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 experimenting with how to govern themselves under the Articles of Confederation and turned to George Washington for leadership, this time as president of the new republic. In the following decades, the fledgling nation would deal with expansion and spent much 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 began between the United States and a confederation of numerous Native American tribes, with British support for control of the Northwest Territory. It lasted until 1795.

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

1788 – The United States Constitution is ratified.

Congress chose New York City 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. became the capital of the national government.

1791 – The Bill of Rights is passed.

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

1793 – The Fugitive Slave Act was passed.

Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin.

Yellow fever outbreak in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Whiskey Rebellion

Whiskey Rebellion

1794 – The Whiskey Rebellion occurred.

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 became the United States’ second president until 1801.

1800 – The Library of Congress was founded.

1801Thomas Jefferson became the United States’ third president 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 established the Corps of Discovery and explored the Louisiana Territory.

New Jersey abolished slavery.

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

1805 – The Barbary Wars occur.

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

Robert Fulton invented the steamboat.

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

1809James Madison became the United States’ fourth president until 1817.

The Non-Intercourse Act sets boundaries for 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 began and lasted until 1814.

Louisiana became the 18th state.

1813 – The Creek War began and ended 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 became the fifth president of the United States, serving until 1825.

Harvard Law School was founded.

Mississippi becomes the 20th state

1818 – The Cumberland Road is opened.

Illinois becomes the 21st state.

The Jackson Purchase was made in Kentucky.

1819Alabama becomes the 22nd state.

The Panic of 1819 occurred.

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

1820Maine is admitted to the United States.

The Missouri Compromise was made.

1821Missouri is admitted to the United States.

1825John Quincy Adams became the United States’ sixth president 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 opened.

1831 – Nat Turner’s Revolt occurs in Virginia.

1832 – The Black Hawk War is fought.

The Seminole Wars began in Florida.

The Department of Indian Affairs was 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.

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

John Tyler became 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 regulated baseball rules.

1846 – The Mexican-American War began and lasted until 1848.

The Oregon Treaty was signed, ending boundary disputes between Americans and the British.

Iowa was 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 ended the Mexican-American War.

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

1849Zachary Taylor became the 12th U.S. President but served 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 was made by adding new lands to present-day New Mexico and Arizona.

Chef George Crum invented the original potato chip recipe at Moon’s Lake House near Saratoga Springs, New York.

1854 – The Kansas-Nebraska Act was 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.

1857James 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 failed because Americans had become accustomed to using mail-order free catalogs. It 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 was discovered in Nevada.

1860 – The Pony Express begins.

South Carolina seceded from the Union.

1861Abraham Lincoln became the 16th president and served until 1865, when he was assassinated.

Kansas is admitted to the United States.

1861 – John P. Charlton of Philadelphia invented the postcard.

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 began at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. It lasted until 1865.

The First Battle of Bull Run was fought on July 21, 1861, in Virginia near Manassas, a very short distance 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 was made, and slaves were freed.

President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address.

1864 – The Sand Creek Massacre takes place in Colorado.

1865 – Abraham Lincoln is assassinated.

Andrew Jackson became 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 ended.

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

Reconstruction of the South began.

Ku Klux Klan

Ku Klux Klan

1866 – The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed.

The Ku Klux Klan was founded.

1867Nebraska is admitted to the United States.

Alaska is purchased from Russia.

1869Ulysses Simpson Grant became the 18th U.S. President until 1877.

The first transcontinental railroad was completed.

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

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

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park

Old Faithful, Yellowstone National Park by Kathy Alexander.

The Treaty of Washington was 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 copper rivets at the stress points of sturdy work pants.

1874 – The Red River War occurs.

1875 – The Civil Rights Act of 1875 was passed.

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

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated February 2024.

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Also See:

American History

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The Industrial Revolution in America


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