Timeline of Selected Events: 1860-1869

Click on the Pic Icon icon to display a picture for the particular event.
Click on the Book Icon icon to go to the Readings for the particular year.

1860 Book Icon

  • American edition of Origin of Species is published.
  • T. H. Huxley clashes with Bishop Wilberforce about evolution.
  • The first "missing link" is discovered, a feather from the earliest known bird, Archaeopteryx. More complete skeletal fossils of Archaeopteryx, called the London Specimen, are found in 1861. Pic Icon
  • First Pony Express riders leave St. Joseph, MO. Pic Icon
  • U.S. has 372 daily papers, up from 254 in 1850, but they generally remain too expensive for the average person to afford.
  • U.S. population reaches 31.4 million, twice its 1840 level, though only nine cities have more than 100,000.
  • South Carolina leaves Union in protest over election of Lincoln as president. Ten other states soon join South Carolina in setting up their own Confederacy. All wish to continue to keep slaves; however Missouri, Kentucky, and West Virginia remain in the Union.
  • All U.S. states now have some tax-supported free elementary schools, though it is still illegal to educate blacks.

1861-1865 Book Icon

  • The American Civil War begins on April 12, 1861. The Union will lose 360,222 men (110,000 in battle) and the Confederacy 258,000 (94,000 in battle), with at least 471,427 wounded on both sides. Pic Icon
  • John Stuart Mill's Utilitarianism is first published as three essays in 1861 by Fraser's Magazine, and as a book in 1863.

1861 Book Icon

  • Telegraph links New York and San Francisco.
  • James Clerk Maxwell makes the first color photograph.
  • The germ theory of disease has its beginnings in a paper published by Louis Pasteur that refutes the idea of spontaneous generation and others of its kind that are still commonly believed.
  • The Gatling gun is invented. It can fire hundreds of rounds per minute.
  • Yale awards the first Ph.D.
  • The first popular bicycle—the "velocipede"— is invented.
  • Death of Prince Albert

1862 Book Icon

  • Matthew Brady's Civil War photographs in New York. Pic Icon
  • Herbert Spencer's First Principles (followed by The Principles of Biology in 1864-7, The Principles of Psychology in 1870-2, The Principles of Sociology in 1876-96, The Data of Ethics in 1879, and The Principles of Ethics in 1892)
  • Jean-Joseph Étienne Lenoir assembles the first automobile.

1863 Book Icon

  • Sir Charles Lyell's Geological Evidence for the Antiquity of Man
  • Conscription for Union Army begins but gives exemption to any man who pays $300 for a substitute.
  • Draft riots break out in Northern cities.
  • Lincoln signs the Emancipation Proclamation. The proclamation gives the Union moral authority in the Civil War.
  • A scarlet fever epidemic in England kills more than 30,000.
  • A 12-year, worldwide cholera epidemic begins.
  • Ernest Renan's The Life of Jesus applies modern methods of scholarship to the Christian story.

1864 Book Icon

  • Hippolyte Taine's History of English Literature
  • August Weismann refutes the notion that acquired characteristics can be transmitted to offspring.
  • "In God We Trust" is printed on U.S. currency by order of Treasury Secretary Salmon Portland Chase.
  • Suggested reading: Matthew Arnold's "The Function of Criticism at the Present Time."

1865 Book Icon

  • Lee surrenders at Appomatox.
  • The Thirteenth Amendment abolishes slavery.
  • Lincoln is assassinated. Pic Icon
  • Over 600,000 soldiers are dead and 500,000 wounded.
  • Claude Bernard's Introduction to the Study of Experimental Medicine
  • Jules Verne's From the Earth to the Moon
  • English surgeon Joseph Lister has read of Pasteur's 1861 findings and discovers the value of carbolic acid as an antiseptic, inaugurating the era of antiseptic surgery using a sprayer that creates a carbolic mist.
  • The Ku Klux Klan is organized. Pic Icon
  • Francis Galton's "Hereditary Talent and Character"

1866 Book Icon

  • London has Black Friday on May 11 as financial panic hits the city.
  • Postwar economic depression begins in the U.S. as prices begin a rapid decline following the war's inflation.
  • Horses provide virtually all the power for urban transit and agricultural production.
  • Cholera kills some 50,000 Americans, and New York has recurring epidemics of cholera, scarlet fever, smallpox, typhoid fever, typhus, and yellow fever which grow more severe in the next 7 years in Baltimore, Boston, Memphis, New Orleans, Philadelphia, and Washington.
  • The first successful transatlantic cable is completed, allowing instant communication by telegraph between Europe and North America. Pic Icon
  • Gregor Mendel publishes the basic laws of heredity, but scientists will not appreciate this work until 1900.

1867 Book Icon

  • Marx's Das Kapital urges an end to private ownership of public utilities, transportation facilities, and means of production.
  • The New York State Legislature votes to establish a free public school system.
  • Benjamin Chew Tilghman devises the sulfite process for producing wood pulp for paper making.
  • More than half of U.S. working people are employed on farms.

1868 Book Icon

  • Discovery of five Cro-Magnon (38,000 B.C.E.) skeletons in France Pic Icon
  • Congress enacts an Eight-Hour Law for U.S. government laborers, but in he private industry most laborers work 10 to 12 hours per day.
  • The Fourteenth Amendment is ratified, giving black citizens the vote.
  • A refrigerated railway car with ice-filled tanks along its sides is patented for transporting fresh meat and fruits.
  • A separate, permanent bathroom is introduced into homes with the invention of a gas-fuelled water heater.
  • Cleveland Abbe begins predicting storms and other conditions on the Great Lakes, the first daily weather forecasts.

1869 Book Icon

  • The first transcontinental railroad completed. Pic Icon
  • The Suez Canal is completed.
  • Francis Galton's Hereditary Genius
  • The first color photographs are displayed.
  • The Cardiff Giant is "discovered" at Cardiff, New York, where the huge stone figure of a man has been secretly buried by scam artist George Hull after being hewn from a block of gypsum. Promoters claim the figure is a petrified man from biblical times, citing Genesis 6:4 ("There were giants in the earth in those days"). The hoax takes in eminent men and makes Hull rich before being exposed by American Paleontologist Othniel C. Marsh. Pic Icon
  • The Noble Order of the Knights of Labor is founded.
  • Wall Street has its first "Black Friday," ruining small speculators.
  • The territory of Wyoming (not yet a state) becomes the first area in world to grant women the vote.
  • 1860
  • 1870
  • 1880
  • 1890
  • 1900
  • 1910