1850-1877: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Chronology

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1850-1877: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Chronology




  • The population of the thirty-one states in the United States is just under 23.3 million.
  • The Female Medical College is founded in Philadelphia by a group of Quakers. Eight women enroll in the first class. The college remains a womens institution until 1969, when it becomes coeducational.
  • Vermont passes a personal-liberty law declaring that fugitive slaves who escape to that state do not have to be turned over to federal authorities for return to their masters. By 1858 similar laws have been passed in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Michigan, Maine, Kansas, and Wisconsin.
  • More than eighteen thousand homeless people are living in the cellars of buildings in New York City. By 1856 the construction of tenement apartment houses has helped to ease this problem.
  • 23-24 Oct. Delegates from nine states meet in Worcester, Massachusetts, for the first national womens rights convention. Among the participants are Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, and Lucretia Mott. The delegates call for the right to vote and equal rights without distinction of sex or color.


  • Maine passes a law prohibiting the sale of intoxicating beverages.
  • The first North American chapters of the Young Mens Christian Association, founded in Great Britain in 1844, are established in Boston and Montreal.
  • In New York six thousand seamstresses establish the Shirt Sewers Cooperative Union and pledge to share their profits.
  • 12 Aug. Isaac Merrit Singer is awarded a patent for his continuous-stitching sewing machine, the first such machine that is practical for home use.


  • New York City and Boston start passenger horsecar lines. Unlike earlier horsedrawn omnibuses, horsecars run on train tracks.
  • After she is denied the right to speak at a temperance rally because she is a woman, Susan B. Anthony founds the Womens New York State Temperance Society.
  • The popular magazine Godeys Ladys Book begins publishing brief reports about working women under the heading Employment for Women.
  • Oct. Rev. Thomas Gallaudet founds a church for deaf mutes in New York City.


  • Antoinette Blackwell becomes the first ordained female minister in the United States when she is installed as pastor of the Congregational Church in South Butler, New York.
  • American restaurants begin hiring waitresses to serve food, formerly a job only for male waiters.
  • Feb. In Washington, D.C., Paulina Wright Davis publishes the first issue of Una, womans suffrage magazine edited by Caroline H. Dall.
  • May Texan Gail Borden, who has been experimenting with methods for preserving milk and other perishable foods, applies for a patent on his sweetened condensed milk. The patent is finally issued on 19 August 1856.


  • Amanda M. Way, a Quaker minister, founds the Womans Temperance Army in Indiana to shut down local saloons.
  • Timothy Shay Arthurs Ten Nights in a Barroom and What I Saw There is published in New York City. This influential temperance tract becomes a bestseller, second in sales only to Harriet Beecher Stowes powerful antislavery novel Uncle Toms Cabin (1852).
  • 2 June Fugitive slave Anthony Burns is taken from a Boston jail to begin the trip to Richmond, Virginia, where he is returned to his master. In protest Bostonians who oppose slavery drape their houses in black. Because of the furor surrounding the case thousands of policemen and federal troops guard the streets of the city, costing the federal government some $100,000.
  • 31 Oct. The Nebraska Palladium reports that there are 128 female postmasters in the United States. The women receive the same pay as their male counterparts.


  • Sarah Josepha Hale launches a campaign to eliminate the word female from the name of Vassar Female College and then from all other references to women in public life. This goal becomes one of the objectives of womens rights activists.
  • 4 July A law prohibiting the sale of alcoholic beverages goes into effect in New York State. By the end of this year twelve states have passed similar laws. The New York law, however, is declared unconstitutional in March 1856.


  • After disaffected followers assassinate Jesse Strang, self-proclaimed king of a Mormon colony on Beaver Island in Lake Michigan, other Michigan residents break up the colony and force the twenty-five hundred Mormons to leave their state.
  • A California slave, Bridget (Biddy) Mason, sues her Mormon owners for her freedom. She wins her case and moves to Los Angeles, where she purchases a homestead and eventually makes a fortune in real-estate transactions.


  • Massachusetts requires its citizens to pass a literacy test in order to vote.
  • 18 Nov. A national temperance convention is held in Chicago.


  • A passenger horsecar service begins operation in Philadelphia.
  • The first overland mail service connects the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
  • H.C Wright publishes The Unwelcomed Child; or, the Crime of an Undesigned and Undesired Maternity, a pamphlet in which he advocates birth control.


  • Women in the Kansas Territory are allowed to vote in school elections.
  • The first hotel passenger elevator is installed at the Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City.
  • The American Medical Association declares that abortion should be outlawed. By 1880 forty states and territories have passed laws against abortion.
  • George M. Pullmans first sleeping car goes into service on a U.S. railroad.


  • According to the U.S. Census the population of the United States is nearly 31.5 million, including about 448,000 freed blacks and nearly 4 million slaves.
  • New York revises its Married Womens Property Law, which allows women to own property and to keep their wages. The new law permits women to enter into contracts and bring suit in court, as well as giving them equal rights in child-custody cases.
  • 22 Feb.-10 Apr. During a major shoemakers strike in Lynn, Massachusetts, some eight hundred women join their male colleagues, carrying signs declaring; that American Ladies Will Not Be Slaves.
  • 24 Nov A grand ball honoring the Prince of Wales is given at the Academy of Music in New York City. It is long considered the greatest social event ever to take place in the United States.


  • Antonio (Tony) Pastor opens his first theater on Broadway in New York City, attracting whole families by offering women dress patterns and kitchenware. Pastor becomes known as The Father of Vaudeville.
  • Red Garibaldi shirts, modeled after the Italian revolutionarys uniform, become popular with American women.
  • 12 Apr. Confederate troops fire on Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, beginning the Civil War.
  • 5 Aug. Congress imposes a federal income tax to help fund the Civil War.


  • Congress establishes the Department of Agriculture.
  • Elizabeth Keckly, a dressmaker and former slave, helps to found the Contraband Relief Association to assist free blacks and runaway slaves in Washington, D.C.


  • Congress institutes free mail delivery in U.S. cities.
  • Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony found the National Womens Loyal League to support emancipation and the war effort.
  • Ebenezer Butterick begins selling to home sewers paper patterns for boys and mens clothing. In 1867 he begins making patterns for womens clothes and marketing them in his own magazines.
  • 1 Jan. President Abraham Lincoln issues the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing all slaves in Confederate territory not held by Union troops.
  • 3 Oct. President Abraham Lincoln declares Thanksgiving Day a national holiday.


  • In God We Trust appears for the first time on a U.S. coin, a two-cent piece.
  • 30 June Congress passed an Internal Revenue Act, which raises taxes on items such as tobacco and increases income-tax rates.


  • Ellen Curtis Demorest begins selling paper patterns womens clothing, marketing them in her own magazine, Mme. Demoresfs Mirror of Fashion.
  • John Batterson Stetson opens a hat factory in Philadelphia and begins manufacturing the popular western-style hat that now bears his name.
  • 9 Apr. Gen. Robert E. Lee surrenders to Gen. Ulysses S. Grant in Appomattox, Virginia, marking the end of the Civil War.
  • 24 Dec. The Ku Klux Klan is founded by Confederate army veterans in Pulaski, Tennes see.


  • 10 Apr. Philanthropist Henry Bergh founds the American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.


  • Already popular in Europe, cigarettes begin to appear in the United States, introduced with the aim of making smoking more appealing to women.
  • Oliver H. Kelley founds the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry as a social and educational organization for farmers. During the 1870s the group becomes involved in the political fight to end the exploitation of farmers by railroads and middlemen.
  • The Illinois Soldiers Orphans Home, the first home for orphans of Civil War veterans, is founded in Bloomington, Illinois.


  • Susan B. Anthony founds a newspaper, The Revolution, to advance the campaign for womans suffrage.


  • Arabella Mansfield is admitted to the Iowa bar, becoming the first woman lawyer in America since Mistress Margaret Brent served as attorney for Lord Proprietor Cecilius Calvert of Maryland during the 1640s.
  • Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton found the National Woman Suffrage Association. Stanton serves as president until 1890.
  • Lucy Stone founds the American Woman Suffrage Association.
  • Wyoming Territory grants women the vote.
  • Henry J. Heinz and L. C. Noble establish a food-packing plant in Sharpsburg, Pennsylvania. Their first product is grated horseradish.


  • According to the U.S. Census the population of the United States is nearly 39.9 million. It also reaveals that one in eight children is working.
  • The Utah Territory grants the vote to women.
  • 25 feb. Sen. Hiram R. Revels, a Republican from Mississippi, becomes the first African American to serve in the U.S. Congress.


  • 8-11 Oct. The Great Chicago Fire destroys most of the city, killing 250 people and leaving some 98,500 homeless.


  • In Rochester, New York, Susan B. Anthony leads a group of sixteen women who register to vote in the presidential election.
  • 22 Feb. The Prohibition Party holds its first national nominating convention in Columbus, Ohio.


  • Congress passes the Comstock Law prohibiting the sending of obscene materials, including birth control information, through the U.S. Mail.


  • The Womans Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) is established in Cleve land, Ohio, with Annie Wittenmyer as its first president.
  • 21 Aug. A civil-court jury finds popular preacher Rev. Henry Ward Beecher not guilty in a suit brought by Theodore Tilton, who has accused Beecher of entering into an adulterous affair.


  • Henry Bergh founds the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children.


  • Americans celebrate the centennial of the Declaration of Independence.
  • Juliet Corson founds the New York Cooking School, the first cooking school in the United States.


  • 15 June Henry O. Flipper becomes the first African American to graduate from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

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1850-1877: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Chronology

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1850-1877: Lifestyles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Chronology