American History Timeline



What follows is a brief timeline of some of the historical milestones in American history.
Although this background information is helpful, your ability to comprehend the essentials —Main Idea, DetailInference—from what you are given to read is more important for answering questions than tapping into an encyclopedic memory.


BC      Native Americans.

1000  Leif Ericsson lands in Newfoundland, Canada.

1492  Christopher Columbus “discovers” America (reaches Bahamas).

1501  Explorer Amerigo Vespucci’s first name co-opted for “America.”

1587  Sir Walter Raleigh founds Roanoke Colony (North Carolina).

1590  Roanoke Colony deserted.

1607  Captain John Smith founds Jamestown (Virginia).

1620  Plymouth Colony founded (Massachusetts); Mayflower Compact signed.

1626  Peter Minuit (Dutch) purchases Manhattan from Native Americans for $24.00.

1664  British seize New Amsterdam from Dutch and rename it New York.

1754 – 1763  French and Indian War.  England gains control of eastern North America.

1770  Boston Massacre.  Five civilians killed while protesting British rule.

1773  Boston Tea Party.  Patriots dressed as Indians dump tea in protest over tax.

1775  Revolutionary War begins at Lexington and Concord (Massachusetts) between British troops and colonial “Minutemen.”

1776  Declaration of Independence.

1777  Articles of Confederation become nation’s first constitution.

1781  General George Washington leads American victory over Lord Cornwallis at Battle of Yorktown.

1783  Treaty of Paris formally recognizes United States of America’s independence from British Empire.

1787  Federalist Papers urge ratification of United States Constitution.

1789  George Washington elected first President of the United States.

1789  Constitution (in its current form) ratified.

1791  Bill of Rights ratified.

1803  Marbury v. Madison decision expands power of Supreme Court to declare acts of Congress unconstitutional.

1803  Louisiana Purchase (United States from France).

1805  Lewis and Clark Expedition reaches Pacific Ocean.

1812  War of 1812 begins, declared by United States against Britain over trade and territorial issues.

1814  Frances Scott Key composes “Star-Spangled Banner” during Battle of Fort McHenry.

1814  Treaty of Ghent ends War of 1812, maintaining sovereignty of United States.

1820  Missouri Compromise.  In order to preserve “balance,” Maine is admitted as a free state, Missouri as a slave state.

1823  Monroe Doctrine.  President James Monroe proclaims American continents are prohibited from further colonization.

1831  Nat Turner Rebellion.  A slave revolt is quelled in Virginia.

1838  Trail of Tears.  Thousands of Cherokee Indians die in forced march from Georgia to Oklahoma.

1845  United States annexes Texas.

1845  The term “Manifest Destiny” is coined by journalist John L. O’Sullivan to advocate the expansion of white settlers across the American continent.

1846-1848  Mexican-American War.  At Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico cedes California, Texas, and rest of Southwest to United States.

1848  California Gold Rush.

1849  Harriet Tubman uses the Underground Railroad to help slaves (like herself) escape.

1852  Harriet Beecher Stowe’s abolitionist novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin fuels
anti-slavery fervor.

1857  Supreme Court’s Dred Scott decision declares Congress lacks the power to ban slavery; also decrees slaves are not citizens.

1859  Abolitionist John Brown leads a raid at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia in an unsuccessful attempt to incite a slave revolt.

1860  Abraham Lincoln, running on a platform opposing slavery, is elected sixteenth President of the United States.

1861  Confederate States of America (Confederacy) formed when eleven Southern states secede from the Union to protect “states’ rights,” arguably a euphemism for slavery.

1861  Civil War begins with Confederate attack of Union installation at Fort Sumter, South Carolina.

1863  Emancipation Proclamation.  President Lincoln proclaims all slaves held by the Confederacy are from then on “forever free.”

1863  Battle of Gettysburg.  Union forces defeat Confederate forces at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.  Arguably the turning point of the war.

1863  Gettysburg Address.  Lincoln’s succinct message after Battle of Gettysburg reasserts “government of the people by the people for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

1865  Civil War ends when Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrenders to Union General Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox, Virginia.

1865  13th Amendment abolishes slavery throughout United States.

1865  President Lincoln assassinated.

1867  United States acquires Alaska from Russia for $7.2 million in [Secretary of State] “Seward’s Folly.”

1868  14th Amendment establishes all native-born and naturalized people as citizens with rights of due process.

1870  15th Amendment gives all men the right to vote, regardless of race, color, or previous slavery.

1871  Great Chicago Fire.

1876  Custer’s Last Stand at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.  Colonel Custer’s U.S. cavalry regiment wiped out by Chief Sitting Bull’s Sioux Indians.

1890  Lakota Indians massacred at Battle of Wounded Knee, ending Indian Wars.

1890  Sherman Antitrust Act passed, prohibiting monopolies.

1892  Ellis Island (New York) becomes main immigration portal for United States.

1896  Supreme Court’s Plessy v. Ferguson decision declares racial segregation—the doctrine of “separate but equal”—to be constitutional.  Discriminatory Jim Crow laws soon follow.

1896  Alaska Gold Rush.

1898  Spanish-American War.  After USS Maine explodes in Havana harbor, United States declares war on Spain.  Spain ultimately grants independence to Cuba.

1900  Boxer Rebellion in China, quelled, in part, by United States.

1903  Wright brothers fly first airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

1906  San Francisco earthquake.

1908  Ford Model T automobile mass-produced via assembly line.

1912  Titanic sinks.

1914  Panama Canal opens.

1914  WWI begins in Europe.

1917  United States enters World War I.

1918  World War I ends.

1920  League of Nations (U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s idea) convenes without U.S. representation.

1920  19th Amendment establishes women’s right to vote (women’s suffrage).

1927  Charles Lindbergh makes first trans-Atlantic flight.

1927  The Jazz Singer, starring Al Jolson, is released as the first “talkie” (movie with sound).

1929  Stock Market Crash.

1929  Great Depression begins.

1930  Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, by means of its protectionism, makes Great Depression worse.

1932  Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) elected 32nd President of the United States.

1933  FDR institutes the New Deal, a series of government programs aimed at lifting country out of Great Depression.

1934  Dust Bowl, a severe drought in the Great Plains, begins.

1935  Social Security instituted.

1939  Germany invades Poland, beginning World War II in Europe.

1941  Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor brings United States into World War II in both Asia and Europe.  Great Depression ends.

1944  D-Day.  United States and allied forces land in France, begin liberation of Europe.

1945  FDR dies; Harry Truman becomes 33rd President of the United States.

1945  Germany surrenders on V-E Day, ending World War II in Europe.

1945  United States drops atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

1945  Japan surrenders on V-J Day, ending World War II in Asia.

1945  The United Nations, arguably the successor to the failed League of Nations, is established.

1946  Cold War between United States and Soviet Union begins.  Berlin and Germany soon divide into East (Soviet) and West (Democratic) entities, respectively.

1947  President Truman initiates the Truman Doctrine, pledging American economic and military aid to any country threatened by Communism.

1948  Marshall Plan, a U.S. initiative to rebuild post-war Europe, begins.

1948  U.S. overcomes Soviet-initiated Berlin Blockade with Berlin Airlift.

1949  North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) formed.

1950-1953  Korean War results in Communist North Korea and Democratic South Korea.

1954  Senator Joseph McCarthy accuses public figures of Communist ties; his inquiries eventually fizzle.

1954  Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education declares racial segregation in schools unconstitutional, thereby overturning the “separate but equal” provisions of its 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision.

1957  Little Rock, Arkansas high school integrated amid fierce local white opposition.

1960  John F. Kennedy elected 35th President of the United States.

1961  President Eisenhower, in his farewell address, warns against unwarranted influence of military-industrial complex.

1962  Cuban Missile Crisis resolved after near-nuclear confrontation between United States and Soviet Union.

1963  President Kennedy assassinated.

1963  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. leads civil rights March on Washington, delivers “I Have A Dream” speech.

1964  President Lyndon Baines Johnson achieves passage of Civil Rights Act, outlawing discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.

1964  United States’ involvement in simmering Vietnam War becomes full-blown after Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.

1965  Voting Rights Act prohibits voting discrimination.

1968  Civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated.

1968  Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy assassinated.

1968  Amid Vietnam War stalemate on the battlefield and protests at home, President Johnson decides not to run for another term.

1968  Richard Nixon elected 37th President of the United States.

1969  American astronaut Neil Armstrong becomes first man on the moon.

1973  United States signs peace treaty with Communist North Vietnam, ostensibly ending Vietnam War.

1973  Opec Oil Embargo.  Gasoline prices rise.  Stock market falls.  Recession follows.

1974  President Nixon resigns amid Watergate scandal.

1975  North Vietnam overruns South Vietnam, creating a unified Communist country.

1978  President Jimmy Carter brokers Camp David Accord for peace between Israel and Egypt.

1983  President Ronald Reagan calls the Soviet Union the “Evil Empire.”

1989  Berlin Wall torn down.  German reunification begins.  Much of Eastern Europe released from Soviet control.

1991  Under President George H. W. Bush, United States frees Kuwait from Iraq in Persian Gulf War.

1999  President Bill Clinton acquitted in impeachment trial by U.S. Senate.

2001  9/11 terrorist attacks destroy twin towers of World Trade Center in New York and damage Pentagon in Washington.

2001  President George W. Bush initiates war against terrorist threats from Afghanistan.

2003  President George W. Bush initiates war against terrorist threats and “weapons of mass destruction” from Iraq.

2008  Subprime mortgage lending leads to bursting of housing bubble.  Stock market tumbles.  Multiple financial institutions require government bailouts.

2008  Great Recession begins.

2008  Barack Obama elected 44th and first African-American President of the United States.

2009  Great Recession ends.

2019  Covid-19 Pandemic.

2021  Insurrection Attempt at U.S. Capitol.

Did Thanksgiving Start with the Pilgrims?
– Beth Goulart
– AARP Bulletin (2012)

1  If you learned in school that Thanksgiving started with the Pilgrims and the Indians feasting together in New England, your education might have been over-simplified.

2  It’s true that such a feast took place—and it was a doozy of a dinner. “For three dayes we entertained and feasted,” wrote one colonist who experienced the 1621 event firsthand.
They even ate the traditional bird, according to another, who recalled a “great store of wild Turkies.”

3  But this type of event wasn’t what the Puritans would have called “thanksgiving.”  To them, the word meant prayer.  Many early American communities observed solemn, prayer-filled days of thanksgiving during the 17th century.

4  An earlier colonial one happened on Dec. 4, 1619, a year before the Pilgrims would arrive at Plymouth Rock, when colonists landed on what’s now the coast of Virginia to found Berkeley Hundred (now Charles City).  They were under strict orders from the London Company about what to do when they got there: “We ordaine that the day of our ships arrival … shall be yearly and perpetually kept holy as a day of thanksgiving to Almighty God,” read the edict.  The Pilgrims might have feasted, but these colonists used the word “thanksgiving” first.

5  But another group may have beaten even these colonists to claim the first Thanksgiving.
Two decades before the Virginia landing, a group of Spanish colonists prayed and feasted in 1598, giving thanks for their arrival at the waters of the Rio Grande after making a new trail across the Chihuahuan Desert to what became El Paso del Rio del Norte.  The site of this celebration was originally on the Mexican side of the river, which later changed course placing the location on the U.S. side of the border.  They, too, invited local native people to join them in a three-day feast.  The same happened in Florida when Spaniards landed near St. Augustine in September 1565.  Prayers and a feast with the local Indians followed (no mention of turkeys).  So Texas and Florida lay claim to the first Thanksgiving—and Catholic ones, at that.

Practice – Questions
1.  Which of the following can you infer from this passage?
A.  Thanksgiving is a bogus holiday.
B.  Giving thanks has no role in a civilized society.
C.  If you’re not first, you’re last.
D.  “Giving thanks” has more than one meaning.

2.  What is the main idea of this passage?
A.  The Pilgrims unquestionably celebrated America’s first thanksgiving.
B.  Thanksgiving is a religious experience.
C.  The historical date of America’s first Thanksgiving is controversial.
D.  Thanksgiving is nothing without stuffing.

3.  The Berkeley Hundred is now called:
A.  Charleston
B.  Charles City
C.  Charlestown
D.  Charlotte

4.  Texas and Florida’s first Thanksgivings were:
A.  Catholic
B.  Protestant
C.  Jewish
D.  Muslim

5.  Which of the following is implied by the passage?
A.  Mexico and Texas always got along.
B.  Thanksgiving is a holiday in decline.
C.  Thanksgiving kicks off the Christmas season.
D.  National borders are subject to change.

Practice – Answers
1.  D.  “Giving thanks” has more than one meaning.

2.  C.  The historical date of America’s first Thanksgiving is controversial.
Main Idea

3.  B.  Charles City

4.  A.  Catholic

5.  D.  National borders are subject to change.

This entry was posted in (2) History, (IV) Social Studies and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply