SETTLEMENT AND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT: THE COLONIES TO 1763
50,000–5000 B.C.: During the last Ice Age, a migration of hunting and gathering peoples from Siberia cross over the "land bridge" (called Beringia) to North America. This land bridge is the result of the lower water levels caused by the large amount of water taken up in the glaciers. This migration of Paleo-Indians (ancient Indian people) disperses throughout the Western Hemisphere and develops different food cultures.
15,000–8000 B.C.: Among the Paleo-Indian people living in what later comes to be North America some develop a characteristic stone spear point called the clovis point. It is used for hunting large animals.
400 B.C.– A.D. 1700: Mound Builders occupy portions of eastern and central North America. They grow out of an older culture known to archaeologists as Mississippian. The early Mississippian built centers of a large trade network. The Mound Builders, without the aid of horses or mules, transport hundreds of tons of dirt to build burial mounds shaped like flat-topped pyramids. Some of these mounds are shaped like animals, such as the Great Serpent Mound of Adena, constructed in about A.D. 1000, near what becomes Cincinnati, Ohio. The Hopewell are also mound builders; they live in the area later known as eastern Ohio. The Cahokia mounds near what becomes St. Louis, Missouri, house a city of 40,000 people. Their peak development is around A.D. 1200.
800 B.C.: The Maya civilization in the southeast Yucatan peninsula of the land that becomes Mexico reaches its height.
1000: The Norse establish a settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows in Newfoundland.
1325: The Aztec build the city of Tenochtitlán, a site on what later becomes Mexico City.
1492: On his first exploratory voyage west across the
Atlantic Ocean, Christopher Columbus encounters islands in the Caribbean Sea, mistakes them for the east Indies, and claims them for Spain.
1494: Spain and Portugal divide the New World between them in the Treaty of Tordesillas.
1497: John Cabot explores the coast of North America, up to the Delaware River.
1513: Vasco Núñez de Balboa crosses the isthmus of
Panama and discovers the Pacific Ocean.
1513: Juan Ponce de León explores the coast of what comes to be the state of Florida.
ca.1500–late 1800s: Pandemics of European diseases for which the native populations of the Western Hemisphere have no immunity—smallpox, influenza, typhus, measles, etc.—run rampant through the Native American populations, killing as many as 95 percent of the people and reappearing periodically.
1518–1519: Spanish conquistador Hernando Cortés invades Mexico, enters Tenochtitlán with an army, and takes Aztec emperor Montezuma II prisoner.
1530s: Bartolomé de Las Casas, a Spanish priest and bishop in southern Mexico, criticizes the Spanish regime of exploitation, land theft, and murder of Native Americans.
1531–1533: Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro subjugates the Inca civilization of Peru in the quest for gold.
1535: French explorer Jacques Cartier discovers the
St. Lawrence River while looking for a northwest passage to Asia.
1539–1540: Spanish conquistador Hernando de Soto explores the southeastern region of what wouldPage xxvi | Top of Article become the United States and discovers the Mississippi River.
1540–1541: Spanish conquistador Francisco Vásquez de Coronado, at the head of a large expeditionary force, explores the southwestern region of what becomes the United States.
1542: Spain reforms its encomienda system. The
Spanish conquistadores are no longer allowed to enslave Indian people in the New World, but they may still receive tribute in money and crops from the Indian population.
1550s–1560s: The English attempt to subdue Ireland through a brutal occupation and expropriation of Irish land. The English colonizers are led by a handful of adventurers—Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Sir Walter Raleigh, and Sir Richard Grenville—who believe the Irish to be savages. Their genocidal conduct of the war in Ireland shapes their attitudes towards the indigenous people that they meet in the New World.
1565: St. Augustine, Florida, is founded by the Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés.
1585–1603: A privateering war takes place between
England and Spain.
1587: England establishes the lost colony of Roanoke off the Chesapeake coast. The expedition, composed of families, vanishes, leaving behind the cryptic inscription "CROATOAN" (the name of a nearby island) carved on a piece of wood.
1588: England—with the help of a big storm—defeats the great Spanish Armada.
1607: One hundred and four men and boys form an English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia; approximately one-half of the inhabitants die before the end of the year. Jamestown becomes the second oldest town in North America, after St. Augustine, and the first permanent British settlement.
1608: The French succeed in establishing a permanent settlement in Quebec.
1609: Henry Hudson explores the Hudson River.
1610: The Spanish establish Santa Fe in the northern Mexico territory.
1612: Jamestown planter John Rolf begins experimenting with growing tobacco. Tobacco cultivation is soon thriving in Virginia.
1610–1680: During these years, most of the labor needs in the tobacco-growing Chesapeake are filled by indentured servants (who work for a landowner for a set period of time, usually seven years, after which they are free to settle anywhere they can find land to buy).
1616–1618: The "head-right" system, by which 50 acres are awarded to any person who pays for and sponsors transportation of a new worker to the Virginia plantations, is introduced to encourage immigration to Virginia.
1619: Carried aboard a Dutch vessel, approximately two dozen African people are transported to Virginia, possibly employed as indentured servants; other early African settlers on the English mainland colonies are most probably enslaved.
1619: The Virginia House of Burgesses (the colonial legislature) meets for the first time.
1620: Anchored on the Mayflower off of what becomes Cape Cod, Massachusetts, William Bradford and 41 Separatist Puritan heads of households sign the Mayflower Compact, establishing a community with the authority to make laws as necessary.
1621: The Puritans celebrate their first Thanksgiving at Plymouth.
1622: A Powhatan Indian confederation under the leadership of Opechancanough attacks English settlements along the James River in Virginia, killing about one quarter of the English colonists. The attack is prompted by the expansion of English settlement. It is the first large Indian attack against English settlers.
1624: The Dutch found the colony of New Amsterdam, which is later renamed New York.
1630: John Winthrop and the Massachusetts Bay Company, composed of English Puritans, sail to Massachusetts Bay and establish a colony.
1634: James I grants the Calvert family a proprietary charter for Maryland. The Calverts, who are Catholic, establish freedom of religion in the colony.
1635: Roger Williams escapes deportation to England for championing the rights of the Native Americans. Williams takes the public position that the English king has no right to grant land to Englishmen when the land already belongs to the Indians. Williams is expelled from Massachusetts. He founds Rhode Island and its first town, Providence, and drafts itsPage xxvii | Top of Article first constitution, which declares the separation of church and state and the freedom of religious expression.
1636: The colony of Connecticut is founded.
1630–1640: There is a "great migration" of English peasants to the New World. These peasants are frequently the wandering refugees of the enclosure movement of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, when the peasants' leases to English farmland are terminated and the land is enclosed by hedges and turned over to sheep pasturage. Rather than starve, the peasants often become outlaws or "sturdy beggars," given to larceny, robbery, and poaching on the local lords' land. Parliament passes harsh laws and the peasants, when caught in some misbehavior, are sometimes given the option of being hanged or being transported to Virginia as indentured servants.
1636: Harvard College is founded in Massachusetts.
1636–1637: Pequot Indians attack the new settlement of Wethersfield and kill a handful of English settlers. A detachment of Massachusetts citizens and their Narragansett Indian allies attack a Pequot town on the Mystic River, killing upwards of 400 Pequots, mostly women and children.
1638: Anne Huchinson is banished from Massachusetts for professing an inner awareness of God and of the certainty of salvation.
1642–1648: The English Civil War, fought ostensibly as a struggle of different religious groupings (Catholics, Anglicans, and various strains of Puritans) to dominate the English government, also reflects a social revolution going on in England in which a non-titled gentry and merchant class demand a greater say in the running of government.
1644: Indians again attack English settlements in Virginia. This marks the second great Indian attack against settlers in the region.
1649: As the concluding act of the English Civil War, Catholic King Charles II is beheaded and Oliver Cromwell, the military leader of the Puritans, becomes the "Protector" of the nation and rules England until his death in 1658.
1651, 1660: The English Parliament passes the first of the Navigation Acts, which stipulate that the trade between New England and England has to be shipped on English or colonial ships. Granting this monopoly to colonial merchant ships, the Parliament went on to rule that certain exports from the colonies could only be traded with England, not with other European nations. The other main Navigation Acts are passed in 1663 and 1676. They refine the rules of trade between the mainland colonies, England, Europe, the West Indies, and Africa.
1652–1654: A trade war between the English and the Dutch begins.
1660: Charles II (and the House of Stuart) is restored to the English throne after the conclusion of the English Civil War and Cromwell's Protectorate.
1662: The Puritan notion of town government includes a religious dimension of active participation in the church. The "selectmen"—those who take care of the town government between elections—are generally strong church members. But the Puritan notion of the church is that it is a community of "saints" who have already experienced God's grace and are assured of salvation. As the towns' populations grow, there is a diminishing proportion of the population who can say that they have had this religious experience. Especially among the younger people, Puritans seem to be more interested in working on their farms and in raising their families than in church life. This leads to a change in the Puritan doctrine about the church. Solomon Stoddard, a theologian and pastor in Northampton, Massachusetts, proposes the "Halfway Covenant" in 1662. It holds that a person's profession of faith, rather than his or her experience of God's grace, is sufficient to become a member of the church and that their offspring can be baptized.
1663: The Carolina colony is chartered. Most of its white settlers are the so-called adventurers from Barbados and other West Indies islands whose slave economies rest mainly on sugar cane production and refining.
1664: The Dutch colony of New Netherlands is seized by an English fleet and renamed New York.
1670s: Indentured servitude is on the decline; slavery rises in the Chesapeake and in the South.
1675–1676: King Philip's War (or Metacomet's War) begins in outlying parts of Massachusetts as the Wampanoag Indian tribe reacts to English encroachment on their land. The two-year conflict results in great loss of life and destruction for both sides. Twelve New England towns are leveled, and for every 10 white men of fighting age, one loses hisPage xxviii | Top of Article life or is captured. The Indians, however, are overrun within a few months and their power is broken.
1676: Bacon's Rebellion pits Virginia's small frontier farmers against Governor William Berkeley. At issue is the attempt of Governor Berkeley and the English administration to restrain the incursions of the frontier farmers into Indian land. The short-lived rebellion reveals the tensions between the land-hungry small farmers, many of whom were former indentured servants, and the well-to-do tidewater colonial elite and British administration.
1680: The Pueblo revolt against the Spanish presence in northern Mexico.
1681: Charles II grants William Penn a proprietary charter in the land between Maryland and New York. Penn establishes his Frame of Government, which allows for the creation of an assembly, council, and governor's office in Pennsylvania.
1686: As part of the War of the Spanish Succession (1702–1713), known as Queen Anne's War in America, James Moore, the English governor of South Carolina, attacks Saint Augustine, Florida, burning outposts and missions in Apalachee, or northern Florida.
1688: During the bloodless Glorious Revolution the English Parliament deposes Stuart King James II and installs Mary (James' Protestant daughter) and her husband William (of the Dutch House of Orange) as limited monarchs, subordinate to Parliament.
1689: John Locke publishes Concerning Toleration, a key issue in the English Civil War.
1690s: South Carolina develops a strong economy in rice production.
1691: John Locke publishes Two Treatises of Civil Government, in which he argues that men establish governments and thus they can change or abolish governments. He says that both in a state of nature and in a civil society man has the absolute right to protect his life, liberty, and property. The revolutionary implication in this is that if the political system threatens life, liberty, or property, man has the right to overthrow it.
1692: Witchcraft trials take place in the town of Salem, Massachusetts. Nineteen people, mostly older women, are thought to be witches and are executed.
1696: A 15-member Board of Trade and Plantations, answerable to the king's ministers, is established in England to oversee commercial (trade and fishing) and political (powers of appointment and legislative review) matters in the American colonies.
1699: The French found Mobile, New Orleans, and Pensacola settlements on the Gulf coast.
1701: Sieur de Cadillac, a French explorer, founds Detroit on a strategically valuable narrow section of the sailing route through the Great Lakes.
1704: The first regular newspaper—The Boston Newsletter—makes its appearance in the colonies.
1720: Slave rebellion breaks out in New York City. Nine whites die and 21 slaves are executed.
1732: The Georgia colony is chartered.
1730s–1740s: In order to forestall the secular and non-religious direction of culture in the colonies, theologians and church leaders set out to inject a new evangelical religious message into the popular culture. Circuit riding preachers cover the colonies in nighttime camp meetings and the emotional preaching spreads like wildfire, especially among the poor white farmers, sometimes seated in the same audiences with slaves, who are also powerfully affected by the message of redemption. Preachers from England like George Whitfield evangelize on the grace of God to those who would take their own salvation seriously. Others, like Jonathan Edwards of Massachusetts hold forth on the depravity of sinners and the horrors of hell. The movement is called the Great Awakening, and it becomes an important aspect of early American life which links the colonies together in a shared culture.
1739: The Stono slave rebellion breaks out, the first major slave uprising in the southern mainland English colonies. The rebellion kills 25 whites. Over 30 slaves are executed.
1740s: South Carolina begins to cultivate indigo.
1754–1763: The French and Indian War is fought between Great Britain, its colonies and European and Indian allies, versus France and its Indian and European allies.
1754: The Albany Plan, formulated by Benjamin Franklin, is rejected. It would have joined the colonies in a defense against the French and would have established an inter-colonial council to handle relations with the Native Americans..
1759: During the war with France the British capture Quebec.
1760: The French army surrenders to the British in
1763: The Treaty of Paris is signed, concluding the French and Indian War; Britain is given Canada and all French territory east of the Mississippi River and Florida.
THE AGE OF REVOLUTION, 1763–1790
1763: England issues the Proclamation of 1763. This document prohibits English colonists from settling on the western side of the Appalachian watershed. It is meant to prevent unnecessary friction between the colonists and the Indian tribes. It also makes it easier to tax the colonists. The declaration itself, however, is frequently violated and a robust farming culture springs up in the Ohio valley.
1765: To defray the cost of the French and Indian War in North America, the British impose the Stamp Act on the American colonies as a means of raising tax revenue.
1765: Protests and riots break out in response to the Stamp Act.
1766: Parliament repeals the Stamp Act.
1767–1781: "Regulator Movements" in South Carolina and North Carolina protest the lack of representation of poorer, back country farmers in the colonial assemblies, which are dominated by the established, well-to-do plantation owners of the tidewater coastal plains.
1767: The Townshend Acts are passed in Parliament. They establish new import taxes on trade goods like paper, glass, and tea. Unlike previous import taxes on the colonies, the Townshend Acts are levied against items shipped from England, rather than from the European mainland. The money that they raised was to be used to pay the salaries of the royal officials stationed in the colonies.
1770: The Boston Massacre occurs, in which British troops fire on a Boston mob that is pelting them with icy snowballs in retaliation for the British troops' practice of supplementing their meager wages by "moonlighting" after-hours on laborer jobs, thus taking employment away from American workers.
1773: Members of the protest group the Sons of Liberty, dressed as Indians, sneak aboard a British merchant ship lying at anchor and dump its cargo of 90,000 pounds of tea into Boston Harbor.
1773: The Committees of Correspondence publicize the grievances of the colonial population and discuss the options open to the colonists.
1774: The Coercive (or Intolerable) Acts pass in England and close Boston Harbor, attacking Massachusetts' right to self-rule and subjecting the populace to the indignities of the Quartering Act, which gives the military authorities the right to require colonial subjects to house their troops and horses. Instead of abandoning Massachusetts to fend for itself, the rest of the colonies send delegates to the First Continental Congress in Philadelphia to debate the means of resistance open to them. They also draft a Declaration of Rights and Grievances which combines a feigned submission to England's authority with a clear determination to obey only those acts of Parliament that they judge to be "in the mutual interest of both countries," an unforgivable act of insolence in British eyes.
April 1775: The British decide to raid a site where the colonial rebels were said to have stored weapons. They march from Boston to Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, initially dispersing the rag-tag American defenders, but they are unable to defend themselves against the sniping that wears on throughout the day.
May 1775: The Second Continental Congress meets and calls for the creation of an army to resist the British.
1775–1781: A war of national self-determination breaks out between the British and the Americans. The war is marked by the British attempt to corner the Americans and fight large battles to determine the outcome of the war. Instead, under the command of British-trained General George Washington, the Americans fight a war of mobility and harassment, with few large battles. Canada elects to remain loyal to the British crown.
1776: Thomas Paine publishes Common Sense, an immensely successful propaganda tract urging separation from England.
1776: Thomas Jefferson drafts the Declaration of Independence for the Second Continental Congress.
1776–1777: The first state constitutions emphasize the distrust of the Americans for a system of strong central government, which they had experienced under British rule. For instance, the authors of the
Pennsylvania state constitution refuse to create the office of governor.
1777: The Continental Congress drafts the Articles of Confederation, which accords little authority to the central government and vests most governing power (including the right to tax) in the states.
October 1777: In the Battle of Saratoga, New England militiamen surround the British army under General Burgoyne and force its surrender. This convinces the French that the Americans might actually win the war. Their long-term enmity with the British leads them to render important aid to the Americans, both in military provisions and in the use of the French fleet and the participation of French volunteers like General LaFayette.
1780: Pennsylvania becomes the first state to abolish slavery.
September 1781: General George Washington maneuvers the British, under the leadership of General Cornwallis, into a trap. Supported by French soldiers and by the French fleet at Yorktown, Cornwallis is forced to surrender his army of 7,000 soldiers and the British Parliament sues for peace.
1781: The Articles of Confederation are ratified.
1783: Under the Treaty of Paris the British recognize American independence.
1784, 1785, 1787: The Northwest Ordinances devise a systematic way to divide up and sell the land and to bring new states into the nation out of the Old Northwest territory east of the Mississippi River and north of the Ohio River, which Britain gave up in the Treaty of Paris.
1786: Thomas Jefferson authors the Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom, establishing "freedom of conscience" as the basis of the protection of all religious beliefs.
1786: Shays' Rebellion grows out of a post-war economic depression, caused in part by war-time inflation and England's dumping of manufactured goods on the American market once the war was over. This hurts the infant manufacturing industry. In addition, the shaky financial markets and the collapsing monetary system lead the state and local governments to raise taxes. Small farmers—many of them veterans of the Revolutionary War—begin losing their farms for non-payment of loans and taxes. In western Massachusetts they raise a rebellion, which the weak central government of the Articles of Confederation finds itself almost unable to put down.
1787: The new nation's political elite meet in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in February 1787, to write a Constitution devising a stronger national government. The resulting document operates on the principle of "checks and balances" between the branches of government and between the state and national governments.
1787–1788: Debate rages over whether the Constitution should be ratified. Anti-Federalists fear that the Constitution gives too much power to the central government and threatens democracy. Some Anti-Federalists call for a bill of rights guaranteeing specific individual liberties. James Madison, widely regarded as the "architect of the Constitution," collaborates with Alexander Hamilton and John Jay in a series of articles collectively known as the Federalist Papers. These argue that the country is large enough that no single faction will be able to lord over the others, and that the variety and vitality of the economy require a strong central government to assure the stability of a representative democracy. Madison drafts the Bill of Rights, which become the first ten amendments to the Constitution in December 1791.
1787: Delaware, Pennsylvania and New Jersey ratify the Constitution and join the Union.
1788: Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, and New York join the Union.
1789: North Carolina becomes a state.
1789: The Judiciary Act of 1789 becomes law. The act defined the basic structure of the federal judicial system consisting of the Supreme Court, the District Courts, and the Circuit Courts.
1789: The Constitution is ratified by 11 of 13 states. George Washington is elected President of the United States.
1789: The French Revolution begins.
WAR AND COMMERCIAL INDEPENDENCE, 1790–1815
1790: Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton's proposals for federal funding of the states' Revolutionary War debt and for creating a national bank both become law. The proposals encounterPage xxxi | Top of Article opposition from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, but do help the two to define their Republican, agrarian, states' rights politics.
1790: The District of Columbia is created.
1790: Rhode Island joins the Union.
1791: Vermont becomes the fourteenth state.
1791: Alexander Hamilton submits his Report on Manufactures. This part of his program advocates aid and protection for U.S. manufactures. The legislation does not meet with favor in Congress, although much of it later becomes law.
1792: Kentucky becomes the fifteenth state.
1792: President Washington is reelected.
1793: The Fugitive Slave Act passes through Congress and is signed into law, making it a crime to harbor a fugitive slave or to interfere with his or her arrest.
1793: Eli Whitney invents a workable version of the cotton gin (engine) to remove seeds from cotton.
1793: France enters a more radical phase of the French Revolution and begins guillotining (beheading) its internal enemies, including King Louis XVI. It soon becomes involved in war with England, Holland, and Spain, who are determined to stamp out the revolution before it spreads to their soil. France begins to exert pressure on the United States for support against England, arguing that France's support had been invaluable to the success of the American Revolution against England and that the United States was obligated under the Alliance of 1778 to help France. Washington and the Federalist government grant diplomatic recognition to France but issue a Neutrality Proclamation declaring the U.S. intention to remain uncommitted to either side but to trade with all.
1793: The French send Edmond Genêt to try to convince the Americans to reciprocate with military aid. Rather than presenting himself in Philadelphia to President Washington, Genêt lands in Charleston, South Carolina, and goes about contracting with United States citizens to engage in a privateer war against England. Although Thomas Jefferson and the Republicans favor supporting France and create the "Democratic-Republican Societies" in support of France, the relations between France and the United States remain cool.
1794: The Jay Treaty, the Federalist attempt to normalize relations with Great Britain, is signed. The United States wants British troops to vacate its frontier posts, and it also wants British assaults on U.S. shipping to cease. The British comply with the first item and ignore the second. The treaty is unpopular in the United States, especially among Jefferson and the Republicans.
1794: The Whiskey Rebellion breaks out in western Pennsylvania in reaction to the federal government's levying a tax on whiskey. President George Washington and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton lead a federal force of 15,000 soldiers to disperse the rebels.
1794: At the Battle of Fallen Timbers west of what later becomes Toledo, Ohio, General Anthony Wayne, supported by the British (who held a fort in the vicinity), defeats the formidable Miami Indians.
1795: Pinkney's Treaty is signed. With this treaty Spain gives U.S. citizens the right to navigate the Mississippi River and to use the facilities in New Orleans to off-load river boats and reload onto ocean-going ships. The treaty also fixes the northern boundary of Florida at the 31st parallel and Spain promises to restrain Indian attacks across the border.
1796: John Adams is elected president.
1796: Tennessee becomes a state.
1796–1797: Relations between the United States and France deteriorate to the point that the French navy begins to waylay U.S. merchant ships and imprison the crews. The French also refuse to receive U.S. diplomat Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and, when Cotesworth is joined by John Marshall and Elbridge Gerry to negotiate these disagreements with the French government (called the "Directory"), they are solicited for a bribe by three French officials before negotiations could begin. The Americans refuse and the issue becomes known as the XYZ affair, after the acronym given the three French ministers in a report that U.S. President John Adams turns over to Congress. In spite of the sympathy to the French cause on the part of the Republicans as well as the fact that the relations between the United States and England are equally tense, U.S. public outrage against France is widespread. Hostile naval encounters occur between the French and the United States navies. This period (1798–1799) is called the Quasi War with France.
1798: Following the leadership of the Federalist Party, Congress passes the Naturalization Act, making it more difficult to become a U.S. citizen. CongressPage xxxii | Top of Article also passes the Alien and Sedition Acts, repressing political opposition.
1798: Jefferson and Madison write the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions, successfully arguing for the limited and delegated nature of the federal government's power under the Constitution.
1800: Thomas Jefferson is elected president. It marks the first time that political power changes hands from one party to another and is peacefully accomplished. The Republican Congress repeals the Alien and Sedition Acts.
1800: President Adams sends another three-man commission to Paris to negotiate an end to the Quasi War. The new First Consul of France, Napoleon Bonaparte, receives the Americans and composes a new treaty relieving the U.S. of any obligations dating from the Alliance of 1778 and facilitating trade between France and the United States.
1801–1815: The Barbary Wars are fought.
1803: England and France become embroiled in the Napoleonic Wars.
1803: Chief Justice John Marshall rules in Marbury
v. Madison that the Judiciary Act of 1799 is unconstitutional. This establishes a precedent—the power of judicial review over legislation. The federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court, now successfully asserts the power of ruling a law unconstitutional. This increases the power of the judiciary in the system of "checks and balances" between the different branches of government.
1803: Napoleon sells a vast expanse of land to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase, almost doubling the size of the nation.
1803: Ohio becomes a state.
1804: By order of President Jefferson, William Clark and Meriwether Lewis begin a long expedition into the territory recently acquired in the Louisiana Purchase. They return two-and-a-half years later with copious notes and observations of the Great Plains and the Oregon territory.
1804: Jefferson is elected for a second term as president.
1805: Both England and France begin to stop and board U.S. merchant ships to check for deserting members of their own nation's merchant marine (called impressment).
1807: Robert Fulton builds the steamboat Clermont. This changes shipping patterns, as shallow draft, paddle wheeler steamboats ply the rivers with bulk loads of staple products, livestock, and people. By the 1810s steam locomotion is applied to ocean-going packet ships, a development which quickens the pace of international commerce and alters immigration patterns.
1807: The Chesapeake affair, in which a U.S. Navy ship is fired on, stopped, and boarded by the British frigate the Leopard, occurs. The British remove a handful of American sailors, charge them as deserters of the British Navy and hang one of them. Between 1803 and 1812 over 6,000 American sailors are similarly subject to impressment.
1807: Faced with the problem of stopping impressment when the United States did not have sufficient naval forces to prevent it from happening, Jefferson calls for a total embargo on all U.S. shipping. This causes a major unemployment crisis, especially in the New England ports.
1809: Jefferson introduces the Non-intercourse Act, which declares the United States is ready to trade with any nation other than Great Britain and France and pledges to resume shipping with either England or France if they stop violating U.S. shipping rights.
1811: William Henry Harrison's army wins an important battle at Tippecanoe, in land that later becomes the state of Indiana. This victory disrupts the plans of the Shawnee leader called Tecumseh to form an Indian confederation to resist white incursions onto Indian land.
1812: Louisiana joins the Union.
1812: Congress declares war on Britain, which is already preoccupied with a larger war against Napoleon in Europe. In the War of 1812 neither the Americans nor the British are able to win a definitive victory.
1812: The British successfully blockade the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. By 1813 the blockade extends to all the New England ports and the southern ports on the Gulf of Mexico.
1813: The Boston Manufacturing Company, under the leadership of Francis Cabot Lowell, installs a power loom for manufacturing textiles at Waltham, Massachusetts.
1813: The Americans, led by Commander Oliver Perry, win a naval victory on Lake Erie, gainingPage xxxiii | Top of Article control of the Northwest Territory. Tecumseh sides with the British, captures Detroit, and is killed in the Battle of the Thames, in Ontario, but the Americans are unable to break Canada off from the British Empire.
1814: The British defeat Napoleon and are able to concentrate their attention on the war with the United States. In 1814 they raid and burn Washington, D.C., but are unable to take Fort McHenry in the Baltimore harbor.
1815: U.S. forces, under the command of General Andrew Jackson, win the concluding military encounter in the Battle of New Orleans.
EARLY REPUBLIC TO CIVIL WAR: 1815–1860
1816: Indiana becomes the 19th state to enter the Union.
1816: Connecticut abolishes the property qualification for white male voters.
1817–1818: General Andrew Jackson fights a two-year campaign against Florida Indians.
1817: Mississippi becomes a new state.
1817: The Rush-Bagot Treaty limits the number of warships that the United States and Canada can have on the Great Lakes.
1817: Construction begins on the Erie Canal in New York.
1818: The National Road reaches Wheeling, Virginia.
1818: The Convention of 1818 establishes a border between Canada and the United States from the Lake of the Woods in Minnesota west to the Rocky Mountains.
1818: Illinois becomes the 21st state to join the Union.
1819: The Panic of 1819 occurs.
1819: John Quincy Adams negotiates the Adams-Onís Treaty, in which Spain cedes Florida to the United States and the boundary between Spanish and U.S. land is defined all the way to the Pacific Ocean.
1819: Alabama becomes a state.
1820: Maine becomes a state.
1820: The order of admission to statehood in relation to balancing the pro- and anti-slavery forces in the Republic results in a crisis over the admission of Missouri as a slave state. Henry Clay devises a compromise in which Missouri joins the Union as a slave state; Maine is split off from Massachusetts and admitted as a free state, and no future slave states can be admitted north of Missouri's southern border.
1821: Missouri joins the Union.
1821: After an 8-year guerilla war of national liberation, Spain recognizes Mexico's independence.
1822: Founded in 1816 as a philanthropic precursor to the Abolitionist Movement, the American Colonization Society begins resettling freed African American former slaves to the West African country of Liberia in 1822 on land purchased from local tribes.
1823: Prompted by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams, President James Monroe announces the Monroe Doctrine, forbidding further European intervention in the emerging nations of the Western Hemisphere.
1825: The Erie Canal is completed.
1828: The Tariff of Abominations spawns a controversy between the North and South: Congress passes a tariff bill which strikes the political leadership of the South as contributing to high prices for consumer goods with no provisions to soften the impact on the agrarian South.
1830: The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad opens for operation.
1831–1838: The Trail of Tears becomes the name for a forced migration of the Cherokee Indian Nation from Georgia to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River.
1831: William Lloyd Garrison begins to publish the Abolitionist newspaper, The Liberator.
1831: Nat Turner's bloody uprising in the southeastern part of Virginia kills 57 whites and results in the death of 200 slaves.
1831: Cyrus McCormick brings out the first mechanical reaping machine.
1832: Controversy brews between Andrew Jackson and Nicolas Biddle over the re-chartering of the Second National Bank.
1832: The Nullification Crisis pits North against South in a contest over states' rights versus national sovereignty.
1834: Women workers at the Lowell, Massachusetts, textile mills go on strike.
1834: The British Empire abolishes slavery.
1836–1842: The Seminole Indians are forced to migrate from Florida to land west of the Mississippi River.
1836: White Americans living in Texas secede and fight Mexican General Santa Anna. Victorious at San Jacinto in 1836, Texas declares itself a Republic.
1836: Arkansas becomes a state.
1837: Michigan becomes a state.
1841: Frederick Douglass begins his abolitionist lecturing career.
1841: The first wagon train bound for California leaves Independence, Missouri.
1844: A telegraph line links Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, D.C.
1845: Texas joins the Union, precipitating the Mexican-American War.
1844–1848: Tensions build between the United States and Mexico, and, in 1846, the Mexican War breaks out. American General Winfield Scott captures Mexico City and the Mexican forces are defeated in 1847. Signed in 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo cedes New Mexico and California to the United States.
1845: Florida joins the Union.
1845: The Irish potato famine begins, stimulating mass immigration to the United States.
1846: Iowa joins the United States.
1846: Brigham Young leads the trek of Mormons to Utah.
1847: In Missouri, the slave Dred Scott files a lawsuit against his owner to secure his freedom, using the argument that his master had taken him into free territory, at which point he was no longer a slave.
1848: Wisconsin becomes the 30th state to join the Union.
1848: Regularly scheduled steamship service is established between New York and Liverpool, England.
1849: The California gold rush begins.
1850: California joins the Union.
1850: Henry Clay and, later, Stephen Douglas devise the Compromise of 1850 to resolve the sectional crisis over slavery resulting from the Mexican War. A series of practical trade-offs are arranged, but they do not resolve the root causes of the contention, and the country does no more than buy itself another decade of peace.
1850s: The Abolitionist Movement gains powerful support from women like Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, who in 1852 publishes her novel, Uncle Tom's Cabin, depicting the plight of slaves in the South.
1854: In return for the support of a block of southern senators for the Kansas-Nebraska Act, authorizing a transcontinental railroad line, Illinois Democrat Stephen Douglas agrees to include language repealing the Missouri Compromise by opening up the western territories of Kansas and Nebraska as possible slave states. Douglas agrees to have the slave or free labor status of these new states determined by popular sovereignty by way of a vote on the permissibility of slavery in state constitutions. This creates a fire-storm of protest in the North and leads many northerners to renounce their membership in the Democratic Party.
1854–1855: Free labor and slave labor supporters flock to Kansas, where the state constitution referendum on slavery becomes a mini-civil war. Five thousand armed pro-slavery "Border ruffians" from Missouri stuff the ballot boxes, while 1,000 antislavery "Free Soil" settlers, armed and supported by the abolitionist New England Immigrant Aid Society, refuse to abide by the fraudulent result. Two sets of competing state capitals and forts are established. Pro-slavery supporters establish a base at Lecompton, while antislavery advocates set up in Lawrence. Topeka remains the territory's central city. Raids, arson, and murder characterize the subsequent campaigns and the several votes on the constitution, none of which support slavery.
1854: The Republican Party is founded and builds its membership out of the disintegration of the Whig Party, the northern Democratic Party, the Free Soil Party, and the anti-immigrant "Know Nothing"Page xxxv | Top of Article Party. The Republican Party has no support in the South. It picks up northern anti-slavery forces who defect from the Democratic Party over the Dred Scott decision and the Kansas-Nebraska Act.
1857: The Panic of 1857 and falling prices for agricultural products aggravate sectional tensions between the North and the South.
1857: Roger Taney, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, writes the majority opinion in the Dred Scott case, holding that Dred Scott, as a slave and, moreover, as a Negro, had "no rights which the white man was bound to respect."
1858: Minnesota becomes a member of the Union.
1859: Oregon becomes a state.
1859: Abolitionist John Brown, his sons, and a few other supporters briefly seize the Harpers Ferry Federal Armory, convinced that this act will precipitate a massive slave rebellion across the South, bringing an end to slavery. A detachment of federal forces led by Colonel Robert E. Lee captures Brown, who is hanged.
1860: Abraham Lincoln, the leader of the Republican Party, running on a platform of confining slavery to the states in which it is already established, is elected to the presidency.
CIVIL WAR AND INDUSTRIAL EXPANSION, 1860–1897
1861: Seven southern states secede from the Union and form the Confederate States of America. Four additional states join the Confederacy after the firing on Fort Sumter in Charleston (South Carolina) Bay.
1861: Kansas becomes the 34th state to join the Union.
1861–1865: The Civil War demonstrates both the skill of southern military leadership and the overwhelming strength of the northern economy, which slowly grinds the secessionist movement into the ground.
1862–1864: Freed from the presence of southern members of Congress, absent now in secession, the Republican Party passes its program—the Homestead Act granting government land to small farmers; the Morrill Land Grant Act setting aside government land to fund agricultural and engineering colleges; the raising of protective tariffs to shield U.S. industry from foreign competition; the National Bank Act establishing a national system of banks to enforce standards on state banks and to restrict the circulation of state banks' currency notes; the passage of the first income tax and other war taxes; and the railroad acts subsidizing the transcontinental railroad. This monumental legislative accomplishment sets forth the economic agenda that facilitates the industrialization of the country.
1863: Composed of a population of mostly antislavery small white farmers with a tradition of hostility to Virginia's plantation-based political elite, West Virginia secedes from confederate Virginia and becomes the 35th state to join the Union.
1863: President Lincoln's executive order issued in the summer of 1862, becomes effective on January 1, 1863, declaring that all slaves in the states in rebellion are henceforth and forever free. It says nothing about slavery in other states.
1863: In his December 1863 Proclamation of Amnesty and Reconstruction President Lincoln announces a mild program of bringing the South back into the Union. This was the "10 percent plan" by which (with the temporary exception of military or political leaders) he would pardon all white southerners and readmit each southern state back into the Union whenever 10 percent of the number of voters in the 1860 election swore allegiance to the Union. The states also had to pass laws guaranteeing African Americans their freedom and providing for their education.
1863–1865: General William Tecumseh Sherman engages in "total war," involving civilian populations through laying waste to southern agricultural resources in his "March to the Sea."
1864: President Lincoln vetoes the Wade-Davis Bill, a more stringent process of readmission of the Confederate states to the Union than Lincoln preferred.
1864: Nevada is admitted to the Union.
1865: The Commander of the Confederate Armies, Robert E. Lee, surrenders his forces to General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomatox Courthouse, ending the rebellion.
1865: President Lincoln is assassinated in April 1865. Vice President Andrew Johnson becomes president.
1865: The Freedman's Bureau is established to educate, feed, locate families of, and oversee the labor relationsPage xxxvi | Top of Article of former slaves. The Bureau also helps the most destitute of the white population.
1865: Congress reconvenes in December 1865 and refuses to seat Southern representatives. It establishes the Joint Committee on Reconstruction and passes the Thirteenth Amendment, ending slavery.
1865–1890: Sharecropping grows in the South, where the tenant farmer rents land for shares of the crop.
1865–1890: A crop-lien system of credit extends itself into the South, a region with too few credit institutions. The local merchant extends high-interest credit to small farmers. Often the small farmer owes more at the end of the harvest than he had at the beginning of the sowing season. If the farmer gets too far behind in his payments the merchant may repossess his land. Many small farmers, both African American and white, lost land in this manner and became tenant farmers on land they once owned.
1866: Congress passes its Civil Rights bill over President Johnson's veto. This ends the period of presidential Reconstruction and begins the period of congressional Reconstruction, in which the Republican Party, led by the "radical Republicans," tries to continue and complete the revolution that the Civil War had brought on in the South.
1866: The Ku Klux Klan organizes secretly to terrorize African Americans or "scalawag" white Republicans who try to vote. Southern legislatures begin passing "black codes" based on segregation laws imposed on freed slaves in the pre-Civil War South. These black codes restrict African Americans to agricultural labor and clamp down on their mobility.
1866: Congress passes the Fourteenth Amendment, defining citizenship and seeking to preserve the rights of ex-slaves to "due process of law."
1867: The National Grange is founded.
1867: The Military Reconstruction Act passes Congress as part of a package of legislation outlining the congressional plan for Reconstruction.
1867: Nebraska becomes the 37th state to join the Union.
1867: Congress passes the Tenure of Office Act to cut back on President Andrew Johnson's ability to obstruct congressional Reconstruction.
1868: Most of the southern states are readmitted to Congress under the congressional Reconstruction plan.
1868: President Andrew Johnson is impeached, but not convicted, and he remains in office.
1868: Ulysses S. Grant is elected president.
1868: The open-hearth steel production technique is first used in the United States.
1869: Congress passes the Fifteenth Amendment, guaranteeing that voting can not be denied because of "race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
1869: The Knights of Labor is founded.
1869: The first transcontinental railroad is completed at Promontory Point in Utah.
1870: Mississippi becomes the last southern state readmitted to the Union.
1870: New York City begins operation of an elevated railway system.
1870: John D. Rockefeller founds the Standard Oil Company.
1871: The Ku Klux Klan Act represses the Klan and drives it underground.
1871: Chicago experiences a great fire, devastating the city.
1872: The Freedman's Bureau is dismantled.
1873: Barbed wire is invented and puts an end to open-range cattle drives.
1873: The U.S. economy enters a quarter century of instability marked by recurrent panics and brief recoveries.
1874: The Women's Christian Temperance Society is founded.
1875: The Specie Resumption Act, which seeks to retire the inflationary Civil War "greenback" currency, is passed by Congress. This pleases bankers and creditors, but angers workers, small farmers, and debtors.
1875: The Whiskey Ring scandal embarrasses the Grant administration. Grant's Attorney General discovers that members of his department were cheating the government out of taxes on distilled alcohol. This recalls several other Grant-era scandals. One was the Crédit Mobilier scandal. It comes to light in 1872 that the Crédit Mobilier construction company paid bribes to Congress and to members of Grant's Cabinet to cover up fraudulent contractsPage xxxvii | Top of Article awarded in the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad. Grant's vice president, Schuyler Colfax, resigns in disgrace.
1876: Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.
1876: Chief Sitting Bull and 2,500 Sioux and Cheyenne Indians kill General George Armstrong Custer and his entire regiment at the Battle of Little Bighorn.
1876: Colorado joins the Union.
1876: Almost 82 percent of eligible voters cast ballots in a disputed election resulting from the Compromise of 1877. Republican candidate Rutherford B. Hayes is declared the winner. The South receives various favors including control of the federal patronage in their region, federal aid for the Texas and Pacific Railroad, and the withdrawal of the last of the federal troops. After the departure of the federal troops African Americans in the South enter a period of political repression and social degradation.
1877: Mine owners and Pinkerton agents hang 11 Molly Maguires. A group of Irish miners in the coal mines around Scranton, Pennsylvania, the Molly Maguires use violence and the threat of violence in the struggle with management.
1877: Railroad workers go on the first nationwide strike.
1878: Some African Americans, unwilling to live under the increasingly repressive social segregation of the New South, migrate to the North or, like the Exodusters, to Kansas or other western states.
1879: The California state constitution is amended to outlaw the hiring of Chinese laborers.
1879: Thomas A. Edison invents the incandescent light bulb.
1880: The Chinese Exclusion Act, which limits the number of Chinese allowed to enter the country, is passed by Congress.
1881: The Tuskegee Institute is founded by Booker T. Washington.
1880s: In the face of movement towards political alliance between African Americans and white Farmers' Alliances (also called Populists), southern state legislatures pass voter registration laws such as the grandfather clause, the poll tax, and the literacy test, which disenfranchise African American voters and disrupt the class-based politics of the early Populists.
1883: The Pendleton Act is passed by Congress, creating the civil service as an alternative to political patronage.
1883: The Supreme Court rules that the Fourteenth Amendment forbids state governments from discrimination, but does not apply to individuals or private organizations, such as businesses.
1884: The first skyscraper is built in Chicago.
1886: A bomb blast during a riot in the Chicago Haymarket Square kills seven police officers. Police open up with gunfire and four people are killed. The state rounds up eight anarchists and hangs four of them.
1886: Cigar worker Samuel Gompers helps form the American Federation of Labor, an organization of trades unions which believes in strikes and contracts, but does not advocate political or social change.
1887: The Interstate Commerce Act, meant to regulate the railroads, passes Congress.
1887: The Dawes Severalty Act passes Congress. This legislation attempts to convert the reservation Indians into small farmers by abolishing the tradition of communally-owned land.
1889: In Chicago, Jane Addams founds Hull House, the first "settlement house" center of food, shelter, and assimilation for the urban immigrant poor.
1889: North Dakota and South Dakota join the Union on the same day, November 2.
1889: Montana and Washington become the 41st and 42nd states, respectively, to be admitted to the Union.
1890: Idaho and Wyoming join the Union in July 1890.
1890: The Sherman Anti-Trust Act becomes law.
1890: At the last major confrontation between U.S. troops and Native Americans in the Battle of Wounded Knee in South Dakota, U.S. Army troops of the Seventh Calvary (Custer's old regiment) use machine guns to kill 200 Ogalala Sioux Indians. Twenty nine U.S. soldiers also die.
1890s: "Jim Crow" laws enforcing social segregation are passed by southern state legislatures, and in the 1890s the lynching (execution without trial) of African Americans averages 187 per year.
1890: Congress passes the Sherman Silver Purchase Act.
1892: Striking workers at the Carnegie Steel Company in Homestead, Pennsylvania, win a battle against the strike-breaking Pinkerton Detective Agency, but they lose the strike, and the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers disbands.
1893: Severe economic depression resulting from agricultural and manufacturing over-production and financial panic settles in for the next four years.
1893: Historian Frederick Jackson Turner writes an article speculating on the meaning of the fact that, according to the Census Bureau, the frontier, as a continuous line of development, no longer exists.
1894: Jacob S. Coxey, an Ohio small businessman, leads "Coxey's Army" of unemployed on a futile march to Washington, D.C., to pressure Congress to enact legislation that will employ the jobless to improve and maintain public works.
1894: The Pullman strike is put down by federal judges.
1895: Booker T. Washington, an African American spokesman for self-improvement, gives his 1895 Atlanta Exposition speech in which he tries to convince his (mostly white) audience that if they hire African Americans, employers will find them to be good and grateful workers who will not make any demands on the political system or on the race etiquette of the South.
1896: The Populist Movement, which adopts the "fusion" strategy of supporting the Democratic Party's presidential candidate, William Jennings Bryan, goes down in defeat as Republican William McKinley wins the presidential election.
1896: Utah becomes the 45th state admitted to the Union.
1896: In Plessy v. Ferguson the Supreme Court rules that social segregation of the races in interstate travel is not in conflict with any constitutional amendment or federal statute as long as equal facilities exist for the African Americans.
1896: The Alaskan gold rush begins.
AN ERA OF ECONOMIC INSTABILITY, 1897–1920
1897: President William McKinley offers to mediate Spain's war against the Cuban forces of national self-determination. Spain declines the offer.
1898: In part due to articles that appear in the sensationalist "yellow journalism" press, the U.S. public registers disgust with the repressive policy of the Spanish government towards its colony, Cuba, which is fighting a guerilla war of national liberation led, until his death in battle in 1895, by José Martí. To emphasize its displeasure with the bloody counterinsurgency, the United States sends the battleship Maine to Havana. While at anchor in Havana harbor the Maine blows up. The United States promptly goes to war with Spain.
1898: The United States mounts an amateurish, but successful campaign against the demoralized Spanish forces occupying Cuba. Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt quits his post, organizes an irregular cavalry regiment called the Rough Riders, and participates in an assault on Kettle Hill. Meanwhile, the United States attacks the Spanish south Pacific colony of the Philippines. Here, Commodore George Dewey and the U.S. fleet destroys the Spanish fleet.
1898–1902: The Philippines becomes the site of another guerilla war of independence against Spain. When the United States proceeds to set up its own colonial administration, the Philippine movement for national liberation and its guerilla army led by Emilio Aguinaldo, resolves to expel the new invaders.
1898: The Treaty of Paris ends the Spanish-American War. It cedes Puerto Rico and the Philippines to the United States and recognizes Cuban independence.
1898: In reaction to the U.S. acquisition of an empire as a result of the war with Spain, the Anti-Imperialist League develops. Although never strong enough to deter the U.S. policies of imperial aggrandizement, the Anti-Imperialist League, including such personages as Jane Addams, Andrew Carnegie, Samuel Gompers, Mark Twain, and former President Grover Cleveland, stakes out a position of opposition to empire (frequently mixed with isolationism).
1899: In an attempt to make up for the fact that the United States had not participated in carving China up into spheres of influence like the other European trading powers had, Secretary of State John Hay releases the Open Door notes, advocating that each nation trading with China should afford equal trading rights within its sphere of influence to all other trading nations. The Europeans receive this proposal with skepticism.
1900: Although the roots of muckraking stretch back well into the nineteenth century, this genre of socialPage xxxix | Top of Article exposé becomes more popular and more influential in suggesting targets of Progressive reform. Prominent muckrakers include Lincoln Steffens, Ida Tarbell, and, on the issue of lynching, African American journalist Ida B. Wells.
1900: The Social Gospel movement establishes a link between religious culture (mainly Protestant) and social reform. It imbues a crusade-like quality to Progressive era reform struggles. In addition to the Settlement House movement, its manifestations include the Salvation Army. By 1900 the Salvation Army has over 20,000 volunteers in service to the urban poor.
1900: The Boxer Rebellion breaks out against foreign trading powers in China. The Boxers are a secret martial arts society and a focal point for Chinese nationalist resentments against imperialist European policies. During the summer the Boxers besiege the foreign diplomatic compound in Beijing. Five thousand U.S. troops join an expeditionary force to help rescue the diplomats. The experience converts the European trading powers in China (especially England and Germany) into accepting the American Open Door policy.
1901: President McKinley is assassinated. Vice President Theodore Roosevelt becomes president, causing some consternation in business circles where Roosevelt is regarded as an impulsive "cowboy."
1901: When Cuba attempts to compose its own constitution after Spain is expelled, the United States intervenes with the Platt Amendment. This U.S.suggested addendum to the Cuban constitution restricts Cuba's right to enter into treaty relations with nations other than the United States. It also grants the United States the right to intervene in Cuban affairs to protect U.S. life and property and grants the United States the right to naval stations on Cuban territory.
1901: Robert LaFollette is elected governor of Wisconsin. He introduces many progressive reforms such as the regulation of the railroads, increasing the proportion of state workers under the civil service, the direct election of senators, and the measures of initiative, referendum, and recall.
1902: The Bureau of the Census is created.
1902: The Reclamation Act of 1902 is enacted, which sets aside money from the sale of public land to irrigate portions of the south and the west, an example of the progressive approach to "managing" the nation's natural resources.
1902: President Theodore Roosevelt directs his Justice Department to file an anti-trust lawsuit against the Northern Securities Company, a railroad holding company assembled by financier J.P. Morgan.
1903: The Women's Trade Union League is founded.
1903: The Roosevelt administration creates the departments of Labor and of Commerce.
1903: Congress passes the Elkins Act, which gives the Interstate Commerce Commission the right to end railroad rebates, a reform endorsed by the railroads.
1903: After Colombia refuses to accept the U.S. offer of $10 million plus $225,000 per year for the 100-year lease of a 6-mile-wide canal zone spanning the isthmus of Panama, a "revolution" against Colombia takes place, and the new nation of Panama is promptly recognized by the United States. The United States signs the same deal with Panama that the Colombians had rejected and continues the construction of the Panama Canal.
1904: Theodore Roosevelt runs for reelection as president (and wins) on the platform of the Square Deal, which promises a kind of class-neutral politics and a determination to use the powers of the federal government to bring about reform where it is justified.
1904: As friction begins to build between Germany and its debtor nation, Venezuela, President Theodore Roosevelt announces the Roosevelt Corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. It says that if any newly emerging Latin American republic fails to meet its financial obligations to European creditors the United States will step in to reorganize that country's economy so that it can pay its debts, rather than witness the violation of the Monroe Doctrine (which in 1823 warned European powers to refrain from interfering in the affairs of any new nation in the Western Hemisphere).
1906: The Hepburn Railroad Regulation Act is passed by Congress and signed into law.
1906: In his novel The Jungle, Sinclair Lewis exposes conditions in the meat-packing industry.
1907: Overproduction of agricultural and industrial goods results in the Panic of 1907. The power of the financial establishment is illustrated when financier J.P. Morgan moves adequate assets into several NewPage xl | Top of Article York City banks to prevent their closure and thus props up public confidence in the financial system.
1907: The "Great White Fleet," consisting of 16 white battleships symbolizing U.S. economic and military strength, embarks on a world tour, including Japan.
1907: Oklahoma becomes the 46th state to join the Union.
1907: Congress passes the Pure Food and Drug Act.
1908: Henry Ford begins production of the Model T automobile.
1908: Seeking to avoid the militaristic foreign policy of his predecessors and asserting the mutually beneficial results of commerce between developed and undeveloped nations, President Howard Taft develops the foreign policy of Dollar Diplomacy.
1909: The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is formed and is led in its early years by W.E.B. DuBois.
1910s: The clubwomen movement comes into existence, as urbanization and middle-class family culture afford a moderate degree of leisure to some women. The clubwomen usually support reform movements, such as restrictions on child labor or the campaign against poor conditions of work for women employed in factories. Some women also become active in the anti-lynching movement and in the campaign for women's suffrage.
1910: Responding to stories in the press concerning immoral conditions in the cities and the danger to young single women of being abducted and exploited by "white slave trade" prostitution rings, Congress passes the Mann Act, making it a federal crime to transport women across state lines for immoral purposes.
1911: One hundred and forty-six workers die in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire.
1911: The Taft Justice Department files an anti-trust suit against the United States Steel Company.
1911: Although the roots of the anti-alcohol movement stretch back decades into the early Republic period, the temperance movement reaches a crescendo of activism in this period. In 1911 the Women's Christian Temperance Society claims 245,000 members, the largest organization of women to this point in U.S. history.
1912: The New Mexico territory is admitted to the Union.
1912: In the presidential election of 1912 Democrat Woodrow Wilson, running under the slogan of the New Freedom, bests both Republican William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt, who runs under the slogan of New Nationalism and the banner of the newly formed Bull Moose Progressive Party.
1912: Arizona joins the Union.
1913: The Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution passes, giving Congress the power to levy an income tax.
1913: With the Underwood-Simmons Tariff the Wilson administration succeeds in passing a reduced tariff. This fulfills one of the pledges of the New Freedom, in that it would bring more competition and cheaper goods. It creates the conditions for more trade. It also lowers the amount of revenue that the tariff brings in. In order to off-set this revenue decline, the Congress includes a provision for a moderate income tax in the Underwood-Simmons Tariff.
1913: The Federal Reserve Act passes Congress, creating a dozen regional Federal Reserve banks, owned and controlled by the banks in the district.
1913: Implementing a demand of the Populist Movement twenty years before, the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution replaces the election of senators by state legislatures with the direct election of senators.
1914: The Clayton Anti-Trust Act is passed. This version of anti-trust legislation explicitly excludes labor unions from prosecution as trusts engaged in restricting the free flow of commerce. Samuel Gompers calls it "the Magna Carta of Labor."
1914: The Panama Canal opens.
1914: When the Western Federation of Miners stage a strike in the coal fields of Ludlow, Colorado, the state militia and the strike-breakers attack the workers' tent colony with rifle fire, causing the death of 39 people, including eleven children.
1914: President Woodrow Wilson creates the Federal Trade Commission, a bipartisan body to oversee commerce and insure orderly competition.
1914: Henry Ford begins to manufacture automobiles through the use of the moving assembly line.
1914: World War I begins in Europe.
1914: The war-time boom begins.
1915: President Wilson declares the U.S. neutrality towards the war in Europe.
1915: Germany's submarine warfare, affecting U.S. vessels, brings the United States very close to war, but when Wilson delivers an ultimatum on the subject, the German high command pledges to stop sinking neutral vessels.
1915: The Great Migration of African American people from the rural south to the urban north begins.
1916: Running on the slogan, "He kept us out of war," Wilson wins a second presidential term.
1916: The Keating-Owen child labor law is enacted, forbidding the use of child labor in any goods shipped across state lines.
1916: Margaret Sanger organizes the New York Birth Control League.
1917: Congress legislates literacy tests for immigrants.
1917: The British intercept and decode the "Zimmerman telegram," sent by the German Kaiser's foreign secretary to the German ambassador in Mexico, offering to furnish Mexico with military supplies for an invasion of the southwest United States and promising that Mexico would regain the territory that it had lost to the United States in the Mexican War. This, along with the fact that the German U-boats resume unrestricted submarine warfare, leads Wilson to ask Congress for a declaration of war against Germany.
1917: In a series of events with profound implications for the history of the United States and the world, the Russian Revolution begins. The utopian fantasy of communism, which had occasionally expressed itself in American intellectual circles, now becomes a reality as the Russian Communist Party, taking advantage of the extreme social crisis precipitated by World War I, seizes control of Russia.
1917: The War Industries Board is created and in March 1918, Wilson turns it over to the leadership of Wall Street financier Bernard Baruch. Its mission is to allocate resources between the war effort and the civilian economy and to plan all aspects of the economy. It makes some important contributions in this area, but is generally too cumbersome and inefficient to fulfill its mission.
1917: Congress passes the Espionage, Sabotage, and Sedition Acts, severely restricting the rights of free speech.
1918: Wilson releases his Fourteen Points, emphasizing the democratic and peaceable nature of U.S. war aims.
1918: The National War Labor Board promises workers the right to join unions, grants equal pay for women doing equal work, and concedes the 8-hour day in return for a no-strike pledge for the duration of the war.
1918: Eugene V. Debs, formerly head of the American Railway Union and leader of the American Socialist Party, makes a speech against World War I and is jailed.
1918: The Eighteenth Amendment, prohibiting the production, transportation, and sale of alcohol, is adopted.
1918: At the end of World War I, President Wilson sends an "expeditionary force" of American troops into the Soviet Union. During the three years of the Russian civil war the U.S. troops engage in limited supportive actions for the "White Army" of the old Russian regime. Gradually, however, the Bolshevik Party (led by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin) and the Red Army (led by Leon Trotsky) consolidate Soviet control over Russia and over the nations that made up the Russian Empire. Unable to decisively influence the course of events, the American troops withdraw by 1920. The actions of the American expeditionary force create a climate of mistrust between the United States and the Soviet Union.
1919: The peace treaty of Versailles is negotiated and signed, but Wilson cannot convince the Senate to accept the League of Nations as a forum for international conflict, a concept in which Wilson had personally invested much of his energy. Wilson succumbs to a stroke while on a speaking tour in an attempt to "go over the Senate's head" and rally support for the Versailles treaty among the American people.
1919: The conclusion of the war brings both an increased level of class conflict, with massive strikes in steel, meatpacking, and shipyards, and an alarming increase in racial violence, including race riots in East St. Louis and Chicago.
1919: Alfred Sloan introduces the installment plan with the General Motors Acceptance Corporation. Consumer credit arrangements begin to play a prominent role in marketing.
1920: Alarmed at the level of class conflict, the anarchist bombings, and the increasingly radical rhetoric of working class leaders, A. Mitchell Palmer, the Progressive Attorney General under Wilson, and his assistant, J. Edgar Hoover, lead the Palmer Raids in early January. Mostly directed against immigrants, the Palmer raids, arrest about 6,000 people. Five hundred are eventually deported.
1920: The Nineteenth Amendment is ratified, granting women the right to vote.
PROSPERITY DECADE, 1920–1929
1920: The economy goes into recession.
1920: The first commercial radio broadcast airs.
1920: Warren Harding, running on a platform of
"normalcy," is elected to the presidency.
1920: Two anarchists, Bartolomeo Vanzetti and Nicola Sacco, are arrested and convicted of murder in Braintree, Massachusetts, in what most observers believe is a politically motivated case.
1920s: The Ku Klux Klan, the "night riders" of Reconstruction fifty years earlier, revive in 1915 and flourish during the 1920s, a manifestation of the culture war between the urban and rural sections of the country. Membership peaks in 1924.
1920s: Poor farming management and ignorance of erosion causes the topsoil in several western states to erode during the 1920s. Dust storms result, devastating the remaining topsoil and turn everyday life into an ordeal. Many farmers migrate to the west coast.
1920: A bumper crop causes farm prices, already in decline, to drop further.
1921: The National Association of Manufacturers and the Chamber of Commerce mount an anti-union campaign called the American Plan. They attack the union shop, in which workers have to belong to a union to get a job. Under the American Plan workers sign "yellow dog contracts" in which they pledge not to join or aid the union movement.
1921: The first issue of the Reader's Digest appears. This publication is for busy people who do not have enough time to read many books. It purports to condense the essential significance of a book into a few pages.
1921: The economy is in mild recession although productivity is rising rapidly.
1921: Congress passes immigration restriction legislation which sets the total limit of immigration at 350,000 per year distributed on the basis of three percent of the number of each nationality living in the United States in 1910.
1921: Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon encourages Congress to repeal the excess-profits tax on corporations.
1921–1922: The Washington Naval Disarmament Conference is hosted by U.S. Secretary of State Charles Evans Hughes, who proposes that the naval powers of the world should freeze production of battleships and maintain the presently existing ratio of ships in the water. Initially meeting with enthusiastic approval from the delegates of the different nations, the resulting Five-Power Agreement proves unable to stem the building of cruisers, submarines, destroyers, and eventually, aircraft carriers. It is still an important diplomatic event as the first disarmament conference and treaty.
1922: Congress passes a higher protective tariff with the Fordney-McCumber Tariff.
1922: Italian fascist rebel Benito Mussolini's Brown-shirts march on Rome, Italy.
1923: The Teapot Dome scandal and several other scandals besmirch the reputation of the Harding administration.
1923: Calvin Coolidge becomes president when Harding dies in office.
1923: The stock market enters a six-year expansion.
1923: Time magazine begins publication.
1924: Nellie Taylor Ross of Wyoming and Miriam
Ferguson of Texas become the first women to be elected U.S. governors.
1924: Businessman Charles Dawes puts forward a plan to have American bankers fund the reparation payments that Germany is required to pay other European nations after World War I. The recipients of the reparations use the funds to pay off the war debt that they owe the United States.
1924: Congress passes the Indian Citizenship Act, which makes all Native Americans citizens of the United States.
1924: The National Origins Act reduces the total immigration to 150,000 per year and apportions it on the basis of the numbers of each nationality immigrating in 1890, thus favoring northwest Europe over southeastern Europe.
1924: Senator Charles McNary and Representative Gilbert Haugen pass a bill to sell farm surpluses abroad. President Calvin Coolidge vetoes the bill in 1924 and again in 1927.
1925: John Scopes is convicted of teaching evolution in a Tennessee high school.
1925: F. Scott Fitzgerald publishes The Great Gatsby.
1925: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters is founded by A. Philip Randolph.
1926: Treasury Secretary Mellon convinces Congress to cut income and estate taxes in half and to eliminate the gift tax.
1927: "Lucky Lindy," Charles Lindbergh, sets a record for the first transatlantic solo airplane flight.
1927: Despite an international protest movement in their behalf, Sacco and Vanzetti are executed.
1927: The first "talky" film, The Jazz Singer, is released.
1927: Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly an airplane solo over the Atlantic Ocean.
1927: In Nixon v. Herndon the Supreme Court uses the
Equal Protection Clause to strike down a Texas law barring African Americans from voting in Democratic Party primaries.
1928: The highly speculative Miami real estate market collapses.
1928: Al Smith, a Catholic New York City Democrat, sets a precedent by obtaining the Democratic Party nomination to run for president. He loses to Herbert Hoover, an engineer and an able Republican Progressive who had coordinated the aid to European refugees during World War I and had served as Secretary of Commerce in the Coolidge administration.
1928: In the Kellogg-Briand Pact the major military powers of the world (except for the Soviet Union) sign an agreement outlawing war as a means of conflict resolution. Unfortunately, it has no enforcement provisions.
DEPRESSION AND WORLD WAR II, 1929–1945
1929: The decline of the stock market in October 1929 marks the beginning of the public awareness of the Great Depression, although the agricultural sector of the economy had been suffering from depressed prices and profits for almost ten years.
1930: The Smoot-Hawley Tariff is enacted. This extremely high tariff depressed foreign trade at the very moment the economy needed to be pulled out of depression.
1930: Novelist John Dos Passos brings out the U.S.A. trilogy. With its "newsreel" actualities and its evocation of a complex and dynamic national culture, this portrait of American life in the late 1910s catches the United States on the edge of modernity.
1931: The Federal Reserve System raises interest rates. This depresses business investment at a time when it needs to be stimulated.
1931: The economic crisis spreads to Europe. Burdened by reparations or loan repayments after World War I, the governments of Europe (especially Germany) are tempted to print money. Although some observers call for the United States to cancel its debts, others like President Calvin Coolidge refuse to consider this measure and expect full repayment. This, plus high tariffs and an isolationist attitude of seeking to avoid involvement in Europe's problems, reduce the ability of the United States to play a constructive role in the growing European political crisis of the 1930s.
1931: The Scottsboro affair, in which eight African American teenagers are sentenced to death for supposedly raping two white women on a boxcar in which they were all traveling, creates controversy. The lack of evidence and the nature of the testimony indicates the innocence of the accused, and the International Labor Defense, a Communist Party legal support committee, defends the "Scottsboro boys" and eventually gains their freedom.
1931: The U.S. Communist Party stages an unemployment march on Washington, D.C.
1931: Japan invades Manchuria.
1931: Secretary of State Henry Stimson is instructed by President Hoover to withhold diplomatic recognition of any territorial boundary change as a result of Japanese aggression in Asia. This becomesPage xliv | Top of Article known as the Stimson Doctrine, and it has little effect. Japan continues to assert itself in the region.
1932: The Reconstruction Finance Corporation is established.
1932: The Farmers' Holiday Association forms in Iowa.
1932: Twenty thousand Bonus Marchers, veterans who in 1924 had been awarded a $1,000 "bonus" by Congress for their service in World War I, rally in Washington, D.C., and demand that the bonus be distributed immediately. (It was payable in 1945.) President Hoover refuses, violence breaks out between the marchers and the Washington police force, and Hoover sends in the U.S. Army to clear the marchers out of their tent city. The violence leaves at least two marchers and one baby dead.
1932: Herbert Hoover runs for a second term as president, but the paralysis that has seized the economy, plus Hoover's lack of warmth as a campaigner, leads the American people to vote in overwhelming numbers (57.4 percent) for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, a member of the New York Hudson Valley aristocracy and a distant cousin of former president Theodore Roosevelt. Franklin Roosevelt gives no clear indication of his program, other than to promise in his speech accepting the Democratic Party nomination that he pledged a "New Deal" for Americans.
1933: In February 1933 bank depositors begin withdrawing their savings. The movement accelerates and becomes a panic when banks begin running out of funds to meet the depositors' demands.
1933: The following New Deal programs are passed by Congress and signed by the president: the Emergency Banking Act; the Economy Act; the Civilian Conservation Corps; the Agricultural Adjustment Act; the Tennessee Valley Authority; the National Industrial Recovery Act; the Federal Emergency Relief Act; the Homeowners' Refinancing Act; the Civil Works Administration; and the Federal Securities Act.
1933: Adolph Hitler is elected Chancellor of Germany.
1933: Francis Townsend, retired California physician, proposes the "Townsend Plan" of "priming the pump" of consumer spending through a government pension to senior citizens.
1933: The United States recognizes the Soviet Union, and the two establish diplomatic ties.
1934: The Southern Tenant Farmers' Union is organized by members of the Socialist Party of America. Convinced that the economic depression is an aspect of the worldwide unraveling of capitalism and committed to the strategy of building a biracial coalition of poor people to bring about change, the American Socialist and Communist Parties during the 1930s "point the way" towards reform, but lose members to the Democratic Party and its popular standard-bearer, Franklin Roosevelt.
1934: Brought on by several years of drought, as well as the mechanization of agriculture (with tractors and disk plows disrupting the root systems of plains grasses which normally retain moisture in the soil), twenty-two giant dust storms ravage the west and the south. The storms carry away tons of soil and ruin agriculture until the early 1940s, when the rains return and the demand for agricultural goods once again brings the planting of crops.
1934: The following New Deal programs are created in 1934: the National Housing Act; the Securities and Exchange Act; and the Homeowners' Loan Act.
1934: Conservative critics of Roosevelt form the Liberty League.
1934: Huey Long, governor of Louisiana, originally supported Franklin Roosevelt but now demands the redistribution of wealth with the "Share-Our-Wealth" Societies.
1935: Father Charles Coughlin, the "radio priest" who had supported the New Deal, now finds President Roosevelt too mild and establishes the National Union for Social Justice. Eventually, Coughlin drifts into support for fascism.
1935: John L. Lewis, head of the United Mine Workers, takes his union out of the craft-conscious American Federation of Labor in order to lead the unionization of the semi-skilled workers in mass production industries.
1935: The following New Deal programs are passed by Congress and signed by the President in 1935: Works Progress Administration; National Youth Administration; Social Security Act; National Labor Relations Act; Public Utilities Holding Company Act; Resettlement Administration; Rural Electrification Administration; Revenue Act ("Wealth Tax").
1935: In an attempt to avoid in the future what some believed to be a connection between the profit motives of U.S. armament producers and the U.S.Page xlv | Top of Article entry into war, the Congress passes Neutrality Acts in 1935, 1936, and 1937. They prohibit the sale of arms to belligerent nations and direct the president to inform American travelers of the possibility of harm as a result of traveling near war zones.
1935: The Supreme Court rules that the National Industrial Recovery Act is unconstitutional.
1935: Huey Long is assassinated.
1935: Italy invades Ethiopia.
1936: Franklin Roosevelt signs the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act.
1936: John L. Lewis and like-minded labor leaders form the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) to "organize the unorganized" and aggressively expand the union movement with the adoption of innovative organizing tactics, such as the sit-down strike.
1936: Roosevelt wins a record 61 percent of the votes for president in 1936.
1936: The Spanish Civil War begins. Fascist Germany and Italy supply weapons and volunteers to the right-wing rebellion of the Falange under Ferdinand Franco. The United States, as well as the nations of western Europe, refuses to intervene on the side of the democratic socialist Spanish loyalist forces. Only the Soviet Union and its allies send aid. A volunteer army of International Brigades, including the 3,000 Americans in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, travel to Spain to fight, but although they suffer high casualties (about a third of the Americans die in Spain), the Franco rebellion overwhelms its opposition.
1936: Germany reoccupies the Rhineland, which France has held since World War I.
1937: In order to defeat the conservatives on the U.S. Supreme Court, Roosevelt proposes to expand the size of the court, which would have allowed him to appoint a number of new justices. This infuriates his opponents and distresses his allies and he drops the idea, but his administration is sullied by the act.
1937: Japan invades China.
1937: Roosevelt signs the Farm Security Administration and the National Housing Acts into law.
1937: In a bitter strike of the Steel Workers' Organizing
Committee against the "Little Steel" companies, a Memorial Day picnic and march to the Republic Steel plant in Chicago is fired upon by police. Ten workers are killed. Known as the Memorial Day Massacre, this act of state violence on behalf of the employer effectively breaks the strike.
1938: Germany annexes Austria.
1938: Congress passes and Roosevelt signs into law the Second Agricultural Adjustment Act and the Fair Labor Standards Act.
1938: At a Munich conference, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain tries to appease Hitler by allowing German troops to occupy a German-speaking portion of Czechoslovakia.
1938: As the economy seems to have rebounded in 1937, the Roosevelt administration reduces government allocation of funds for the Works Progress Administration and other programs. The economy slips back into recession (called the Roosevelt Recession) and does not pull out of it until the threat of World War II prompts hiring at the factories engaged in the 1940 military build-up.
1939: Fearing that the west European powers are maneuvering to set up a bloody war between Germany and the Soviet Union, a scenario in which the western democracies could "pick up the pieces" after the combatants had bled themselves dry, Stalin stuns the world by signing a non-aggression pact with Hitler. This allows the Soviets to industrialize and to build up its stock of military hardware, but it confuses and demoralizes the communist parties of western Europe and the United States.
1939: Germany invades the whole of Czechoslovakia.
1939: Germany invades Poland. World War II begins in Europe.
1939: John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath is published and tells the story of the "Okies" and the trek of migrant farmers from the drought-plagued great plains to California.
1939–1940: The Soviet Union invades Finland, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania.
1940: Germany rolls across western Europe in a mechanized warfare called the "Blitzkrieg."
1941: The lend-lease plan gives aid to Great Britain while still maintaining neutrality.
1941: Germany invades the Soviet Union.
1941: Although the United States is not yet at war, Churchill and Roosevelt meet on a British destroyer near Newfoundland and outline a set of shared goals, including the "destruction of Nazi tyranny." The charter also calls for the national self-determination of colonial holdings, a goal that Churchill embraces with much less enthusiasm.
1941: A. Philip Randolph threatens to bring thousands of African Americans to a march on Washington, D.C., protesting discrimination against African American workers in the defense industry. As a result of this demand, Franklin Roosevelt creates the Fair Employment Practices Commission, which handles these complaints and impresses on employers the need to project the spirit of the "double 'V'," victory against fascism abroad and against racism at home.
1941: Roosevelt imposes an embargo on petroleum and scrap iron shipping to Japan.
1941: Japan bombs Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, largely destroying the U.S. Pacific fleet. The next day, the United States declares war on Japan, Germany, and Italy.
1941: Work on the Manhattan Project (the atomic bomb) begins.
1942: The Office of Price Administration is created to fight inflation by freezing prices, wages, and rents.
1942: The War Production Board (WPB) is created to coordinate the production of military goods. In part because of the daunting nature of this mission, and also because of the ineffectual performance of its leaders, the WPB is generally unsuccessful in this goal, although the economy does manage to produce a huge output of weapons and other materiel.
1942: The Japanese take the Philippines.
1942: Japanese American citizens are locked up in concentration camps as Americans begin to imagine that citizens of Japanese descent constitute a "fifth column" of saboteurs and spies for Japan. Their private possessions are often stolen when they are forced into the camps.
1942: The Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) is founded.
1943: Racial confrontations occur between African Americans and whites in Detroit and between Mexican Americans and white sailors in Los Angeles.
1944: The Allied amphibious invasion of Normandy takes place.
1944: The United States retakes the Philippines.
1944: In a meeting at Bretton Woods, New Hampshire, the United States and other western powers discuss post-war recovery programs. They create the International Monetary Fund and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, also known as the World Bank.
1944: In the summer of 1944 the Allies meet at Dumbarton Oaks to plan the structure of the proposed United Nations.
1945: Western European and American troops meet the Red Army in Berlin, as the German army is destroyed.
1945: After a three month siege, the United States captures Okinawa, Japan, at a cost of 11,000 U.S. and 80,000 Japanese lives.
1945: The United States drops the atomic bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
1945: The United Nations Organization meets in San Francisco to plan its post-war future.
POSTWAR PROSPERITY, 1945–1973
1945: In February 1945, Joseph Stalin, Winston Churchill, and Franklin Roosevelt meet in Yalta, a resort on the Black Sea, to discuss the outlines of post-war Europe. They all agree to partition Germany. Stalin agrees that, once Germany is defeated, the Red Army will help the United States defeat Japan. In return, the Soviet Union will repossess the Kurile Islands, north of Japan, as well as southern Sakhalin Island and Port Arthur, which Russia lost to Japan in the Russo-Japanese War (1905). The Allies, however, fail to reach agreement on the shape of post-war Europe.
1945: Franklin D. Roosevelt dies; Harry Truman becomes president.
1945: The Potsdam Conference between Churchill, Stalin, and Truman, is held in a Berlin suburb in July 1945, and confirms what the Yalta Conference alreadyPage xlvii | Top of Article revealed in February of the same year: there are serious disagreements between the Allies. One is over the Polish question. The Red Army occupies Poland and, intent on acquiring a set of "buffer states" to prevent future invasion from the West, Stalin has already installed a pro-Soviet government. At Yalta, Stalin agreed to a vague date sometime in the future for holding free elections in Poland, but he never does so. Instead, in the weeks after Yalta, the Soviets proceed to create more buffer states in Eastern Europe. In light of the U.S. possession of a working nuclear bomb, President Truman adopts an aggressive stance and "talks tough" to the Soviet diplomats at Potsdam, but without gaining any concessions.
1945: Japan surrenders on August 14, 1945.
1946: Post-war inflation and the desire to "catch up" with the substantial price increases during the war prompt U.S. railroad workers and the coal miners to go on nation-wide strikes.
1946: The Philippines are given independence by the United States.
1946: The dominance of the Democratic Party in national politics since 1933 is finally broken as the Republicans gain control of Congress.
1946: Dr. Benjamin Spock publishes Baby and Child Care, the "Bible" for baby boomer infants and children's home diagnosis.
1946: Truman submits a domestic program called the Fair Deal. The name recalls the powerful New Deal program and the coalition that supported it. But, although the specifics of the Fair Deal—an expansion of Social Security benefits, public housing, federal aid for the St. Lawrence Seaway, and a national health plan—recall the New Deal, the drift of postwar politics is in a conservative direction and most elements of the program fail to win enough votes for passage.
1946: George F. Kennan, a career diplomat stationed in Moscow in 1946, sends a "long telegram" to the State Department in which he discusses "the sources of Soviet conduct." Later published as an article in Foreign Affairs under the pseudonym Mr. X., Kennan's argument is that historical circumstances have made the Soviet Union expansionist and that Marxism-Leninism has provided a rationale for this behavior. He says that the best way to deal with Soviet expansionism is to quarantine the U.S.S.R. until it runs out of revolutionary energy and settles down to a consumer-based economy.
1946: In a speech at Fulton, Missouri, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain Winston Churchill predicts that the world to come will be marked by the struggle between democratic and totalitarian systems of government. He notes that Eastern bloc nations are being turned into satellites of the Soviet Union, and he uses the image of an "iron curtain" that is descending across Europe.
1947: President Harry Truman reformulates George Kennan's arguments and presents them in a speech to Congress as the Truman Doctrine, the essence of which is that the United States will henceforth "support free peoples who are resisting attempted subjugation by armed minorities or by outside pressures."
1947: Secretary of State George C. Marshall unveils the Marshall Plan, a $12 billion package of aid to a devastated Western Europe, as a way to decrease the attractiveness of socialism.
1947: The Brooklyn Dodgers sign Jackie Robinson, the first African American to play in a regular position in Major League baseball.
1947: The National Security Act passes Congress and is signed into law. The Act creates the National Security Council (NSC), which advises the president on foreign policy, and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which coordinates the intelligence apparatus and also engages in extra-legal covert activity in foreign lands to forward the interests of the United States.
1947: The first suburban tract housing at Levittown, New York, is built.
1947: Puerto Rico is given commonwealth status.
1947: The House Un-American Activities Committee begins holding hearings to investigate the charge leveled by some members of Congress that the federal government has been lax in allowing communists to infiltrate the government.
1947: The Truman administration institutes loyalty review programs to insure the patriotism of government employees and to weed out subversive elements that might have become ensconced in government jobs. By 1951 over 2,200 government workers have either resigned or been terminated.
1947: The Taft-Harley Act is passed, making it harder to organize and maintain unions, a result of language such as Section 14-B, which permits states to pass "right to work" laws outlawing union shops (where a worker is required to join the union after being hired).
1948: The Soviets react to the merger of the U.S., British, and French sectors of Germany into one zone, "West Germany," by blockading shipments of food and other necessities to the western zones of Berlin. (Berlin lies inside East Germany.) Rather than try to open up the land corridors by force, the Western powers agree on a closely coordinated airlift of supplies to the city. For ten months the Berlin airlift successfully provisions the city, until the East Germans open the corridors again.
1948: The United Nations partitions Palestine and establishes the state of Israel.
1948: Alger Hiss, a New Deal liberal and formerly a valued member of the State Department, is accused of being part of a ring that passed classified information to the Soviet Union in 1937 and 1938. Hiss sues his accuser, former communist Whittaker Chambers, for libel and loses the case, at which point he is convicted of perjury. He goes to jail for several years and the incident casts a shadow over the reputation and the careers of many New Deal liberals, including members of the movie industry like the "Hollywood Ten," the directors who refuse to answer the House Un-American Activities Committee's inquiries concerning their politics.
1948: The United Automobile Workers' Union and General Motors agree to an automatic cost-of-living factor in the calculation of wages.
1948: The New Deal political coalition comes under considerable stress as the Democratic Party splits into three parties—the conservative States' Rights, or Dixiecrat Party in the South, led by Strom Thurmond, the left-wing Progressive Party, under the leadership of Henry Wallace, and the mainstream Democratic Party under Truman. In spite of this division, labor mobilizes behind Truman, who wins an upset election.
1949: Twelve nations sign the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a mutual defense pact and a standing military force in Western Europe, to guard against aggression by the Soviet Union. The U.S. Senate ratifies the treaty. The Soviets spearhead their own mutual defense organization, the Warsaw Pact.
1949: President Truman issues an executive order ending racial segregation in the U.S. military.
1949: The Soviet Union explodes its first atomic bomb years earlier than expected, and the United States loses its monopoly on nuclear weapons.
1949: The Chinese Communist Revolution takes place, and the former government of China flees to Taiwan.
1950: The National Security Council issues its report, NSC-68, which recommends that the United States assume the leadership of the forces opposed to the expansion of the Soviet bloc. This means that wherever such an expansion appears likely, the United States must take up the struggle against it. To do this, the United States must provide itself with a strong and flexible defense capability, not just a nuclear deterrent.
1950: North Korea invades South Korea in late June 1950. The peninsula was partitioned at the end of World War II. Syngman Rhee runs a corrupt government in the South. Kim Il Sung, the North Korean head of state, builds a Spartan, dictatorial, socialist state and introduces land reform, which wins him the support of the peasantry. The North Korean invasion brings a coordinated response from members of the Security Council of the United Nations (minus the Soviet Union, which is boycotting the Security Council sessions to protest communist China's exclusion from the body). U.N. forces battle North Korea and its Chinese allies until a treaty is signed in 1953. The treaty produces a limited victory, with an armistice line at the 38th parallel that must be patrolled at considerable expense in the future.
1950: President Truman relieves General Douglas MacArthur of command in Korea for publicly criticizing Truman's handling of the war. MacArthur flies home to a ticker-tape parade and addresses Congress; his popularity considerably exceeds Truman's. Still, Truman's action comes to be understood as a stand in favor of the subordination of military to civilian authority.
1950: In a speech at a rally in Wheeling, West Virginia, Wisconsin Senator Joseph McCarthy begins leveling the charge that the federal government is rife with communists.
1950: Congress passes the McCarran Internal Security Act, requiring all communist organizations to register with the government and publish their records. Truman vetoes the bill, but Congress overrides the veto.
1951: Two members of the Communist Party, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, are sentenced to death for leaking secrets concerning the atomic bomb to the Soviet Union. Two years later, after massive worldwide protests reminiscent of the Sacco and Vanzetti case in the 1920s, the Rosenbergs are executed by electrocution.
1952: Dwight D. Eisenhower, military hero and head of NATO forces, is elected president on the Republican ticket.
1953: The economy slips into a recession.
1953: The CIA collaborates in the overthrow of Mohammed Mossadegh, the prime minister of Iran, who may have been maneuvering towards the nationalization of the oil industry in Iran. Mossadegh is replaced by the shah of Iran, Mohammed Reza Pahlavi, who cooperates with the West in the development of his country's oil resources.
1953: Stalin dies.
1954: In Brown v. Board of Education the U.S. Supreme Court rules that "separate" can never be "equal" in school systems and directs the Topeka School Board to move "with all deliberate speed" to integrate its schools.
1954: After Senator Joseph McCarthy continues to make unsubstantiated accusations against individuals and even against the U.S. Army, the fact that his committee hearings are televised help to turn the investigation into a revelation of his own bullying tactics and character assassination. He loses most of the support that he enjoyed earlier in the 1950s. Congress censures him, and within a few years he dies from the effects of alcoholism.
1954: In Guatemala the CIA helps to overthrow the newly elected Jacobo Arbenz Guzman, a leftist with whom the United Fruit Company (an American firm with extensive plantations in Guatemala) does not feel entirely comfortable.
1954: The Vietnamese nationalist forces, the Viet Minh, defeat the French army at Dien Bien Phu.
1955: The industrial unions of the CIO rejoin the trade unions in the AFL. George Meany heads the united organization, the AFL-CIO.
1955: The Montgomery Bus Boycott, a year-long struggle, begins when African American seamstress and Secretary of the Alabama NAACP, Rosa Parks, refuses to move from her seat in the front of a bus in order to let a white man sit down. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., emerges from the struggle with a reputation as a formidable speaker and charismatic leader, urging the rank and file civil rights adherents to practice the discipline of passive resistance and creative non-violence.
1956: The Federal Highway Act is passed and signed by President Eisenhower.
1956: The Hungarian Revolution is repressed by the Soviet Union. Although the Radio Free Europe (West European broadcasts into Soviet dominated East Europe) had encouraged the rebellion, the West was not in a position to do anything when the Russian tanks rolled across Hungary.
1956: One hundred and one southern congressmen pledge "massive resistance" to the Supreme Court rulings on desegregation.
1956: U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles suspends a loan to Egypt for financing of the Aswan Dam project on the Nile River. Dulles takes the action to punish the Egyptians for their friendly relations with the Soviet Union. This prompts Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser to seize the Suez Canal and use its revenues to build the dam. This, in turn, leads Israel, Great Britain, and France to attack Egypt. The United States fears the attack on Egypt might alienate other oil rich Arab states so it supports a Soviet-sponsored U.N. resolution condemning the attack. Nasser, like a number of Third World leaders after him, learns the technique of playing the United States and its allies off against the Soviet Union and its allies.
1957: The Civil Rights Act of 1957 is passed. More a declaration of principles than a serious piece of legislation, the law has few enforcement powers.
1957: President Eisenhower orders the National Guard into Little Rock, Arkansas, to assist in desegregating a high school.
1957: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference forms under the leadership of Martin Luther King.
1957: The post-World War II baby boom peaks.
1957: The U.S. economy slips into recession again.
1957: The Teamsters are investigated for corruption.
1957: The Soviet Union launches Sputnik, the first earth orbiting satellite. This feat also alerts the United States to the fact that the Soviet Union possesses extremely powerful booster rockets.
1958: The National Defense Education Act is passed, providing broad support for education.
1958: The John Birch Society, a grass roots anticommunist organization, is formed.
1958: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) is formed.
1959: Alaska becomes the 49th state to be admitted to the Union.
1959: In line with a call from the Comintern to the colonial and underdeveloped world to engage in wars of national liberation against colonialism and imperialism, the National Liberation Front in Vietnam is formed.
1959: Hawaii becomes the 50th state to enter the Union.
1959: Fidel Castro and the 26th of May Movement seizes power in Cuba.
1959: Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev visits the United States.
1960: A U.S. U-2 spy airplane is shot down over the Soviet Union, embarrassing President Eisenhower and destroying a planned U.S.-Soviet summit meeting in Paris, France.
1960: John F. Kennedy is elected president.
1961: In his farewell address Eisenhower warns of the growth of the "military-industrial complex."
1961: The Congress on Racial Equality (CORE) calls for "freedom rides" to establish the right of African American people to have access to a racially integrated public transportation system. On May 14 a Greyhound bus carrying freedom riders near Anniston, Alabama, is surrounded by an angry white mob that burns the bus and beats its occupants. The local hospitals refuse to treat the injured freedom riders.
1961: The Alliance for Progress is created by President Kennedy.
1961: East Germany erects the Berlin Wall to stop the escape of its citizens to the West.
1962: The stunning failure of the United States-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs by Cuba's anticommunist exiles embarrasses American policy makers. Their belief that most Cuban people are looking for an opportunity to overthrow the Castro regime is disproved.
1962: Michael Harrington publishes The Other America.
1962: Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) form at a UAW recreation center in Port Huron, Michigan.
1962: In order to protect themselves from the threat of another U.S. backed invasion similar to the Bay of Pigs attack, Cuba accepts the Soviet Union's aid in building nuclear missile silos in Cuba. In what becomes known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, U.S. president John F. Kennedy faces down Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and the missiles are withdrawn. The possibility of a large nuclear war has a sobering effect on both the Americans and the Soviets.
1962: Rachel Carson publishes Silent Spring, a manifesto of the environmental movement.
1963: Medgar Evans, head of the Mississippi NAACP, is assassinated in the front yard of his home.
1963: John F. Kennedy proposes a strong Civil Rights Bill.
1963: The Civil Rights March on Washington, D.C., along with Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech legitimizes the Civil Rights Movement in the eyes of many Americans for the first time.
1963: In Vietnam the large protest demonstrations led by Buddhist monks, some of whom engage in self-immolation (dousing themselves with gasoline and setting themselves on fire) plus the South Vietnamese government's brutal repression of political dissent leads to the CIA-approved assassination of Ngo Dinh Diem. This sets off a series of coups in South Vietnam that further delegitimize the South Vietnamese political leadership.
1963: Betty Frieden's The Feminine Mystique is published.
1963: President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas. Lyndon Johnson is sworn in as president.
1963-1966: Lyndon Johnson's Great Society programs are approved by Congress.
1964: President Johnson initiates tax cuts, following through on a promise of President Kennedy's.
1964: Johnson announces the War of Poverty.
1964: The Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) is created.
1964: Lyndon Johnson goes before Congress to speak in favor of federal protection of civil rights, publicizing his support to the American people.
1964: The Economic Opportunity Act passes Congress.
1964: The "freedom summer" of 1964 brings volunteers, both African American and white, from the north to Mississippi in a drive to register African Americans to vote. White repression of this campaign leads to a number of murders of both African American and white volunteers.
1964: The British rock group The Beatles make a tour of the United States. Their immense success highlights the growing importance in the economy of the youth culture of the baby boomers.
1964: Responding to pressure from Lyndon Johnson, Congress breaks a southern filibuster and passes the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the first such effective show of congressional power on the civil rights issue since Reconstruction.
1964: After being told that North Vietnamese PT boats had attacked the destroyer Maddox with torpedoes in international waters, Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gives the American president the power to engage in hostile action to protect American lives. President Johnson uses this resolution to justify a massive commitment of troops and a huge bombing campaign (called Rolling Thunder) in North as well as in South Vietnam. The Gulf of Tonkin Resolution becomes known as the "blank check."
1964: Lyndon Johnson wins the presidential election of 1964, convincingly beating Republican candidate Barry Goldwater.
1964: The Berkeley campus of the University of California is the site of the Free Speech Movement.
1965: The Immigration Reform Act does away with the national origins aspects of previous immigration acts. Under the new law, all candidates for immigration are evaluated equally without regard to the nation from which they came.
1965: The race riot in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles tellingly describes the change in race relations as the Civil Rights Movement moves out of the south and into the north and west of the country.
1965: For the first time since Reconstruction the Voting Rights Act of 1965 gives federal protection to people trying to register to vote or to exercise their right to vote.
1965: Teach-ins on the war in Vietnam are staged on college campuses.
1965: The United States sends combat troops to Vietnam and begins a build-up which will peak in 1969 at well over half a million troops.
1965: Ralph Nader publishes Unsafe at Any Speed, an exposé of the General Motors Corporation and the Corvair automobile.
1965: Anti-war protests begin on college campuses.
1965: Malcolm X is assassinated in New York City.
1966: Medicaid is enacted.
1966: Huey P. Newton and a handful of other militants in Oakland, California, form the Black Panther Party.
1966: Senator J. William Fulbright, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, begins to hold open hearings on the war in Vietnam.
1966: Partly in reaction to the disturbances on the state's college campuses and in the ghettos, Ronald Reagan is elected governor of California.
1966: The National Organization for Women is formed.
1966: The U.S. Supreme Court decides Miranda v. State of Arizona, defining new standards for the protection of the rights of criminal suspects.
1967: Thurgood Marshall becomes a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.
1967: An anti-war march on the Pentagon takes place.
1967: A police raid on an after-hours tavern leads to a race riot in Detroit, in which 43 people die, mostly from rifle fire by National Guard troops.
1967: Martin Luther King, Jr., speaks on Vietnam. This transforms King into more than a spokesman on civil rights. By linking the war with the situation of African American people King may have been elaborating a platform from which to address the entire nation.
1968: The Tet offensive by Viet Cong communist guerillas in South Vietnam occurs, taking the United States and South Vietnam by surprise. Although a military catastrophe for the Viet Cong, the Tet offensive demonstrates the will of communists inPage lii | Top of Article Vietnam to continue fighting and successfully undermines support for the war in the United States.
1968: The Youth International Party (YIPPIES) is founded. The YIPPIES' threats to run naked through the streets of Chicago during the national Democratic Convention and to spike the Chicago water supply with hallucinogenic drugs struck most mainstream Americans as both incomprehensible and outrageous.
1968: Skewered by his inability to extricate the country from the twin crises of Vietnam and mounting racial antagonism, on March 31, 1968, President Lyndon Johnson announces his decision to not seek the Democratic Party nomination for reelection.
1968: The My Lai massacre of 200 Vietnamese civilians becomes public knowledge. The killing of women, children, and the elderly by U.S. soldiers under the command of Lieutenant William Calley is brought to light through the actions of a helicopter pilot who intervened to prevent further bloodshed and an army photographer who took pictures of the carnage.
1968: Martin Luther King, Jr., is assassinated.
1968: Robert Kennedy, brother of John F. Kennedy and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president, is assassinated.
1968: The Democratic National Convention in Chicago takes place in the midst of a violent confrontation between thousands of anti-war demonstrators and the Chicago police department, some of which is broadcast on live television.
1968: George Wallace founds the American Independent Party and in the election of 1968 pulls votes away from Hubert Humphrey, the Democratic Party candidate for president.
1968: Richard M. Nixon is elected president.
1969: President Nixon begins withdrawing U.S. troops from Vietnam.
1969: The Woodstock rock festival takes place.
1969: Senator George McGovern is appointed head of the Democratic Party's Internal Rules Reform Committee.
1969: Neil Armstrong, a U.S. astronaut, becomes the first human being to walk on the moon.
1969: The Stonewall riot in New York City signals the beginning of the openly public gay rights movement.
1970: President Nixon authorizes the invasion of Cambodia to constrict supply lines from North Vietnam to South Vietnam.
1970: At Kent State University in Ohio, National Guard troops fire on Vietnam war protesters, killing four. At Jackson State University in Mississippi, two African American civil rights protesters are shot to death by police.
1970: The Environmental Protection Agency is created.
1970: The Occupational Safety and Health Agency (OSHA) is created.
1971: The New York Times publishes the Pentagon Papers. They reveal that during the Johnson administration the Department of Defense deliberately lied to the public about the effectiveness of U.S. policy in Vietnam.
1970–1971: To curb inflation, President Nixon submits the Economic Stabilization Act of 1970 to Congress; the act imposes a ninety-day freeze on all wages and prices.
1972: President Nixon begins revenue sharing.
1972: Congress approves the Equal Rights Amendment.
1972: The Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP) is formed.
1972: The SALT I treaty is signed. This treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union freezes the total number of intercontinental ballistic missiles at existing levels. The treaty says nothing about the implementation of new types of weapons such as missiles with multiple warheads or missiles on submarines.
1972: President Nixon visits communist China, an historic first which not only opens the possibility of exporting consumer durable goods to this vast new market, but also offers the strategic opening of further splintering the Sino-Soviet bloc.
1972: The United States risks a hostile Soviet reaction with the mining of Haiphong Harbor in North Vietnam.
1972: A break-in is discovered at the Democratic Party headquarters in the Washington, D.C., Watergate office complex.
1972: President Nixon is reelected.
1972: President Nixon orders an unusually heavy bombing of North Vietnam during the Christmas holidays.
1973: A woman's right to end pregnancy by abortion is upheld by the Supreme Court in Roe v. Wade.
1973: Vice President Spiro Agnew resigns, leaving office under a cloud of suspicion concerning his involvement in bribery and kickback deal while in the office of vice president and while governor of Maryland.
1973: The Vietnam Peace Treaty signed.
THE CONTEMPORARY WORLD, 1973-PRESENT
1973: Members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) hold a demonstration at Wounded Knee.
1973: The Paris Peace Accords allow the United States to withdraw from Vietnam, but fighting continues between the South Vietnamese government and the communists.
1973: The Yom Kippur War occurs. Israel is able to recover from the surprise attack and defeat the Egyptian forces in the Sinai peninsula. The United States intervenes to re-establish balance in the region, rather than support an unqualified Israeli victory.
1973: In response to the Yom Kippur War, the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries (OPEC) cartel imposes an embargo on shipments of oil to the United States from 1973 to 1974. This embargo forces the United States to confront its dependence on foreign sources of oil.
1973: The Watergate scandal turns into a national crisis of authority.
1974: Gerald Ford is appointed to fill the unfinished term of President Nixon's previous vice president, Spiro Agnew.
1974: Congress begins impeachment proceedings against President Nixon for participating in a cover-up of the Watergate burglary of the National Democratic Party headquarters in 1972.
1974: OPEC raises the price of crude oil.
1974: President Nixon resigns and Gerald Ford becomes president. President Ford soon pardons Nixon of any crimes he may have committed.
1974: The Supreme Court rules in Bradley v. Milliken that cross-district school busing is not a proper remedy for segregation in the schools.
1974: Inflation and unemployment ("stagflation") begin to plague the U.S. economy.
1975: South Vietnam is defeated by communist forces and the nation is reunited under the leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
1976: Democrat Jimmy Carter wins the presidential election against Republican Gerald Ford.
1976: Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong dies.
1977: President Carter pardons Vietnam-era draft resisters.
1977: The Department of Energy is created.
1977: President Carter negotiates the end of the 100-year lease on the Panama Canal and the return of the canal to the government of Panama.
1978: The Supreme Court rules on affirmative action in the case of Bakke v. University of California. The ruling does not terminate affirmative action, but it does limit the use of quotas to attain affirmative action goals.
1978: Proposition 13, a referendum rolling back property taxes, passes in California, signifying the arrival of a grassroots tax revolt.
1978: The Panama Canal Treaty is ratified.
1978: In October 1978 Congress passes and President Carter signs the Airline Deregulation Act. This act is a sign of the general move towards deregulating industries that had prospered for decades under the protective wing of the regulated sector of the economy. The result of airline deregulation, as was also the case in trucking and telecommunications, was the sudden destabilization of rates and carriers and labor relations in the airline industry.
1978: The federal government bails out the ailing Chrysler Corporation with a $1.5 billion loan. The company recovers and pays the loan back early.
1978: The United States normalizes diplomatic relations with China, which is now led by Deng Xiaoping.
1978–1979: President Jimmy Carter acts as a go-between in the Camp David talks between Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. The talks produce the Camp David Accords, a peace treaty between Israel andPage liv | Top of Article Egypt that ends 31 years of warfare. The achievement also solidifies the reputation of Jimmy Carter as a skilled negotiator.
1979: The Three Mile Island nuclear power plant suffers an accident and damages the public perception of the safety of nuclear power.
1979: The shah of Iran, a long-time U.S. ally, is deposed by Islamic fundamentalists. Islamic militants soon seize 53 hostages at the American embassy. The hostage takers demand the return of the shah to face trial. The shah, who is undergoing unsuccessful cancer treatment in the United States, is exactly the kind of westernized and cosmopolitan national leader that the Islamic militants despise. The hostage crisis continues to the end of Carter's presidency.
1979: President Carter negotiates SALT II, a second arms limitation agreement with the Soviet Union.
1979: The first national march on Washington, D.C., for gay and lesbian rights attracts 100,000 participants.
1979: In Nicaragua, the leftist Sandinista rebels succeed in driving the Somoza family from power and set up a reform-minded regime with close ties to Cuba.
1979: The Soviet Union invades Afghanistan in what many Americans see as an attempt to secure access to the massive oil supplies of the Persian Gulf. The invasion leads President Carter to withdraw the SALT II treaty from the Senate without ratification, and contributes to an already worsening relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union.
1980: During the 1980s the number of Asian legal immigrants to the United States exceeds the number of Hispanic legal immigrants.
1980: Cuban "boat people," the Marielitos, flood Florida.
1980: The United States boycotts the 1980 Olympics in Moscow.
1980: Ronald Reagan beats Jimmy Carter in the 1980 presidential election.
1981: On the same day Ronald Reagan is inaugurated as president, the American hostages in Iran are released.
1981: Ronald Reagan fires the air traffic controller members of the PATCO union for going on strike, citing the fact that as civil service employees they did not have the right to strike. This action encourages a "get tough" attitude which became the hallmark of labor-management relations during the Reagan years.
1981: Sandra Day O'Connor is appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court as its first female justice.
1981: Reagan convinces Congress to agree to substantial tax reductions and to also cut the federal budget in many areas. Defense spending is increased substantially, however, leading to large budget deficits throughout the Reagan administration.
1981: The United States begins supporting the Contra anticommunist rebels in Nicaragua.
1981: The AIDS epidemic makes its first appearance in the United States.
1982: The Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution fails to be ratified by the states.
1982: The economy falls into deep recession.
1982: National unemployment reaches 11 percent.
1982: The United States invades Grenada when a leftist group of rebels with ties to Cuba seizes control of the state.
1982: The recession brings inflation down as a weak market depresses prices; subsequently, interest rates begin to drop, and the economy rejuvenates itself with fresh inflows of capital.
1982: The nuclear freeze movement builds upon a popular fear of nuclear war.
1982: United States troops are killed in a truck bombing in Beirut, Lebanon.
1982: President Reagan strongly advocates the development of a so-called "Star Wars" nuclear defense system (orbiting satellites with laser guns to shoot down incoming ballistic missiles before they reenter the Earth's atmosphere). Despite scientific criticism, billions of dollars are spent on the Strategic Defense Initiative during the Reagan administration. The program fails to produce a working defense system.
1983: A pastoral letter on nuclear war is released by the Catholic bishops in the United States.
1983: The unemployment level stands at 10.2 percent.
1984: Unemployment is at 7.1 percent.
1984: The fear of urban violence and the availability of handguns leads to more urban violence. WhenPage lv | Top of Article four African American youths try to shake down Bernard Goetz in a New York City subway, he pulls out a gun and shoots them.
1984: Geraldine Ferraro receives the Democratic Party's nomination for the vice presidency.
1984: Reagan is reelected president, defeating Democrat Walter Mondale.
1985: Mikhail Gorbachev becomes head of the Communist Party and the Soviet government. He ushers in the period of glasnost (open discussion) in the Soviet Union.
1985: Homeless "street people" become a familiar sight in most big cities.
1985: Crack cocaine becomes the drug of choice on the U.S. illegal drug market.
1986: The Iran-Contra scandal, in which Iran was supplied with U.S. weapons in return for the Iranian contribution to the right-wing Contra rebels fighting a guerilla war against Nicaragua's Sandinista government is revealed.
1987: U.S. bombers strike Libya in an effort to "take out" Libyan President Muammar al Qaddafi, widely held to be engaged in state-supported terrorism.
1987: The Iran-Contra hearings determine that President Reagan was not involved in the Iran-Contra dealings, but several of his senior staff members are prosecuted. The scandal undermines public confidence in government.
1987: Although the economy is recovering from recession, investor psychology is still shaky, and a 508-point drop occurs on the New York stock market in one day.
1988: Republican George Bush and his running mate, Dan Quayle, defeat Democrat Michael S. Dukakis and Geraldine Ferraro in the 1988 presidential election.
1988: The Soviets agree to withdraw from Afghanistan.
1989: Germany begins to reunify as the Cold War grinds to an end. The Berlin Wall is dismantled, and the communist parties of Eastern and Central Europe are weakened. Rather than maintain the safety net features of socialist societies, these nations attempt the difficult transition to free-market economies.
1989: On March 1989 the Exxon oil tanker Exxon Valdez runs aground in Prince William Sound, Alaska. Eleven million gallons of oil befoul 728 miles of coastline.
1989: Pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, are shot down at the order of the Chinese government.
1989: After Panamanian troops harass several U.S. soldiers and kill one of them, the Bush administration sends 12,000 U.S. troops to Panama to arrest its dictatorial leader, Manuel Noriega, a former informant for the CIA, so that he can be tried on drug trafficking charges.
1990: The system of apartheid begins to fall apart in South Africa. The United States has taken a strong position against apartheid since the U.S. Civil Rights Movement demanded, in protest, that U.S. companies divest themselves of stock in South African companies.
1990: Congress passes and the president signs the Americans with Disabilities Act.
1990: In spite of his campaign promise, "Read My Lips: No New Taxes," and in light of burgeoning budget deficits, President George Bush raises taxes.
1990: The U.S. economy slips into recession.
1991: In the Persian Gulf War, the United States and its allies rain destruction on the armed forces of Iraq. The small but oil-rich nation of Kuwait which Iraq had occupied, is liberated.
1991: President George Bush nominates African American conservative jurist Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court, only to be confronted with the testimony of Anita Hill, who alleges that in a previous job Thomas persistently subjected her to sexual harassment. Most senators vote to confirm Thomas.
1992: After the beating of an African American motorist, Rodney King, by Los Angeles police, and after the accused police officers are acquitted by an all-white suburban jury, the city goes up in flames. In the resulting race riot, the largest and bloodiest in the twentieth century United States, over 50 people die.
1992: Democrat William Jefferson Clinton defeats George Bush in the presidential election.
1993: Congress raises taxes to shrink the federal deficit.
1993: Congress ratifies the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) which lowers tariffs, principally with Mexico and Canada.
1994: Congress rejects President Clinton's plan for a national health care system.
1994: For the first time since 1952, the election of 1994 gives the majority of both houses of Congress to the Republican Party and brings in many new Republican legislators pledged to shake up the Washington establishment and to pass tax reductions and term limits. Led by Congressman Newt Gingrich of Georgia, the Republican Congress engages in many political battles with President Clinton, including one that shuts down the government for several weeks.
1995: Perhaps as a result of a booming economy and low levels of unemployment, the national crime rate declines significantly.
1995: Congress passes and the president signs bills on welfare-to-work, a minimum wage increase, and minor reforms in the health care system.
1997: The Justice Department files an anti-trust lawsuit against the Microsoft Corporation.
1998: Already under investigation for possible sexual harassment and illegal real estate deals, President Clinton denies reports that he engaged in a sexual relationship with Monica Lewinsky, a former White House intern. If true, the reports would mean that Clinton lied under oath during investigations into the sexual harassment suit brought by Paula Jones.
1998: President Clinton admits to having engaged in a relationship with Monica Lewinsky which was "not appropriate," but denies that he lied under oath.
1998: Accusing him of perjury and obstruction of justice, the U.S. House of Representatives votes along party lines to impeach President Clinton.
1999: President Clinton is acquitted by the Senate, which cannot muster a majority to convict him and remove him from office—much less the required two-thirds vote. The vote is largely along party lines. No Democrat votes to convict.