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A Chronology of American History: 15th | 16th | 17th | 18th | 19th | 20th

19th Century

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 ballots.

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 He pledges a frugal government and subsequently repealed all internal taxes.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 in 1806.

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 and unemployment.

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 the region.

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 destroy Prophetstown.

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 Gerry).

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 anthem.

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 founded.

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 or statue?"

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 hanged.

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 community.

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 of Independence.

Samuel E. Cornish and John B. Russwurm publish the first African American newspapers, Freedom's Journal.

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 Mormon Church.

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 River.

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, 1844.

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 skull.

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 Howe.

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 in 1837.

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 be insane.

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 at Montreal.

March 2: Texas declares its independence from Mexico.

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 without discussion.

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 experience.

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 St. Louis.

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 telegraph possible.

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 en route.

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 into obedience."

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 authorities.

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 of one."

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 California.

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 outlaw flogging.

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 war?"

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.

Abolitionist William 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 writes.

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 West.

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 in Topeka.

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 show.

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 E. Lee.

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, Calif.

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 of America.

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 army.

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.

Congress authorizes 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 offensive again.

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 troops surrender.

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 Address.

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 president.

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 those rights.

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 an incentive.

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 Amendment.

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 Dakota territory.

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 election.

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 engine.

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 Tuskegee Institute.

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 settlers.

Edward Bellamy publishes his utopian novel, Looking Backward, which predicts a cooperative commonwealth.

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 2,295 people.

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 Anti-Trust Act.

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 settlement.

The boll weevil arrives in Texas.

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 equal facilities.

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 Act.

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."


This site was updated on 24-Jul-14.

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