Decade By Decade: Timelines of the 1800s
January 1850: The Compromise of 1850 is introduced in the US Congress. The legislation would eventually pass and be highly controversial, but it essentially delayed the Civil War by a decade.
November: Herman Melville’s novel Moby Dick is published.
March 20: Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
June 29: Death of Henry Clay. The great legislator's body was taken from Washington, D.C. to his home in Kentucky and elaborate funeral observances were held in cites along the way.
July 4: Frederick Douglass delivers notable speech, “The Meaning of July 4th for the Negro.”
October 24: Death of Daniel Webster.
November 2: Franklin Pierce elected President of the United States.
March 4: Franklin Pierce is sworn in as President of the United States.
July 8: Commodore Matthew Perry sails into Japanese harbor near present day Tokyo with four American warships, demanding to deliver a letter to the emperor of Japan.
December: Gadsden Purchase signed.
March: The Crimean War begins.
March 31: Treaty of Kanagawa signed.
May 30: The Kansas-Nebraska Act signed into law. The legislation, designed to lessen the tension over slavery, actually has the opposite effect.
September 27: The steamship S.S. Arctic collides with another ship off the coast of Canada and sinks with a great loss of life. The disaster was considered scandalous as women and children were left to die in the ice waters of the Atlantic.
October: Florence Nightingale leaves Britain for the Crimean War.
January: The Panama Railroad opens, and the first locomotive to travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific travels on it.
July: Walt Whitman publishes his first edition of Leaves of Grass in Brooklyn, New York.
November: The violence over slavery that will become known as “Bleeding Kansas” begins in the US territory of Kansas.
November: David Livingstone becomes the first European to view Victoria Falls in Africa.
May 22: Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts is attacked and beaten with a cane in the US Senate chamber by Representative Preston Brooks of South Carolina.
May 24: Abolitionist fanatic John Brown and his followers perpetrate the Pottawatomie Massacre in Kansas.
October: Second Opium War begins between Britain and China.
November 4: James Buchanan elected president of the United States.
March 4: James Buchanan in inaugurated as President of the United States. He becomes very ill at his own inauguration, raising questions in the press about whether he was poisoned in a failed assassination attempt.
August-October 1858, perennial rivals Stephen Douglas and Abraham Lincoln hold a series of seven debates in Illinois while running for a U.S. Senate seat. Douglas won the election, but the debates elevated Lincoln, and his anti-slavery views, to national prominence.
October 16, abolitionist fanatic John Brown launches a raid against the U.S. arsenal at Harper's Ferry.
December 2: following a trial, abolitionist John Brown is hanged for treason. His death energizes many sympathizers in the North, and makes him a martyr.