19th Century History: Most Popular Articles
Learn about the Five Points, a notorious neighborhood in New York City in the 1800s.
HMS Beagle carried Charles Darwin around the world for five years and influenced his later thinking about how life evolved.
The Sepoy Mutiny, also known as the Indian Revolt of 1857, shook British rule in India.
A widespread weather disaster caused by a volcanic eruption made 1816 known as the Year Without a Summer.
The Raj, as British India was known, was the jewel of the British Empire in the 1800s.
The surrender of Fort Detroit in the War of 1812 was a military disaster and a scandal. It derailed the U.S. plan to invade and seize Canada.
Krakatoa's colossal eruption in 1883 became an early worldwide media event thanks to news traveling very quickly by telegraph.
The 19th century was a time of tremendous change, and this comprehensive timeline will help you navigate through the decades of the 1800s.
The early vice presidents of the United States included great statesmen, rogues, and some men who had almost no interest in the job.
The timeline of the 1880s includes labor unrest, turmoil in Russia, warfare in Afghanistan, and celebrations for new landmarks in New York City.
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.
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
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.
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 building of the Brooklyn Bridge, the greatest engineering of its era and one still used by thousands of commuters everyday.
Definition of Nullification Crisis
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.
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.
Five reasons why the Battle of Gettysburg mattered.
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.
Lincoln's political skills brought him to the White House in one of the most important elections in American history.
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
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 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.
The basic facts about America's earliest presidents, from 1789 to 1840.
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.
A strike at Homestead, Pennsylvania, turned shockingly violent as townspeople fought a small army of Pinkertons in 1892.
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.
A British Army was massacred in January 1842 while retreating from Kabul, Afghanistan and only one man survived to tell the horrifying story.
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.
Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria of Britain, was a German prince who came to wield great influence on British society.
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.
Definition of Compromise of 1877
Definition of Anaconda Plan. 19th Century History.
Definition of Sharecropping. 19th Century History.
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.
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.
The 19th century had its share of famous murders, including the Lizzie Borden murder case, the Lincoln assassination, and the murder of Helen Jewett.
President Thomas Jefferson refused to pay tribute and dispatched the young U.S. Navy to battle the Barbary Pirates.
The term robber baron and the men it described in the late 19th century.
The election of 1828 was perhaps the dirtiest in American history, as the Jackson and Adams campaigns threw scurrilous charges at each other.
The Know-Nothing Party campaigned against immigrants in the 1840s and 1850s.
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.
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.
The cholera epidemic of 1832 afflicted major cities of Europe as well as North America, killing thousands and creating widespread panic.
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.
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.
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.
A handful of accounts written by former slaves have been hailed as classics of American writing.
The Haymarket Riot was ignited by an anarchist bombing, and set back the American labor union for years.
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 election of 1800 was significant and controversial, and was ultimately decided in the House of Representatives when Thomas Jefferson defeated Aaron Burr.
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 Crimean War of 1854-56 was waged by allies Britain and France against Russia, and was provoked over obscure reasons.
Definition of Forty Acres and a Mule
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
Concise biography of legendary 19th century newspaper editor Horace Greeley.
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.
Concise biography of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, who organized the Olympic games in Athens in 1896.
Definition of Clipper Ship. 19th Century History.
Abraham Lincoln's wife Mary Todd Lincoln is often remembered as being mentally ill, but is that perception of her accurate?
The highly controversial Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, intended as a compromise over slavery, actually inflamed tensions and hastened the Civil War.
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.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West showed entertained millions while presenting an exaggerated version of life on American's western frontier.
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.
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.
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.
Abraham Lincoln had specific goals in mind and took great care in crafting the Gettysburg Address.
Scottish-born author Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the world's most famous characters, Sherlock Holmes.
Flags were enormously important in the American Civil War for both practical and symbolic reasons.
The causes for the War of 1812 included impressment of American sailors as well as other important issues.
The real story of how Abe Lincoln's use of an ax became a political legend.
The Pullman Strike of 1894 stopped trains across America and the strike was broken by the U.S. Army forces deployed in American cities.
Definition of Oregon Trail. 19th Century History.
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.
Definition of Radical Republicans.
The first National Park was Yellowstone, a magnificent wilderness set aside in 1872 to be preserved and protected.
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 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?
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 Great Famine that ravaged the potato crop in Ireland in the 1840s caused widespread starvation, and prompted a wave of emigration to America.
This stereograph card shows the towers of the Brooklyn Bridge before the four massive suspension cables were strung between them. Page 4.
Thaddeus Stevens, a Congressman from Pennsylvania, was a lifelong opponent of slavery and led the Radical Republicans during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
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.
Learn about the spectacular exhibition--a technology milestone--organized by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's scientifically minded husband.
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 Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi became an international celebrity even before he succeeded in uniting Italy.
Dramatic images of George Armstrong Custer during the Civil War, when he first became famous as a dashing cavalry commander.
A summary of the financial panics which periodically devastated the American economy throughout the 19th century.
The presidential campaigns of the 1800s could be raucous affairs, with iconic personalities battling it out at times of national crisis.
Definition of the Monroe Doctrine, an American foreign policy statement from 1823 which had enduring consequences.
Christmas celebrations began in the 19th century,when Santa Claus and Christmas trees became popular, thanks to cartoonist Thomas Nast and others.
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.
A feared attack by the British in 1814 prompted thousands of New Yorkers to volunteer to construct fortifications to defend the city.
American presidents delivered brilliant inaugural addresses in the 1800s, but some presidents stand out for having delivered the worst. Herewith the five worst inaugural address of the 19th century.
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.
The 1820s were a decade of exciting changes. October 26, 1825: The entire length of the Erie Canal was officially opened across New York.
During the 19th Century New York City became America's economic powerhouse and home to unforgettable characters from Washington Irving to Boss Tweed.
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.
Definition of Antebellum. 19th Century History.
John Brown, a fanatical abolitionist, led a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry and moved the U.S. closer to Civil War.
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed a major American city, making it one of the great disasters of the 19th century.
With the Civil War in its third year, Lincoln felt compelled to offer a moral justification for the war.
Definition of abolitionist. 19th Century History.
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.
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.
Jim Fisk was a partner of business man Jay Gould, and the pair defined unethical Wall Street practices in the late 1860s.
Definition of Transcendentalist. 19th Century History.
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
Lizzie Borden was arrested for the ax murders of family members and her trial was a media sensation in the early 1890s.
These six facts about Queen Victoria may change the way you think about the woman whose name defined the 19th Century.
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
The attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861 began the American Civil War.
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.
Images such as this, of the Brooklyn Bridge's temporary footbridge, fascinated the public in the 1870s. Page 5.
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.
Scottish-born John Muir was a strong advocate for the US National Parks in the 19th century.
Andrew Carnegie ruthlessly dominated the American steel industry for a quarter-century before devoting himself to philanthropy.
The character of Uncle Sam, many would be surprised to know, was indeed based on a real man who lived 200 years ago.
Seven facts everyone should know about the legendary Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858.
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.
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.
The Indian chief Tecumseh led a confederation of Indian tribes against encroachment by whites.
The USS Constitution defeated HMS Guerriere early in the War of 1812, providing a much-needed boost for American morale.
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 British nurse Florence Nightingale reformed medical care in the 19th century and was known to tending to soldiers during the Crimean War.
Gallery of vintage images of British India in the 19th century.
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.
Henry David Thoreau challenged popular thinking about life and society in works such as his book Walden and essay Civil Disobedience.
Wet plate collodion photography of the Civil War era required considerable expertise yet in the right hands it could produce remarkable results.
Definition of Greenbacks. 19th Century History.
The rumor that Mrs. O'Leary's cow started the great Chicago Fire in 1871 has persisted. But is it true?
Zebulon Pike led two expeditions in the 1800s that remain mysterious to this day. Was Pike a blundering explorer cursed with bad luck, or a skillful spy?
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.
Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, its background and significance.
Ireland was marked by a series of rebellions throughout the 1800s as the Irish fought against British rule.
Biography of Boss Tweed, legendary corrupt political boss of New York City in the era following the Civil War.
The 19th century was a time of great progress but was also marked by major disasters.
The American tradition of mixing barbecue and politics has strong roots in the 1800s.
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 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.
She ruled Great Britain for six decades, and her life in some ways defined the 1800s.
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.
Surgeons during the Civil War often amputated limbs. Why were amputations so common in the Civil War? What made Civil War wounds so destructive?
Annie Oakley's remarkable skill with a rifle made her a 19th century show business phenomenon.