Victorian Era

Victorian values dominated American social life for much of the 19th century. 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 was from June 20, 1837 until January 22, 1901. It was the time in British in history that Alexandrina Victoria was the Queen of England. It was a period of great change in the world due to new inventions, scientific discoveries, and social change. By the time she passed, Queen Victoria had served longer than any other monarch in British history.

The Timeline
  • 1901

    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.

  • 1900

    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.

  • 1898

    Remember the Maine

    The rallying cry, "Remember the Maine" is struck when the United States battleship Maine explodes and sinks under unknown causes in Havana Harbor, Cuba, killing two hundred and sixteen seamen. The sentiment becomes a rallying point during the coming Spanish-American War.

  • 1896

    First Modern Olympic Games

    The first modern Olympic Games is held in Athens, Greece. Thirteen nations participated, including the United States of America. It was held in Panathinaiko Stadium and had originated from an 1894 congress organized by Pierre de Coubertin who established the International Olympic Committee.

  • 1892

    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.

  • 1886

    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.

  • 1885

    Benz invents the gasoline-powered car

    Karl Benz from Germany creates the first car that runs on an internal combustion engine that uses gas for fuel. Benz is considered one of the founders of the German car company, Mercedes-Benz.

  • 1883

    The Brooklyn Bridge

    The Brooklyn Bridge is opened. It was constructed under a design by German-American Johann A. Roebling and required fourteen years to build. Six days later, a stampede of people fearing a rumor about its impending collapse causes twelve people to be killed.

  • 1881

    US President Garfield Shot

    The 20th President of the United States, James A. Garfield, is shot by lawyer Charles J. Guiteau in the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station in Washington, D.C. He would die two months later on September 19, 1881 from an infection and be succeeded in the presidency by Vice President Chester Arthur on September 20.

  • 1880

    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.

  • 1876

    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.

  • 1875

    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.

  • 1873

    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.

  • 1872

    Susan B. Anthony

    Susan B. Anthony, women's suffragette, illegally casts a ballot at Rochester, New York in the presidential election to publicize the cause of a woman's right to vote. The reelection of Republican President Ulysses S. Grant is granted by a landslide Electoral College victory, with 286 cast for Grant. His opponent, Horace Greeley, had died prior to the Electoral College vote, on November 29. His votes were split among four individuals.

  • 1870

    US Expansion

    The 1870 census indicates a national population of 38,558,371, an increase in the United States count of 22.6% over the 1860 census. This lower than normal increase of population in the 1800's shows the effect of the national strife of the Civil War and the tragic losses during that campaign. The geographic center of the U.S. population, for the second decade in a row, is in Ohio, 48 miles east by north of Cincinnati. The last former state of the Confederacy, Georgia, is readmitted into the Union, and the Confederated States of America is officially dissolved.

  • 1869

    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.

  • 1868

    George Westinghouse

    George Westinghouse invents and patents the air brake for railroad trains and organizes a company to produce them. Westinghouse would go on to patent four hundred inventions and found sixty companies, including Westinghouse Electric Company.

  • 1866

    A telegraph cable connects Europe and North America

    A telegraph cable is successfully laid on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean between Canada and Ireland. The cable allows telegrams to be sent between Europe and North America instead of sending letters on ships, which could take weeks to arrive.

  • 1865

    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.

  • 1864

    Lincoln Wins

    President Lincoln defeats former Union General George B. McClellan to remain president of the United States, a repudiation of the tactics of delay favored by his former commander, and a signal of support for the President as he continued to prosecute the rebellion by the southern Confederate states. Lincoln receives 2.2 million votes and 212 in the electoral college compared to 1.8 million votes and 21 in the electoral college for McClellan.

  • 1863

    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.

  • 1861

    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.

  • 1860

    President Lincoln

    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.

  • 1859

    "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."

  • 1858

    The Crimean War ends

    Russia is defeated in the Crimean War and it is no longer considered a dominant force in Europe. Many in Russia call for change in the country's politics after the war.

  • 1853

    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.

  • 1852

    Civil War Looms

    American Senator Henry Clay, author of much legislation on the topic of slavery, dies. Later that year, on October 24, statesman Daniel Webster, would also pass away. This void in American politics would be felt throughout the next decade as the difficult days of slavery and Civil War would consume the nation.

  • 1851

    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.

  • 1850

    Lord Alfred Tennyson becomes Poet Laureate of England

    One of the most popular poets of the Victorian Era, Lord Tennyson is named Poet Laureate of England. One of his most famous poems while Poet Laureate was "Charge of the Light Brigade," written about the Crimean War.

  • 1846

    Mexican War

    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.

  • 1845

    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.

  • 1843

    "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.

  • 1841

    The Death Of A US President

    President William Henry Harrison, sworn into office only one month before on March 4, dies of pneumonia. His tenure of one month is the shortest in history and his death in office the first for a president of the United States. He is succeeded by Vice President John Tyler.

  • 1840

    Queen Victoria marries Prince Albert

    Queen Victoria marries her cousin, Prince Albert, at St. James Palace in London. As the Queen, she is not allowed to marry a "commoner" and must marry someone who came from a royal family.

  • 1839

    American Inventions

    Americans inventor William Otis receives a patent for the steam shovel. Later that year, American inventor Thaddeus Fairbanks invented the platform scales and Charles Goodyear invented rubber vulcanization.

  • 1838

    The Year of Firsts

    Louis Daguerre takes the first commercially successful photograph in Paris. Because it takes so long to process one of his photos, moving objects cannot be photographed. An Irish packet steamer, the Sirius, becomes the first steamship to cross the Atlantic, completing the journey to New York in 19 days.

  • 1837

    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.

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