The Antebellum Period encompasses those years in the United States (c.1789–1861).  The period in essence covers life in the U.S. after the American Revolution, but before the US Civil War.

While conducting research for my historical fiction novel Eighth Wonder, I put together a compilation of timelines found on the internet covering the antebellum period.  Please feel free to add events that have been missed.


A.M. Calberg


The national capital at Washington, D.C., is created from land carved from the states of Maryland and Virginia.


The states ratify the Bill of Rights.


Congress passes the first Fugitive Slave Law, making it illegal to aid or prevent the arrest of runaway Negro slaves.


Congress authorizes the construction of Zane’s Trace, a road from western Virginia to Kentucky.

1797: Henry & Steinway piano company begun


Alexander Hamilton publishes Report on the Subject of Manufactures describing the state of American industry.


1800: Antes invents mechanical page-turner

Washington, D.C., becomes the national capital.

Congress divides the Northwest Territory into Ohio and Indiana.

Spain cedes the Louisiana Territory to France.

Second Great Awakening begins near the Gaspar River Church in Kentucky.


Congress establishes the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.


Grehorne makes first authentic American piano

Ohio becomes the 17th state.

United States makes the Louisiana Purchase from France.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark begin their explorations.

Supreme Court establishes the Principle of Judicial Review by declaring an act of Congress unconstitutional in Marbury v. Madison.


Black slaves declare independence in Haiti after defeating a large French army in a bloody revolt.

Eli Whitney signs a contract with the Federal government for the manufacture of 10,000 muskets in just two years.


South Carolina College est. in 1805 (later Univ. South Carolina)

Congress forms Michigan Territory.

Ice is successfully shipped from New England to the West Indies.

The Free School Society of New York City is founded; it is renamed the Public School Society of New York in 1826.


U.S. Congress prohibits the importation of African slaves.

James Madison is elected as the fourth president.


Congress forms Illinois Territory.


United States annexes West Florida.


First boat to steam down the Mississippi River reaches New Orleans.


Congress declares war on Britain—War of 1812.

December 24, 1814

Treaty of Ghent

The Treaty of Ghent, signed in the Belgian city of the same name, ends the War of 1812 between the U.S. and Britain.

First faculty appointed at West Point.

U.S. frigate Constitution defeats British frigates Guerriere and Java in separate ship-to-ship contests.

U.S. frigate United States captures British frigate Macedonian.

Louisiana becomes the 18th state.

The remnant of the Louisiana Purchase becomes the Missouri Territory.


U.S. fleet defeats the British fleet on Lake Champlain, NY.

British bombard Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

British capture Washington, D.C., and burn the Capitol and White House.

Antiwar Federalists at the Hartford, CT, convention threaten to have New England states secede.


General Andrew Jackson defeats the British at the Battle of New Orleans.

Treaty of Ghent ends the War of 1812.

First class graduates at West Point.


Indiana becomes the 19th state.


Mississippi Territory is divided into Alabama Territory and the 20th state of Mississippi.

Seminole Indians attack white settlers in Florida and Georgia.


Connecticut abolishes property qualifications for voting.

United States and Britain establish the U.S.-Canadian border to the Rocky Mountains at the 49th parallel but not for Oregon.

General Andrew Jackson invades Florida to punish the Seminole and executes two British citizens.

The first American sewing machine is invented by John A. Doge and John Knowles.


Spain, told to control the Indians or give up the remainder of Florida, cedes the region to the United States and sets the western boundary of the Louisiana Purchase in the Adams-Onis Treaty.

Supreme Court upholds the right of Congress to establish a National Bank and establishes the Doctrine of Implied Powers in McCulloch v. Maryland, a blow to strict construction of the Constitution.

Virginia’s General Assembly passes a law prohibiting the teaching of reading to Negroes.

Depression of 1819. Banks foreclose on more than 50,000 acres of farmland in Kentucky and Ohio.

Alabama becomes the 22nd state.


Congress agrees to the Missouri Compromise. Maine is admitted as a free state (23rd); Missouri is admitted as a slave state (24th).

James Monroe reelected as president.

Boston opens a school solely for black children.

Government offers as little as 80 acres of land to settlers for $1.25 an acre.

The General Land Office expressly prohibits the sectioning of land smaller than 160 acres.

Gaslights Introduced to New York City

Maine separates from Massachusetts to become its own state. Shortly thereafter, it passes anti-dueling laws that authorize a $1,000 fine against anyone who challenges another person to a duel or who accepts such a challenge.


Stephen Austin establishes the first American settlement in Texas with the approval of the Mexican government.

New York and Massachusetts abolish property qualifications for voting.


Florida is organized as a territory.


Denmark Vesey’s slave rebellion uncovered in Charleston, SC. Vesey and 34 others are executed.

South Carolina adopts the Negro Seaman Law, which places all free Negro sea-men under arrest until their ships leave port.


Monroe Doctrine warns Europe to stay out of the affairs of the Western Hemisphere.

Cotton mills in Massachusetts begin producing cloth with water-powered machinery.

The Mormon religion founded by Joseph Smith.


United States agrees to 54º 40′ for the lower limit of Russian possessions in North America.


With the electoral support of Henry Clay, John Quincy Adams is selected by the House of Representatives as president over Jackson, who had initially received the most votes.

Democratic Party is formed with Andrew Jackson at its head.

Congress adopts the Indian removal policy.

The Erie Canal opens an important route connecting New York State with the Ohio and Mississippi Valleys.

The University of Virginia is founded.

Preserving foods in tinned iron cans is first patented in America by Ezra Daggett.


Both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams die on July 4th.

The Free School Society of New York City is renamed the Public School Society of New York.

American Temperance Society is founded as part of a broad reform movement during the era of the Second Great Awakening. Temperance, the movement to limit alcohol consumption, proves to be one of the most enduring outgrowths of evangelical Christian activism. Temperance grows as a reaction against a huge spike in alcohol consumption during the early nineteenth century. Within five years, there will be 2,220 temperance societies in the United States, with 170,000 members who have taken a pledge of abstinence (sobriety).


United States and Britain agree to joint occupation of Oregon.

Congress gives the president the right to call out the militia.

The first black newspaper, Freedom’s Journal, is published in New York.

The term “technology” is first used.


Andrew Jackson is elected president.

South Carolina declares the national tariff unconstitutional nullification.


The first performance of “Metamora, or, The Last of the Mohicans,” a stage rendition of James Fenimore Cooper’s novel, stars Edwin Forrest, the first actor to earn an international reputation. It is the dramatic sensation of the 1830s.


Robert Y. Hayne debates Daniel Webster over states’ rights and the nature of the Union.

Congress adopts the Indian Removal Act, sending Indians to Oklahoma Territory.

The first functional sewing machine is produced in France by Barthelemy Thimonnier.

Godey’s Lady’s Book is published.

Lion of the West James K. Paulding writes the play “Lion of the West,” starring Nimrod Wildfire, a vernacular character based on Davy Crockett, a sort of anti-European hero whose physical strength can defeat the pretensions of his neighbors. This provides some indication of the increasing importance of the theater as a site of class co-mingling in the 1830s and onward, and an example of the way that the public constructs and celebrates popular characters and celebrities such as Crockett.The final months of the 1830s saw the proliferation of a revolutionary new technologyphotography. Hence, the infant industry of photographic portraiture preserved for history a few rare, but invaluable, first images of human beings—and therefore also preserved our earliest, live peek into “fashion in action”—and its impact on everyday life and society as a whole. (Wikipedia)


Nat Turner leads a slave revolt in Virginia.

The Anti-Masonic Party is formed.

Prudence Crandall, a Pennsylvania Quaker, opens a school for black girls in Connecticut.

Supreme Court upholds the removal of the Cherokee nation from Georgia.


Black Hawk War with the Sauk Indians of Illinois commences.

Andrew Jackson reelected as president.

South Carolina Nullification Convention nullifies the 1828 and 1832 Tariffs.

Cholera epidemics sweep American cities.

June 1832 Cholera Epidemic in New York

A cholera epidemic strikes New York City. It has killed some 30,000 in Britain and city officials have tried to prevent its spread by keeping all incoming vessels 300 yards from any dock if the captain suspects there is cholera aboard. The effort is unsuccessful; nearly 3,500 of the city’s 250,000 residents die by September.Brigham Young converts to Mormonism.

December 1, 1832

Bowery Theatre Overcrowded

A theater crowd attending a performance of Shakespeare’s Richard III (in the Bowery, a working-class neighborhood in New York City) is so large that some 300 people overflow onto the stage, examine the actors’ costumes (presumably because they are curious about the detail and the materials employed), race across the stage, and surround Richard and Richmond, forcing them to extend their swordfight for almost fifteen minutes. The rioters make T.D. Rice repeat his famous “Jim Crow” dance (in blackface) twenty times.1833

Oberlin College is established as an abolitionist center.

American Anti-Slavery Society is formed.

Slavery is abolished in the British Empire.

April 9, 1833

First Public Library Founded

The nation’s first tax-supported public library is founded in Peterborough, New Hampshire.

September 3, 1833

Daily Newspapers Begin

The penny press—a one-cent daily newspaper affordable to working-class readers—emerges with Benjamin Day’s New York Sun. Competitors quickly materialize. In 1835 James Gordon Bennett starts the New York Herald, which quickly becomes a leading metropolitan journal.

December 3, 1833

First Women Enrolled at Oberlin College

Oberlin College opens and soon begins enrolling women, becoming the first co-educational college in United States.

May 6, 1833

Andrew Jackson Nose Pulled

Andrew Jackson’s nose is allegedly pulled by a disgruntled former Navy Lieutenant named Robert Beverly Randolph. In response to this insult to Jackson’s honor, the 66-year-old president tries to beat Randolph with his cane, but Randolph flees.


Whig Party is formed.

Senate censures Jackson for killing the National Bank.

First Methodist mission and farming settlement is founded in Oregon.

Cyrus McCormick patents the mechanical reaper

Walter Hunt, an American, produces a hand-cranked sewing machine.

Jacob Perkins patents an early system for refrigeration.

Maria Monk’s Awful Discourses of the Hotel Dieu Nunnery of Montreal is first published.

The Ursuline Convent in Charlestown near Boston is burned.

Anti-Abolition Riots break out in Northern cities.


Texas revolts against Mexican rule.

An unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Jackson is made.

The Seminole Indian War begins with the massacre of U.S. troops.

Samuel Colt invents the revolving pistol.


New York Sun

Benjamin Day’s paper, the New York Sun, achieves the largest circulation in the world, with 19,360 readers a day.

April 1, 1835

William Gilmore Simms Publishes The Yemassee

William Gilmore Simms, a pro-slavery man of letters, publishes The Yemassee (a story about an Indian war in 1715) and The Partisan, the first in a seven-part series on the American Revolution in South Carolina.

May 6, 1835

The New York Herald

James Gordon Bennett, a Scottish-born newspaper editor in America, launches a new penny paper of four four-column pages called the New York Herald. Though he begins with only $500 in capital and he works out of a cellar on Wall Street, Bennett’s paper quickly rivals Benjamin Day’s Sun and sells 15,000 copies a day within the year.

August 20, 1835

P.T. Barnum Exhibits Joice Heth

P.T. Barnum exhibits Joice Heth, a woman supposedly 161 years old, who claims to have been the nurse of George Washington.


Mexican General Antonio Santa Anna massacres Texans at the Alamo.

Samuel Houston defeats Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto and Texas becomes an independent republic.

Arkansas becomes the 25th state.

Congress forms Wisconsin Territory.

William H. McGuffey publishes the first of his standard elementary school readers.

Virginia Military Institute is founded.

February 19, 1836

P.T. Barnum Hold Public Autopsy

Joice Heth, the elderly slave woman who P.T. Barnum purchased and exhibited as the 161-year-old nurse of George Washington, passes away. Barnum capitalizes on her death by agreeing to a heavily publicized public autopsy on her body that attracted some 1,500 observers. Ostensibly this is in order to determine whether or not Heth was as old as Barnum had claimed. The surgeon presiding over the autopsy says that she probably wasn’t over 80 years old.

September 19, 1836

Transcendental Club Begins

The Transcendental Club begins as an informal discussion group that meets at members’ homes in Boston and Concord. It attracts clergymen, intellectuals, and reformers, most notably Ralph Waldo Emerson, the essayist, lecturer, and poet, who rejects pure reason in favor of a transcendent world beyond, one occupied by ideals, morals, and intuition.

February 23, 1836

Siege of the Alamo

Five thousand Mexican soldiers under General Santa Anna lay siege to the Alamo, an old mission in San Antonio, Texas, that has been occupied by Americans fighting for Texas independence.

March 6, 1836

The Alamo Seized

Mexican forces attack the Alamo mission and its 189 defenders. Only sixteen women, children, and servants survive. Among the slain are frontiersman Davy Crockett (who uses his musket, “Old Betsy,” as a club in his final hours), Jim Bowie (inventor of the Bowie knife), and a group of Texans and American volunteers. “Remember the Alamo” becomes a rallying cry for Sam Houston’s Texan forces,

April 1836

Santa Anna Captured

Fighting in the Texan war for independence ceases after General Santa Anna is taken prisoner; he subsequently buys his freedom.

April 10, 1836

Jewett Murder

On a cold spring night in New York City, 23-year-old prostitute Helen Jewett is found hacked to death by an axe in the Manhattan brothel where she lives. Her corpse is still smoldering from the fire that the murderer set to her mahogany bed. The scandalous crime and subsequent murder trial of Jewett’s regular customer, eighteen-year-old Richard P. Robinson, becomes one of the first salacious murder mysteries to be covered extensively by the press.

Martin Van Buren is elected president.


A general economic depression becomes the Panic of 1837.

Supreme Court membership is increased from seven to nine justices.

Mount Holyoke Seminary for women opens in Massachusetts.

Victoria becomes the Queen of England.

May 10, 1837

Panic of 1837

The economy falls into a depression known as the Panic of 1837. The crisis begins with a financial panic, with the total face value of banknotes in circulation nationwide almost four times the total value of specie (money). Apart from a brief recovery in 1838, the depression will last until 1843.

March 1, 1837

Nathaniel Hawthorne Twice Told Tales

Author Nathaniel Hawthorne earns some measure of fame with the publication of Twice Told Tales.

July 13, 1837

Victorian Era Begins

Britain’s Queen Victoria becomes the first monarch to occupy Buckingham Palace as the so-called “Victorian Era” commences. It will endure until 1901.

Dwight founds Harvard Musical Association 


Boston Musical Gazette appears

U.S. troops forcibly remove the Cherokee from Georgia (Trail of Tears).

Congress adopts the “Gag” rule limiting discussion of antislavery.

Congress creates a new patent law to deal with competing claims to inventions.

Some Northern states pass Personal Liberty Laws to obstruct the capture of fugitive slaves.

The Underground Railroad is developed.

Samuel F.B. Morse introduces the Morse code.


Benjamin Day Sells Sun

Benjamin Day sells his wildly successful newspaper, the New York Sun, to his brother-in-law, Moses Yale Beach, for $40,000.

February 24, 1838

Cilley Death Kills Duels

A duel between Maine congressman Jonathan Cilley and Kentucky Representative William Graves results in the death of Cilley, who becomes the last member of the U.S. House to die in a duel. The public outcry over Cilley’s death results in a popular reaction against dueling in the North and the passage of a Maine state law that fines a person $100 for ridiculing anyone who refuses to duel. All of the Supreme Court Justices refuse to attend Cilley’s funeral as a show of protest against the practice.

January 6, 1838

Samuel Morse Demonstrates Telegraph

Samuel Morse first publicly demonstrates his telegraph in Morristown, New Jersey.

First McGuffey’s Eclectic Reader is released.

Congress forms Iowa Territory.


The Amistad slave ship is found off Long Island, NY.

Louis Daguerre invents the daguerreotype, the first successful form of photography.


Panic of 1839

Another financial depression inaugurates a recession that endures for two years. Prices fall, as does production.


Realist Painting Reaches Mass

From about 1839 onward, realist painting appeals to a new mass audience. It is influenced by photography, which debuts in France in 1839 and spreads quickly across the globe. Realism employs social and historical narrative (with artists such as Wilkie and Poynter) or serious religious, moral, or social messages (including the pre-Raphaelites, Millet, etc.) often drawn from ordinary life. Realistic novelists present the complete spectrum of social classes and personalities, but retain sentimentality and moral judgment (these include Eliot, Dickens, Tolstoy, and Balzac). See examples such as Oliver Twist and Anna Karenina.

March 23, 1839

O.K. Coined

The Boston Morning Post first prints a hip new buzzword-“O.K.”-after President Martin Van Buren, who was known as “Old Kinderhook” (for Kinderhook, his hometown in New York state) and used to initial “O.K.” in the margins of paperwork that received his approval.

August 19, 1839

Daguerrotype Invented

Louis Jacques Daguerre of France invents the daguerreotype, the first form of photography.


Congress passes the Subtreasury Bill in an effort to stem the effects of the ongoing Panic of 1837.

William Henry Harrison is elected president

New Zealand is founded, as the Treaty of Waitangi is signed by the Māori and British.

August 18, 1840

First Class Photograph

The first “class photograph,” of the Yale College 30th reunion, is taken by American inventor and artist Samuel F.B. Morse.


John Tyler becomes president when Harrison unexpectedly dies of pneumonia.

The Amistad Africans are freed by the Supreme Court.

Immigration to the United States from Ireland and Britain approaches 300,000 in the previous 10 years.


Rhode Island liberalizes voting requirements.

The New York City Public School Department is formed.

Seminoles are defeated and removed to Oklahoma.

The right of workers to strike established by the Massachusetts State Court.

Dr. Crawford Long uses anesthetic gas in his surgery.

April 4, 1841

Tyler Becomes President

John Tyler becomes the first vice-president to become President by succession, taking power upon the death of 68-year-old William Henry Harrison, who infamously dies of pneumonia one month after delivering an hour-and-forty-five-minute inauguration speech outside in a snowstorm. Harrison is the first U.S. president to die in office.

April 10, 1841

Horace Greeley Founds New York Tribune

Journalist Horace Greeley founds The New York Tribune as a paper aligned with the Whig party in response to the sensationalism of the penny press; it promotes the reforms of the day and sets a precedent in literary journalism with the nation’s first regular book-review column (in 1849).

July 1, 1841

Beautiful Cigar Girl Murdered

Mary Cecilia Rogers, the “Beautiful Cigar Girl” who tends the counter at a popular New York City cigar store, mysteriously disappears. Her body is found floating in the Hudson River three days later, badly bruised and waterlogged, just a few feet from the New Jersey shore. The crime becomes a focus of the penny press, popular fiction, and public fascination.

August 21, 1841

Venetian Blind Patented

John Hampson of New Orleans patents the venetian blind.


Benjamin Day Founds Brother Jonathan

Benjamin Day founds the monthly Brother Jonathan. It will later become the first illustrated weekly in America.

January 22, 1842

Charles Dickens Tours America

Thirty-year-old British writer Charles Dickens first journeys to America. Americans are exhilarated to catch a glimpse of the author, already beloved on this side of the Atlantic for Sketches by Boz, The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, and Nicholas Nickleby. But the tour does not go well; Dickens finds Americans rude and vulgar, and they begin to dislike him in turn, especially after he begins delivering after-dinner speeches chastising them for reading pirated copies of his works. (There is no international copyright law at the time.)


The great migration on the Oregon Trail begins.

Congress finances a telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.

Charles Dickens publishes A Christmas Carol.


Vulcanization of Rubber

Around this time period (in the mid-to-late 1840s), the development of the vulcanization process facilitates the production of condoms from crepe rubber, which is a vast improvement from the expensive and ill-fitting predecessors that had to be put on, very carefully, with both hands. Condoms will be used with increasing frequency by the 1870s.1844

Samuel F.B. Morse sends first telegraph message: “What God hath Wrought!”

Uriah Boyden invents a more efficient turbine waterwheel.

Composer Stephen C. Foster gains recognition.

In Philadelphia, two Catholic churches and 30 Irish homes are burned.

Persian Prophet the Báb announces his revelation on May 23, founding Bábísm. He announced to the world of the coming of “He whom God shall make manifest.” He is considered the forerunner of Bahá’u’lláh, the founder of the Bahá’í Faith.

First publicly funded telegraph line in the world—between Baltimore and Washington—sends demonstration message on May 24, ushering in the age of the telegraph. This message read “What hath God wrought?” (Bible, Numbers 23:23)

Millerite movement awaits the Second Advent of Jesus Christ on October 22. Christ’s non-appearance becomes known as the Great Disappointment.

Dominican War of Independence from Haiti.

May 24, 1844

First Telegraph from Washington to Baltimore

Inventor Samuel F.B. Morse transmits the message, ”What hath God wrought!” from Washington to Baltimore as he opens America’s first telegraph line.


Irish Potato Famine

The Irish potato famine results in the starvation of a million Irishmen and the forced emigration of two million more; more than one million of those come to the United States. Along with immigration from other European countries and a much smaller number of arrivals from South America, China, and Australia who come to California for the gold rush, the influx of Irish leads to the highest rate of immigration in national history. It also sparks a surge of nativism among
Anglo-Saxon Americans who feel threatened by the newcomers.
June 1, 1845

Frederick Douglass Publishes Narrative

Escaped slave, orator, and abolitionist Frederick Douglass publishes his Narrative.

1846 – Elias Howe invents sewing machine.

5b.  Essays on American Antebellum Politics, 1840-1860
by William E. Gienapp, Thomas B. Alexander, Michael F. Holt. 229 pgs.

Ether is used as an anesthetic for the first time, at the office of Boston dentist William Morton.

1845:  first American composes Italian-style opera

1849: first important string chamber music group established in America, Henry David Thoreau publishes his classic essay on “Civil Disobedience,” written in response to his arrest and imprisonment a few years prior for refusing to pay his state poll tax as a protest against the Mexican-American War.

The Astor Place riot erupts in New York City over the rivalry between two actors—Edwin Forrest of America and William Charles Macready of England. Macready symbolizes aristocratic snobbery and oppression to many Americans, though not for any ascertainable reasons aside from his English nationality and his appearance at an elite, high-priced theater. A mob of Forrest partisans—primarily working-class men—storm the hated (presumably elitist) Astor Place Opera House in an attack on Macready, who is performing in Macbeth that night; 22 are killed and over 100 injured. The riot becomes an important turning point in the history of theater; soon thereafter, legislators, theater managers, and the police end such uprisings for good and regulate the theater as a primarily middle-class domain.


By the early 1850s, a few forms of birth control are available (with limited rates of effectiveness), notably the douche & different types of intrauterine devices. Women are also familiar with the rhythm method, in which they only have intercourse during the time of the month when they believe that they are not fertile. But ignorance about the female fertility cycle diminishes the effectiveness of this form of birth control.


Nathaniel Hawthorne Publishes The Scarlet Letter

Nathaniel Hawthorne publishes The Scarlet Letter, the tale of a seventeenth-century adulteress named Hester Prynne in a Puritan community.


George Foster Describes New York

George G. Foster’s New York by Gas-Light and Other Urban Sketches shocks and fascinates Victorian readers with lurid tales and vivid descriptions of the urban subculture quickly emerging out of the nation’s largest and fastest-growing metropolis.


Order of the Star-Spangled Banner

The Know-Nothing (or American) Party is founded as the Order of the Star Spangled Banner, a nativist organization and secret society in New York under the leadership of James W. Barker.

April 4, 1850

Los Angeles Incorporated

Los Angeles is incorporated as a city.

The Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War

  • 1850: The Little Ice Age ends around this time.
  • 1851: The Great Exhibition in London was the world’s first international Expo or World’s Fair.
  • 1851–52: The Platine War ends and the Empire of Brazil has the hegemony over South America. Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom’s Cabin, initially as a series of articles in an abolitionist newspaper. The book sells 500,000 copies in its first year; next to the Bible, it is the most popular book of the nineteenth century and probably the most important book in American history. During the Civil War, Lincoln meets Stowe in the White House and reportedly says to her: “So you’re the little lady that caused this great big war.”


August 3, 1852

Harvard beats Yale in First Game

In the first intercollegiate sports event of any kind, Harvard beats Yale in rowing.

1851 Moby Dick Published Herman Melville publishes Moby-Dick.

June 1853

Yellow Fever Epidemic

A Yellow Fever epidemic kills over 10,000 people during the summer in New Orleans, a fatality rate of approximately 22%.


Whitman Publishes Leaves of Grass

The first edition of Walt Whitman’s poetry masterpiece, Leaves of Grass, is published to acclaim from Ralph Waldo Emerson and shock and scorn from most other critics.

Republican Party Founded

The Republican Party is founded in Ripon, Wisconsin, by former members of the Whig and Free-Soil Parties.

August 9, 1854

Thoreau Publishes Walden

Henry David Thoreau publishes Walden: Life in the Woods. The author has spent almost a decade living in a cabin on Ralph Waldo Emerson’s land. The title of the book comes from the name of the pond where Thoreau built the cabin. It extols the virtues of simplicity, nature, and pensive thought.

October 1854

First Detectives Begin in San Francisco

The San Francisco police department establishes one of the first detective units in the country.


Theatre Discourages Working-Class Audience

San Francisco theaters began to issue warning statements on playbills that there will be, owing to the length of the plays, “NO FARCE.” A “sacralization” of the theater takes hold, establishing a reserved middle-class ideal for theater audiences that shapes cultural attitudes and practices. Within a generation (by the 1870s), no such explanations will be offered, nor will they be deemed necessary any longer. The theater will no longer be the province of rowdy working-class audiences who openly recite the Shakespearean lines from memory and express their disapproval if the actors do not pass muster.

April 1, 1856

Western Union Founded

The New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company, which was established in 1851, changes its name to The Western Union Telegraph Company.

Panic of 1857

A recession strikes the economy, causing mass unemployment that lasts through the winter. Walt Whitman estimates that there are 25,000 jobless and 100,000 others affected in New York City alone.

1858 Baseball Championship Charges Admission

For the first time, fans are charged admission to watch a baseball game. 1,500 spectators pay 50 cents each to see the first game of the national championship series played on a Long Island racecourse (in present-day Corona, Queens). The New York All-Stars beat Brooklyn, 22-18.

March 30, 1858

Pencil with Eraser Patented

Inventor Hyman Lipman of Philadelphia patents the pencil with attached eraser.

July 1, 1858

Natural Selection and Evolution Discussed

Darwin’s theories of natural selection and evolution are first revealed in a meeting of the Linnean Society in London.

August 2, 1858

First Mailboxes Installed

Mailboxes are installed for the first time, on the streets of New York and Boston.

August 16, 1858

Queen Telegraphs President

A telegraphed message from Britain’s Queen Victoria to President James Buchanan is transmitted over the recently laid trans-Atlantic cable.

[edit] 1860s

The first vessels sail through the Suez Canal

Robert Koch discovered the tuberculosis bacilli. In the 19th century, tuberculosis killed an estimated one-quarter of the adult population of Europe.[8]