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19th Century History: Most Popular Articles

These articles are the most popular over the last month.
Was an Obscure and Forgotten Tariff the Real...
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?
The Uprising That Shook British India
The Sepoy Mutiny, also known as the Indian Revolt of 1857, shook British rule in India.
Why Civil War Flags Were So Important
Flags were enormously important in the American Civil War for both practical and symbolic reasons.
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.
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.
Best Tech Event Ever: The Great Exhibition at...
Learn about the spectacular exhibition--a technology milestone--organized by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's scientifically minded husband.
The Civil War Year By Year: A Timeline of the...
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.
Meet Some of the Great Authors of the 19th...
The 19th century was known for literary figures. Read about authors of the 1800s, including Dickens, Whitman, Irving, Melville, Irving, and Poe.
Anti-Immigrant Know-Nothing Party Became a...
The Know-Nothing Party campaigned against immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s.
One Spooky Scary Century: Supernatural Events...
The 19th century featured a strong presence of the supernatural, despite being a period obsessed with science and technology.
5 Reasons the Battle of Gettysburg Mattered
Five reasons why the Battle of Gettysburg mattered.
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.
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.
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?
Timeline: Historic Events in the 1880s
The timeline of the 1880s includes labor unrest, turmoil in Russia, warfare in Afghanistan, and celebrations for new landmarks in New York City.
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.
The Attack That Started the Civil War
The attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861 began the American Civil War.
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 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.
How the Sectional Conflicts Over Slavery Led to...
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 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.
Bloodiest Day in American History: The Battle...
The Battle of Antietam, the bloodiest day of the Civil War.
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.
How the Nullification Crisis Arose as an Early...
The Nullification Crisis, an early battle over the idea of secession, arose when John C. Calhoun of South Carolina resisted federal power.
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.
Timeline: Noteworthy Events of the 1890s
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 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.
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.
Missouri Compromise, First Major 19th Century...
The Missouri Compromise, reached in 1820, was the first great compromise over slavery in the decades before the Civil War.
Why the Election of 1824 Was Called "The...
The deadlocked election of 1824 was decided in the House of Representatives with the outcome widely denounced as an act of high-level bribery.
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.
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.
How a French Aristocrat Founded the Modern...
Concise biography of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, who organized the Olympic games in Athens in 1896.
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.
How President Buchanan Failed to Handle the...
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.
The Failed Presidential Assassinations of the...
Several presidents were targets of unsuccessful, and often overlooked, assassination attempts in the 19th century.
Fugitive Slave Act
Definition of Fugitive Slave Act of 1850
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.
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.
The Spoils Sytem, Where It Came From and What...
Definition of The Spoils System. 19th Century History.
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.
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.
One Victorian Engineer Designed Three...
Steamships Great Western, Great Britain, and Great Eastern were the revolutionary vessels designed by the brilliant Victorian engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.
What Lincoln Wanted to Accomplish With His...
Abraham Lincoln had specific goals in mind and took great care in crafting the Gettysburg Address.
Uncle Sam, Symbol of America, Was Based on a...
The character of Uncle Sam, many would be surprised to know, was indeed based on a real man who lived 200 years ago.
Robber Barons: How They Got That Name
The term robber baron and the men it described in the late 19th century.
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
Sharecropping
Definition of Sharecropping. 19th Century History.
Questions of Mary Todd Lincoln's Mental Health...
Abraham Lincoln's wife Mary Todd Lincoln is often remembered as being mentally ill, but is that perception of her accurate?
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.
Alexander Gardner Pioneered Battlefield...
Civil War photographer Alexander Gardner made history by documenting the battlefield carnage at Antietam in September 1862. He also took more portraits of Abraham Lincoln than anyone else, and could be considered a pioneer of news photography.
Quirky Gift and Political Legend, Andrew...
The true story of Andrew Jackson's big block of cheese.
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.
Compromise of 1877 Ended Reconstruction,...
Definition of Compromise of 1877
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.
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.
Tariff of Abominations
Definition of Tariff of Abominations
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.
Death of Lincoln Friend Col. Ellsworth Was an...
Col. Elmer Ellsworth, the first Union officer killed in the Civil War, organized the Fire Zouaves, a regiment of New York City firemen, and was a personal friend of Abraham Lincoln. The national reaction to Ellsworth's death, which included a funeral in the East Room of the White House, tells us a lot about America at the beginning of the Civil War.
Brilliant and Ever Combative, John C. Calhoun...
John C. Calhoun, father of nullification and member of the Great Triumvirate of senators, was a political force and advocate for the South.
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.
Forty Acres and a Mule: The Civil War's Famous...
Forty Acres and a Mule was a promise made, but never kept, to freed slaves at the end of the Civil War.
A Look at Some Classic Slave Narratives
A handful of accounts written by former slaves have been hailed as classics of American writing.
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.
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.
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.
Did Lincoln Really Swing a Mean Ax?
The real story of how Abe Lincoln's use of an ax became a political legend.
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.
Heroics at Little Round Top Influenced Outcome...
The fight for Little Round Top, a strategic hill at Gettysburg, was one of the most significant and dramatic actions of the entire Civil War.
Slavery in 19th Century America
Links to the people and events that figure prominently in U.S. slavery, which was legal under the U.S. Constitution until the Civil War.
How the British Burned the White House and...
The burning of Washington in 1814 by British troops was a humiliating episode in American history.
Federal Troops Were Sent to Break the 1894...
The Pullman Strike of 1894 stopped trains across America and the strike was broken by the U.S. Army forces deployed in American cities.
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.
President of Confederacy Might Have Become...
The facts one needs to know about Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America.
The Great Victorian Novelist: Charles Dickens
Concise illustrated biography of Charles Dickens, the great Victorian novelist.
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.
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.
Secession
Definition of Secession. 19th Century History.
Mary Todd Lincoln Generated Controversy and...
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 Cavalry Fight at the Battle of Gettysburg
The large cavalry clash at Gettysburg was one of the most dramatic components of the massive battle.
The Most Famous Duels of the 19th Century
In the 1800s arguments and personal slights often led to the characters involved picking up pistols and shooting them at each other in the ritual of a duel. Having a duel was almost always illegal, but going to the field of honor and settling disputes was judged to be something that gentlemen did.
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.
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.
The Text of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address Was...
With the Civil War in its third year, Lincoln felt compelled to offer a moral justification for the war.
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.
The Real Story of the Bombardment Described in...
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.
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.
Gettysburg's Most Unlikely Hero, An Elderly...
John Burns was the elderly hero of Gettysburg, a civilian who was wounded while fighting Confederates on July 1, 1863.
Financial Panics of the 19th Century
A summary of the financial panics which periodically devastated the American economy throughout the 19th century.
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.
The Causes of the War of 1812 Extended Beyond...
When President James Madison declared war against Britain in 1812 he was encouraged by a number of strategic and political considerations.
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 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.
Meet the Man Behind Sherlock Holmes
Scottish-born author Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the world's most famous characters, Sherlock Holmes.
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.
Embargo Act of 1807
The Embargo Act of 1807 was Thomas Jefferson's misguided plan to punish Britain for interfering with American trade.
Pickett's Charge at Gettysburg: High-Water Mark...
Pickett's Charge was an infantry attack that became the climax of the Battle of Gettysburg.
George Armstrong Custer
Dramatic images of George Armstrong Custer during the Civil War, when he first became famous as a dashing cavalry commander.
Social Protest For Christmas: Why Dickens Wrote...
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.
Clipper Ship
Definition of Clipper Ship. 19th Century History.
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.
How Britain's East India Company Came to...
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.
Lithograph of the Great East River Bridge
This elaborate color lithograph of the bridge is titled "The Great East River Bridge." When the bridge
Background and Significance of the Emancipation...
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, its background and significance.
Images of British India
Gallery of vintage images of British India in the 19th century.
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 Lincoln-Douglas Debates Defined a Great...
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.
The Lively Political Origins of the Term...
The origin of the term gerrymander dates back to Massachusetts in the early 1800s, and involves the state's governor, a famous American painter, and a newspaper editor.
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.
Antebellum Era
Definition of Antebellum. 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
Strolling On the Brooklyn Bridge's Pedestrian...
People in the late 1800s strolled across the Brooklyn Bridge. Page 11.
Radical Republicans
Definition of Radical Republicans.
What Was the Monroe Doctrine?
Definition of the Monroe Doctrine, an American foreign policy statement from 1823 which had enduring consequences.
The Hanging of Abolitionist John Brown Helped...
John Brown, a fanatical abolitionist, led a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry and moved the U.S. closer to Civil War.
Barnum's Greatest and Smallest Attraction,...
General Tom Thumb was a tiny show business phenomenon who performed for Queen Victoria, Abraham Lincoln, and millions of ordinary fans.
How One Fire Destroyed Chicago
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed a major American city, making it one of the great disasters of the 19th century.
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.
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.
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.
Tecumseh, Native American leader who stood up...
The Indian chief Tecumseh led a confederation of Indian tribes against encroachment by whites.
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.
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.
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.
Why No Combat Photographs Were Taken In the...
Out of thousands of Civil War photographs there are none taken in combat. Why? It has to do with chemistry, believe it or not.
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.
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.
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.
The Five Best Inaugural Addresses of the 19th...
Some of the best inaugural addresses in American history were delivered in the 19th century, as new presidents endeavored to steer the nation in new directions. Read about the five best inaugural addresses of the 1800s, some of which were spoken by unlikely presidents.
Great Disasters of the 19th Century
The 19th century was a time of great progress but was also marked by major disasters.
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.
Garibaldi, Revolutionary Who United Italy
The Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi became an international celebrity even before he succeeded in uniting Italy.
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.
Editor Horace Greeley Shaped American Public...
Concise biography of legendary 19th century newspaper editor Horace Greeley.
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.
Washington Irving Gave Us Gotham, Knickerbocker...
Washington Irving popularized the terms Gotham and Knickerbocker as well as creating unforgettable characters like Rip Van Winkle.
How the Anti-Slavery Republican Party Was Founded
The founding of the Republican party occurred in the mid-1850s, sparked by anti-slavery activists responding to the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Ten Legitimate and Verified Lincoln Quotes You...
Ten quotes by Abraham Lincoln everyone should know, with verified sources and notes on why the quotes matter.
The Star-Spangled Banner As It First Appeared...
The British bombardment of Fort McHenry was an important military event, but it lived on in memory because
Blondin
Charles Blondin, the tightrope walker conquered Niagara Falls before enormous crowds in 1859.
Reconstruction
Definition of Reconstruction. 19th Century History.
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.
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.
Why We Vote on a Tuesday In November: It's All...
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.
Did Mrs. O'Leary's Cow Really Start the Chicago...
The rumor that Mrs. O'Leary's cow started the great Chicago Fire in 1871 has persisted. But is it true?
How Many of Our Christmas Traditions Began In...
Our modern conception of Christmas celebrations really began in the 1800s, when Santa Claus, Christmas trees, and other traditions took hold.
The 1863 Draft Riots Were Fueled by Racial...
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. Page 7.
Andrew Jackson: What You Should Know About the...
The facts one should know about Andrew Jackson, one of the most significant 19th century presidents.
Florence Nightingale Revolutionized Medical...
The British nurse Florence Nightingale reformed medical care in the 19th century and became famous tending to soldiers during the Crimean War.

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