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November 17 - In Egypt, the Suez Canal, linking the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, is inaugurated in an elaborate ceremony.



May 27 - Taiping Rebellion: United States minister Robert McLane arrives at the Heavenly Capital aboard the USS Susquehanna.


February 12 - Commodore Perry arrives in Japan

March 31 - Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy signs the Treaty/Convention of Kanagawa with the Japanese government (the Tokugawa Shogunate), opening the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade.

Saigō Takamori was recruited to travel to Edo (modern Tokyo) in 1854 to assist the daimyō of Satsuma, Shimazu Nariakira, in the Kōbu gattai movement (promoting reconciliation and closer ties between the Tokugawa shogunate and the Imperial court)

§Central America


Fruto Chamorro Pérez (provisional to 1854, acting to 1855) served as the last head of state transitioning to the newly established President of Nicaragua.



March 27 - France declares war on Russia

§Great Britain

February 27 - Britain sends Russia an ultimatum to withdraw from two Ottoman provinces it had conquered, Moldavia and Wallachia.

March 28 - Great Britain declares war on Russia beginning the Crimean War.


December 8 - Pope Pius IX made Immaculate Conception a Catholic belief also designating December 8th as the day in which this belief is celebrated.

The Immaculate Conception is, according to Roman Catholic dogma, the conception of Mary, the mother of Jesus without any stain of original sin, in her mother's womb: the dogma thus says that, from the first moment of her existence, she was preserved by God from the lack of sanctifying grace that afflicts mankind, and that she was instead filled with divine grace. It is further believed that she lived a life completely free from sin. Her immaculate conception in the womb of her mother, by sexual intercourse, should not be confused with the doctrine of the virginal conception of her son Jesus.

§North America


February 13 - Mexican troops force William Walker and his troops to retreat to Sonora.

§United States

February 14 - Texas is linked by telegraph with the rest of the United States, when a connection between New Orleans and Marshall, Texas is completed.

First year the orphan train took orphans from New York to the mid-West. Children stood on train platforms dressed in their best clothes while prospective parents looked them over. Those not selected got back on the train until the next stop, where they were again paraded on the platform. This continued until 1929.

May 30 - The Kansas-Nebraska Act becomes law, rescinding the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and creating the Kansas Territory and Nebraska Territory. A provision that settlers will vote on slavery in the new territories leads to Bleeding Kansas violence, beginning the next year.

June - The Grand Excursion takes prominent Eastern United States inhabitants from Chicago, Illinois to Rock Island, Illinois by railroad, then up the Mississippi River to St. Paul, Minnesota by steamboat.

The Achulet Massacre was an 1854 massacre of more than 65 Tolowa people by settlers at the village of Achulet, near Lake Earl in California.

The attack was instigated in response to the theft of a white man's horse by an Indian. The party involved hid in the brush near the village at night, agreeing not to shoot until the Tolowa left their homes in the morning. At daybreak the first shot was fired, and the men, women, and children of the village were "shot down as fast as the whites could reload their guns". Some tried to escape into Lake Earl, where they were followed and shot whenever they could be spotted above the waterline. The attackers reported that sixty-five Indians were killed, but this tally did not include those in the lake whose bodies sank in the lake.

After the attack, the village was renamed Pay Way after Old Pay Way, one of the few Tolowa survivors of the attack

July 4 - George W. L. Bickley, a Virginia-born doctor, editor, and "adventurer" who lived in Cincinnati, founded the Knights of the Golden Circle at Lexington, Kentucky with the objective of annexing a golden circle of territories in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean for inclusion in the United States as slave states. Others suggest that the members proposed a separate confederation of slave states, with US states to align with others in the Caribbean circle.

§U.S. Industry

Sewing machines did not go into mass production until the 1850's, when Isaac Singer built the first commercially successful machine. Singer built the first sewing machine where the needle moved up and down rather than the side-to-side and the needle was powered by a foot treadle. Previous machines were all hand-cranked. However, Isaac Singer's machine used the same lockstitch that Howe had patented. Elias Howe sued Isaac Singer for patent infringement and won in 1854. Walter Hunt's sewing machine also used a lockstitch with two spools of thread and an eye-pointed needle; however, the courts upheld Howe's patent since Hunt had abandoned his patent.

If Hunt had patented his invention, Elias Howe would have lost his case and Isaac Singer would have won. Since he lost, Isaac Singer had to pay Elias Howe patent royalties.

How the sewing machine helped win the civil war

After successfully defending his right to a share in the profits of his invention, Elias Howe saw his annual income jump from three hundred to more than two hundred thousand dollars a year. Between 1854 and 1867, Howe earned close to two million dollars from his invention. During the Civil War, he donated a portion of his wealth to equip an infantry regiment for the Union Army and served in the regiment as a private.

October 1 - The watch company founded in 1850 in Roxbury, Massachusetts by Aaron Lufkin Dennison relocates to Waltham to become the Waltham Watch Company, pioneer in the American System of Watch Manufacturing.

§U.S. Politics

The first concrete plan to construct a transcontinental railroad was presented to Congress in January 1845 by Asa Whitney of New York. While no action was taken, the Memphis commercial convention of 1845 took up the issue. Prominent attendees included John C. Calhoun, Clement C. Clay, Sr., John Bell, William Gwin, and Edmund P. Gaines, but it was James Gadsden of South Carolina who was influential in the convention’s recommendation that a southern route for the proposed railroad, beginning in Texas and ending in San Diego or Mazatlan, be established. It was the hope that such a route would both insure southern prosperity while opening the “West to southern influence and settlement.”

Whigs and Northern Democrats departed from their parties over the issue of slavery, and new parties like the Free Soilers formed specifically to protest the expansion of slavery. These came together to form the Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln stayed a Whig.

July 6 - In Jackson, Michigan, the first convention of the U.S. Republican Party is held.


March 27 - Crimean War: The United Kingdom declares war on Russia.

March 28 - France declares war on Russia.


September 20 - Crimean War - Alma: The French-British alliance wins the first battle of the war.

October 21 - Florence Nightingale leaves for the Crimea with 38 other nurses.

October 25 - Crimean War - Battle of Balaclava: The allies gain an overall victory, except for the disastrous cavalry Charge of the Light Brigade, from which only 200 of 700 men survive.

November 5 - Crimean War - Battle of Inkerman: The Russians are defeated.

§South Pacific


December 3 - The Eureka Stockade Miner's Rebellion breaks out in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.

§New Caledonia

Port de France (now called Noumea) was established. France used the territory as a penal colony and established a prison on Nou Island off the coast of Noumea.


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