Victorian values dominated American social life for much of the 19th century. It was a period of great change in the world due to new inventions, scientific discoveries, and social change.
The notion of separate spheres of life for men and women was commonplace. The male sphere included wage work and politics, while the female sphere involved childrearing and domestic work. Industrialization and urbanization brought new challenges to Victorian values. Men grew weary of toiling tireless hours and yearned for the blossoming leisure opportunities of the age. Women were becoming more educated, but upon graduation found themselves shut out of many professions. The Victorian Era is considered to have taken place from June 20, 1837 until January 22, 1901. It was the time in British history that Alexandrina Victoria was the Queen of England. By the time she passed, Queen Victoria had served longer than any other monarch in British history.
Victorian Era Timeline
ALEXANDRINA VICTORIA BECOMES QUEEN OF ENGLAND
After King William IV dies, his 18 year-old niece becomes the Queen of England. Queen Victoria’s father had already died and none of her three uncles had any surviving children, meaning she was next in line.
“A CHRISTMAS CAROL” IS PUBLISHED
“A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens is published a week before Christmas. The classic story about Scrooge meeting the ghosts of the Christmas Past, Present, and Future is sold out within six days.
THE IRISH POTATO FAMINE BEGINS
A disease kills most of the potato crops in Ireland, leading to massive starvation. Many Irish people died or moved to the United States, looking for a better life.
The first major conflict of the Mexican War occurs north of the Rio Grande River at Palo Alto, Texas when United States troops under the command of Major General Zachary Taylor rout a larger Mexican force. Zachary had been ordered by President Polk to seize disputed Texas land settled by Mexicans. War is declared by the United States against Mexico on May 13, backed by southerners while northern Whigs were in opposition. Ten days later, Mexico declares war back.
THE GREAT EXHIBITION OPENS
The first of a series of World’s Fairs opens at London’s Crystal Palace and attracts six million visitors in five months. The fairs were held to show the latest discoveries in science and technology.
THE CRIMEAN WAR BEGINS
The Crimean War was fought between Russia on one side and England, France, Sardinia, and Turkey on the other side. The war is known for being poorly fought on both sides.
“ON THE ORIGIN OF THE SPECIES” IS PUBLISHED
Charles Darwin publishes a book called “On the Origin of the Species.” The book explains Darwin’s scientific theory that all living things evolve over time through a process he calls “natural selection.”
Republican candidate Abraham Lincoln, running on an anti-slavery platform, defeats three opponents in the campaign for the presidency; Democrats Stephen A. Douglas and John C. Breckinridge, and John Bell, Constitutional Union Party, leading to ardent cries of potential rebellion in southern slave states. Although Lincoln won the Electoral College by a large majority, 180 to 123 for all other candidates, the popular vote showed just how split the nation was. Lincoln garnered 1.9 million votes to the 2.8 million spread amongst his opponents. South Carolina responds to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President by being the first southern state to secede from the Union.
PRINCE ALBERT DIES, IN AMERICA WAR BEGINS
Prince Albert dies of typhoid at the age of 42. Queen Victoria is so filled with grief that she does not make a public appearance for 10 years and mourns Albert’s death for the rest of her life.
In America, Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina harbor is bombarded for 34 hours by Confederate forces after the U.S. Army commander failed to evacuate, thus starting the four years of conflict and the U.S. Civil War. The Confederate States of America, formed two months earlier had sought to force federal troops from occupation of its territory. Fort Sumter was captured April 14 when Major Robert Anderson turned the fort over to the Confederacy.
FOUR SCORE AND SEVEN YEARS AGO
“Four score and seven years ago,” began what many perceive as the best speech in American history, delivered by President Abraham Lincoln in the town cemetery overlooking the fields of Gettysburg. The Gettysburg Address, only 272 words long and taking about two minutes to speak, captured the essence of the Civil War as both sacrifice and inspiration.
SURRENDER AND ASSASSINATION
General Robert E. Lee, as commander in chief of Confederate forces, surrenders his 27,000 man army to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Court House, Virginia, effectively ending the four years of Civil War conflict. Additional troops under southern command would continue to surrender until May 26. The McLean House is the location for the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.
Abraham Lincoln is assassinated in Ford’s Theatre, Washington, D.C.. five days after the signing at Appomattox of the Confederate surrender. The shot, fired by actor John Wilkes Booth, during the play “Our American Cousin,” ends the life of the president who presided over the War of Rebellion and the end of slavery. Lincoln would die one day later.
EAST MEETS WEST
At Promontory, Utah, the final golden spike of the transcontinental railroad is driven into the ground, marking the junction of the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads. This act, as much as any other, would signal the marked increase in the settlement of the west.
THE WOMEN’S CRUSADE
The Women’s Crusade of 1873-74 is started when women in Fredonia, New York march against retail liquor dealers, leading to the creation of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. In 1917, this movement would culminate in the 18th Amendment, prohibiting the sale of liquor in the United States, a ban that would last for sixteen years.
SITTING BULL AND CRAZY HORSE
Reporting on the Indian Wars, inspector E.C. Watkins pronounces that hundreds of Sioux and Cheyenne under Indian leaders Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse are openly hostile against the United States government, forming U.S. policy over the next year that would lead to battles such as Little Big Horn.
ALEXANDER GRAHAM BELL SPEAKS ON A TELEPHONE
While Alexander Graham Bell may not have invented the telephone, he got the first patent for a telephone on March 7, 1876. A few days later, he had the first phone conversation when he spoke to his assistant, Thomas Watson.
THE PANAMA CANAL
The construction of the Panama Canal begins under French auspices, although it would eventually fail on the sea level canal in 1893, and would be bought out by the United States twenty-four years later under President Theodore Roosevelt.
THE STATUE OF LIBERTY
The Statue of Liberty, known during its construction and erection as “Bartholdi’s Light” or “Liberty Enlightening the World” is dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in New York Harbor. First shown in the United States at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia ten years earlier, the huge sculpture by French artist Auguste Bartholdi provided the beacon to millions of immigrants and citizens who would pass its position in the decades to come.
ELLIS ISLAND OPENS
Ellis Island, in New York Harbor, opens as the main east coast immigration center, and would remain the initial debarkation point for European immigrants into the United States until its closure in 1954. More than 12 million immigrants would be processed on the island during those years. Ellis Island replaced Castle Garden, in Manhattan, as the New York immigration center.
THE WORLD’S FAIR
One of the largest world’s fairs in history opens to the public in Paris, France with the United States among 42 nations and 25 colonies to exhibit. This world’s fair also included the second modern Olympic Games held within its 553 acre site and would draw over thirty-nine million paid visitors through its close on November 12.
QUEEN VICTORIA DIES
Queen Victoria seems ill for several months before she dies. She loses her appetite, appears to be confused sometimes, and she finally dies a few days after suffering a series of strokes.
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