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§Of World Interest

September 1–2 - The largest recorded geomagnetic storm occurred. Aurorae were seen around the world, most notably over the Caribbean; also noteworthy were those over the Rocky Mountains that were so bright that their glow awoke gold miners, who began preparing breakfast because they thought it was morning. People who happened to be awake in the northeastern US could read a newspaper by the aurora's light.

Telegraph systems all over Europe and North America failed, in some cases even shocking telegraph operators. Telegraph pylons threw sparks and telegraph paper spontaneously caught fire. Some telegraph systems appeared to continue to send and receive messages despite having been disconnected from their power supplies. Richard Carrington and Richard Hodgson, another English amateur astronomer, independently made the first observations of a solar flare. Because of a simultaneous "crochet" observed in the Kew Observatory (London) magnetometer record by Balfour Stewart and a geomagnetic storm observed the following day, Carrington suspected a solar-terrestrial connection. World wide reports on the effects of the geomagnetic storm of 1859 were compiled and published by Elias Loomis which support the observations of Carrington and Balfour Stewart.



Taiping Rebellion

Hong Rengan, a cousin of Hong, joined the Taiping in Nanjing, and was given considerable power by Hong. He developed an ambitious plan to expand the Kingdom's boundaries.

Continuation of the Second Opium War

In June, 1859, a British naval force with 2,200 troops and 21 ships, under the command of Admiral Sir James Hope sailed north from Shanghai to Tianjin with newly-appointed Anglo-French envoys for the embassies in Beijing. They sailed to the mouth of the Hai River guarded by the Dagu Fort near Tianjin and demanded to continue inland to Beijing. Sengge Rinchen replied that the Anglo-French envoys may land up the coast at Beitang and proceed to Beijing but refused to allow armed troops to accompany them to the Chinese capital. The Anglo-French forces insisted on landing at Dagu instead of Beitang and escorting the envoy to Beijing. On the night of 24 June 1859, a small batch of British forces blew up iron obstacles that the Chinese had placed in the Baihe River. The next day, the British forces sought to forcibly sail into the river, and shelled Dagu Fort. They encountered fierce resistance from Sengge Rinchen's positions. After one day and one night's fighting, four gunboats were lost and two others severely damaged. The convoy withdrew under the cover of fire from a naval squadron commanded by Commodore Josiah Tattnall. Tattnall's intervention violated U.S. neutrality in China. For a time, anti-foreign resistance reached a crescendo within the Qing Court.



February 16 - The French Government passes a law to set the A-note above middle C to a frequency of 435 Hz, in an attempt to standardize the pitch.

March 19 - The opera Faust by Charles Gounod, premieres in Paris.

March 26 – A French amateur astronomer claims to have noticed a planet closer to the Sun than Mercury – later named Vulcan.


January 22 - Brahms' First piano concerto (in D minor) premieres, in Hanover.


February 17 - Giuseppe Verdi's opera "Un Ballo in maschera" premieres in Naples.

April 26 – Austro-Sardinian War: Giuseppe Garibaldi's Hunters of the Alps confront Austrian forces led by Field Marshal-Lieutenant Carl Baron Urban at Varese.

April 29 – Austrian troops begin to cross the Ticino River to Piedmont.

June - The Swiss businessman Henry Dunant traveled to Italy to meet French emperor Napoléon III with the intention of discussing difficulties in conducting business in Algeria, at that time occupied by France. When he arrived in the small town of Solferino on the evening of June 24, he witnessed the Battle of Solferino, an engagement in the Austro-Sardinian War. In a single day, about 40,000 soldiers on both sides died or were left wounded on the field. Henry Dunant was shocked by the terrible aftermath of the battle, the suffering of the wounded soldiers, and the near-total lack of medical attendance and basic care. He completely abandoned the original intent of his trip and for several days he devoted himself to helping with the treatment and care for the wounded. He succeeded in organizing an overwhelming level of relief assistance by motivating the local population to aid without discrimination.

§Kingdom of the Two Sicilies (Modern Italy)

May 22 - Francis II ascended the throne on the death of his father. He at once appointed Carlo Filangieri for the post of prime minister, who, realizing the importance of the Franco-Piedmontese victories in Lombardy, advised Francis II to accept the alliance with the Kingdom of Sardinia proposed by Camillo Benso, conte di Cavour.

On June 7 a part of the Swiss Guard mutinied, and while the king mollified them by promising to redress their grievances, General Nunziante gathered his troops, who surrounded the mutineers and shot them down. The incident resulted in the disbanding of the whole Swiss Guard, at the time the strongest bulwark of the Bourbon dynasty.

Cavour again proposed an alliance to divide the Papal States between Piedmont and Naples (the province of Rome excepted) but Francis rejected an idea which to him seemed like heresy. Filangieri strongly advocated a Constitution as the only measure which might save the dynasty, but on the king’s refusal he resigned.

The Battle of Palestro was fought on May 30 between Austria and the combined forces of France and Sardinia. The Franco-Sardinian forces were victorious.

The Battle of Magenta was fought on June 4 during the Second Italian War of Independence, resulting in a French-Sardinian victory under Napoleon III against the Austrians under Marshal Ferencz Gyulai.

§Modern Romania

January 24 - Wallachia and Moldavia are united under Alexander John Cuza under the name Romania


October 29 - Spain declares war on Morocco. It began with a conflict over the borders of the Spanish city of Ceuta and was fought in northern Morocco. Morocco sued for peace after the Spanish victory at the Battle of Tetuán in 1860

§United Kingdom

April 20 – A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is published.

May 21st, the bell Big Ben first activated. But the clock did not work initially. The hour hand, which weighs 300 kilograms (661 pounds), is made of gun metal while the minute hands are made of copper sheet. The minute hands would not work when they were first made of cast iron because they were too heavy. The clock started working on May 31, 1859, after the lighter copper hands were installed. The 2 ton bell did not chime until July.

The origins of the landmark's name are obscure. Some say it was named after the 1850s heavyweight boxer Ben Caunt while others suggest it was named after Sir Benjamin Hall, a former member of parliament. Hall, the commissioner of works in 1859, was responsible for ordering the bell. Alan Hughes, the director of the Whitechapel Bell Foundry that made the bell, prefers the latter.

"I suppose I like it chiefly because it was a nickname of a man who was big and loud and pompous, and never used one word if 27 would do," he said in a 2008 interview.

July 11 – The chimes of Big Ben ring for the first time in London.

About this time, Harry Gem who played a game called Rackets at the Bath Row Racquets Club in Lee Bank with his friend Augurio Perera, a Spanish merchant based in Birmingham became frustrated at the complex and expensive facilities required for the game. So, the two developed a simpler game that could be played on Perera's croquet lawn at 8 Ampton Road in Edgbaston, incorporating elements of rackets alongside features of the Basque game of pelota. This game later became known as tennis.

November 24 - Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of the Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. Only 1,250 had were printed of which 1,192 were available for sale, the rest being twelve for the author, forty-one for review and five for Stationers' Hall copyright. As Darwin took at least another twenty for presentation, the final number available for the trade was about 1,170. These facts are at variance with the often-printed statement that all the 1,250 copies were sold to the public on publication day.

§Middle East


February 4 - The Codex Sinaiticus is discovered. Codex Sinaiticus is a handwritten text that was written over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament.

April 25 - Ground was broken for the Suez Canal.

§North America


March 18 - Vera Cruz is besieged by Miramon in the Mexican War of Reform

§United States

February 27 – U.S. Congressman Daniel Sickles shoots Philip Barton Key for having an affair with his wife. He is the first person ever to use the insanity defense and is acquitted. Sickles then publicly forgave Teresa, and "withdrew" briefly from public life, although he did not resign from Congress. The public was apparently more outraged by Sickles' forgiveness and reconciliation with his wife, whom he had publicly branded a harlot and adulteress, than by the murder and his unorthodox acquittal.

February 28 - The Arkansas legislature requires free blacks to choose exile or slavery.

March 21 – The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issues the charter establishing the Zoologigcal Society of Philadelphia, the first organization of its kind in the United States and founder of the nation's first zoo.

April 6 - The US recognizes the Liberal government in Mexico's War of Reform

June 11/12 -The Comstock silver load is discovered near Virginia City, Nevada. Peter O'Riley and Patrick McLaughlin, finding all the paying ground already claimed, went to the head of the canyon and began prospecting with a rocker on the slope of the mountain near a small stream fed from a neighboring spring. They had poor results in the top dirt as there was no washed gravel, and they were about to abandon their claim when they made the great discovery. They sank a small, deeper pit in which to collect water to use in their rockers. In the bottom of this hole there was material of a different appearance. When rocked out, they knew they had made their "strike" as the bottom apron was covered with a layer of gold.

In that hole, silver mining in America as we know it was born. In the rocker along with the gold was a large quantity of heavy blue-black material which clogged the rocker and interfered with the washing out of the fine gold. When assayed however, it was determined to be an almost pure sulphuret of silver.

In June of the year O'Riley and McLaughlin made their find, Henry T. P. Comstock learned of the two men working on land that Comstock allegedly had already claimed for "grazing purposes". Unhappy with his current claim on Gold Hill, Comstock made threats and managed to work himself and his partner, Immanuel "Manny" Penrod, into a deal that granted them interest on the claim.

Fate of the discoverers

Patrick McLaughlin sold his interest in the Ophir claim for $3,500 which he soon lost. He then worked as a cook at the Green mine in California. He died working odd jobs.

Emanuel Penrod, partner to Henry Comstock, sold his 1/6 share of the interest in what would become the Ophir mine for $8,500.

Peter O'Riley held on to his interests collecting dividends, until selling for about $40,000. He erected a stone hotel on B Street in Virginia City called the Virginia House, and became a dealer of mining stocks. He began having visions and began a tunnel into the Sierras near Genoa, Nevada (an area of no known mineralization), expecting to strike a richer vein than the Comstock. He eventually lost everything, was declared insane and died in a private asylum in Woodbridge, California.

Henry Comstock traded an old blind horse and a bottle of whiskey for a one-tenth share formerly owned by James Fennimore ("Old Virginny"), but later sold all of his holdings to Judge James Walsh for $11,000. He opened trade good stores in Carson City and Silver City. Being reportedly slow mentally, having no education and no business experience, he went broke. After losing nearly all his property and possessions in Nevada, Comstock prospected for some years in Idaho and Montana without success. In September 1870, while prospecting in Big Horn country, near Bozeman, Montana, he committed suicide with his revolver.

June 30 - Charles Blondin becomes the first man to cross Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

July - Pike's Peak Gold Rush begins in the Colorado Territory.

July 3 - Abolitionist, John Brown arrived in Harpers Ferry. A few days later, under the name Isaac Smith, he rented a farmhouse in nearby Maryland. He awaited the arrival of his recruits. They never materialized in the numbers he expected.

Fall - Sometime in the Fall of this year the Clotilde brought what is believed to be the last shipment of black people from Africa against their will to to the United States. Soon after the ship was burned and scuttled to hide its illegal endeavor. The ship may have been rediscovered in January of 2018.

September 20 - George Simpson patents the electric range.

October - Edwin Drake's oil well was destroyed by fire in the autumn of 1859. This well in Northern Pennsylvania was one of the first successful oil wells that was drilled for the sole purpose of finding oil. It was rebuilt a month later. Coordinates: 41°36′39″N 79°39′27.7″W

October 16 – John Brown raids the Harpers Ferry Armory in Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in an unsuccessful bid to spark a general slave rebellion. October 16, 1859, Brown (leaving three men behind as a rear guard) led 18 men in an attack on the Harpers Ferry Armory. He had received 200 Beecher's Bibles—breechloading .52 caliber Sharps rifles—and pikes from northern abolitionist societies in preparation for the raid. The armory was a large complex of buildings that contained 100,000 muskets and rifles, which Brown planned to seize and use to arm local slaves. They would then head south, drawing off more and more slaves from plantations, and fighting only in self-defense. As Frederick Douglass and Brown's family testified, his strategy was essentially to deplete Virginia of its slaves, causing the institution to collapse in one county after another, until the movement spread into the South, essentially wreaking havoc on the economic viability of the pro-slavery states. From the Southern point of view, of course, any effort to arm the enslaved was perceived as a definitive threat.

Initially, the raid went well, and they met no resistance entering the town. They cut the telegraph wires and easily captured the armory, which was being defended by a single watchman. They next rounded up hostages from nearby farms, including Colonel Lewis Washington, great-grandnephew of George Washington. They also spread the news to the local slaves that their liberation was at hand. Things started to go wrong when an eastbound Baltimore & Ohio train approached the town. The train's baggage master tried to warn the passengers. Brown's men yelled for him to halt and then opened fire. The baggage master, Hayward Shepherd, became the first casualty of John Brown's war against slavery. Ironically, Shepherd was a free black man. Two of the hostages' slaves also died in the raid.[37] For some reason, after the shooting of Shepherd, Brown allowed the train to continue on its way.

October 17 - A. J. Phelps, the Through Express passenger train conductor, sent a telegram to W. P. Smith, Master of Transportation of the B. & O. R. R., Baltimore:

Monocacy, 7.05 A. M., October 17, 1859.
Express train bound east, under my charge, was stopped this morning at Harper's Ferry by armed abolitionists. They have possession of the bridge and the arms and armory of the United States. Myself and Baggage Master have been fired at, and Hayward, the colored porter, is wounded very severely, being shot through the body, the ball entering the body below the left shoulder blade and coming out under the left side.

October 18 – Troops under Colonel Robert E. Lee overpower Brown at the Federal arsenal.

November 1 – The current Cape Lookout, North Carolina, lighthouse is lighted for the first time (its first-order Fresnel lens can be seen for 19 miles).

November 2 - On November 2, after a week-long trial and 45 minutes of deliberation, the Charles Town jury found Brown guilty on all three counts. Brown was sentenced to be hanged in public on December 2.

December 2 – Militant abolitionist leader John Brown is hanged for his October 16 raid on Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. The hanging was attended by actor and later assassin, John Wilkes Booth.


February 14 - Oregon was admitted as the 33rd U.S. state.

December 18 - South Carolina is declared an "independent commonwealth"

§U.S. Religion

Phineas Quimby, noted for his temporary healing of Mary Baker Eddy, developed his theory of mental healing and opened an office in Portland, Maine.

§South America

§Brazil and Venezuela

May 5 – Border Treaty between Brazil and Venezuela: The two countries agree their borders should be traced at the water divide between the Amazon and the Orinoco basins.

§South Pacific

July 5 - Captain N C Brooks discovers Midway Island


September 2 - Gas lighting is introduced to Hawaii


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