The Thirteenth Amendment is ratified, permanently outlawing slavery.
Events that shaped the geography and collective identity of the United States.
In the Colorado Territory, a 700-man militia attacks a Cheyenne and Arapaho village, ignoring the American flag flying over the Indian lodge. Although initially reported as a victory over hostile Indians, a government investigation later reveals that two-thirds of the 163 victims are women and children. Backlash to the Sand Creek Massacre results in government promises – reparations of land and cash for survivors and relatives. Some descendants claim these promises remain unfulfilled and still seek justice for the atrocity.
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Anarchist Alexander Berkman attempts to assassinate Henry Clay Frick, the powerful anti-union manager of Carnegie Steel during the Homestead Strike. Strongly influenced by the events of his early life in Russia and, later, the Haymarket Affair in Chicago, Berkman becomes a lifelong proponent of anarchism. He writes that anarchy is a “rational and practical conception of a social life’ and advocates that terrorism can become “a catalyst, awakening others to take action against a perceived injustice.”
The U.S. Army Seventh Cavalry massacres 150 Sioux Indians, mostly women and children, at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
The Cotton States and International Exposition takes place in Atlanta, Georgia. On opening day, Booker T. Washington delivers a historic speech, commonly referred to as "The Atlanta Exposition Address." His vision is to improve African Americans’ lives through education, not social change. In his speech Washington says, "In all things that are purely social we can be as separate as the fingers, yet one as the hand in all things essential to mutual
progress." According to
one reporter, Washington’s
speech marks "a new
epoch in the history
of the South."
The Fifteenth Amendment is ratified, prohibiting states from denying a citizen the right to vote based on a person’s "race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
The influence of progressivism is evident as conservationist John Muir organizes the nation’s first environmental organization. For more than twenty years, Muir had lived in the Yosemite Valley in California and sung its praises. Muir’s mission to preserve its natural beauty convinces Congress to create Yosemite National Park in 1890. Two years later, Muir and other local naturalists found the Sierra Club in San Francisco, California.
The first of a series of homestead acts is signed into law by President Lincoln. The acts remain in effect until 1976, except in Alaska where homesteading is allowed until 1986.
Settlers line up for the first of several land runs disposing of former Indian lands in the Oklahoma Territory. Under the Indian Appropriation Act of 1889, the federal government authorizes settlement of lands ceded by Creek and Seminole Indians after the Civil War. The land is divided into 160-acre plots and opened to settlers in a "land run," a race to claim farm and town lots. About fifty thousand eager settlers wait on the perimeter that morning for the land run to begin. At noon the opening shots are fired. Men and a few women race on horseback, on foot, in covered wagons, and hanging on to the sides and tops of slowly moving trains, all trying to beat their fellow "Boomers" in the mad scramble to stake a claim. Many are disappointed to find the land already occupied by "Sooners," settlers who had snuck into the territory days before, beating the "Boomers" to some of the best claims. The cities of Oklahoma City, Guthrie, Norman, and Stillwater are established overnight.
Chief Quanah Parker leads the Quahadi Comanches, the last free Indians of the Llano Estacado, onto reservation land in Southwestern Oklahoma. Relentlessly pursued by the army and deprived of their principal source of subsistence by the buffalo massacres of white hunters, the Quahadi Comanches surrendered their nomadic way of life for a life of farming, ranching, and education in the ways of the white man. Parker himself advocated cooperation, and to some extent assimilation, yet he rejected both monogamy and Christianity. A clever businessman, Parker became
perhaps the wealthiest
American Indian of his day
and a friend of President
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George E Waring, Jr., publishes a book that sparks municipal reforms in public health, building codes, and sanitation systems.
The United States Senate ratifies a treaty by one vote to purchase the Alaska territory from Russia for $7.2 million. The purchase, made at the urging of U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward, adds 586,412 square miles of mostly unexplored territory to the United States. Critics of "Seward’s Folly" are eventually silenced when the discovery of gold in Alaska during the 1880s and 1890s reveals the territory is rich in natural resources.
Charles and Frank Duryea, two bicycle mechanics, build the first gasoline-powered "motor wagon" to be operated in the United States. The automobile is essentially a four-wheeled carriage driven by a single-cylinder gasoline-fueled engine. At its test run, the automobile is pushed by three men until the motor sputters to life. The vehicle then runs under its own power for about 200 feet. The top speed is approximately 7.5 miles per hour. Lacking brakes, it is stopped by driving it into a pile of dirt.
In 1895 in Springfield, Massachusetts, the Duryea Brothers form the first U.S. company to manufacture and sell automobiles. The following year, the new company builds thirteen 1896 model Duryea Motor Wagons in its Springfield shop. This marks the beginning of the American automobile industry.
Journalist Nellie Bly arrives home in New York City after completing a breakneck race around the globe. Her travels are followed by readers all over the country in dispatches sent by submarine cable networks and the electric telegraph and then published daily in the New York World. Bly is a new breed of journalist; in 1887, she makes her reputation by committing herself to the Women’s Lunatic Asylum in New York City for ten days, then writing a series that exposes the cruel treatment to which its patients are subjected.
Over the next two years, Bly continues to hone her skills as an undercover, investigative journalist by posing as a sweatshop worker, a domestic employee, a chorus girl, and an unwed mother. But her fame skyrockets when she embarks on a trip around the world with the intent of beating the time of fictional character Phileas Fogg in Jules Verne’s Around the World in 80 Days. Jumping cargo ships, trains, tugboats and rickshaws, Bly arrives in New York 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, and 14 seconds later. At the age of 25, she is the most famous woman on earth.
The U.S. Supreme Court rules in the landmark case, Plessy v. Ferguson, that “separate but equal” facilities are legal, a decision that stands until the 1950s.
• November 6 –
Abraham Lincoln is elected President.
• December 20 –
South Carolina secedes from the Union.
Senator Charles Sumner, a dominant Radical Republican in the Senate, begins drafting the Civil Rights Act with the assistance of John Mercer Langston, a prominent African American and dean of the law department at Howard University. The bill guarantees African Americans equal treatment in public accommodations and public transportation and also prohibits their exclusion from jury duty. Congress finally passes the act in February 1875 and it is signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1875. It is the last civil rights bill to be passed in the United States until the Civil Rights Act of 1957. In 1883 the Supreme Court declares the Act unconstitutional, but provisions of the 1875 bill are later
included in the civil rights
legislation of the 1960s.
Helen Hunt Jackson publishes Ramona, a novel about the mistreatment of California Indians.
Abraham Lincoln is re-elected President of the United States
The Spanish-American War helps redefine America’s identity as a world power. The United States also annexes the strategically located Hawaiian Islands to serve as a mid-Pacific fueling station and naval installation.
The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified, requiring states to provide equal protection under the law to all people within their jurisdiction.
The New York branch of the Young Women's Christian Association introduces the first courses in typewriting. Because it was believed that such work might be too strenuous for young women, applicants were subjected to a thorough physical examination. Out of the many applicants, eight were accepted for the six-month intensive training program. The women survived the course, and the public outcry against the lapse of feminine propriety it represented, and went on to be employed as “type-writer girls.” The Type-Writer Girl soon became an icon of social change. She appeared in novels, plays, advertisements and postcards, representing the aspirations of women for a career and independence without endangering traditional notions of femininity. As one early advertisement for typewriters claimed: “No invention has opened for women so broad and easy an avenue to profitable and suitable employment as the ‘Type-Writer.’”
Dr. John S. Pemberton sells the first Coca-Cola at a pharmacy in Atlanta, Georgia.
Sioux and Cheyenne Indians defeat U.S. Army forces in the Battle of the Little Bighorn, Montana.
The Panic of 1873 triggers the most severe economic depression in U.S. history prior to the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Edwin "Colonel" Drake is popularly credited with "discovering" oil after searching in the area of Titusville, Pennsylvania, for several years with little success. To dig deeper, he invents the drive pipe. At 32 feet he strikes bedrock. Drilling tools are then lowered through the pipe and steam is used to drill through the bedrock. The drilling progresses at the frustrating pace of three feet per day. Finally, at a depth
of 69 ½ feet, Drake strikes
oil. His methods are soon
imitated by others,
resulting in the birth of the
A devastating fire starts in the barn of Patrick and Catherine O’Leary, killing hundreds of people and destroying nearly four square miles of Chicago’s downtown area. The Great Chicago Fire is one of the largest U.S. disasters of the 19th century, but the fire initiates many positive changes in safety rules and building codes. The rebuilding phase also helps develop Chicago into one of the most populous and economically thriving American cities of the 20th century.
On December 30, as the nineteenth century comes to a close, the New York Herald publishes "A Salutation from the nineteenth Century to the twentieth" by the Anti-Imperialist League’s most famous member, Mark Twain. The League, formed two years earlier in Boston, quickly spreads across the country. Its members believe that the United States’ aggressive expansion into Hawaii and the Philippines represents a dangerous departure from the founding democratic principles and they mount a concerted opposition to the new foreign policy they label "un-American." Among its leaders are Jane Addams, Moorfield Storey (later the first president of the National Association for the Advancement of
Colored People), Andrew Carnegie,
and Samuel Gompers of the
American Federation of Labor.
The Molly Maguires, a clandestine society of Irish Catholic miners operating in the anthracite-coal region of Pennsylvania, are forced to disband after twenty of their members are hanged for terrorism and murder. The organization’s use of violence to fight worker exploitation reflects the frustration and turbulent nature of labor relations in America at that time.
Ida B. Wells is asked by a train conductor to move from her seat in the ladies’ car to a smoking car in the front of the train because she is black. When she resists, three men forcibly remove her from her seat. She later files a successful suit against the railroad for failing to provide “separate but equal” facilities. The case draws tremendous public interest and sparks a series of editorials by Wells in which she condemns the
for their oppression
of the blacks.
Charles and Frank Duryea form the first U.S. company to manufacture and sell automobiles.
The town of Nicodemus, Kansas, is founded by two men: Reverend W.H. Smith, a black minister and W.R. Hill, a white land promoter. The town symbolizes the pioneering spirit of ex-slaves who fled the South in search of freedom after the war.
Henry McNeal Turner, a civil rights activist and a bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal church, publishes a pamphlet in which he sharply criticizes the Supreme Court's decision to declare the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional.
Groups of mid-western farmers, eastern industrialists, and western producers unite in an anti-monopoly movement to oppose the unchecked power exerted by railroad companies over commerce and transportation. At the National Anti-Monopoly Party convention in Chicago in 1884, delegates adopt a progressive platform that advocates labor reforms, election of U.S. Senators by a direct vote, and a graduated income tax. The National Labor Relations
Board and several political
reform measures enacted
in later years trace their
roots to this short-lived
Journalist Nelly Bly arrives home after her record-breaking 72 day trip around the world.
Events that affected people’s ability to determine their own actions.
The Dalton Gang’s last robbery attempt takes place in Coffeyville, Kansas.
The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the United States, is dedicated in New York Harbor as a memorial to independence and human liberty.
Thomas Edison invents the first practical incandescent electric light bulb.
America’s oldest Italian restaurant, the Fior d’Italia, opens in the heart of San Francisco’s North Beach. The restaurant is established to serve the clients of a bordello located in the same building, but it soon becomes popular with other San Franciscans. The original restaurant burns in 1893 and a subsequent location is destroyed in the earthquake of 1906. The day after the earthquake the restaurant “reopens” in a tent, serving soup out of great kettles to the newly homeless populace. The restaurant operates out of the tent for the next year while San Francisco is rebuilt. The Fior is an integral part of the cultural life of the city for over a century, serving presidents, ambassadors, celebrities and tycoons. It continues to serve the traditional Northern Italian cuisine served by its original Italian immigrant owners.
Choices and policies that influenced the possession of common rights.
The first telephone line is constructed from Boston to Somerville, Mass.
Innovations that changed the way Americans lived.