Timeline from 1880 to 1890

Significant Events in the Decade Spanning 1880 to 1890

Photograph showing construction of the Brooklyn Bridge roadway.
Construction of the roadway on the Brooklyn Bridge. Getty Images



  • The word "boycott" enters the English language when tenant farmers in Ireland organize and refuse to pay landlord agent Captain Charles Boycott. The term quickly spreads to America, and after appearing in newspapers, its usage becomes widespread.
  • Spring 1880: British troops under General Frederick Roberts march from Kabul to Kandahar during the Second Anglo-Afghan War, relieving a threatened British garrison and securing a victory over Afghan fighters.
  • April 18, 1880: William Ewart Gladstone defeats Benjamin Disraeli in a British election to become Prime Minister for a second time.
  • July 1880: The French-American Union announces that enough money has been raised to complete the construction of the Statue of Liberty, although further funding will be required to construct the pedestal on which it will sit in New York Harbor.
  • November 2, 1880: James Garfield defeats Winfield Hancock in the U.S. Presidential election.
  • November 11, 1880: Notorious Australian outlaw Ned Kelly is hanged in Melbourne, Australia.
  • December 1880: Inventor Thomas A. Edison uses electric Christmas lights for the first time, hanging them outside his lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey.


  • January 19, 1881: John Sutter, owner of the sawmill where a gold discovery launched the California Gold Rush, dies in Washington, D.C.
  • March 4, 1881: James Garfield is inaugurated as President of the United States.
  • March 13, 1881: Alexander II, son of Nicholas I, is assassinated.
  • April 1881: Pogroms began in Russia after Jews are blamed for the assassination of Czar Nicholas II. When the refugees from the Russian pogroms arrive in New York City, poet Emma Lazarus is inspired write her poem, "The New Colossus."
  • April 19, 1881: British novelist and politician Benjamin Disraeli dies at the age of 76.
  • May 21, 1883: The American Red Cross is incorporated by Clara Barton.
  • July 2, 1881: President James Garfield is shot and wounded by Charles Guiteau at a Washington, D.C. train station.
  • July 14, 1881: Outlaw Billy the Kid is shot and killed by lawman Pat Garrett in the New Mexico territory.
  • September 19, 1881: President James Garfield succumbs to the gunshot wound he'd received 11 weeks earlier. Vice President Chester A. Arthur succeeds him as President
  • October 13, 1881: Irish political leader Charles Stewart Parnell is arrested and imprisoned by British authorities.
  • October 26, 1881: The Gunfight at the O.K. Corral takes place in Tombstone, Arizona, pitting Doc Holliday along with Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt Earp against Tom and Frank McLaury, Billy and Ike Clanton, and Billy Claiborne.


Photograph of Ralph Waldo Emerson
Ralph Waldo Emerson. Stock Montage/Getty Images
  • April 27, 1882: Influential American author and Transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson dies at the age of 78.
  • May 2, 1882: Irish political leader Charles Stewart Parnell is released from prison.
  • June 2, 1882: Italian revolutionary hero Giuseppe Garibaldi dies at the age of 74.
  • September 5, 1882: The first commemoration of Labor Day is held in New York City when 10,000 workers hold a labor march.
  • December 1882: The first Christmas tree with electric lights is created by Edward Johnson, an employee of Thomas Edison. The tree is notable enough to be written about in newspapers. Within decades, electric Christmas tree lights became commonplace in America.
  • December 10, 1882: Photographer Alexander Gardner, who took notable photographs of the Civil War, dies at the age of 61. His photographs of Antietam, displayed for the public in late 1862, changed the way the public thought of warfare.


  • March 14, 1883: Philosopher Karl Marx dies at the age of 64.
  • May 24, 1883: After more than a decade of construction, the Brooklyn Bridge is opened with an enormous celebration.
  • July 15, 1883: General Tom Thumb, famous entertainer discovered and promoted by the great showman Phineas T. Barnum, dies at the age of 45. The diminutive man, born as Charles Stratton, was a show business phenomenon who performed for President Lincoln and Queen Victoria and was Barnum's greatest attraction.
  • August 27, 1883: The enormous volcano at Krakatoa erupts, blowing itself apart and throwing enormous quantities of volcanic dust into the atmosphere.



Photograph of President Grant's coffin outside New York's City Hall.
President Grant's coffin on the funeral car outside New York's City Hall. Getty Images
  • July 23, 1885: Former U.S. President and hero of the Civil War Ulysses S. Grant dies at the age of 63. His enormous funeral procession in New York City signals the end of an era.
  • September 7, 1885: Labor Day celebrations are held in cities across America, with tens of thousands of workers participating in marches and other commemorative events.
  • October 29, 1885: George B. McClellan, the Union commander at the Battle of Antietam who challenged President Lincoln in the election of 1864, dies at the age of 58.



  • March 8, 1887: American clergyman and reformer Henry Ward Beecher dies in Brooklyn, New York at the age of 73.
  • June 21, 1887: Britain celebrates the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria, commemorating the 50th year of her reign.
  • November 2, 1887: Swedish opera singer Jenny Lind, whose sensational 1850 American tour was promoted by P. T. Barnum, dies at the age of 67.
Engraved portrait of poet Emma Lazarus
Poet Emma Lazarus. Hulton Archive/Getty Images
  • November 19, 1887: Poet Emma Lazarus, whose inspirational poem "The New Colossus" is inscribed at the foot of the Statue of Liberty as an anthem to immigration, dies in New York City at the age of 38.
  • December 1887: Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's iconic detective Sherlock Holmes makes his debut in a story published in Beeton's Christmas Annual magazine.



  • March 4, 1889: Benjamin Harrison takes the oath of office as President and delivers an uplifting inaugural address.
  • May 31, 1889: A poorly constructed dam in Pennsylvania bursts open, resulting in the devastating Johnstown Flood.
Photographic portrait of Elizabeth Cochrane, who used the newspaper byline Nellie Bly
Elizabeth Cochrane, who known by the byline Nellie Bly. Interim Archive/Getty Images
  • November 14, 1889: Nellie Bly, star reporter for Joseph Pulitzer's New York World, departs on her 72-day race around the world. Bly, who set out to circumnavigate the entire globe in less than 80 days in order to beat the record of Phileas Fogg, the fictional protagonist of Victorian novelist Jules Verne's "Around the World in Eighty Days," succeeds, closing out her adventure via a cross-country train trip from San Francisco to New York City.
  • December 1889: Pierre de Coubertin, who would go on to organize the modern Olympic games, visits the campus of Yale University to study its athletic programs.
  • December 6, 1889: Former President of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis dies at the age of 81.
  • December 25, 1889: President Benjamin Harrison holds a festive Christmas celebration for his family at the White House, after which newspaper accounts regale the public with tales of lavish gifts and decorations—including a Christmas tree.

Decade By Decade: 1800-1810 | 1810-1820 | 1820-1830 | 1830-1840 | 1840-1850 | 1850-1860 | 1860-1870 | 1870-1880 | 1890-1900 | The Civil War Year By Year

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McNamara, Robert. "Timeline from 1880 to 1890." ThoughtCo, Feb. 8, 2021, thoughtco.com/timeline-from-1880-to-1890-1774041. McNamara, Robert. (2021, February 8). Timeline from 1880 to 1890. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/timeline-from-1880-to-1890-1774041 McNamara, Robert. "Timeline from 1880 to 1890." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/timeline-from-1880-to-1890-1774041 (accessed April 2, 2023).