Events and Inventions of the First Decade of the 20th Century

The first decade of the 20th century resembled the that had just ended more than it would rest of the century to come. For the most part, clothing, customs, and transportation remained as they had been. The changes associated with the 20th century would come in the future, with the exception of two major inventions: the airplane and the car.

In this first decade of the 20th century, Teddy Roosevelt became the youngest man ever to be inaugurated as president of the United States, and he was a popular one. His progressive agenda foretold a century of change.


King Umberto I
Assassination of King Umberto. Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The first year of the 20th century witnessed the Boxer Rebellion in China and the assassination of Italy's King Umberto.

Kodak introduced Brownie cameras that cost $1, Max Planck formulated quantum theory, and Sigmund Freud published his landmark work The Interpretation of Dreams.


Guglielmo Marconi
Italian radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi broadcast the first transatlantic wireless signals on Dec. 12, 1901. The Print Collector / Print Collector / Getty Images

In 1901, President William McKinley was assassinated, and his vice president, Theodore Roosevelt, was inaugurated as the youngest U.S. president ever.

Britain's Queen Victoria died, marking the end of the Victorian era, which dominated the 19th century.

Australia became a commonwealth, Guglielmo Marconi broadcast the first transatlantic radio signal, and the first Nobel Prizes were awarded.


Mount Pelee
The Aftermath of Mount Pelee. Library of Congress / Corbis / VCG via Getty Images

The year 1902 brought the end of the Boer War and the volcanic eruption of Mount Pelee in Martinique.

The lovable Teddy Bear, named after President Teddy Roosevelt, made his first appearance, and the U.S. passed the Chinese Exclusion Act.


Wright Brothers
The Wright Brothers' first powered flight. Ann Ronan Pictures / Print Collector / Getty Images / Courtesy of the Smithsonian Institution

The third year of the century witnessed several firsts, but none could compare with the importance of the Wright Brothers' first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This would change the world and have a huge impact on the century to come.

Other milestones: The first message traveled around the world, the first license plates were issued in the U.S., the first World Series was played, and the first silent movie, "The Great Train Robbery," was released.

British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union, a militant organization that campaigned for women's suffrage until 1917.


Panama Canal
Panama Canal. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

The year 1904 was a good one for transportation: Ground was broken on the Panama Canal, the New York Subway made its first run, and the Trans-Siberian Railway opened for business.

Mary McLeod Bethune opened her school to African-American students, and the Russo-Japanese War began. 


Albert Einstein
Albert Einstein. Topical Press Agency / Getty Images

In the most far-reaching event of 1905, Albert Einstein proposed his Theory of Relativity, which explains the behavior of objects in space and time and had ​a profound influence on the understanding of the universe.

"Bloody Sunday" and the Revolution of 1905 occurred in Russia, the first section of the Simplon Tunnel through the Alps was completed, and Freud published his famous Theory of Sexuality.

On the cultural front, the first movie theater opened in the United States, and the painters Henri Matisse and Andre Derain introduced fauvism to the art world.


San Francisco Earthquake
San Francisco Earthquake. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

The San Francisco earthquake devasted the city and was the most memorable event of 1906. 

Other events of this year include the debut of Kellogg's Corn Flakes, the launch of the Dreadnaught and the publishing of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle."

Last but not least, Finland became the first European country to give women the right to vote, 14 years before this was achieved in the United States.


Typhoid Mary
Typhoid Mary. Bettmann / Contributor / Getty Images

In 1907, the Ten Rules of War were established at the Second Hague Peace Conference, the first electric washing machine hit the market, Typhoid Mary was captured for the first time, and Pablo Picasso turned heads in the art world with his cubist paintings.


Ford Model-T
Ford Model-T. Library of Congress

One event in 1908 would impact life, work, and customs in the 20th century incalculably, and that was the introduction of the Ford Model-T by Henry Ford.

Other big news happened: An earthquake in Italy took the lives of 150,000, Jack Johnson became the first African-American boxer to be the world heavyweight champion, Turks staged a revolt in the Ottoman Empire, and there was a huge and mysterious explosion in Siberia.


Robert Peary
Robert Peary. De Agostini/Getty Images

In the last year of the aughts, Robert Peary ​reached the North Pole, Japan's Prince Ito was assassinated, plastic was invented, and the NAACP was founded.