Important Dates in American History

The United States is recognized across the globe as one of the strongest countries in the world. It has a rich history that has been at various times adventurous, fascinating, and often bloody. The many trials, conflicts and victories that can be found in American history have helped it become the super power that it is today. Understanding the past and events both good and bad are the key to understanding the U.S. as it is today. Not only will learning about key events help people better understand where the nation has been, but it will also help shape the direction of the country's future.

1492 - Christopher Columbus sailed in search of a new route to India. Instead he found what was later to be known as the “new world”, or America.

1507 - Martin Waldseemüller, a map maker from Germany, gave the “new world” its name, in honor of an explorer named Amerigo Vespucci.

1519 - Hernando Cortes lead a group of Spanish Conquistadors to Mexico, where they eventually conquered the Aztec Empire.

1542 - Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was the first European to arrive at the west coast of North America.

August of 1619 - The first slaves were brought to America in what was called the Transatlantic slave trade.

November 11, 1620 - A group of separatist English pilgrims arrived in America on the Mayflower. They landed at Plymouth Rock and founded a colony under the Mayflower Compact.

March 4, 1682 - A Quaker named William Penn was given a royal charter for his new territory in America. The charter named the area Pennsylvania.

1682 - France founded the colony of Louisiana. The colony was named after King Louis XIV, who was the King of France at the time.

June of 1692 - The Salem Witch trials began in Salem, Massachusetts. The trials were a widespread persecution of people who were suspected of being witches.

May 28, 1754 - The Seven Years' War, a conflict between Great Britain and France, evolved into the French and Indian war in America, which ended in victory for Great Britain. The opening battle of the war was the Battle of Jumonville Glen.

March 22, 1765 - The Stamp Act was levied by England upon its American colonies to pay for the upkeep of British troops stationed in the region. This helped to fuel the American revolution which occurred a decade later.

December 16th, 1773 - Anger over another tax called the Tea Tax led to a major protest known as the Boston Tea Party. Colonists, disguised as members of the Mohawk tribe, threw nearly 350 chests of British tea into Boston harbor.

April 19, 1775-1783 - Rising opposition to unpopular British taxes and laws exploded into the American Revolutionary War. The war ended with the colonists' victory over Britain in 1783 via the Treaty of Paris, and the birth of the United States of America as a sovereign nation. During this time, on July 4th of 1776, the Declaration of Independence was also written.

September 17, 1787 - The United States Constitution was born, replacing the Articles of Confederation as the highest law of the land.

April 30, 1789 - George Washington, the former top General during the Revolution, became the first President of the United States.

1791-1804 - The first twelve Amendments to the United Constitution were ratified. These came to be known as the Bill of Rights.

1803 - The United States bought the Louisiana territory from Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte of France for a total of $15 million in 1803 dollars. This became known as the Louisiana Purchase.

May 14, 1804 - The Lewis and Clark Expedition began its journey westward to explore the American frontier. Their journey led them across the American northwest to Oregon, and resulted in a greater understanding of the territory out west.

June 18, 1812 - Escalating conflicts between the United States and Great Britain erupted into the War of 1812. The Treaty of Ghent ended the war in 1815 with no clear victor, but during the war, the British burned Washington, DC and the White House.

1820 - The Missouri Compromise is passed, which established that all states to the north of the 36'30” parallel, except in Missouri.

December 2, 1823 - President James Monroe issued a speech called the Monroe Doctrine. This doctrine declared that the United States would not tolerate further attempts to colonize North or South America, nor would the US involve itself in European affairs.

August 21, 1831 - An African-American slave named Nat Turner started one of the most devastating slave rebellions in the United States.

February 23, 1836 - A revolution by the people of the Texas territory led to an assault by Mexican General Antonio López de Santa Anna against a fortress named the Alamo. General Santa Anna's victory and subsequent killing of all defenders at the site, resulted in retaliations that led to Mexico's defeat and Texas's independence.

1838 - President Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act culminated in the ethnic cleansing of thousands of Cherokee native Americans. While being forced to move to Oklahoma, over 4,000 Cherokees died. This event became known as the Trail of Tears.

April 25, 1846 - Tensions between the United States and Mexico escalated into the United States-Mexican War. Victory for the United States in 1848 resulted in losses of large amounts of territory by Mexico via the Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo.

January of 1848 - James Marshall discovered gold at Sutter's Mill in California. This triggered the great California Gold Rush which began in 1849.

March 20, 1852 - Harriet Beecher Stowe published Uncle Tom's Cabin, a book about slavery and a slave's dedication to Christianity even in the face of cruelty and death. Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best selling novel of the 19th century. It inspired anti-slavery activists around the country and was widely regarded as being partially responsible for starting the Civil War.

October 1859 - Anti-slavery activist John Brown launched a raid on Harpers Ferry in an attempt to seize weapons from an armory. His actions were another factor leading up to the Civil War which occurred two years later.

1860 - Abraham Lincoln became the first Republican president of the United States.

April, 1861 - The opening shot of the US Civil War was fired when South Carolina's forces attack a ship headed for Fort Sumter. In February of the same year, the Confederate States of America was born.

January 1, 1863 - During the Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation which declared all slaves to be free.

April 9, 1965 - Surrounded by Union armies, Confederate General Robert E Lee surrendered to Union General Ulysses S Grant. This marked the end of the Confederacy and victory for the Union, as well as the end of the Civil War.

April 14, 1865 - Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Washington, DC by John Wilkes Booth while watching a play at Ford's Theater.

1868 – President Andrew Johnson was Impeached. The trial ended with his acquittal.

1876 – General George Armstrong Custer was defeated at Battle of Little Bighorn. The battle became known as “Custer's Last Stand”.

1876 - The telephone was patented by Alexander Graham Bell in March 7, 1876 and tested on March 10. On June 25 of that same year he demonstrated his invention at the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.

1890 - At Wounded Knee Creek an encounter between U.S. armed forces and fleeing members of the Miniconjou Sioux ended in the death of Native American men, women and children. It has since become known as the Wounded Knee Massacre.

1901 - Theodore Roosevelt became the 26th President of the United States following the assassination of William McKinley in September of 1901.

1903 - The first successful airplane was invented by the Wright brothers. On December 17, 1903 they made four successful yet brief flights at kitty Hawk.

1906 - On April 18, 1906, one of the deadliest earthquakes in U.S. history occurred just outside of San Francisco, California. The quake, which started at 5:12 a.m., was felt from south of Los Angeles to Southern Oregon and as far as Nevada.

1908 - Ford Motor Company began the mass, assembly-line production of its Model – T line of cars.

1909 - In New York City the NAACP was formed to aid in the fight for social and ethnic justice.

1912 - During her maiden voyage the R.M.S. Titanic collided with an iceberg on April 14, 1912. Of over 2,200 passengers, only 700 were saved.

1914 - The Great War, which is commonly known as World War I, began. It was the first war to use airplanes.

1917 - In April 1917, the United States of America joined World War I, also known as the Great War.

November 1918 - World War I ended with the surrender of German forces and the signing of an armistice by Allied Forces and Germany. The official end of the war came with the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919.

1920 – The Eighteenth Amendment went into effect, which outlawed the use of alcohol. This marks the era of Prohibition.

August 18, 1920 – Women gained the right to vote via the 19th Amendment to the Constitution.

October 1929 – Wall Street suffered a financial collapse. This sets off the Great Depression.

1933 – The Prohibition era came to an end with the repeal of the 18th Amendment.

1933 – President Theodore Roosevelt introduced his program of Depression Era social reforms. These became known as the New Deal.

December 7, 1941 – The Japanese launched an aerial attack on Pearl Harbor. Four days following the attack, Hitler declared war against the U.S.

August 6, 1945 - The U.S. dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan and another on Nagasaki pm August 8. World War II came to an end with the surrender of Japan on August 14, 1945.

1950 - 1953 – During these years, the United States enters a police action against North Korea, which became known as the Korean War. This is considered the point when the Cold War became militarized.

1961-1975 – The United States joined the military action in Vietnam. This police action came to be known as the Vietnam War. The campaign ended in defeat for the U.S. in 1975.

1963 – In Dallas, Texas President John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. As a result, Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as President.

1964 – The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed into law. It was signed by President Lyndon Johnson.

1965 – The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed by Lyndon Johnson on August 6. This would allow African-Americans the ability to vote without interference.

1968 – While on the balcony of the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

1973 – Senate hearings took place regarding President Nixon and his staff and Watergate. The Watergate Scandal resulted in his eventual resignation as President.

1990 to 1991 - The First Gulf War, also known by its codename Operation Desert Storm, was led by the U.S. in response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

2001 - On September 11, 2001 the World Trade Center in New York was destroyed by terroristic attacks when two airplanes flew into the twin towers. Another plane flew into the Pentagon, while a fourth crashed without reaching its destination due to passenger intervention.

2003 - The United States invaded Iraq in search of weapons of mass destruction.

2008 - President Obama was voted as the 44th President of the United States of America. He was the first African-American president in the history of the nation.

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