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* 1840-1849 1860-1869 *
Congress passes a Fugitive Slave Law, requiring that people who had escaped enslavement be returned to their owners.

At a time when women always wore skirts, women's rights advocate Amelia Bloomer wears a garment of full trousers, which became known as the bloomer costume.


The United States scores its first important victory in international sports when the yacht "America" defeats 14 British vessels in a sailing race.

In an effort to weaken the Fugitive Slave Law, many northern states begin to pass "personal liberty laws" intended to make it difficult for a plantation owner to regain escaped African Americans.
Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin,  a novel about the cruelty of enslavement, increasing the desire of many northerners to abolish enslavement in the United States.

Massachusetts passes a law requiring all children between the ages of 8 and 14 to attend school at least 12 weeks a year.


Commodore Matthew Perry sails to Japan, which had been closed to foreigners for almost two hundred years, opening that country to trade with the United States.

Crystal Palace Exhibition is held in New York City to demonstrate American inventions and industrial progress.
Ashmun Institute, the first African-American college, is founded in Oxford, Pennsylvania.

Naturalist and philosopher Henry David Thoreau writes Walden,  a book which suggests that life is best lived simply, in harmony with nature and with few material possessions.
Financier Ezra Cornell begins organizing a national telegraph system, the Western Union Telegraph Company.

John Roebling suspends a railroad bridge across Niagara Falls.
Year-long violence in the territory of Kansas costs 200 lives in a struggle to decide if enslavement will be allowed in Kansas when it becomes a state.


In the Dred Scott decision, the Supreme Court denies African Americans the rights of American citizenship.

The first passenger elevator is installed in a New York City store.
Cable laid across the Atlantic carries the first transatlantic telegraph messages between the United States and England, but goes out after 3 weeks.

Overland mail service by stagecoach begins, connecting the east and west coasts of the United States.


John Brown, an abolitionist, leads an attack on the Federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry, Virginia.

The drilling of an oil well in Titusville, Pennsylvania, changes the way most Americans light their homes, as kerosene made from the oil replaces whale oil and candles.

* 1840-1849 1860-1869 *

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