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19th Century History: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
How Five Points Became New York's Most...
Learn about the Five Points, a notorious neighborhood in New York City in the 1800s.
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.
The Sepoy Mutiny of 1857 Shook British Rule in...
The Sepoy Mutiny, also known as the Indian Revolt of 1857, shook British rule in India.
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.
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.
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.
Why the Krakatoa Volcano Eruption Was Such a...
Krakatoa's colossal eruption in 1883 became an early worldwide media event thanks to news traveling very quickly by telegraph.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
What Is the Nullification Crisis?
Definition of Nullification Crisis
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.
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.
The Know-Nothing Party in America: It Was Not a...
The Know-Nothing Party campaigned against immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of the spookiest events of the very spooky...
The Fox Sisters, two girls in the village of Hydesville, New York, began a craze for spiritualism in the 19th century.
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.
5 Reasons the Battle of Gettysburg Mattered
Five reasons why the Battle of Gettysburg mattered.
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.
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.
Why Were Flags Enormously Important in the...
Flags were enormously important in the American Civil War for both practical and symbolic reasons.
British Troops Burned the Capitol and the White...
The burning of Washington in 1814 by British troops was a humiliating episode in American history which is generally overshadowed by the events of three weeks later, which inspired Francis Scott Key to write the
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.
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Causes of the War of 1812
The causes for the War of 1812 included impressment of American sailors as well as other important issues.
Did Lincoln Really Swing an Mean Ax?
The real story of how Abe Lincoln's use of an ax became a political legend.
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.
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.
Compromise of 1877 Ended Reconstruction,...
Definition of Compromise of 1877
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.
Forty Acres and a Mule
Definition of Forty Acres and a Mule
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.
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.
George Armstrong Custer
Dramatic images of George Armstrong Custer during the Civil War, when he first became famous as a dashing cavalry commander.
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.
Financial Panics of the 19th Century
A summary of the financial panics which periodically devastated the American economy throughout the 19th century.
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.
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.
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.
What Was the Monroe Doctrine?
Definition of the Monroe Doctrine, an American foreign policy statement from 1823 which had enduring consequences.
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.
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.
A Look at Some Classic Slave Narratives
A handful of accounts written by former slaves have been hailed as classics of American writing.
Meet the Man Behind Sherlock Holmes
Scottish-born author Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the world's most famous characters, Sherlock Holmes.
Constructing the Cables on the Brooklyn Bridge...
The work of suspending the cables on the Brooklyn Bridge had to be precise and it was complicated by being done high up on the bridge, in all kinds of weather. Page 8.
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.
Sharecropping
Definition of Sharecropping. 19th Century History.
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.
The New York Draft Riots
The streets of New York erupted in shocking violence for several days in July 1863 in what became known as the New York City Draft Riots. The federal government instituting conscription for the army during the Civil War was the root cause, though other factors, such as racial and ethnic strife, certainly played a part. This gallery of images documents the horrors of the Draft Riots, in which buildings were burned and hundreds of people were killed or wounded.
The Brooklyn Bridge's Temporary Footbridge...
Images such as this, of the Brooklyn Bridge's temporary footbridge, fascinated the public in the 1870s. Page 5.
Robber Barons: How They Got That Name
The term robber baron and the men it described in the late 19th century.
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.
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.
Women and Children Were Last: Scandal of the...
The sinking of the steamship Arctic, one of the grandest ships afloat in the 1850s, was a disaster that stunned the world in September 1854.
Gigantic Anchorage Structures Held the Four...
This image of the Brooklyn anchorage of the Brooklyn Bridge illustrate what actually made the bridge work: enormous cables anchored at either end would carry the weight of the roadway. Page 7.
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.
What You Should Know About the Gettysburg Address
Abraham Lincoln had specific goals in mind and took great care in crafting the Gettysburg Address.
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.
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.
Stepping Onto the Temporary Footbridge of the...
Stepping onto this temporary wooden walkway connecting the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge required nerves of steel. Page 6.
Antebellum Era
Definition of Antebellum. 19th Century History.
Tecumseh, Native American leader who stood up...
The Indian chief Tecumseh led a confederation of Indian tribes against encroachment by whites.
Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address
With the Civil War in its third year, Lincoln felt compelled to offer a moral justification for the war.
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.
The Opening of the Brooklyn Bridge Was a Time...
This illustration from an illustrated newspaper shows how the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge was a cause of great celebration. . Page 9.
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.
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.
Background and Significance of the Emancipation...
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, its background and significance.
The Brooklyn Bridge was a Fascinating Sight...
Images of New York's famed Brooklyn Bridge fascinated the public while it was still under construction. No structure so large or brilliantly designed had ever been constructed, and the largest bridge on earth was a star even before its roadway was hung from its four massive suspension cables.
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.
How the Eccentric Thaddeus Stevens Impacted...
Thaddeus Stevens, a Congressman from Pennsylvania, was a lifelong opponent of slavery and led the Radical Republicans during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Images of George Armstrong Custer and His Final...
When George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry attacked an enormous Indian camp and were wiped out, the United States was stunned. Custer had been a famous personage since his days as a dashing young cavalry officer in the Civil War, and Americans were shocked and outraged that Custer and his entire command had been killed.
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.
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?
President James Buchanan and the Secession Crisis
President James Buchanan faced a horrendous problem as his term came to an end after the election of Abraham Lincoln: the southern states began to leave the Union.
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.
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.
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.
Anaconda Plan
Definition of Anaconda Plan. 19th Century History.
Pendleton Act
Definition of the Pendleton Act, which reformed the Civil Service in the 1880s
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.
Images of British India
Gallery of vintage images of British India in the 19th century.
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.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, American Transcendentalist...
Concise biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most influential American writers of the 19th century and a leading Transcendentalist.
Homestead Steel Strike of 1892 Shocked America
A strike at Homestead, Pennsylvania, turned shockingly violent as townspeople fought a small army of Pinkertons in 1892.
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 Gift from France to the United States Rose...
The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France to the United States, rose above New York harbor in 1886 and became a welcoming symbol to immigrants arriving from around the world.
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 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.
Irish Rebellions of the 1800s
Ireland was marked by a series of rebellions throughout the 1800s as the Irish fought against British rule.
The Mexican War
The Mexican War, fought between the United States and Mexico in the mid-1840s, was a triumph for the US and greatly increased American territory. It was wildly popular in its day though some critics denounced it at the time, and its origins remain a topic of debate to this day. Military leaders of the American Civil War, including Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant, received valuable experience in Mexican battles.
Importation of Slaves Outlawed by 1807 Act of...
A law passed in 1807 to ban the importation of slaves into the United States was timed because of a little-known provision inserted in the Constitution.
The Christiana Riot
A bloody 1851 incident when fugitive slaves in Pennsylvania resisted an attempt to arrest them and return them to slavery in Maryland.
Murder of Helen Jewett Became a Media Sensation...
The 1836 murder of Helen Jewett, a beautiful young New York prostitute, became a famous murder case and one of the first media sensations.
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.
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.
Greenbacks
Definition of Greenbacks. 19th Century History.
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.
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.
The Spoils Sytem, Where It Came From and What...
Definition of The Spoils System. 19th Century History.
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.
Lithograph of the Great East River Bridge
This elaborate color lithograph of the bridge is titled "The Great East River Bridge." When the bridge
Garibaldi, Revolutionary Who United Italy
The Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi became an international celebrity even before he succeeded in uniting Italy.
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.
Oregon Trail
Definition of Oregon Trail. 19th Century History.
Strolling On the Brooklyn Bridge's Pedestrian...
People in the late 1800s strolled across the Brooklyn Bridge. Page 11.
Great Disasters of the 19th Century
The 19th century was a time of great progress but was also marked by major disasters.
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.
Battle of Bull Run in July 1861 Showed the...
The First Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas) was considered a defeat for the Union, and it destroyed any hope that the war would be short and easy.
The Cavalry Fight at the Battle of Gettysburg
The large cavalry clash at Gettysburg was one of the most dramatic components of the massive battle.
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.
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.
All About Infamous Killer Lizzie Borden's...
Lizzie Borden was arrested for the ax murders of family members and her trial was a media sensation in the early 1890s.
Did Mrs. O'Leary's Cow Start the Great Chicago...
The rumor that Mrs. O'Leary's cow started the great Chicago Fire in 1871 has persisted. But is it true?
Clipper Ship
Definition of Clipper Ship. 19th Century History.
The Sucess of the Great Bridge Made It a...
This advertisement indicates how businesses wanted to associate themselves with the Brooklyn Bridge, which was considered the greatest engineering achievement of its time. Page 12.
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.
Stump Speech
Definition of Stump Speech: History of the term and its 19th century frontier origins.
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.
Embargo Act of 1807
The Embargo Act of 1807 was Thomas Jefferson's misguided plan to punish Britain for interfering with American trade.
Andrew Carnegie
Andrew Carnegie ruthlessly dominated the American steel industry for a quarter-century before devoting himself to philanthropy.
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.
Radical Republicans
Definition of Radical Republicans.
Victoria: The Queen Who Defined an Age
She ruled Great Britain for six decades, and her life in some ways defined the 1800s.
Seven Facts About the Lincoln-Douglas Debates
Seven facts everyone should know about the legendary Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858.
Col. Myles Keogh of the 7th Cavalry Was Buried...
The body of Col. Myles Keogh was buried on the battlefield at the Little Bighorn. Page 7.
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
General Tom Thumb
Society in the 1800s was fascinated by Charles Sherwood Stratton, who was discovered by the famed showman Phineas Barnum and promoted as General Tom Thumb. In a career spanning 40 years, Tom Thumb performed across the US and Europe, met Queen Victoria and President Lincoln, and sold an estimated 20 million tickets.
Washington Irving Gave Us Gotham, Knickerbocker...
Washington Irving popularized the terms Gotham and Knickerbocker as well as creating unforgettable characters like Rip Van Winkle.
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