conflict, the United States acquires Puerto
Rico, Guam, and the Philippines.
May 1: Commodore George Dewey's
flotilla defeats the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay in the Philippines,
suffering only eight wounded.
May 28: The Supreme Court rules
that a child born of Chinese parents in the United States is an
American citizen and cannot be deported under the Chinese Exclusion
July 7: President McKinley signs
a resolution annexing Hawaii.
The Philippines achieved
independence in 1946.
May 18-July 29: Delegates from
the US and 25 other nations meet at The Hague to discuss disarmament,
arbitration of international disputes, protection of noncombatants,
and limitations on methods of warfare.
Oct. 14: The Literary Digest writes:
"The ordinary horseless carriage is at present a luxury for
the wealthy; and although its price will fall in the future, it
will never, of course, come into as common use as the bicycle."