Friday, April 10, 2015

What Happened in America in the 1870's

When the 1870s began, the Civil War had been over for less than five years. This decade was a time of continued reconstruction and reunification after the horrible destruction of the war. It was also a time of expansion across the Midwest to the coastlines. Indian tribes continued to battle the white man for their land and sovereignty, while more and more Indians were quarantined in Indian Territory. Even with so much happening, inventors were developing fascinating new things to make life easier, new foods were being created, and the birth of American sports had begun.

The list below is certainly not inclusive of all that happened during the decade of the 1870's but rather a list of the highlights.

Ulysses S. Grant

U.S. Presidents:

1869 - 1877 Ulysses S. Grant

1877 - 1881 Rutherford B. Hayes

The Great Chicago Fire
Important Dates:

January 3, 1870 - Construction begins on the Brooklyn Bridge.
1874 - The ice cream soda was invented by Robert M. Green of Philadelphia.

January 10, 1870 - Standard Oil Company is incorporated by John D. Rockefeller.

February 25, 1870 - Hiram Rhodes Revels becomes the first African-American to be sworn into office in the United States Congress. He was a Republican from Missouri.

March 30, 1870 - The 15th Amendment to the Constitution is declared ratified by the Secretary of State, giving all men
 the right to vote, including black Americans & Indians. Women, though, were still not allowed to vote.

July 15, 1870 - The last former state of the Confederacy, Georgia, is readmitted into the Union, and the Confederated States of America is officially dissolved.

October 8, 1871 - The great fire of Chicago starts. The fire caused $196 million in damages. It burned 1.2 million acres of land, destroyed 17,450 buildings, killed 250 people, and left 90,000 homeless.

November 17, 1871 - The National Rifle Association is granted a charter by the State of New York.

March 1, 1872 - The world's first national park is established when President Grant signs legislation enabling the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in the states of Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho.

May 22, 1872 - The Amnesty Act of 1872 restores to citizens of the South, except for five hundred Confederate leaders.

1872 - Montgomery Ward Begins First Mail Order Catalog, Montgomery Ward begins distributing a dry goods mail-order Catalog to rural customers offering wide selection of items unavailable to them locally.
March 18, 1874 - The island of Hawaii signs a trade treaty with the United States government granting it exclusive trading rights.

July 1, 1874 - The first United States zoo opens in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia.

November 7, 1874 - The debut of the symbol of the Republican Party, the elephant, occurs when Thomas Nast prints a cartoon utilizing the symbol in Harper's Weekly.

May 10, 1876 - The Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition, a world's fair meant to celebrate the 100th birthday of the United States opens on 285 acres in Fairmount Park, Philadelphia.

June 25-26, 1876 - The Battle of Little Big Horn occurs when Lt. Colonel George Custer and his 7th U.S. Cavalry engage the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians on the bluffs above the Little Big Horn River.

February 22, 1879 - The first five and dime store is opened in Utica, New York by Frank W. Woolworth 

New U.S. States:

1876 Colorado

Electric tram
Science & Technology:

November 1, 1870 - The National Weather Service, known as the Weather Bureau, made its first official meteorological forecast: "High winds at Chicago and Milwaukee... and along the Lakes."

1870 - William H. Lyman receives patent for the first rotary can opener.

1874 - The QWERTY design was invented and patented by Christopher Sholes.

1874 - The spork is invented.

1875 - Electric drill first used.

March 10, 1876 - Alexander Graham Bell makes first bi-directional telephone call.

1878 - Microphone invented, Sherwin & Williams sell first ready-made paint.

January 28, 1878 - In New Haven, Connecticut, the first commercial telephone exchange is opened.

October 15, 1878 - The Edison Electric Company begins operation.

1878 - First motorized tricycle

1879 - Electric tram

Thomas Edison


1870 - unsalted butter & margarine

1872 - Philadelphia cream cheese, graham crackers

1876 - Heinz Ketchup

1878 - Thompson seedless grapes

1879 - Saccharin


April 4, 1871 - The first professional baseball league, the National Association, debuts with a game between the Cleveland Forest Citys and the Fort Wayne Kekiongas. Fort Wayne won the initial official game 2 to 0.

May 23, 1873 - The first running of the Preakness Stakes horse race, second in the leg of today's Triple Crown, debuts in Baltimore, Maryland.

1873 - American football clubs

May 17, 1875 - The first Kentucky Derby is run at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky. It would become the first leg of today's Triple Crown Series. The horse Aristides is the first winner.

February 2, 1876 - National Baseball League formed

1878 - Bicycles manufactured in U.S.

Gabe Coulter has a successful night gambling, but a drunken cowboy who wants his money back confronts him in a dark alley. Gabe refuses, and a gunfight ensues. The dying man tells Gabe the money was for his wife and son. Though the shooting was self-defense, Gabe wrestles with guilt. The only way he knows to get rid of it is to return the money he fairly won to the man’s wife. Lara Talbot sees Gabe as a derelict like her husband and wants nothing to do with him. But as she struggles to feed her family, she wonders if God might have sent the gambler to help.

Vickie McDonough is the best selling author of 35 books and novellas. Her novels include the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series and the 3rd & 6th books in the Texas Trails series. Her novel, Long Trail Home, won the Inspirational category of the 2012 Booksellers’ Best Awards. Song of the Prairie, the final book in her Pioneer Promises series, set in 1870s Kansas, recently released. Vickie had three Christmas novellas in collections releasing this fall: Westward Christmas Brides, The Christmas Brides Collection, and The 12 Brides of Christmas. To learn more about Vickie or to sign-up to receive Vickie's newsletter, visit her website:


  1. Amazing! We just don't imagine some of these things in the 1870's! Wow and Wow again!!!

    1. I know! I've been very surprised at some of the things I've discovered as I researched this post.

  2. So much happened then. I never gave much thought to readmitting former Confederate states to the Union.

    1. The readmitting of the states was a long process. That would make a good post, wouldn't it?

  3. Great post, Vickie. Had no idea that decade was so productive. I've seen the dates for so many of those events, but never thought about them being in the same decade. I bet a lot of people will be surprised at how long some of these things have been around.

    1. Yeah, who know the spork had been around so long. :)

  4. I am amazed at the numerous achievements that occurred during this decade. When you see them listed, one as notable as the next, it is so astounding! Thank you for this post and I also look forward to reading your latest book.

    1. I was amazed too. With so much of the country still struggling to rebuild after the war, it's surprising that so many other people were inventing and creating so many new things.

  5. Great info! Lots of good topics for article writing.

    1. Thanks, Janet. I enjoyed researching this article.

  6. Vickie, that was quite some decade. It's amazing how many things we still use today. I mean Heinz ketchup for goodness's sakes, and Thompson grapes. I was surprised to see saccharin listed.

  7. I love this fascinating timeline! Thanks so much for sharing, Vickie.

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