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19th Century History: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
Charles Darwin's Five Years Circling the Globe...
HMS Beagle carried Charles Darwin around the world for five years and influenced his later thinking about how life evolved.
Why Krakatoa Became Worldwide News
Krakatoa's colossal eruption in 1883 became an early worldwide media event thanks to news traveling very quickly by telegraph.
How the British Burned the White House and...
The burning of Washington in 1814 by British troops was a humiliating episode in American history.
How Five Points Became New York's Most...
Learn about the Five Points, a notorious neighborhood in New York City in the 1800s.
The Uprising That Shook British India
The Sepoy Mutiny, also known as the Indian Revolt of 1857, shook British rule in India.
The Most Important Events of the 1800s
The 19th century was a time of tremendous change, and this comprehensive timeline will help you navigate through the decades of the 1800s.
Anaconda Plan
Definition of Anaconda Plan. 19th Century History.
How Colonial Rule Defined India in the 1800s
The Raj, as British India was known, was the jewel of the British Empire in the 1800s.
Timeline from 1880 to 1890
The timeline of the 1880s includes labor unrest, turmoil in Russia, warfare in Afghanistan, and celebrations for new landmarks in New York City.
Why 1816 Was the Year Without a Summer
A widespread weather disaster caused by a volcanic eruption made 1816 known as the Year Without a Summer.
Learn About the 19th Century's Largest Volcanic...
The eruption of the volcano at Mount Tambora in 1815 was the largest volcanic eruption of the 19th century and contributed to 1816 being known as
What Is the Nullification Crisis?
Definition of Nullification Crisis
Notable Authors of the 19th Century
The 19th century was known for literary figures. Read about authors of the 1800s, including Washington Irving, Emma Lazarus, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Charles Darwin.
Compromise of 1877 Ended Reconstruction,...
Definition of Compromise of 1877
Timeline from 1890 to 1900
The 1890s: A decade of events ranging from the Lizzie Borden murder case, the First Modern Olympics, to the U.S.S. Maine mysteriously exploding.
Radical Republicans
Definition of Radical Republicans.
When Was the First Oil Well Made?
The first oil well was drilled in Pennsylvania in 1859 by Edwin Drake, who started the modern oil industry though he would only drill three oil wells in his brief career.
Abraham Lincoln's Greatest Speeches
One of the things that made Abraham Lincoln a skillful politician and great president was his ability to write and deliver great speeches. Read about Lincoln's greatest speeches, and learn what he accomplished with them.
The Impossible Accomplished: Building the...
The building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the greatest engineering of its era and one still used by thousands of commuters everyday.
The Impact of the 1886 Haymarket Square Riot in...
The Haymarket Riot was ignited by an anarchist bombing, and set back the American labor union for years.
How the Indian Removal Policy Led to the Trail...
Indian Removal was a controversial policy by which the U.S. government, led by President Andrew Jackson, forced Indian tribes in the South to leave their ancestral lands. The policy culminated in the notorious Trail of Tears, a forced exodus of the Cherokee tribe.
Some of the spookiest events of the very spooky...
Abraham Lincoln's wife was obsessed with spiritualism and held a seance in the White House in an effort to contact the spirit of their dead son.
How Abraham Lincoln Won the Fateful Election of...
Lincoln's political skills brought him to the White House in one of the most important elections in American history.
Sharecropping
Definition of Sharecropping. 19th Century History.
What Were the Major Events of the 1870s?
The 1870s were marked by Custer meeting his end at the Little Bighorn, construction work on the Brooklyn Bridge, Queen Victoria taking an imperial title, and Bismarck provoking the Franco-Prussian War.
5 Reasons the Battle of Gettysburg Mattered
Five reasons why the Battle of Gettysburg mattered.
The Missouri Compromise
The crisis prompted in 1820 when Missouri sought to enter the Union as a slave state resulted in a great compromise which attempted to lessen the enormous tensions caused by slavery, the great divisive issue in early 19th century America.
How Tammany Hall Essentially Ran New York City
Tammany Hall was political machine that ran New York City through a system of political patronage, and it was the epitome of corrupt politics in the 1800s.
Forty Acres and a Mule
Definition of Forty Acres and a Mule
Strike Against Pullman Palace Car Company...
The Pullman Strike of 1894 stopped trains across America and the strike was broken by the U.S. Army forces deployed in American cities.
Robber Barons: How They Got That Name
The term robber baron and the men it described in the late 19th century.
What Products Were Produced from Whales?
Whaling in the 1800s is often remembered for tales of adventure, but men actually risked their lives throwing harpoons at huge animals because many useful products were obtained from the bodies of whales.
How Jefferson Fought the Barbary Pirates
President Thomas Jefferson refused to pay tribute and dispatched the young U.S. Navy to battle the Barbary Pirates.
The Civil War Year By Year
The American Civil War lasted four years, and evolved from what people thought would be a minor conflict into an very bloody ordeal. Learn about the chronology of the Civil War.
Greenbacks
Definition of Greenbacks. 19th Century History.
Queen Victoria's German Husband Influenced...
Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria of Britain, was a German prince who came to wield great influence on British society.
Timeline from 1830 to 1840
The 1830s was a decade marked by railroad building in America, Opium Wars in Asia, and the ascension to the British throne of the woman who whose name would come to define the century, Queen Victoria.
Why Whaling Was So Important in the 19th Century
The whaling industry flourished in New England from about 1820 to 1860, until the demand for oil for illumination was replaced by oil taken from the ground.
Cornelius Vanderbilt Amassed a Colossal Fortune...
Cornelius Vanderbilt, who was known as The Commodore, amassed a huge fortune in 19th century America after starting out with one boat in New York Harbor.
Men Labored in Horrendous Conditions in the...
Much of the early work on the Brooklyn Bridge was invisible to the public, as it occurred underwater, in caissons, huge bottomless boxes sunk on the river bottom. Page 3.
How Uncle Tom's Cabin made slavery a personal...
Did the novel Uncle Tom's Cabin help to start the Civil War? Did Harriet Beecher Stowe intend to influence public opinion by writing a novel? To what extent did she influence public opinion?
Why Didn't These Political Parties Make It Out...
The 19th century gave birth to today's political parties, but it also saw the emergence and extinction of a number of other parties. Some were the parties of presidents, and some seemed to have been doomed for failure and obscurity.
Timeline from 1850 to 1860
The decade of the 1850s was marked by controversy over slavery in the United States, the Crimean War fought between Russian and European powers, and the rapid growth of steam-power travel on water and land.
Britain's Disastrous Retreat from Kabul
A British Army was massacred in January 1842 while retreating from Kabul, Afghanistan and only one man survived to tell the horrifying story.
How the Kansas-Nebraska Act Backfired
The highly controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, intended as a compromise over slavery, actually inflamed tensions and hastened the Civil War.
What You Should Know About the Gettysburg Address
Abraham Lincoln had specific goals in mind and took great care in crafting the Gettysburg Address.
Social protest at Christmas: How Dickens...
Why and how Charles Dickens wrote his classic story A Christmas Carol, the tale of Ebenezer Scrooge and his encounters with the Ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Yet to Come.
The Great Stolen Election of 1876
The presidential election of 1876 was widely believed to have been stolen when a special deal was struck to declare Rutherford B. Hayes the winner.
A Look at Some Classic Slave Narratives
A handful of accounts written by former slaves have been hailed as classics of American writing.
The National Road, America's First Major Highway
The National Road, an early forerunner of the federal highway system, was constructed from western Maryland to Ohio in the early decades of the 19th century.
The Know-Nothing Party in America: It Was Not a...
The Know-Nothing Party campaigned against immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s.
Famous Murders of the 19th Century
The 19th century had its share of famous murders, including the Lizzie Borden murder case, the Lincoln assassination, and the murder of Helen Jewett.
When Pinkertons Sent to Break a Strike Were...
A strike at a Pennsylvania steel mill turned shockingly violent as townspeople battled a small army of Pinkertons in 1892.
Half of New York Fled the City: The 1832...
The cholera epidemic of 1832 afflicted major cities of Europe as well as North America, killing thousands and creating widespread panic.
Timeline: Major Events of the 1840s
The decade of the 1840s was marked by the Mexican War, the discovery of gold in California, and the launch of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition.
Was Moby Dick a Real Whale?
When Herman Melville wrote his classic novel Moby Dick, he relied on the story of a notorious white whale often sighted in the Pacific Ocean off the coast of South America.
Why the Election of 1800 Was So Controversial
The election of 1800 was significant and controversial, and was ultimately decided in the House of Representatives when Thomas Jefferson defeated Aaron Burr.
Timeline from 1860 to 1870
A timeline of the 1860s, including the American Civil War, the greatest historical event of the decade, as well as other events around the world.
Why the Election of 1828 Was the Dirtiest Ever
The election of 1828 was perhaps the dirtiest in American history, as the Jackson and Adams campaigns threw scurrilous charges at each other.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show
Buffalo Bill's Wild West showed entertained millions while presenting an exaggerated version of life on American's western frontier.
Causes of the War of 1812
The causes for the War of 1812 included impressment of American sailors as well as other important issues.
Timeline from 1800 to 1810
The decade from 1800 to 1810 represented a time of expansion and exploration in the United States and a time of warfare and turmoil in Europe.
The British Attack on Fort McHenry Was...
The attack on Fort McHenry in Baltimore's harbor was a pivotal moment in the War of 1812 - and led to the U.S. National Anthem.
Superpower Clash of the 1800s: The Crimean War
The Crimean War of 1854-56 was waged by allies Britain and France against Russia, and was provoked over obscure reasons.
Charles Darwin Published On the Origin of...
The British naturalist Charles Darwin published his book On the Origin of Species on November 24, 1859 and profoundly changed the way people considered biology and science in general.
Why Were Flags Enormously Important in the...
Flags were enormously important in the American Civil War for both practical and symbolic reasons.
Bleeding Kansas
Definition of Bleeding Kansas. 19th Century History.
1836 Murder of a New York Prostitute Influenced...
The 1836 murder of Helen Jewett, a beautiful young New York prostitute, became a famous murder case and one of the first media sensations.
Timeline from 1810 to 1820
The decade from 1810 to 1820 was marked by the Battle of Waterloo, the British burning the White House, Francis Scott Key writing the Star-Spangled Banner
Why the Election of 1824 Was Known as 'the...
The election of 1824 was decided in the US House of Representatives, and when John Quincy Adams won, defeating Andrew Jackson, the entire affair was denounced as
Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor
The great Prussian diplomat and political strategist Otto von Bismarck provoked several wars while engaging in his life's work of unifying Germany in the late 1800s.
Who Paid for the Statue of Liberty?
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States, but the question of who actually paid for the statue has some surprising answers.
Was Abraham Lincoln Really a Wrestler?
President Abraham Lincoln was a very good wrestler as a youth and his wrestling exploits were used during his presidential campaign in 1860 and became part of the Lincoln legend.
Emma Lazarus Changed the Meaning of the Statue...
A poem by Emma Lazarus essentially changed the meaning of the Statue of Liberty, which had not been intended to be a symbol of immigration.
Timeline from 1820 to 1830
The 1820s were a decade of exciting changes. October 26, 1825: The entire length of the Erie Canal was officially opened across New York.
Transcendentalist
Definition of Transcendentalist. 19th Century History.
The tricky wet plate photography of the Civil...
Wet plate collodion photography of the Civil War era required considerable expertise yet in the right hands it could produce remarkable results.
Meet the Man Behind Sherlock Holmes
Scottish-born author Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the world's most famous characters, Sherlock Holmes.
With Walden, Henry David Thoreau Challenged...
Henry David Thoreau challenged popular thinking about life and society in works such as his book Walden and essay Civil Disobedience.
How Coubertin Founded the Modern Olympics
Concise biography of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, who organized the Olympic games in Athens in 1896.
The Attack That Started the Civil War
The attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861 began the American Civil War.
Britain's Great Exhibition of 1851 Was a...
Learn about the spectacular exhibition--a technology milestone--organized by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's scientifically minded husband.
Was Mary Todd Lincoln Mentally Ill?
Abraham Lincoln's wife Mary Todd Lincoln is often remembered as being mentally ill, but is that perception of her accurate?
What Happened During the Great Irish Famine?
The Great Famine that ravaged the potato crop in Ireland in the 1840s caused widespread starvation, and prompted a wave of emigration to America.
Reconstruction
Definition of Reconstruction. 19th Century History.
The Fearless First Crossing of the Brooklyn...
The first crossing of the Brooklyn Bridge, by an engineer dangling from a cable, happened at about the halfway point of the bridge's construction.
Washington Irving Gave Us Gotham, Knickerbocker...
Washington Irving popularized the terms Gotham and Knickerbocker as well as creating unforgettable characters like Rip Van Winkle.
Boss Tweed, New York's Legendary Corrupt...
Biography of Boss Tweed, legendary corrupt political boss of New York City in the era following the Civil War.
Did Lincoln Really Swing an Mean Ax?
The real story of how Abe Lincoln's use of an ax became a political legend.
The Invention of the Telegraph Changed...
In the 19th century the world was changed profoundly by the telegraph, which made transmission of news almost instantaneous. A transatlantic cable made communication possible between America and Europe, and by the end of the century nearly every corner of the world had been reached by the telegraph wire.
Jim Fisk, Flamboyant and Unscrupulous Wall...
Jim Fisk was a partner of business man Jay Gould, and the pair defined unethical Wall Street practices in the late 1860s.
Building the Erie Canal
It was a dream, and many people scoffed. But when the Erie Canal opened in 1825, it was the marvel of its age. And it was soon a huge economic success.
Tariff of Abominations
Definition of Tariff of Abominations
Financial Panics of the 19th Century
A summary of the financial panics which periodically devastated the American economy throughout the 19th century.
Ships, Champagne, and Superstition
The tradition of christening news ships by breaking a bottle of champagne against the bow developed in the 19th century. By the late 1800s, ship christenings were elaborate public events, attended by many thousands. It was considered extremely important that the champagne bottle break on the first attempt, or the ship would be considered unlucky.
Mary Todd Lincoln, Wife of President Abraham...
Brief biography of Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, who was controversial in her own time and remains a largely misunderstood figure today.
The Johnstown Flood: Photos and Facts
The Johnstown Flood of May 31, 1889 was the biggest news story to hit American since the Civil War. More than 2,000 people were killed when a wall of water sped down a valley and devastated an industrial town in western Pennsylvania, in calamity that was, by most accounts, avoidable.
Tecumseh, Native American leader who stood up...
The Indian chief Tecumseh led a confederation of Indian tribes against encroachment by whites.
Background and Significance of the Emancipation...
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, its background and significance.
Eccentric Congressman Thaddeus Stevens Impacted...
Thaddeus Stevens, eccentric congressman and fierce opponent of slavery, was a dominant figure on Capitol Hill in the Civil War era.
Yellowstone Expedition Led to Creation of First...
The first National Park was Yellowstone, a magnificent wilderness set aside in 1872 to be preserved and protected.
Seven Facts About the Lincoln-Douglas Debates
Seven facts everyone should know about the legendary Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858.
Oregon Trail
Definition of Oregon Trail. 19th Century History.
What Was the Monroe Doctrine?
Definition of the Monroe Doctrine, an American foreign policy statement from 1823 which had enduring consequences.
Why Is Election Day on a Tuesday in November?
The tradition of holding America's presidential election on a Tuesday in November began in the early 1800s, and was established in law in the 1840s.
Freedmen's Bureau
Definition of Freedmen's Bureau. 19th Century History.
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858
The Lincoln-Douglas Debates in 1858 took place in a Senate race in Illinois, yet they had national significance. Abraham Lincoln was known locally as a rising political star, and Senator Stephen A. Douglas already stood near the zenith of American politics. Their seven Lincoln-Douglas Debates across Illinois dealt with the critical issue of the day, and was a prelude to Lincoln's election as president and the outbreak of Civil War.
East India Company
The East India Company was a private company which, after a long series of wars and diplomatic efforts, came to rule India in the 19th century.
The Election of 1884 Between Cleveland and...
The election of 1884 was notable for mudslinging, scandals, and a last-minute gaffe that allowed Grover Cleveland to defeat the favorite, James G. Blaine.
Antebellum Era
Definition of Antebellum. 19th Century History.
Jay Gould, Notorious Robber Baron
Jay Gould was a notorious robber baron famous for manipulating stock prices and trying to corner the market on gold.
Garibaldi, Revolutionary Who United Italy
The Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi became an international celebrity even before he succeeded in uniting Italy.
How Defenders of Baltimore Defeated a British...
The Battle of Baltimore in September 1814 saved the city from falling into British hands during the War of 1812.
Irish Rebellions of the 1800s
Ireland was marked by a series of rebellions throughout the 1800s as the Irish fought against British rule.
Pendleton Act
Definition of the Pendleton Act, which reformed the Civil Service in the 1880s
Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
With the Civil War in its third year, Lincoln felt compelled to offer a moral justification for the war.
All About Lizzie Borden and Ax Murders In Her...
Lizzie Borden was arrested for the ax murders of family members and her trial was a media sensation in the early 1890s.
George Armstrong Custer
Dramatic images of George Armstrong Custer during the Civil War, when he first became famous as a dashing cavalry commander.
Lecompton Constitution
Lecompton Constitution. 19th Century History.
Great Legislative Compromises Held the Union...
Compromises in the 1800s over slavery delayed the Civil War: The Missouri Compromise of 1820, the Compromise of 1850, and 1854's Kansas-Nebraska Act
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed a major American city, making it one of the great disasters of the 19th century.
Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie ruthlessly dominated the American steel industry for a quarter-century before devoting himself to philanthropy.
Collection of Articles About 19th Century New...
During the 19th Century New York City became America's economic powerhouse and home to unforgettable characters from Washington Irving to Boss Tweed.
Conservationist John Muir Helped Inspire the...
Scottish-born John Muir was a strong advocate for the US National Parks in the 19th century.
Clipper Ship
Definition of Clipper Ship. 19th Century History.
Six Things You Don't Know About Queen Victoria
These six facts about Queen Victoria may change the way you think about the woman whose name defined the 19th Century.
The Compromise of 1850 Delayed the Civil War...
The Compromise of 1850, a controversial set of laws passed by Congress, preserved the Union but was only a temporary solution to the issue of slavery in America.
Christmas traditions including even Santa Claus...
Christmas celebrations began in the 19th century,when Santa Claus and Christmas trees became popular, thanks to cartoonist Thomas Nast and others.
The Spoils Sytem, Where It Came From and What...
Definition of The Spoils System. 19th Century History.
Florence Nightingale Revolutionized Medical...
The British nurse Florence Nightingale reformed medical care in the 19th century and was known to tending to soldiers during the Crimean War.
The Grimké Sisters
The Grimké Sisters became abolitionist heroines in the 1830s, as the women from a slave-owning family in the South toured New England speaking out against the evils of slavery.
Facts and Images: The Assassination of Abraham...
News of the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln at Ford's Theatre on April 14, 1865 shocked the United States at the end of the Civil War.
Charles Darwin - His Origin of the Species...
Charles Darwin lived a fairly quiet and studious life, yet became one of the most controversial figures of the 19th century.
Was the Morrill Tariff the Real Cause of the...
Some people claim a forgotten law, the Morrill Tariff, was the real cause of the American Civil War. Is this true? What is the real story?
Britain's Second War in Afghanistan Was Marked...
Britain's second war in Afghanistan, fought in the late 1870s, was marked by miscalculations and heroics, and ultimately succeeded in protecting the prize possession of the British Empire, India.
A Bloody Beating In the U.S. Senate Inflamed...
A southern congressman beat an anti-slavery senator from Massachusetts with a cane in the U.S. Capitol as tensions over slavery boiled over in May 1856.
Jefferson Davis: Significant Facts and Brief...
The facts one needs to know about Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America.
The Road to the Civil War
America's road to Civil War stretched for decades as regional conflict, centered on the issue of slavery, threatened to split the Union. Learn about America's long road to Civil War.
The real story of Solomon Northup, author of...
Solomon Northup, author of Twelve Years a Slave, wrote a harrowing account of being kidnapped into slavery in the 1840s.
The Confederate Plot to Burn New York
Confederate agents plotted to burn New York City in late 1864, and the plot failed though a number of hotels and theaters were set on fire in one hectic night.
John James Audubon's Created the Masterpiece...
Audubon overcame obstacles to create a masterpiece of 19th century American art, a collection titled Birds of America, in four volumes between 1827 and 1838.
Henry Clay, the Most Powerful American...
Henry Clay was perhaps the most powerful American who never served as President of the United States, though he ran for the office several times.
Free Soil Party
Definition of Free Soil Party. 19th Century History.
The Brooklyn Bridge Under Construction
This stereograph card shows the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge before the four massive suspension cables were strung between them. Page 4.
John Brown, Fanatical Abolitionist Whose Raid...
John Brown, a fanatical abolitionist, led a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry and moved the U.S. closer to Civil War.
Penny Press
Definition of Penny Press. 19th Century History.
Civil War Drummers: Five Things You Should Know
Civil War drummers were a critical part of the army. Here are five things you should know about them.
Victoria: The Queen Who Defined an Age
She ruled Great Britain for six decades, and her life in some ways defined the 1800s.
The Wall Street War to Control the Erie Railroad
The Erie Railroad War was an 1868 battle of robber barons pitting Cornelius Vanderbilt against Jay Gould and Jim Fisk.
What You Should Know About George Washington,...
The basic facts one should know about George Washington, military hero and first president of the United States.
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