History Timeline 1880s

Photo above: The Washington Monument, uncompleted without capstone, from the Department of Agriculture, circa 1880. Right: Engraving of the view of the Statue of Liberty from the Battery. Source: Library of Congress.

Statue of Liberty

U.S. Timeline - The 1880s

America Invents

Sponsor this page for $200 per year. Your banner or text ad can fill the space above.
Click here to Sponsor the page and how to reserve your ad.

  • Timeline

  • 1880

    January 1, 1880 - The construction of the Panama Canal begins under French auspices, although it would eventually fail on the sea level canal in 1893, and would be bought out by the United States twenty-four years later under President Theodore Roosevelt.
  • More

  • June 1, 1880 - The national population in 1880 reached 50,189,209 people, an increase of 30.2% over the 1870 census. The geographic center of the U.S. population now reaches west/southwest of Cincinnati, Ohio in Kentucky. Five states now have more than two million in population; New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Missouri. Vintage maps show the progress of the United States population in the decade.

    June 7, 1880 - The Yorktown Column, now part of Colonial National Historical Park in Virginia, is commissioned by the United States Congress. Its construction would commemorate the victory of American forces in the Revolutionary War.
  • More

  • October 23, 1880 - Adolph F. Bandelier enters Frijoles Canyon, New Mexico, under the guidance of Cochiti Indians and witnesses the prehistoric villages and cliff dwellings of the national monument that is named after him.
  • More

  • November 2, 1880 - James A. Garfield, Republican is elected president over Winfield S. Hancock, the Democratic candidate. Garfield receives 214 Electoral College votes to 155 for Hancock, but barely wins the popular vote with a majority of only 7,023 voters.

    Buy Chronology

    Chronology Book Ad


    January 25, 1881 - Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell form the Oriental Telephone Company.
  • More

  • May 21, 1881 - The American Red Cross names Clara Barton president, a post she would hold until 1904 through nineteen relief missions.

    July 2, 1881 - The 20th President of the United States, James A. Garfield, is shot by lawyer Charles J. Guiteau in the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad station in Washington, D.C. He would die two months later on September 19, 1881 from an infection and be succeeded in the presidency by Vice President Chester Arthur on September 20.

    July 4, 1881 - The Tuskegee Institute for black students training to be teachers opens under the tutelage of Booker T. Washington as instructor in Tuskegee, Alabama.
  • More

  • July 20, 1881 - Sioux chief Sitting Bull leads the final group of his tribe, still fugitive from the reservation, and surrenders to United States troops at Fort Buford, Montana.

    October 26, 1881 - The gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone, Arizona occurs in a livery stable lot between some of the famous characters of the American west; Sheriff Wyatt Earp, his brother Virgil, and Doc Holliday against Billy Claiborne, Frank and Tom McLaury and the Clanton brothers Billy and Ike. Although only thirty seconds long, the battle would live in western lore for more than one hundred years. The McLaury brothers and Billy Clanton would perish in the fight.


    January 2, 1882 - The Standard Oil Company trust of John D. Rockefeller is begun when Rockefeller places his oil holdings inside it.
  • More

  • January 30, 1882 - Future president Franklin Delano Roosevelt is born at his home in Hyde Park, New York.

    February 7, 1882 - John L. Sullivan defeats Paddy Ryan for the American boxing championship in one of the final bare knuckle championship fights under London Prize Ring Rules.
  • More

  • March 22, 1882 - The practice of polygamy is outlawed by legislation in the United States Congress.
  • More

  • April 3, 1882 - Western outlaw Jesse James is shot to death by Robert Ford, a member of his own band, for a $5,000 reward. The Ford brothers had been recruited to rob the Platte City Bank, but opted to try to collect the reward for their infamous leader.


    January 16, 1883 - The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act is passed by Congress, overhauling federal civil service and establishing the U.S. Civil Service agency.

    February 28, 1883 - Vaudeville, the entertainment and theatrical phenomena, begins when the first theatre is opened in Boston, Massachusetts. Boston, by 1883, was a vibrant town of over 360,000 people. Old Maps of Massachusetts show the growth of its largest city through the decades.
  • More

  • May 24, 1883 - The Brooklyn Bridge is opened. It was constructed under a design by German-American Johann A. Roebling and required fourteen years to build. Six days later, a stampede of people fearing a rumor about its impending collapse causes twelve people to be killed.

    October 15, 1883 - The U.S. Supreme Court finds part of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 unconstitutional, allowing individuals and corporations to discriminate based on race.

    November 18, 1883 - Five standard time zones are established by the United States and Canadian railroad companies to end the confusion over thousands of local time zones.
  • More

  • 1884

    May 1, 1884 - The Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in the U.S.A. call for an eight-hour workday.

    October 6, 1884 - The U.S. Naval War College is founded in Newport, Rhode Island.

    October 23, 1884 - The first post season games in baseball were held between the National League champions, the Providence Grays, and the American Association champions, the New York Metropolitans. Providence would win the series, 3 games to 0.
  • More

  • November 4, 1884 - Grover Cleveland claims victory for the Democratic Party, gaining 277 Electoral College votes to the 182 Electoral College votes for the Republic candidate James G. Blaine.

    December 6, 1884 - The capstone of three thousand three hundred pounds is positioned atop the Washington Monument by the Corps of Engineers. The monument, five hundred and fifty-five feet tall and now completed after nearly thirty-seven years of work, would be dedicated in February of 1885.
  • More

  • 1885

    February 21, 1885 - The Washington Monument is dedicated at a ceremony by President Chester A. Arthur. The obelisk was completed under federal auspices after construction had been started by private concerns thirty-seven years earlier in 1848.
  • More

  • March 3, 1885 - American Telephone and Telegraph (ATT) is incorporated in New York City as a subsidiary of American Bell Telephone Company.

    June 17, 1885 - The Statue of Liberty arrives for the first time in New York harbor.
  • More

  • July 23, 1885 - President Ulysses S. Grant, Civil War hero of federal forces, dies in Mt. McGregor, New York.

    September 2, 1885 - The Rock Spring, Wyoming mining incident occurs when one hundred and fifty white miners attack Chinese coworkers, killing twenty-eight and forcing several hundred more to leave Rock Springs.


    January 20, 1886 - Thomas A. Edison buys Glenmont and builds a new laboratory for his experiments and inventions near West Orange, New Jersey. The home and grounds contain a 29 room Queen Anne mansion.

    May 4, 1886 - The Haymarket riot and bombing occurs in Chicago, Illinois, three days after the start of a general strike in the United States that pushed for an eight hour workday. This act would be followed by additional labor battles for that worker right favored by unions. Later this year, on December 8, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was formed by twenty-five craft unions.

    May 8, 1886 - Dr. John Pemberton, a Georgia pharmacist, invents coca-cola, a carbonated beverage. On May 29, Pemberton began to advertise Coca-Cola in the Atlanta Journal.
  • More

  • June 2, 1886 - President Grover Cleveland marries Francis Folsom in the White House Blue Room, the sole marriage of a president within the District of Columbia mansion during the history of the United States.

    September 4, 1886 - At Fort Bowie in southeastern Arizona, Geronimo and his band of Apaches surrender to Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles. This signaled the end of warfare between the United States Army and Indian tribes.

    October 28, 1886 - The Statue of Liberty, known during its construction and erection as "Bartholdi's Light" or "Liberty Enlightening the World" is dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in New York Harbor. First shown in the United States at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia ten years earlier, the huge sculpture by French artist Auguste Bartholdi provided the beacon to millions of immigrants and citizens who would pass its position in the decades to come.
  • More

  • 1887

    January 20, 1887 - Pearl Harbor naval base is leased by the United States Navy, upon approval of the U.S. Senate.
  • More

  • February 2, 1887 - The first Groundhog Day is observed in Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, and the tradition of checking the shadow of a groundhog to predict the coming spring began.

    February 4, 1887 - Congress passes the Interstate Commerce Act to regulate and control the monopolies of the railroad industry.

    October 22, 1887 - The statue of Abraham Lincoln, "Standing Lincoln," by Augustus Saint-Gaudens is unveiled in Lincoln Park, Chicago, Illinois.

    November 8, 1887 - Naturalized as a citizen in 1881, Emile Berliner is granted a patent for the gramophone. Berliner, born in Hanover, Germany, had previously worked with Bell Telephone after selling his version of the microphone to the company.


    January 21, 1888 - The Amateur Athletic Union (commonly referred to as the AAU) is formed. The association was created to assist teams and players in a variety of sports.
  • More

  • March 11-14, 1888 - The eastern section of the United States undergoes a great snow storm, killing four hundred people.
  • More

  • June 16, 1888 - The prototype for the commercial phonograph is completed by Thomas A. Edison and staff at his laboratory near Glenmont, his estate in West Orange, New Jersey. October 8, 1888 - Work begins on the first motion picture camera at Thomas A. Edison's laboratory.

    October 9, 1888 - The Washington Monument officially opens to the general public. Within a few short years, old maps of Washington will showcase the monument as one of the nation's most iconic symbols.
  • More

  • November 6, 1888 - Benjamin Harrison halts the goal of Grover Cleveland to be a two term president, for the time being. Harrison loses the popular vote to Cleveland, but wins the plurality of Electoral College electors, 233 to 168.


    March 2, 1889 - Legislation signed by President Grover Cleveland sets aside the first public lands protecting prehistoric features at the Casa Grande ruin in Arizona Territory. These lands could not be settled or sold.
  • More

  • March 23, 1889 - President Benjamin Harrison opens up Oklahoma lands to white settlement, beginning April 22, when the first of five land runs in the Oklahoma land rush start. More than 50,000 people waited at the starting line to race for one hundred and sixty acre parcels.
  • More

  • May 31, 1889 - The deadliest flood in American history occurs in Johnstown, Pennsylvania when 2,200 people perish from the water of the South Fork Dam after heavy rains cause its destruction.

    June 3, 1889 - Running between the Willamette Falls and Portland, Oregon, a distance of fourteen miles, the first long distance electric power transmission line in the United States is completed.

    July 8, 1889 - The first issue of the Wall Street Journal is published.

    History Photo Bomb