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A Chronology of the Gilded Age

1868 | 1869 | 1870 | 1871 | 1872 | 1873 | 1874 | 1875 | 1876 | 1877 | 1878
1879 | 1880 | 1881 | 1882 | 1883 | 1884 | 1885 | 1886 | 1887 | 1888 | 1889
1890 | 1891 | 1892 | 1893 | 1894 | 1895 | 1896 | 1897 | 1898 | 1899


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.


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."

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.

Samuel Gompers testifies before a Congressional committee about his organization, the American Federation of Labor.

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 Steelworks
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.


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.

John D. Rockefeller comments on Industrial Combinations.



This site was updated on 29-Nov-15.

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