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<< 1887 CE | 1881-1890 CE | 1889 CE >>



The first railway in China goes into operation.

Central America


The Panama Canal Company declared itself bankrupt in December as a result of technical difficulties, financial incompetence, corruption and equatorial diseases. The company building the canal liquidated its assets in February 1889. The bankruptcy of the company led to criminal revelations in 1892.



December 23 - Vincent Van Gogh and Paul Gauguin forged a deep friendship during the two years they lived and painted, sharing a place in Arles, in the south of France. The two had built the town’s reputation as an artistic colony. That dream ended in an angry exchange between the painters on the evening of December 23, 1888. Popular belief is that Van Gogh cut off part of his own ear.

According to Dr. Kaufmann, a German researcher, "As that story goes, van Gogh cut off part of his own ear with a straight razor after he and Gauguin parted. But Kaufmann and his colleague, Rita Wildegans, dug through original police records, biographical material and van Gogh’s letters. They concluded that Gauguin, an accomplished fencer, attacked van Gogh with a rapier after van Gogh threw a wine glass at him."

“The traditional version goes back on two reports,†says Kaufmann. “Self-defending or self-protecting propaganda of Paul Gauguin, who himself stressed that Vincent van Gogh was mad, which is not true. [Van Gogh] suffered from these fits, which came [all] of a sudden and which ended suddenly.â€

To make that case, Kaufmann cites an earlier retroactive diagnosis by an American molecular biologist, which argued that van Gogh suffered only periodic bouts of volatility and depression as a result of a likely congenital metabolic disorder now known as Acute Intermittent Porphyria, or AIP syndrome.

French Industry

Michelin was incorporated on 28 May 1888.


This year was known as the "Year of the Three Emperors." Kaiser Wilhelm I died on March 9th at the age of 91. His son, Frederick III was afflicted with cancer of the larynx and could only breath through a silver tube inserted in his throat. The people had high hopes for Frederick because of his liberal politics but he died in the summer, and was succeeded by his son, Wilhelm II.

June 15 - Wilhelm II is crowned German Emperor.

August 5 - Berta Benz arrives in Pforzheim, having driven 40 miles from Mannheim in a car manufactured by her husband Karl Benz, thus completing the first "long-distance" drive in the history of the automobile.


April 11 - The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam is inaugurated.

United Kingdom

June - Annie Besant organizes the London matchgirls strike of 1888.

July 27 - The British Parliament passes an act that permits bicycles on the road, on condition that they are equipped with a bell that should be rung while on the carriageway. The law is eventually abolished in 1930.

August 7 - The body of Martha Tabram is found, a possible murder victim of Jack the Ripper. The exact identity of Jack the Ripper is unknown but current research points to a mental patient named Thomas Cutbush.

August 31 - Mary Ann Nichols is murdered. She is considered the first of Jack the Ripper's victims.

September 8 - In London, the dead body of Annie Chapman is found. She is considered to be the second victim of Jack the Ripper.

September 30 - In London, the bodies of Elizabeth Stride and Catherine Eddowes are found. They are generally considered Jack the Ripper's third and fourth victims, respectively.

November 9 - In London, England, the dead body of Mary Jane Kelly is found. She is considered to be the fifth, and last, of Jack the Ripper's victims. A number of similar murders in England follow, but the police attribute them to copy-cat killers.


August 20 - There is a mutiny at Dufile, India, and the Emin Pasha is imprisoned.

Middle East


The Suez Canal was declared neutral territory through the signing of the Convention of Constantinople, a treaty signed by Great Britain, Germany, Austro-Hungary, Spain, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Russia, and Turkey on March 2, 1888. The signatories comprised all the great European powers at the time, and the treaty was interpreted as a guaranteed right of passage of all ships through the Suez Canal during war and peace.

North America

January 3 - The 91-centimeter telescope is first used at Lick Observatory.

On January 12th, blizzards hit Dakota Territory, the states of and Montana, Minnesota, Nebraska, Kansas, and Texas, with 235 dead, many of whom were children on their way home from school.

New York March 1888

Another blizzard, hitting March 11th, became America's most famous snowstorm and known as the "Blizzard of 88" and "The Great White Hurricane." It brought the entire eastern seaboard to a standstill. Communications by telephone and telegraph were also lost due to downed communication lines isolating most of the major urban areas. It's estimated that 400 people died, 100 of them seamen from the 200 ships that ran aground.

January 13 - In Washington, DC, the National Geographic Society is founded.

February 27 - In West Orange, New Jersey, Thomas Edison meets with Eadweard Muybridge, who proposes a scheme for sound film.

March 8 - The Agriculture College of Utah, (later Utah State University) is founded in Logan, Utah.

March 11 - The "Great Blizzard of '88" begins along the eastern seaboard of the United States, shutting down commerce and killing more than 400.

March 12 - The unseasonably warm weather suddenly turned and rain suddenly turned to snow as the temperatures plummeted followed by a moderate wind storm. The National Weather service estimated that fifty inches of snow fell in Connecticut and Massachusetts and forty inches covered New York and New Jersey. The wind caused snowdrifts forty and fifty feet high. The resultant loss of the ability to move about New York City was the impetus for the creation of the New York Subway system begun twelve years later.

May 1 - The United States Congress establishes the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.

July 25 - Frank Edward McGurrin, a court stenographer from Salt Lake City, Utah, purportedly the only person using touch typing at the time, wins a decisive victory over Louis Traub in a typing contest held in Cincinnati, Ohio. This date can be called the birthday of the touch typing method that is widely used now.

August 22 - The City of Chester, carrying 90 passengers sank while steaming away from San Francisco toward Eureka, California. The fog that day was dense and it was struck by the Oceanic, another ship arriving at the harbor from Asia. It took six minutes for the ship to sink. The wreckage was rediscovered in 2013 and verified in 2014. It is recorded as the 2nd worst maritime disaster at the Golden Gate Bridge.

October 9 - The Washington Monument officially opens to the general public.

U.S. Industry

Charles Martin Hall founded the Pittsburgh Reduction Company (later Alcoa) to begin the process of producing aluminum derived by him two years prior.

September 4 - George Eastman registers the trademark Kodak, and receives a patent for his camera which uses roll film.

U.S. Politics

Susan B. Anthony organizes a Congress for Women's Rights in Washington, DC.

U.S. President Grover Cleveland declares the Chinese "impossible of assimilation with our people and dangerous to our peace and welfare".

June 19 - In Chicago, the Republican Convention opens at the Auditorium Building. Benjamin Harrison & Levi Morton win the nominations for President and Vice President, respectively.

November 6 - U.S. presidential election, 1888: United States Democratic Party incumbent Grover Cleveland wins the popular vote, but loses the Electoral College vote to Republican challenger Benjamin Harrison, therefore losing the election.

South America


May 13 - Brazil abolishes the last remnants of slavery.

Southeast Asia

Sedang (Modern Vietnam)

June 3 - The Kingdom of Sedang is formed in modern-day Vietnam.


  • John S. Pemberton, inventor of Coca-Cola. He died penniless.


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