1910s Timeline

Timeline of the 20th Century

Stack Of Sandwich Cookies Against White Background
Adit Project / EyeEm / Getty Images

The second decade of the 19th century is dominated by events of World War I, a four-year battle which involved Britain, France, and Russia, and Germany, the Austro-Hungarian empire, and the Ottoman Empire, and eventually the United States.

1910

Tango
Tango. Photo courtesy of Metro Art

In February of 1910, the Boy Scout Association was founded by W.S. Boyce, Edward S. Stewart, and Stanley D. Willis. One of several youth organizations at the time, the BSA grew to become the largest and most successful of all. Halley's Comet arrived in the inner Solar System and came into ​naked-eye view on April 10. The tango, a dance and its music derived from a cultural blend of Cuban, Argentinian, and African rhythms, began to catch fire around the world.

1911

The Mona Lisa was stolen in 1911
Vincenzo Peruggia stole Mona Lisa from the Louvre. Public domain

On March 25, 1911, New York City's Triangle Shirtwaist factory caught fire and killed 500 workers, leading to the establishment of building, fire, and safety codes. The Chinese or Xinghai Revolution began with the Wuchang Uprising on October 10. On May 15, and after John D. Rockefeller lost an anti-trust battle in the Supreme Court, Standard Oil was broken into 34 separate companies.

In science, British physicist Ernest Rutherford published a paper in the Philosophical Magazine describing what would become known as the Rutherford model of the atom. American archaeologist Hiram Bingham first saw the Incan city of Machu Picchu on July 24, and Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen reached the geographic South Pole on Dec. 14.

Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa was stolen off the wall of the Louvre Museum on Aug. 21, and not returned to France until 1913. Although the modern parachute was invented in the 18th century, a successful test of inventor Charles Broadwick's version was held in Paris, when a dummy wearing one was chucked off the Eiffel tower in Paris.

1912

Picture of the ocean liner Titanic on her maiden voyage.
View of the ocean liner 'Titanic' on her first and last voyage, after leaving Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, the ship sank. (1912). (Photo by Getty Images/Getty Images)

In 1912, Nabisco made its first Oreo cookie, two chocolate disks with creme filling and not very different from those we get today. Charles Dawson claimed to have discovered the "Piltdown Man," a blend of stained animal bones not revealed as a fraud until 1949. On April 14, the steamship RMS Titanic struck an iceberg and sank the next day, killing over 1,500 passengers and crew.​

Puyi, the last Emperor of China and aged 6 at the time, was forced to abdicate his throne as emperor, after the conclusion of the Xinhai Revolution.

1913

American motor vehicle industry pioneer Henry Ford (1863 - 1947) standing next to the first and the ten millionth Model-T Ford.
American motor vehicle industry pioneer Henry Ford (1863 - 1947) standing next to the first and the ten millionth Model-T Ford. Keystone Features / Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The first crossword puzzle was published in the New York World on Dec. 21, 1913, constructed by Liverpool journalist Arthur Wynne. The Grand Central Terminal was completed and opened to New Yorkers on Feb. 2. Henry Ford opened his first automobile assembly line to produce the Model T in Highland Park, Michigan on Dec. 1. The Los Angeles Aqueduct system, a.k.a. Owens Valley aqueduct was completed this year, flooding the town of Owens Valley. And also in 1913, the 16th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, allowing the government to collect ​personal income tax. The first Form 1040 was created in October.

1914

Portrait of Charlie Chaplin as a young man.
Portrait of a very young Charles Chaplin, before he began to make his world famous films. (circa 1929). (Photo by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images)

World War I started in August of 2014, initiated by the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and his wife in Sarajevo on June 28. The first major battle was the Battle of Tannenberg between Russia and Germany, Aug. 26–30; and trench warfare was begun in the First Battle of the Marne, Sept. 6–12.

The 24-year-old Charlie Chaplin first appeared in movie theaters as the Little Tramp in Henry Lehman's "Kid Auto Races at Venice." Ernest Shackleton set sail in the Endurance on his four-year-long Trans-Antarctic Expedition on Aug. 6. The first modern red-green traffic lights were installed on city streets of Cleveland, Ohio; and Marcus Garvey founded the Universal Negro Improvement Association in Jamaica. The Panama Canal was completed in 1914; and in the most powerful eruption in 20th century Japan, the Sakurajima (Cherry Blossom Island) volcano generated lava flows that continued for months.

1915

Lusitania Sinking
Sinking of Lusitania. SuperStock

Most of 1915 was focused on the expanding World War I. The bloody Gallipoli Campaign took place in Turkey on Feb. 17, the only major Ottoman victory of the war. On April 22, German forces used 150 tons of chlorine gas against French forces at the Second Battle of Ypres, the first use of modern chemical warfare. The Armenian Genocide, during which the Ottoman Empire systematically exterminated 1.5 million Armenians, began on April 24, with the deportation of about 250 intellectuals and community leaders from Constantinople. On May 7, the British ocean liner RMS Lusitania was torpedoed by a German U-boat and sunk.

On Sept. 4, the last of the Romanovs Tsar Nicholas II formally took command of the Russia Army, despite nearly unanimous opposition from his cabinet. On Oct. 12, British nurse Edith Cavell was executed for treason in German-occupied Belgium. On Dec. 18, Woodrow Wilson became teh first sitting president to marry during his term of office, when he wed Edith Bolling Galt.

D.W. Griffith's controversial film "The Birth of a Nation" which portrays African Americans in a negative light and glorifies the Ku Klux Klan, was released on Feb. 5; national interest in the Ku Klux Klan was revived by this event.

In inventions, on Dec. 10, Henry Ford's one-millionth Model T rolled off the assembly line at the River Rouge plant in Detroit. In New York, Alexander Graham Bell made his first transcontinental telephone call to his assistant Thomas Watson in San Francisco on Jan. 25. Of course, Bell repeated his famous phrase "Mr. Watson come here, I want you," to which Watson replied, "It will take me five days to get there now!"

1916

Jeannette Rankin's First Speech in Washington
Jeannette Rankin, first woman elected to Congress, makes her first Washington speech, April 2, 1917. Courtesy Library of Congress. Photograph from the Records of the National Woman's Party.

World War I worsened in 1916, with two of the largest, longest and most blood-soaked battles. At the Battle of the Somme, 1.5 million people were killed between July 1 and Nov. 18, counting French, British, and Germans. The British used the first tanks there, the British Mark I on Sept. 15. The Battle of Verdun lasted between Feb. 21 and Dec. 18, killing an estimated 1.25 million. A battle held in December in the South Tyrol region of northern Italy caused an avalanche, killing 10,000 Austro-Hungarian and Italian soldiers. WWI flying ace Manfred von Richthofen (a.k.a. the Red Baron) shot down his first enemy aircraft on Sept. 1.

Between July 1 and 12, a series of Great White shark attacks off the Jersey shore killed four people, injured another, and terrified thousands. On Nov. 17, Jeannette Rankin, a Republican from Montana, became the first American woman ever elected to Congress. John D. Rockefeller became the first American billionaire.

On October 6, a group of artists met and put on performances at the Cabaret Voltaire to express their disgust with World War I and found the anti-art movement known as Dada. On Easter morning, April 24, a group of Irish nationalists proclaimed the establishment of the Irish Republic and seized prominent buildings in Dublin.

The first self-help grocery, a Piggly-Wiggly, was opened in Memphis Tennessee by Clarence Saunders. Grigori Rasputin, the Mad Monk and favorite of the Russian heads of state, was murdered in the early morning of December 30. Margaret Sanger set up the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in the Brownsville neighborhood of Brooklyn on October 16, after which she was promptly arrested.

1917

Picture of World War I spy, Mata Hari.
The infamous Dutch spy Mata Hari, real name Margarete Geertruida Zelle, who was born in Leeuwarden and became a dancer in France is performing the Dance of the Seven Veils. (1906). (Photo by Walery/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

The first Pulitzer Prize was awarded in Journalism to French Ambassador Jean Jules Jusserand, for his book on American history; he won $2000. The exotic dancer and spy Mata Hari was arrested by the French and executed on Oct. 15, 1917. The Russian Revolution began in February with the toppling of the Russian monarchy.

On April 16, the Congress declared war on Germany and the United States officially joined its allies Britain, France, and Russia, fighting in World War I.

1918

A picture of Czar Nicholas II and his family.
Czar Nicholas II and his family. (Photo by Imagno/Getty Images)

Russian Czar Nicholas II and his family were all killed on the night of July 16-17. The Spanish flu pandemic likely began in Fort Riley, Kansas in March of 1918, and spread along with its infected soldiers into France by mid-May.

On April 20, 1916, Germany and Austria began saving daylight to conserve fuel needed to produce electric power; the U.S. formally adopted this standard on March 31, 1918.

1919

Hitler In Crowd
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

The right-wing anti-Semitic and nationalistic German Workers' Party was founded on Jan. 5, 1919, and on Sept. 12, Adolph Hitler attended his first meeting. The Treaty of Versailles was signed on June 28 and registered by the Secretariat of the League of Nations on Oct. 21.