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§Of World Interest

Heinrich Hertz discovers the photoelectric effect on the production and reception of electromagnetic (EM) waves (radio). This was an important step towards the understanding of the quantum nature of light.

November – Results of the Michelson-Morley experiment are published, indicating that the speed of light is independent of motion.



The Battle of Chelenqo was an engagement fought on 6 January 1887 between the army of Shewa under Negus Menelik II and Emir 'Abd Allah II of Harar. The Harari forces were routed, and Negus Menelik afterwards occupied and annexed the city of Harar.

Negus Menelik, in response to Italian control of parts of Eritrea and the port of Massawa, had begun to import firearms and munitions through the French-controlled ports of Djibouti. By 1886, Emir 'Abd Allah of Harar had blocked transport of these arms through his territories.

Menelik had desired control of the city of Harar for some time. The massacre of the Italian explorer Count Pietro Porro and his entire party in April 1886, allegedly at the emir's command, gave the Negus an excuse to march on Harar.

Although the army of Shewa was a veteran force with contemporary rifles, and numbered in the thousands, Negus Menelik sought to avoid war, and in January 1887, offered 'Abd Allah the same kind of autonomy that king Abba Jifar of Jimma enjoyed; the emir refused this offer.

Knowing that he was heavily outnumbered, and his troops had only obsolete matchlocks and a few cannons, Emir 'Abd Allah decided to attack on early in the morning of Ethiopian Christmas (January 9), expecting the Shewans to be unprepared and befuddled with food and alcohol. However, Negus Menelik had worried about a surprise attack, and kept his men at alert.

The emir's men opened fire at 11:00 am. The Shewan soldiers quickly responded and routed the Harar infantry with few casualties. Menelik pursued the retreating emir to Harar, whose ancient walls would not long resist his assault. Once again 'Abd Allah refused to surrender, then fled into the desert, leaving his uncle to negotiate the city's surrender. With the occupation, the independence of Harar came to an end.

January 24 – Battle of Dogali: Abyssinian troops defeat the Italians.


Zululand becomes a British colony.



September - October - The Yellow river floods in China, killing between 900,000 and 2 million people.


Japan annexes Iwo Jima.



January 11 – Louis Pasteur's anti-rabies treatment is defended in the French Academy of Medicine by Dr. Joseph Grancher.

February 23 – The French Riviera is hit by a large earthquake, killing around 2,000 along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea.

On April 21, 1887, the French Havas news agency published a dispatch to the effect that Schnaebelé, a mid-level and obscure French police inspector, had been arrested by two agents of the German secret police on the Franco-German frontier near Pagny-sur-Moselle, as he was on his way to Ars-sur-Moselle for a meeting with the German police inspector there, at the latter's request. A dispute followed as to whether the arrest had taken place on French or on German territory (see "Account of incident" below); but regardless, the French claimed that under the circumstances Schnaebelé was entitled to immunity even if on German territory, since he had been invited to a conference by German officials. The reason given by the German authorities for the arrest was that in a previous inquiry into charges of treasonable practices against a number of Alsatians, evidence had been produced that Schnaebelé was involved in transmitting to Paris information as to German fortresses, furnished by Alsatians in the pay of the French Government, and that an order had been given to arrest him if ever he should be found on German soil. In other words, the Germans believed Schnaebelé to be a spy.

Within a week after his arrest, on April 28, Schnaebelé was released by order of the German Emperor William I. In a dispatch of the same date to the French ambassador at Berlin, Bismarck explained that though the German Government considered, in view of the proofs of guilt, the arrest to be fully justified, it was deemed expedient to release Schnaebelé on the ground that business meetings between frontier officials "must always be regarded as protected by a mutually assured safe conduct." Thus ended the Schnaebele incident.

The week-long incident, between April 21 and 28, had such threatening and provocative language from both sides as to cause serious concern of war. A large section of the German press demanded that Germany make no concession. In France, the Cabinet voted 6 to 5 against an ultimatum demanding the release of Schnaebelé with an apology, which would almost certainly have meant war, as what happened with the Ems Dispatch in 1870. The proposed ultimatum had been put forward by French war hawk and Minister of War Georges Ernest Boulanger, who also brought in a bill to mobilise an army corps.

After Schnaebelé's release and Bismarck's letter, many in the French public thought Bismarck backed down because he was afraid of Boulanger which increased Boulanger's rising star as a national hero and bolstered his image as a "Revenger" for France against Germany. However it was in truth an embarrassment to the Republican government, who knew the French army was no better off than in 1870, when Germany quickly defeated it in the Franco Prussian War - Boulanger's antagonism's against Germany during the week long crisis was indeed a danger to the Republic. For this and other reasons, on July 7 1887 Boulanger was released as Minister of War and dispatched by the government to a provincial post to be hopefully forgotten, but not before admiring throngs tried to stop his train from leaving Paris - loyal to his military orders, he was smuggled out in a switch engine.

The reasons for the arrest and release of Schnaebelé have never been entirely explained but there are theories. Elie de Cyon asserted that Bismarck brought about the incident intentionally (for reasons explained below); that Czar Alexander III, made apprehensive for the peace of Europe, wrote an autographic letter to William I in regard to the matter, and that the Kaiser, going over the head of his chancellor Bismarck, ordered the release of Schnaebelé. Several French politicians at the time suspected the incident of being a calculated experiment by Bismarck to gauge the depth of the anti-German feeling in France, a means of testing by an incident, which could be closed at any time by a mere apology without any shock to German national dignity, whether Boulanger had a sufficient following in public opinion to make Boulangism a real danger to peace. In Germany the incident occurred during a time when Bismarck was trying to force a new and very expensive military law through the Reichstag, and it has occasionally been speculated that it was necessary to flame the menace of war to justify the new taxes. However, the the Army Bill was passed on March 11, three weeks before Schnaebelé crossed the border.

Bismarck may have been trying to agitate conflict with France before Germany's treaty of neutrality with Russia expired that year (signed in 1881 and renewed in 1884) - Germany knew from experience it could not afford a war with France without a neutral or allied Russia. Russia would only remain neutral if the responsibility for war was cast on the French, as happened in 1870. When the French government stood its ground and presented an irrefutable case, failing to throw the responsibility on the French, Bismarck knew from previous experience he could not count on Russia's neutrality if conflict came, and he had to back down: Schnaebelé was set free. Related to the Russians, Bismarck may have wanted to create a strained situation with France to counteract the Panslavist party in Russia, who at the time were lobbying the cabinet of the Russian Emperor not to renew the Russian-German alliance.

Account of incident

According to one account the incident occurred as follows: It was cool day and Schnaebelé was wearing a coat and top hat. He walked briskly on the road leading from Nancy (France) to Metz (then in Lothringen, German Empire). The road is deserted. To his left are two French brothers working in a vinyard. To his right are a number of German railroad workers out of sight but within hearing distance. Gautsch, his German colleague of Ars-sur-Moselle who he is supposed to meet is not in sight. Schnaebelé wonders if Gautsch has reneged on the meeting. Schnaebelé is waiting impatiently, a few steps from the German side. Suddenly, a man in a gray blouse appears from the German side, hails Schnaebelé, then rushes at him, trying to lead him into Germany. Schnaebelé successfully resists but then a second man in a gray blouse appears. Returning a few steps into French territory, Schnaebelé exclaims (in German): "What do you want from me? I'm Guillaume Schnaebele Commissioner Special Pagny. I am here at home! This is the border." His two attackers do not listen and continue grapple him across the border. The two French farmers do not intervene, but the six German rail workers on hearing the cries for help come into view. But what they see deters action: the two assailants remove their blouses and are wearing uniforms of the German police. Everything is then perfectly clear. They handcuff Schnaebelé by the wrist and lead him on foot to the village of Novéant and then by train to Metz. There he is thrown into prison and held incommunicado


Albert Heijn was founded.


March 4 – Gottlieb Daimler unveils his first automobile.

June 18 - The Reinsurance Treaty was an attempt by Bismarck to continue to rally with Russia after the League of the Three Emperors broke down.

Bismarck felt that this was essential to continue the diplomatic isolation of France so ensuring German security.

The secret treaty was split in two parts:

1. Germany and Russia both agreed to observe neutrality should the other be involved in a war with a third country. Neutrality would not apply should Germany attack France or Russia attack Austria-Hungary.

2. In the most secret completion protocol Germany declared herself neutral in the event of a Russian intervention in the Bosporus and the Dardanelles.

As part of Bismarck's system of "periphere diversion" the treaty was highly dependent on his personal reputation. After the dismissal of Bismarck, the German office of foreign affairs felt unable to obtain success in keeping this policy.

In 1890 CE Russia wanted a renewal but Germany refused persistently. Kaiser Wilhelm II believed his own personal relationship with the Russian Tsar would be sufficient to ensure further genial diplomatic ties and felt that maintaining a close bond with Russia would act to the detriment of his aims to attract Britain into the German sphere (Anglo-Russian relations were strained at this point due to the gaining influence of Russia in the Balkans and their aims to open up the Straits of the Dardanelles which would threaten British colonial interests in the Middle East). However, having become alarmed at its growing isolation, Russia entered into an alliance with France in 1892 thus bringing to an end the isolation of France.

In 1896 CE the treaty was exposed by a German newspaper, the Hamburger Nachrichten, which caused an outcry in Germany and Austria-Hungary.

The failure of this treaty is seen as one of the factors contributing to World War I, due to Germany's increasing sense of diplomatic isolation.


November 13 – Bloody Sunday: Police clash with pro-Irish independence protesters.


February 5 – The Giuseppe Verdi opera Otello premieres at La Scala.

§United Kingdom

May 9 – Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show opens in London.

June 21 – The British Empire celebrates Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee, marking the 50th year of her reign.



October 1 – The British Empire takes over Balochistan.

§Middle East

§Modern Israel

The New Gate is built in Jerusalem.

§North America


June 23 – The Rocky Mountains Park Act becomes law in Canada, creating that nation's first national park, Banff National Park.


May 3 – An earthquake hits Sonora, Mexico.

§United States

January 28 – In a snowstorm at Fort Keogh, Montana, USA, the largest snowflakes on record are reported. They are 15 inches (38 cm) wide and 8 inches (20 cm) thick.

February 2 – In Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania, the first Groundhog Day is observed.

The Dawes Act was enacted on February 8, 1887 regarding the distribution of land to Native Americans in Oklahoma. Named after its sponsor, U.S. Senator Henry L. Dawes of Massachusetts, the act was amended in 1891 and again in 1906 by the Burke Act. The act remained in effect until 1934.

March 3 – Anne Sullivan begins teaching Helen Keller.

April 4 – Argonia, Kansas elects Susanna M. Salter as the first female mayor in the United States.

November 10 – Louis Lingg, sentenced to be hanged for his alleged role in the Haymarket Riot bomb of the previous year, kills himself by dynamite.

November 11 – August Spies, Albert Parsons, Adolph Fischer, George Engel, Michael Schwab, and Samuel Fielden are hanged for inciting riot and murder in the Haymarket Riot of May 4, 1886. After the appeals had been exhausted, Illinois Governor Richard James Oglesby commuted Fielden's and Schwab's sentences to life in prison on November 10, 1887. On the eve of his scheduled execution, Lingg committed suicide in his cell with a smuggled dynamite cap which he reportedly held in his mouth like a cigar (the blast blew off half his face and he survived in agony for six hours).

The next day (November 11, 1887) Spies, Parsons, Fischer and Engel were taken to the gallows in white robes and hoods. They sang the Marseillaise, then the anthem of the international revolutionary movement. Family members including Lucy Parsons, who attempted to see them for the last time, were arrested and searched for bombs (none were found). According to witnesses, in the moments before the men were hanged, Spies shouted, "The time will come when our silence will be more powerful than the voices you strangle today!" Witnesses reported that the condemned men did not die immediately when they dropped, but strangled to death slowly, a sight which left the spectators visibly shaken.

November 22 - The Thibodaux Massacre was a violent labor dispute and racial attack in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Although the number of casualties is unknown, at least 35 and as many as three hundred workers were killed, making it one of the most violent labor disputes in U.S. history. All of the victims were African-American.

§U.S. Industry

Chase National Bank was formed in 1877 by John Thompson. It was named for former United States Treasury Secretary and Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, although Chase did not have a connection with the bank.

March 13 – Chester Greenwood patents earmuffs. Chester Greenwood (1858-1937) of Farmington, Maine invented the earmuff in 1873, at the age of 15. He reportedly came up with the idea while ice skating, and had his grandmother sew tufts of fur between loops of wire. His patent was for improved ear protectors. He manufactured these ear protectors, providing jobs for people in the Farmington area, for nearly 60 years.

Chester also patented a tea kettle, a steel tooth rake, an advertising matchbox, and a machine used in producing wooden spools for wire and thread. He invented, but did not patent an umbrella holder for mail carriers. He no doubt invented many other items, but only patented the above mentioned items.

June 8 – Herman Hollerith receives a patent for his punch card calculator.

Sears moved his business to Chicago and inserted a classified ad in the Chicago Daily News.

"WANTED: Watchmaker with reference who can furnish tools. State age, experience and salary required. ADDRESS T39, Daily News."

Alvah C. Roebuck answered the ad. He told Sears he knew watches and brought a sample of his work to prove it. Sears hired him. Here began the association of two young men, both still in their twenties, that was to make their names famous.

§U.S. Law

The U.S. Congress passes the Interstate Commerce Act.

§South Pacific

§Hawaiian Islands

The "Missionary party", a group of white descendants of the first Christian Missionaries to Hawai`i, had grown very frustrated with King Kalākaua. They blamed him for the Kingdom's growing debt and accused him of being a spendthrift. He had nearly bankrupted the kingdom with his lavish spending while building Iolani Palace. Some foreigners wanted to force King Kalākaua to abdicate and put his sister Liliʻuokalani onto the throne, while others wanted to end the monarchy altogether and annex the islands to the United States. The people who favored annexation formed a group called the Hawaiian League. Members of the League, armed with guns, assembled together and confronted the King. The King was frightened by this show of force and offered to transfer his powers to the foreign ministers representing the United States, the United Kingdom, or Portugal. The members of the league instead demanded that he sign a new constitution.

This new constitution, nicknamed the Bayonet Constitution of 1887, removed much of the King's executive power and deprived most native Hawaiians of their voting rights. The legislature was now able to override a veto by the King, and the King was no longer allowed to take action without approval of the cabinet. The House of Nobles, the house of legislature appointed by the King, was to be elected. It also inserted a provision that allowed non-Hawaiian citizens to vote.

January 20 – The United States Senate allows the Navy to lease Pearl Harbor as a naval base.


Spanish administrators of Pohnpei built a wall after a local uprising drove the local Spanish authorities onto a ship in the harbor. Most of the wall was taken down by the German administration that took over in the early 20th century, after the Spanish–American War. The remains of the wall, about 700 feet (210 m) and two arches, are now part of a local park.


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