Timeline: 1865-1874


Figures by the Seaside.

Homer Dodge Martin (American, 1836-1897). Figures by the Seaside, Collotype reproduction of drawing. The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, New York. Gift of Mary Bernald, in memory of Eugene Bernald, father of Mary Ann Bernald, class of 1963 and grandfather of Justin K. Lowe, class of 2007, 2002.43.4

  • 1865
  • Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery in the United States, is passed by Congress and ratified by two-thirds of states still in the Union
  • President Abraham Lincoln assassinated; V.P. Andrew Johnson assumes the office
  • Congress creates Bureau of Freedmen, Refugees, and Abandoned Lands to assist with physical reconstruction and human welfare in the defeated Confederacy
  • President Johnson extends recognition to Southern state governments, on lenient terms, while Congress is not in session; Congress rejects his action, refuses to seat representatives from ex-Confederate states, and creates a Joint Committee to assert its authority in Reconstruction
  • Southern state governments pass harsh Black Codes that restrict black rights, prompting Northern Republican response (1865-66)
  • Congress creates Secret Service
  • In Ex Parte Milligan the Supreme Court rules that civilians may not be tried in military courts and circumscribes the jurisdiction of such courts
  • Surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee to United States General Ulysses S. Grant at Appamattox, Virginia, concludes major fighting in the US Civil War
  • Great Sioux War or Red Cloud’s War, over control of Bozeman Trail area; massacre of Capt. W. J. Fetterman and his troops in 1866; in resulting Treaty of Fort Laramie the US withdraws troops from forts along the trail, concedes Powder River area as “unceded territory,” and sets aside western half of South Dakota as Sioux lands (1865-1868)
  • Over two hundred Bannock Indians killed at Battle Creek, Idaho, by US troops in retaliation for Bannock raids
  • Sioux and Cheyenne uprising in Colorado in response to Sand Creek Massacre of 1864
  • Persistent raids by Kikapuak (Kickapoo) into southern Texas from Mexico result in hundreds of deaths (1865-1879)
  • New York Stock Exchange established at modern Wall Street location
  • Vassar College opens as first women’s college offering curriculum modeled on men’s Ivy League
  • Atlanta University, GA, founded
  • Yale University awards first Ph.D. in the United States
  • “The Black Crook,” first American musical, opens on Broadway
  • Franciscan missionary sisters founded
  • 1866
  • Ku Klux Klan, founded in Tennessee, spreads to other parts of the South; it and loosely associated vigilante groups, seeking to intimidate those who oppose white supremacy, undertake campaigns of beatings, murder, and arson until federal KKK Act forces Klan underground (1866-1871)
  • Blacks killed, beaten, and driven out by mob violence in Memphis, New Orleans, and other Southern cities
  • Jesse James and James-Younger gang raid in West Virginia
  • Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals founded
  • Goodnight Trail, a major cattle trail from New Mexico to Texas, established
  • Trans-Atlantic cable between US and Britain becomes fully operable
  • Economic depression hits, lasting into 1867
  • National Labor Union founded
  • Iron Molders locked out, Troy, NY
  • Chinese railroad builders’ strike, Central Pacific, over wage rates and eight-hour day
  • Fisk University, Nashville, TN, founded
  • 1867
  • Congress passes Reconstruction Acts to establish military rule in former Confederacy, except Tennessee
  • Patrons of Husbandry (The Grange) founded in Washington, DC
  • Chisholm Trail, a major cattle trail from Texas to Kansas, established
  • US purchases Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million

Our Russian Possessions--New Archangel, The Principal Town of Russian America.

Our Russian Possessions—New Archangel, The Principal Town of Russian America. "Our Russian Possessions", Harper’s Weekly, May 1867, p.277.


  • US annexes Midway Island in the Pacific Ocean
  • Knights of St. Crispin, union for workers in shoe factories, founded
  • Howard University, Washington, DC, founded
  • J. W. DeForest, Miss Ravenel’s Conversion from Secession to Loyalty
  • Brotherhood of the New Life (Spiritualist) founds colony in Brocton, New York
  • 1868
  • Congress attempts to impeach President Andrew Johnson for violating the Tenure of Office Act in firing the secretary of war without Congressional approval, and in a broader sense for obstructing and undermining Congressional policymaking; the House of Representatives votes to impeach but the Senate fails to do so, by one vote
  • Ulysses S. Grant, Republican, defeats Horatio Seymour, Democrat, in the US presidential election; popular vote 3,013,421 to 2,706,829; electoral vote 214 to 80
  • Republicans maintain control of both houses of Congress in the election; hold majority of 149 to 63 in the House, 56 to 11 in the Senate
  • US and China sign Burlingame Treaty permitting access of Chinese laborers to United States
  • Congress passes law stipulating an eight-hour day for laborers employed on federal projects
  • Treaty of Medicine Lodge forces more than 100,000 Apache, Arapaho, Kiowa, Navajo, and other tribes onto reservations in Indian Territory
  • Kiowa and Comanche raids in Texas
  • Cheyenne and Oglala Sioux uprising in western Kansas and Colorado; US troops slaughter Cheyenne at Black Kettle’s camp on Washita River, Indian Territory
  • Massacre of over two hundred blacks at Opelousas, Louisiana
  • Jesse James and James-Younger gang raid in Kentucky
  • Anthracite coal strike, Penn., over wage levels and eight-hour day
  • University of California is created
  • Louisa May Alcott, Little Women
  • John Rollin Ridge, Cherokee, publishes first volume of poetry published by a Native American author
  • John Muir settles in Yosemite Valley
  • George Westinghouse invents railroad air brakes, not widely adopted for many years
  • Abram Hewitt introduces open-hearth steel process to the United States
  • Inventor Christopher Sholes introduces typewriter
  • First amateur track and field meet in the United States held at New York Athletic Club
  • 1869
  • Congress passes the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing US citizens the right to vote irrespective of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Ratified 1870.
  • Congress establishes Railway Mail Service, greatly increasing speed and reliability of postal delivery
  • Massachusetts establishes the first state board of health
  • Women gain full suffrage in Wyoming Territory
  • Women’s suffrage movement splits; American Woman Suffrage Association and National Woman Suffrage Association created
  • Prohibition Party founded in Chicago
  • Koreshan Unity Movement founded
  • Knights of Labor founded in Philadelphia
  • Collar laundresses strike, Troy, NY, over wages and union recognition
  • Hayden Expedition begins geological survey of western lands
  • John Wesley Powell navigates the Grand Canyon with an exploring party
  • First transcontinental rail line joins Union Pacific and Central Pacific at Pomontory Point, Utah

The Central Pacific Railroad.

Central Pacific Railroad—View on American River. "The Central Pacific Railroad", Harper’s Weekly, Dec. 1867, p.774.


  • Charles Eliot named president of Harvard, begins instituting curriculum changes that form the basis of the modern liberal arts
  • Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad
  • First professional baseball team, the Cincinnati Red Stockings, formed
  • Heinz food company established in Philadelphia
  • 1870
  • Congress passes KKK Act to repress violence against blacks in the South; authorizes federal force against those who violate civil and political rights of citizens; resulting use of armed force quells Klan violence in the South and forces the Klan underground (1870-1871)
  • Democrats regain control of the House of Representatives with stunning gains in midterm elections; hold majority of , while Republicans hold Senate 52 to 17
  • All states represented in Congress for the first time since 1860
  • First African-American Congressman seated
  • US Weather Bureau established
  • Congress incorporates Corcoran Art Gallery, Washington, DC
  • Women gain full suffrage in Utah Territory
  • Dozens of Blackfeet killed by US troops in Massacre on the Marias, Montana
  • Tiburcio Vásquez bandit gang active in a string of robberies in California; Vásquez captured in 1874, defends his actions as a fight for Mexican-American rights; tried and hanged in 1875 ( 1870-1874)
  • Vigilantes in Tucson kill over a hundred Apaches at Camp Grant, blaming them for nearby raids
  • US cavalry battles “Wild Bill” Hickock at Ft. Hays, Kansas
  • J. W. Hyatt introduces celluloid
  • Armour & Co. established in Chicago
  • First asphalt-paved road is built in New Jersey
  • First Vatican Council promulgates doctrine of papal infallibility
  • Sanctified Sisters (later called the Women’s Commonwealth) created in Belton, TX
  • 1871
  • Congress, in rider to Indian Appropriations Act, declares that it will no longer make treaties with Native American tribes, but instead they will be subject to congressional and presidential authority
  • U.S. Life-Saving Service professionalized and funded by Congress
  • Boss William Tweed, of New York’s Tammany Hall Democratic political machine, arrested and convicted of graft
  • US signs Treaty of Washington with Great Britain; settles CSS Alabama claims
  • Violence associated with suppression of Paris Commune in France shocks Americans and stimulates fear of communism and radicalism

A Destructive Worm.

Communism: A Destructive Worm. Puck, Apr. 1883, p.65.


  • Anti-Chinese riot in Los Angeles leaves 21 dead
  • Polaris Expedition
  • Walt Whitman, Democratic Vistas
  • Pillsbury Co. created
  • Immaculate Heart Sisters (Roman Catholic) founded

The Great Chicago Fire.








Rush for Life Over the Randolph Street Bridge. The Great Chicago Fire. Harper’s Weekly. Oct. 29, 1871.


  • 1872
  • Ulysses S. Grant wins presidency over Liberal Republican Horace Greeley; popular vote 3,596,745 to 2,843, 446; Grant receives all 286 electoral votes when Greeley dies shortly after the election. Minor candidates include Victoria Woodhull, first woman to run for president, on the Equal Rights ticket
  • Crédit Mobilier scandal implicates high-level Grant Administration officials and Congressmen with bribes and kickbacks in construction of the Union Pacific Railroad (1872-1873)
  • Congress establishes Yellowstone as world’s first national park
  • Republicans attain a majority of appointments on the US Supreme Court, a majority they maintain until 1939
  • Nebraska becomes the first state to celebrate Arbor Day
  • First Lonngley Community (communist cooperative) formed in Dallas County, Missouri
  • Shoe workers’ strike, Lynn, MA, over wage levels
  • Mark Twain, Roughing It
  • John Gast paints “American Progress”
  • Montgomery Ward begins mail-order business in Chicago
  • Vaseline (petroleum jelly) patented
  • Charles Russell founds Jehovah’s Witnesses
  • 1873
  • Coinage Act establishes process for placing the United States on the gold standard over the next six years; species payments resume in 1879
  • Comstock Law prohibits use of US postal service for obscene literature, including information on birth control
  • Timber Culture Act permits homesteaders to take 160 more acres, in addition to 160 provided by earlier Homestead Act, if 40 of the new acres are planted in trees
  • In Slaughterhouse cases, Supreme Court undermines Fourteenth Amendment protections of US citizens’ rights
  • The Virginius, transporting arms to Cuban revolutionaries, is captured by Spanish and 53 of those aboard are executed in Santiago; Spain pays $80,000 indemnity for those killed
  • Modoc War, northern California
  • Massacre of over 100 black farmers at Colfax, Louisiana
  • Major economic depression hits nationwide, enduring through 1878
  • Andrew Carnegie begins to focus on steel production
  • St. Louis opens first public kindergarten
  • Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner, The Gilded Age
  • Union of American Hebrew Congregations formed
  • Sisters of Charity (Roman Catholic) arrive in United States from Germany
  • 1874
  • Congress passes law for protection of bison from hunters; vetoed by President Grant
  • King David Kalakaua ascends the throne in Hawai’ian Kingdom
  • Woman’s Christian Temperance Union founded in Cleveland, Ohio
  • Social Freedom colony founded in Chesterfield County, Virginia
  • Chautauqua movement founded in Chautauqua, New York
  • Red River War in Southwest pits starving Comanche, Kiowa, and Southern Cheyenne against US troops
  • Tompkins Square incident, New York City, pits poor and unemployed protesters against police trying to disperse the peaceful gathering; results in a riot, beatings by police, and mass arrests
  • South Dakota gold rush begins
  • Hutterite immigrants establish Bon Homme, first colony in South Dakota
  • Joseph F. Glidden develops and markets barbed wire
  • Macy’s department store in New York introduces Christmas display windows
  • First public zoo in the United States opens in Philadelphia
  • First Felician Sisters from Poland and Notre Dame Sisters from Germany (Roman Catholic) arrive in United States
  • Women’s Commonwealth (Sanctified Sisters) founded in Belton, Texas
  • Beecher-Tilton scandal, involving Congregational minister Henry Ward Beecher

© 2010 Rebecca Edwards, author of New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905 by Rebecca Edwards, Oxford University Press


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