Historic American Sheet Music, Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University

Timeline: 1850-1859

Songs | Politics & Government | International Affairs | Companies | Inventions, Discoveries & Patents | Exploration | Humanities | Publications | Sports


Old Folks at Home
by Stephen Foster (1851)
Do They Miss Me at Home?
by S. M. Grannis (1852)
(This copy from the 1860s)
My Old Kentucky Home, Good Night
by Stephen Foster (1853)
(This copy from the 1890s)
The Monastery Bells
by Louis Alfred Lefebure-Wely (1854)
(This copy from the 1860s)
Slavery is a Hard Foe to Battle
by Judson (1855)
Darling Nelly Gray
by Benjamin Russell Hanby (1856)
Ocean Telegraph March
by Francis H. Brown (1858)
Wedding March
by Felix Mendelssohn (ca. 1858)
Politics & Government
President Zachary Taylor dies of typhus, he is succeeded by Millard Fillmore (1850)
Franklin Pierce is elected President of the U.S. (1852)
James Buchanan is elected President of the U.S. (1856)
California admitted to the Union as the 31st state (1850)
John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, Va., Oct. 16, 1859
"Uncle Sam" portrayed for the first time in cartoon form (1852)
Republican Party organized by former Whigs and disaffected Democrats (1854)
Kansas-Nebraska Act repeals the Missouri Compromise of 1820, opening Indian lands to white settlers (1854)
International Affairs
Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, U.S. Navy, arrived in Japan with the first formal bid for U.S./Japanese relations (1853)
Crimean War (1854-1856)
Anglo-Chinese War (1856-1858)
France declares war on Austria (1859)
Illinois Central Railway receives the first land grant from the U.S. government (1850)
American Express Company (1850)
Wells, Fargo, & Co. (1852)
Western Union Company (1856)
Overland Mail Company (1857)
J.E. Liggett & Brother (1858)
Inventions, Discoveries & Patents
Levi Strauss' "bibless overalls" introduced in San Francisco (1850)
I.M. Singer patents his sewing machine (1851)
Elisha Graves Otis invents the safety elevator (1852)
Bright tobacco discovered in North Carolina by Eli and Elisha Slade near Durham N.C. (1852)
Queen Victoria and President Buchanan exchange messages over the first transatlantic cable (1858)
Electric home lighting demonstrated for the first time in the U.S. (1859)
Suez Canal construction begins (1859)
Victoria Falls (on the Zambezi River) discovered by David Livingston (1855)
Colorado Gold Rush at Cherry Creek, near Denver (Pike's Peak or Bust) (1858)
London Great Exhibition opens in 1851 - the first world's fair
First U.S. World's Fair opens at New York (1853)
Jenny Lind engaged by P.T. Barnum for an American tour (1850)
World's first flying trapeze circus act performed in Paris (1859)
Reuter's News Service begun (1851)
Library of Congress, including 2/3 of Thomas Jefferson's collection, damaged by fire (1851)
Boston Public Library opens (1852)
Trinity College founded in Durham N.C. (1850) (Becomes Duke University in 1924)
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe published in serial installments (1851)
Moby Dick by Herman Melville published (1851)
New York Times begins publication (1851)
Hard Times by Charles Dickens (1854)
Walden, or Life in the Woods by Henry David Thoreau (1854)
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert, Flaubert acquitted on immorality charge (1857)
First Currier & Ives prints issued (1857)
Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (1859)
Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens (1859)
America's Cup won by the U.S. schooner America (1851)
  Start page 1860-1869 

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Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library, Duke University
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