A New Nation – American Timeline 1785-1876

United States Capitol, Washington, DC, by Currier & Ives, about 1873

United States Capitol, Washington, DC, by Currier & Ives, about 1873

“My patriotic heart beats red, white, and blue.”

— Author Unknown

At the successful conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1783, Americans continued to experiment with how to govern themselves under the Articles of Confederation turned to George Washington for leadership, this time as president of the new republic. In the next decades, the fledgling nation would deal with expansion and spent a good deal of time and effort developing policies to keep the peace between the white settlers and the Native Americans. More wars would be fought including the War of 1812, numerous Indian Wars, and the Mexican-American War. The nation would also begin to deal with the practice of slavery and social reforms.


Northwest Territory

Northwest Territory

1785 – The Northwest Indian War begins between the United States and a confederation of numerous Native American tribes, with support from the British, for control of the Northwest Territory. It lasts until 1795.

1787 – The Constitutional Convention met in Philadelphia to draft the Constitution.

1788 – The United States Constitution is ratified.

New York City was chosen by the Congress to be the temporary capital,

1789 – The first session of Congress meets and George Washington is inaugurated as the first president, serving until 1797.

The first 13 states were Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island.

1790 – Washington D.C. becomes the capital of the national government.

1791 – The Bill of Rights is passed.

The first bank of the United States is chartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1793 – The Fugitive Slave Act is passed.

Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin.

Yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Whiskey Rebellion

Whiskey Rebellion

1794 – The Whiskey Rebellion occurs.

The Battle of Fallen Timbers was the final battle of the Northwest Indian War.

1795Vermont and Kentucky were admitted to the United States.

The Treaty of Greenville redefines the boundary between Indian lands and white man’s lands in the Northwest Territory.

1796Tennessee is admitted to the United States.

1797John Adams becomes the second president of the United States, serving until 1801.

1800 – The Library of Congress is founded.

1801Thomas Jefferson becomes the third president of the United States, serving until 1809.

1803 – The Louisiana Purchase Treaty is negotiated.

Ohio, formerly part of Connecticut, becomes the 17th state.

Sacagawea guided Lewis and Clark on their expedition  of 1804-06

Sacagawea guided Lewis and Clark on their expedition of 1804-06

1804Meriwether Lewis and William Clark establish the Corps of Discovery and explore the Louisiana Territory.

New Jersey abolishes slavery.

The Burr-Hamilton duel occurs, resulting in Alexander Hamilton’s death.

1805 – The Barbary Wars occur.

1807 – An Act of Congress prohibits the importation of slaves.

Robert Fulton invents steamboat.

1808 – U.S. slave trade with Africa ends.

1809 – James Madison becomes the fourth president of the United States, serving until 1817.

The Non-Intercourse Act sets boundaries of Indian reservations and regulates commerce between Americans and Native Americans.

1811 – The Battle of Tippecanoe occurs between Shawnee Indians and U.S. forces.

War of 1812 in Missouri

War of 1812 in Missouri

1812 – The War of 1812 begins and lasts until 1814.

Louisiana becomes the 18th state.

1813 – The Creek War begins and ends with the Treaty of Fort Jackson in 1814.

1814 – British troops burn Washington, D.C. but are forced back at Baltimore, Maryland.

Frances Scott Key wrote the Star-Spangled Banner

1816Indiana becomes the 19th state.

1817 – James Monroe becomes the fifth president of the United States, serving until 1825.

Harvard Law School is founded.

Mississippi becomes the 20th state

1818 – The Cumberland Road is opened.

Illinois becomes the 21st state.

The Jackson Purchase is made in Kentucky.

1819Alabama becomes the 22nd state.

The Panic of 1819 occurs.

The Adams-Onis Treaty is made that includes the acquisition of Florida.

1820Maine is admitted to the United States.

The Missouri Compromise is made.

1821Missouri is admitted to the United States.

1825 – John Quincy Adams becomes the sixth president of the United States, serving until 1829.

The Erie Canal opened.

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson

1829Andrew Jackson becomes the seventh president, serving until 1837.

The graham cracker was invented by a Presbyterian minister, Reverend Sylvester Graham in 1829, for his vegetarian diet.

1830 – The Indian Removal Act is passed.

The Oregon Trail opens.

1831 – Nat Turner’s Revolt occurs in Virginia.

1832 – The Black Hawk War is fought.

The Seminole Wars begin in Florida.

The Department of Indian Affairs is established.

1835 – The Texas War for Independence begins.

1836Arkansas is admitted to the United States.

1837 – The Battle of the Alamo in San Antonio, Texas is fought.

The Panic of 1837 was a financial crisis that touched off a major recession that lasted until the mid-1840s,

Michigan is admitted to the United States.

Trail of Tears painting by Robert Lindneux

Trail of Tears painting by Robert Lindneux

1838-1839 – The Cherokee are forced westward on the Trail of Tears.

1841 – William Henry Harrison becomes the ninth president of the United States. After serving just 31 days, he died.

John Tyler becomes the 10th president of the United States, serving until 1845.

1845 – James Knox Polk becomes the 11th president of the United States, serving until 1849.

Texas and Florida are admitted to the United States.

1845 – Baseball, the United States’ national sport and pastime was invented when Alexander Cartwright wrote the official and codified set of regulated rules of baseball.

1846 – The Mexican-American War begins and lasts until 1848.

The Oregon Treaty is signed bringing an end to boundary disputes between Americans and the British.

Iowa is admitted to the United States.

California Gold Rush Miners

California Gold Rush Miners

1848 Gold is discovered in California.

Wisconsin is admitted to the United States.

The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the Mexican-American War

The U. S. purchased California, Nevada, Utah, most of New Mexico and Arizona, parts of Colorado and Wyoming.

1849 – Zachary Taylor becomes the 12th U.S. President but serves only a little over a year, as he died in office in July 1850.

1850 – Millard Fillmore becomes the 13th U.S. President, serving until 1853.

California is admitted to the United States.

1853 – Franklin Pierce becomes the 14th U.S. President, serving until 1857.

The Gadsden Purchase is made adding new lands to present-day New Mexico and Arizona.

The original potato chip recipe was invented by chef George Crum at Moon’s Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York.

1854 – The Kansas-Nebraska Act is passed, nullifying the Missouri Compromise.

The abolitionists (opponents of slavery) established the Republican Party.

The Sacking of Lawrence, Kansas

The Sacking of Lawrence, Kansas

1856 – The Sacking of Lawrence, Kansas occurs during the days known as Bleeding Kansas.

Pottawatomie Massacre in Kansas.

1857 – James Buchanan becomes the 15th president, serving until 1861.

Mass-produced toilet paper was introduced by New York City entrepreneur Joseph Gayetty who invented aloe-infused sheets of manila hemp dispensed from Kleenex-like boxes in 1857. However, his invention was a failure because Americans had become accustomed to using mail-order catalogs, which were free. It really didn’t catch on until Clarence and E. Irvin Scott of the Scott Paper Company co-invented rolled toilet paper in 1890.

1858Minnesota is admitted to the United States.

1859Oregon is admitted to the United States.

Harper’s Ferry Raid occurs in West Virginia.

The Comstock Lode is discovered in Nevada.

1860 – The Pony Express begins.

South Carolina seceded from the Union.

1861Abraham Lincoln becomes the 16th president and serves until 1865 when he is assassinated.

Kansas is admitted to the United States.

1861 – The postcard was invented by John P. Charlton of Philadelphia.

Eleven pro-slavery southern states seceded from the Union.

The Confederate States of America is established under President Jefferson Davis.

Bombarding Fort Sumter, April, 1861 by Currier & Ives

Bombarding Fort Sumter, April 1861 by Currier & Ives

American Civil War begins at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. It lasts until 1865.

The First Battle of Bull Run was fought on July 21, 1861, in Virginia near Manassas, which lies a very short distance away from the U.S. capitol in Washington, D.C.

1862 – Union forces claimed a significant victory over the Confederates in the Battle of Pea Ridge, Arkansas on March 6-8, 1862.

The Battle of Antietam, Maryland stopped the Confederate advancement into the north on September 17, 1862.

1863 – The Battle of Gettysburg takes place in Pennsylvania.

West Virginia is admitted to the United States.

The Emancipation Declaration is made and slaves are freed.

President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

1864 – The Sand Creek Massacre takes place in Colorado.

1865 – Abraham Lincoln is assassinated.

Andrew Jackson becomes the 17th president, serving until 1869.

The cowboy hat was invented in 1865 by John Batterson Stetson during a hunting trip, showing his companions how he could make fabric out of fur without weaving.

Nevada is admitted to the United States.

The United States Civil War ends.

The Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, prohibiting slavery.

Reconstruction of the South Begins.

Ku Klux Klan

Ku Klux Klan

1866 – Civil Rights Act of 1866 is passed.

The Ku Klux Klan is founded.

1867Nebraska is admitted to the United States.

Alaska is purchased from Russia.

1869Ulysses Simpson Grant becomes the 18th U.S. President, serving until 1877.

The first transcontinental railroad is completed.

American football was first played on November 6, 1869, between Rutgers University and Princeton University.

1871 – The Great Chicago Fire occurs, killing 300 people and leaving 90,000 homeless.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park by Kathy Weiser-Alexander.

The Treaty of Washington is negotiated with Great Britain regarding the Dominion of Canada.

1872Yellowstone National Park is established.

1873 – Denim jeans were co-invented and co-patented by Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis using the idea of using copper rivets at the stress points of sturdy work pants.

1874 – The Red River War occurs.

1875 – Civil Rights Act of 1875 is passed.

1876 – The Battle of the Little Bighorn was fought in Montana.

Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated March 2020.

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Also See:

American History

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The Industrial Revolution in America


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