19th Century History: Most Popular Articles
HMS Beagle carried Charles Darwin around the world for five years in the early 1800s, and observations he made at the Galapagos Islands and other exotic locations led to his writings about the theory of evolution.
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.
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 year 1816 became known as The Year Without a Summer when temperatures stayed cold and crops failed; the cause was a volcanic eruption a year earlier, on the opposite side of the world.
The election of 1860 is one of the most important in American history, as it came at a time of national crisis and brought Abraham Lincoln to the White House.
The 19th century was a time of tremendous change, and this comprehensive timeline will help you navigate through the decades of the 1800s.
Learn about the Five Points, a notorious neighborhood in New York City in the 1800s.
Definition of Nullification Crisis
The Raj, as British India was known, was the jewel of the British Empire in the 1800s.
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.
Learn about the American political party called the Know-Nothings, which campaigned against immigrants, specifically new arrivals from Ireland in the 1840s and 1850s.
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The election of 1828 was perhaps the dirtiest in American history, as the campaigns of Andrew Jackson and John Quincy Adams threw scurrilous charges back and forth.
The colossal eruption of the volcano at Krakatoa became a worldwide weather and media event in 1883 and was followed by months of eerie red sunsets.
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.
Definition of Greenbacks. 19th Century History.
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 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.
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 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.
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 Sepoy Mutiny, also known as the Indian Revolt of 1857, shook British rule in India.
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 1890s: A decade of events ranging from the Lizzie Borden murder case, the First Modern Olympics, to the U.S.S. Maine mysteriously exploding.
The Haymarket Riot was ignited by an anarchist bombing, and set back the American labor union for years.
The election of 1800 was significant and controversial, and was ultimately decided in the House of Representatives when Thomas Jefferson defeated Aaron Burr.
Definition of Compromise of 1877
The War of 1812 holds a peculiar place in history. Itâs often overlooked, and itâs probably most noteworthy
The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 was envisioned as a compromise over slavery, but it wound up inflaming passions on both sides of the issue and becoming a major stepping stone on the path to Civil War.
New York's Brooklyn Bridge was the greatest engineering achievement of its era when it was finished in 1883. During its 14 years of construction skeptics thought it would collapse, but more than 125 years later, its a beautiful landmark and a very practical conveyance used by thousands of commuters everyday.
The attack on Fort Sumter in April 1861, which began the American Civil War. While technically the first battle of the war, the engagement lasted little more than a day, and no one was deliberately killed.
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.
Definition of abolitionist. 19th Century History.
The causes for the War of 1812 included impressment of American sailors as well as other important issues.
Definition of Tariff of Abominations
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 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.
John Sutter owned the land that kicked off the California Gold Rush in 1848, but did not share in any of its riches.
A handful of accounts written by former slaves have been hailed as classics of American writing. These authors, all of whom struggled to achieve freedom, told their stories and helped galvanize the abolition movement in America.
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William Lloyd Garrison, the abolitionist publisher of The Liberator, was an ardent crusader against slavery.
Five reasons why the Battle of Gettysburg mattered.
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.
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.
Prince Albert, the husband of Queen Victoria of Britain, was a German prince who came to wield great influence on British society. His untimely death in 1861 devastated Queen Victoria, who wore mourning clothes for the rest of her life.
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.
Definition of Anaconda Plan. 19th Century History.
Definition of The Emancipation Proclamation
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.
The Crimean War of 1854-56 was waged by allies Britain and France against Russia, and was provoked over obscure reasons.
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 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.
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?
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 Indian chief Tecumseh led a confederation of Indian tribes against encroachment by whites upon Indian lands in what is now Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin. His conflict with William Henry Harrison became a frontier legend, and after his death in the War of 1812 he was a respected figure in both the Indian and white cultures.
The young U.S. Navy battled North African pirates when Thomas Jefferson refused to pay tribute.
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.
Definition of Sharecropping. 19th Century History.
A British Army was massacred in January 1842 while retreating from Kabul, Afghanistan and only one man survived to tell the horrifying story.
The cholera epidemic of 1832 afflicted major cities of Europe as well as North America, killing thousands and creating widespread panic.
The real story of how Abe Lincoln's use of an ax became a political legend.
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 19th century had its share of famous murders, including the Lizzie Borden murder case, the Lincoln assassination, and the murder of Helen Jewett.
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.
Brief biography of Abraham Lincoln's wife, Mary Todd Lincoln, who was controversial in her own time and remains a largely misunderstood figure today.
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.
Definition of Era of Good Feelings
Flags were enormously important in the American Civil War for both practical and symbolic reasons.
Definition of Forty Acres and a Mule
The 1820s were a decade of exciting changes. October 26, 1825: The entire length of the Erie Canal was officially opened across New York.
A summary of the financial panics which periodically devastated the American economy throughout the 19th century.
The Great Chicago Fire of 1871 destroyed a major American city, making it one of the great disasters of the 19th century.
Thaddeus Stevens, a Congressman from Pennsylvania, was a lifelong opponent of slavery and led the Radical Republicans during the Civil War and Reconstruction.
Definition of The Spoils System. 19th Century History.
The election of 1876 was close and controversial, and the winner of the popular vote was denied the White House. In a deal made with a congressional commission, Rutherford B. Hayes wound up defeating Samuel J. Tilden, who had probably won the election.
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 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 timeline of the 1860s, including the American Civil War, the greatest historical event of the decade, as well as other events around the world.
Abraham Lincoln's wife Mary Todd Lincoln is often remembered as being mentally ill, but is that perception of her accurate?
The basic facts about America's earliest presidents, from 1789 to 1840.
Seven facts everyone should know about the legendary Lincoln-Douglas Debates of 1858.
Definition of the Monroe Doctrine, an American foreign policy statement from 1823 which had enduring consequences.
The Great Famine that ravaged the potato crop in Ireland in the 1840s caused widespread starvation, and prompted a wave of emigration to America.
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.
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.
Concise biography of Pierre de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympics, who organized the Olympic games in Athens in 1896.
Concise history of the Underground Railroad, the secret network that helped fugitive slaves.
The Pullman Strike of 1894 stopped trains across America and the strike was broken by the U.S. Army forces deployed in American cities.
A strike at Homestead, Pennsylvania, turned shockingly violent as townspeople fought a small army of Pinkertons in 1892.
The 1836 murder of Helen Jewett, a beautiful young New York prostitute, became a famous murder case and one of the first media sensations.
Britain's Great Exhibition of 1851 assembled technology from around the world in London. Learn about the spectacular exhibition organized by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's scientifically minded husband.
Abraham Lincoln took great care in writing the Gettysburg Address, which has become one of the most quoted speeches in history.
The 1840s were marked by the Mexican War, the discovery of gold in California, and the launch of the ill-fated Franklin Expedition.
Definition of Radical Republicans
Definition of Robber Baron. 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.
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?
Definition of Transcendentalist. 19th Century History.
Civil War drummers were a critical part of the army. Here are five things you should know about them.
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.
John Brown, a fanatical abolitionist, led a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry and moved the U.S. closer to Civil War.
Surgeons during the Civil War often amputated limbs. Why were amputations so common in the Civil War? What made Civil War wounds so destructive?
Concise biography of Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the most influential American writers of the 19th century and a leading Transcendentalist.
: Why did the Lewis and Clark Expedition Cross North America? Meriwether Lewis and William Clark and
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States, but the question of who actually paid for the statue, and the base it stands upon, has some surprising answers.
The first National Park was Yellowstone, a magnificent wilderness set aside in 1872 to be preserved and protected.
The Statue of Liberty was not meant to be a symbol of immigration, but a poem by Emma Lazarus gave it deeper meaning than even its creator intended.
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.
Washington Irving popularized the terms Gotham and Knickerbocker as well as creating unforgettable characters like Rip Van Winkle.
The Embargo Act of 1807 was Thomas Jefferson's misguided plan to punish Britain for interfering with American trade.
Dramatic images of George Armstrong Custer during the Civil War, when he first became famous as a dashing cavalry commander.
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Scottish-born author Arthur Conan Doyle created one of the world's most famous characters, Sherlock Holmes.
Unscrupulous financier Jay Gould tried to corner the market on gold, and caused the Black Friday panic of September 24, 1869.
The 19th century featured a strong presence of the supernatural, despite being a period obsessed with science and technology. These are some of the noteworthy supernatural and spooky events of the 1800s.
Definition of Bleeding Kansas. 19th Century History.
Scottish-born John Muir was a strong advocate for the US National Parks in the 19th century.
Senator Stephen Douglas of Illinois is best remembered for the famed Lincoln-Douglas debates, but he was also one of the most influential figures in the US government in the 1850s, and played a crucial role in legislation that propelled the United States toward the Civil War.
The basic facts one should know about Thomas Jefferson, third president of the United States and author of the Declaration of Independence.
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.
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.
The presidential campaigns of the 1800s were often raucous affairs, with iconic personalities battling it out amidst backdrops of national crisis. The campaigns could be shockingly nasty, and some of the image making would not be greatly out of place today.
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Notable compromises in the 1800s delayed the Civil War by holding the Union together despite the critical issue of slavery. The Missouri Compromise, the Compromise of 1850, and 1854's Kansas-Nebraska Act essentially postponed the sectional split that eventually became the Civil War.
The first national political conventions in America took place prior to the presidential election of 1832. And the distinction of holding the first political party convention actually belongs to a long-forgotten political movement in America, the Anti-Masonic Party, which convened in Baltimore in late 1831.
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.
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.
Biography of Boss Tweed, legendary corrupt political boss of New York City in the era following the Civil War.
Definition of American System. 19th Century History.
Definition of Antebellum. 19th Century History.
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 Italian revolutionary Giuseppe Garibaldi became an international celebrity even before he succeeded in uniting Italy.
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?
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.
Definition of The Bank War Waged By President Andrew Jackson
The facts one needs to know about Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America.
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.
Definition of Impressment of Sailors
Slavery was legal under the U.S. Constitution in the early 19th century and controversy over it would split the nation and eventually lead to an extremely costly Civil War.
John James Audubon overcame obstacles to create a masterpiece of 19th century American art, a collection titled Birds of America which was published in four volumes between 1827 and 1838.
The founding of the Republican party occurred in the mid-1850s, sparked by anti-slavery activists responding to the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
Concise biography of Frederick Douglass, whose life was emblematic of the struggle of slaves and former slaves in 19th century America.
A campaign to make Thanksgiving a national holiday finally succeeded when Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation calling for a national day of Thanksgiving at the height of the Civil War, in 1863. Prior to that, Thanksgiving was a regional holiday, celebrated mostly in the northeast and on different days in different states.
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Gallery of vintage images of British India in the 19th century, including this lithograph depicting the Madras Army. Page 2.
Ireland was marked by a series of rebellions throughout the 1800s as the Irish fought against British rule.
The significant facts one needs to know about Martin Van Buren, America's eighth president and in many ways the founder of the nation's system of political parties.
Concise biography of legendary 19th century newspaper editor Horace Greeley.