The 1890s was a colorful decade in history that helped shape the face of American enterprise and culture for nearly 50
years. It was the beginning of an end to the days of the old west, cowboy shootouts and
Indian uprisings, the horse and buggy and a primarily agricultural society. The dramatic
changes would reshape America from a fledgling nation to a modern industrialized
JULY: Idaho and Wyoming admitted as 43rd and 44th states.
DECEMBER 15: Sioux Chief Sitting Bull killed by Indian police during attempt by Army to prevent ghost dance ceremonies.
- December 29: 200 Sioux are massacred at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota.
Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show increases in popularity with American audiences.
Emily Dickinson Poems
- Her sister had discovered Writings after her death in 1886.
- Publisher reluctant for fear her unconventional style will not be acceptable to the
public, alters many of her poems.
- Critics hostile, but public acceptance leads to publication of all poems found.
U.S. Post Office Prohibits Mailing of Leo Tolstoy's, The Kreutzer Sonata
- Theodore Roosevelt, Gov. of New York, calls Tolstoy a "sexual and moral
MARCH 4: Mob storms New Orleans jail and lynches 11 Italian immigrants, of whom there are Italian nationals, after courts freed three Sicilians accused and acquitted of murder of local sheriff.
- After federal government refuses to intervene on grounds that crime is a state matter,
Italy recalls its ambassador to U. S. and U. S. recalls its ambassador from Italy.
- 1882: Matter settled when U. S. pays Italy $25,000 indemnity.
MAY 5: Carnegie Hall, endowed by Andrew Carnegie, opens in New York City.
JULY: Thomas A. Edison patents his Kinetoscopic camera, which takes moving pictures on a strip of film.
- Movies, called peep shows, are seen by one person at a time who peeps into a box and
turns a crank.
James A. Naismith of Springfield, Mass. invents basketball as an indoor winter substitute for football and baseball in YMCA training college.
Whitcomb L. Judson patents the zipper.
JULY 6: Homestead Strike
- Strikers protesting wage cuts and demanding recognition of their union fired on
Pinkertons hired to break the strike.
- 10 killed and many wounded.
- July 9: Governor of Pennsylvania sends in National Guard troopers to keep order.
- Troopers remain at the mill for three months until strike is broken.
- Workers return as nonunion men.
- Successfully prevented organization of steel mills for 40 years.
SEPTEMBER: Tool and bicycle makers Frank and Charles Duryea build first gas powered automobile in U.S.
- Test indoors for fear of ridicule.
- Engine too weak for success, builds a more powerful one the next year.
- 1893 Henry Ford tests his first automobile.
OCTOBER 15: President Harrison opens 1.8 million acre Crow reservation in Montana to settlement.
NOVEMBER 8: Democrat Grover Cleveland elected.
- Democrats gain control of both houses of Congress.
A. Conan Doyle's, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes published in U.S.
Inauguration of Grover Cleveland (Democrat, NY)
- Previously served as President from 1885-1889
APRIL 21: At age 26, Frank Lloyd Wright opens architectural design firm and completes his first home under his own name.
APRIL 21: Financial panic of 1893 Begins.
- Gold reserves fall below safe minimum ($100 Million) - national treasury drained
because of sales of gold securities to foreign investors and effect of McKinley tariff and
high veterans' pensions on treasury.
- June 27: Stock Market Crashes--reaches new low.
- By end of year, gold reserves decline to $80 million.
- 600 banks fail, 15,000 businesses are bankrupted, and one-third of all railroads are
- Depression and widespread unemployment last until 1897.
NOVEMBER: Patent on Bell Telephone expires.
- Ends Bell Telephone Company monopoly on phone service.
- In short time many small companies begin service in areas not served by Bell.
APRIL 30: Coxey's Army reaches Washington, D.C.
- 500 unemployed men led by Jacob S. Coxey of Ohio.
- Demands Public Works Programs for relief of unemployment.
- Demands the federal government issue $500 million in legal tender paper to put more
money in circulation.
- May 1: Coxey and two other leaders arrested on courthouse steps for trespassing and
his "army" disbands.
- First and most famous of several protest armies of unemployed during this period.
MAY 11: Workers at Pullman Palace Car Company strike in protest against wage reductions.
- Amid violence and bloodshed, railroad cars are looted and burned.
- June 26: Eugene Debs, head of American Railway Union, calls out his membership in
sympathy with Pullman strikers.
- Result is spread of sympathy strikes that paralyze 50,000 miles of railroad
- July 2: U. S. Court issues injunction against strikers under provisions of Sherman
Antitrust Act which forbid interference with interstate commerce and U. S. Mails.
- July 3: President Cleveland sends U. S. troops into Chicago over the protest of
Illinois Governor John. P. Altgeld.
- July 17: Eugene Debs indicted for criminal conspiracy and contempt of court for which
he is later sentenced to six months in jail.
- July 20: Troops withdrawn from Chicago and two weeks later the strike ends without
having accomplished its purpose.
A Year of Unemployment and Labor Discontent.
- Riot among striking miners in Pennsylvania leaves 11 dead.
- 136,000 coal miners strike for higher wages in Ohio.
- Several Negro miners' are killed in Alabama by striking workers.
- In New York City, 12,000 clothing workers strike against piecework and sweatshop
AUGUST 28: Congress passes first graduated income tax.
- Becomes law without President Cleveland's signature.* Income tax called "socialism, Communism, and devilism" by one senator.
- Supreme Court declares it a direct tax and therefore unconstitutional the next year.
- HENRY DEMAREST LLOYD, WEALTH AGAINST COMMONWEALTH
- Important muckraking journalism.
- Exposes Standard Oil.
FEBRUARY 24: Cubans begin fight for independence from Spain.
- Result of Spanish oppression and financial depression resulting from Panic of 1883
and high American tariff on sugar.
- "Yellow Journalism" of William Randolph Hearst (New York Morning Journal)
and Joseph Pulitzer (New York World) fan country into war hysteria.
- April 6: Congress grants belligerent rights to Cuba, President Cleveland offers peace
arbitration to Spain.
- May 22: Spain refuses offer.
OCTOBER: U.S. Supreme Court upholds use of Federal Troops and injunctions to maintain flow of mail and interstate commerce in the Pullman Strike of 1894.
- Sanctions use of the Sherman Antitrust Act as a strikebreaking device.
- Essentially removes protection of laws developed to protect labor unions since 1842.
OCTOBER: Sears Roebuck Company opens mail order business.
- Sears and Montgomery Ward opened in 1872 revolutionize retail business.
- Response to farmer (especially Grange) resentment of profits taken by middlemen.
- Rural inhabitants have difficulties reaching urban markets--Sears and Ward brings the
markets to them.
- Rural Free Delivery started in 1896 to help end isolation of farm communities as well
as aid mail order business.
Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage published.
Woodville Latham demonstrates his moving picture projector, The Panoptikan.
- Combines Edison's kinetoscope with the "Magic Lantern".
- First of many devices over the next few years, all of which only run films of short
JANUARY 4: Utah enters Union as 45th state after five unsuccessful attempts.
- Congress would not admit Utah until Mormon elders' outlawed polygamy.
APRIL 6: James B. Connolly, winner of Hop, Skip and Jump Event, becomes first Olympic Champion in 1500 years at revival of Olympic Games in Athens, Greece.
- U. S. team arriving on day of opening after a long sea voyage wins 9 of the 12 track
and field events.
APRIL 6: Gold discovered in Yukon District of Northwest Canada.
- Sets off last great North American gold rush.
- Jack London.
NOVEMBER 3: Republican William McKinley (Ohio) wins presidential election.
NOVEMBER: U.S. Supreme Court in Plessy V. Ferguson upholds 'Separate But Equal' doctrine.'
Duryea Brother, whose machines have won most speed competitions in the past two years, produce 10 automobiles in their factory.
Sarah Orne Jewett publishes her collection of Short Stories, The Country of the Pointed Firs
Kosters and Bial's Music Hall in New York holds first public exhibition of moving pictures.
- Called the "Crown and Flower of Nineteenth Century Magic."
New York World publishes The Yellow Kid.
- Forerunner of modern comic strip.
Former baseball player William Ashley ("Billy") Sunday begins career as evangelist.
- Conducts 300 revivals and is heard by over 100 million people before his death in
Inauguration of William McKinley (Republican, Ohio)
JULY 7: First practical subway in U.S. opens in Boston.
- Plans for New York subway rejected the year before as too great a financial burden
for the city.
Charles M. Sheldon, Congregational Minister, publishes In His Steps.
- Collection of sermons telling young people what they might achieve if they emulated
Jesus for one year.
- To the present the book has sold over 8 million copies in 20 languages.
Edward Arlington Robinson publishes collection of poems, The Children of the Night.
William James publishes collections of essays, including The Will to Believe and other essays in popular philosophy and The Varieties of Religious Experience.
FEBRUARY 15: U.S. Battleship Maine in Havana to protect American residents and property in Cuba is sunk in the harbor with loss of 260 men.
- Perpetrator never discovered, but American people accept Spain as responsible.
- "Remember the Maine" becomes battle cry of Americans who want war against
- Sensational newspaper accounts inflame anti-Spain sentiment and make involvement in
the Cuban rebellion inevitable.
- February 25: Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt orders Pacific Fleet
to the Philippines with instructions to attack the Spanish fleet if war breaks out.
- August 12: U.S. Proposal agreed to by Spain calls for Spain to relinquish
sovereignty over Cuba, cede Puerto Rico to U.S., and agree to U. S. Occupation of
- August 13: U.S. forces and Filipino guerrillas fight battle for Manila, unaware that
hostilities have ceased.
- Surrender of Manila on the following day ends one hundred years of Filipino rebellion
Filipinos incensed at the refusal of the U.S. to grant their independence immediately begin armed revolt.
- About 70,000 men on each side involved.
- Organized resistance ends by December 1899, but guerilla action continues until
spring of 1902.
- Ends when Americans assure Filipinos that military occupation will end and
independence be granted when Filipinos are capable of self-governance.
FEBRUARY 17: Formation of anti-imperialist league to try and keep U.S. from extending its interests beyond continental limits.
* Before the year is over, U. S. has achieved sovereignty in American Samoa and Wake
John Dewey begins revolution in education with publication of The School and Society.
- Advocates learning through experience rather than through mastery of traditional
Louis Sullivan builds the Schlesinger and Meyers Department Store in Chicago.
- Later became Carson, Pirie, Scott & Company building.
- First modern style commercial building in the U. S.
- *Anticipates modernism in architecture.
Edwin Markham publishes Man With A Hoe in San Francisco Examiner.
- Within one week it is published in newspapers throughout the U.S.
- Becomes most popular poem to this date published in the U.S.
Economist Thornstein Veblen publishes The Theory of the Leisure Class.
Frank Norris', The Octopus, published. Later followed by The Pit in 1902.