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§Of World Interest

January 5 - An Austrian newspaper reports that Wilhelm Röntgen has discovered a type of radiation later known as X-rays.

January 12 - H.L. Smith takes the first X-ray photograph.

January 18 - The X-ray machine is exhibited for the first time.



Italian - Ethiopian War: By late February 1896, supplies on both sides were running low. General Oreste Baratieri, commander of the Italian forces, knew the Ethiopian forces had been living off the land, and once the supplies of the local peasants were exhausted, Emperor Menelik's army would begin to melt away. However, the Italian government insisted that General Baratieri act. On the evening of 29 February, Baratieri met with his brigadiers Matteo Albertone, Giuseppe Arimondi, Vittorio Dabormida, and Giuseppe Ellena, concerning their next steps. He opened the meeting on a negative note, revealing to his brigadiers that provisions would be exhausted in less than five days, and suggested retreating, perhaps as far back as Asmara. His subordinates argued forcefully for an attack, insisting that to retreat at this point would only worsen the poor morale. Dabormida exclaiming, "Italy would prefer the loss of two or three thousand men to a dishonorable retreat." Baratieri delayed making a decision for a few more hours, claiming that he needed to wait for some last-minute intelligence, but in the end announced that the attack would start the next morning at 9:00. His troops began their march to their starting positions shortly after midnight.

March 1 - Battle of Adowa: Ethiopia successfully defends its independence from Italy. Estimates for the Ethiopian forces under Menelik range from a low of 73,000 to a high of 100,000, outnumbering the Italians by an estimated five or six times.

"The confrontation between Italy and Ethiopia at Adwa was a fundamental turning point in Ethiopian history," writes Henze. "Though apparent to very few historians at the time, these defeats were the beginning of the decline of Europe as the center of world politics."[35] On a similar note, the Ethiopian historian-anglophile Bahru Zewde observed that "few events in the modern period have brought Ethiopia to the attention of the world as has the victory at Adwa;" however, Bahru Zewde puts his emphasis on other elements of this triumph: "The racial dimension was what lent Adwa particular significance. It was a victory of blacks over whites."

The Russian Empire enthusiastically paid victory compliments to the Ethiopian army. One of the documents of that time states, "The Victory immediately gained the general sympathy of Russian society and it continued to grow." The unique outlook which polyethnic Russia exhibited to its ally Ethiopia disturbed many supporters of European nationalism during the twentieth century. The Russian Cossack captain Nicholas Leontjev with team of volunteers of participated in the battle as an advisor to Menelik.

This defeat of a colonial power and the ensuing recognition of African sovereignty became rallying points for later African nationalists during their struggle for decolonization, as well as activists and leaders of the Pan-African movement. As the Afrocentric scholar Molefe Asante explains,

After the victory over Italy in 1896, Ethiopia acquired a special importance in the eyes of Africans as the only surviving African State. After Adowa, Ethiopia became emblematic of African valour and resistance, the bastion of prestige and hope to thousands of Africans who were experiencing the full shock of European conquest and were beginning to search for an answer to the myth of African inferiority.

On the other hand, many writers have pointed out how this battle was a humiliation for the Italian military. One student of Ethiopia, Donald N. Levine, points out that for the Italians Adwa "became a national trauma which demagogic leaders strove to avenge. It also played no little part in motivating Italy's revanchist adventure in 1935". Levine also noted that the victory "gave encouragement to isolationist and conservative strains that were deeply rooted in Ethiopian culture, strengthening the hand of those who would strive to keep Ethiopia from adopting techniques imported from the modern West - resistances with which both Menelik and Ras Teferi/Haile Selassie would have to contend" .


August 27 - The shortest war in recorded history, the Anglo-Zanzibar War, starts at 9 in the morning and lasts for 45 minutes of shelling.



June 15 - An earthquake and tsunami in Sanriku, Japan, kills 27,000.



On 5 January 1896, an Austrian newspaper reported Röntgen's discovery of a new type of radiation


Henri Becquerel discovered that uranium salts emitted rays that resembled X-rays in their penetrating power. He demonstrated that this radiation, unlike phosphorescence, did not depend on an external source of energy, but seemed to arise spontaneously from uranium itself. Becquerel had, in fact, discovered radioactivity.

New evidence came to light in the case of convicted traitor Alfred Dreyfus identifying a French Army major named Ferdinand Walsin Esterhazy as the real culprit. After high-ranking military officials suppressed the new evidence a military court unanimously acquitted Esterhazy after the second day of his trial. The Army accused Dreyfus of additional charges based on false document.

§Great Britain

Finding little interest in his work in Italy, in early 1896 at the age of 21, Guglielmo Marconi traveled to London, accompanied by his mother, to seek support for his work; Marconi spoke fluent English in addition to Italian. While there, he gained the interest and support of William Preece, the Chief Electrical Engineer of the British Post Office. The apparatus that Marconi possessed at that time was strikingly similar to that of one in 1882 by A. E. Dolbear, of Tufts College, which used a spark coil generator and a carbon granular rectifier for reception.

Preece introduced Marconi's ongoing work to the general public at two important London lectures: "Telegraphy without Wires", the first at the Toynbee Hall on 11 December 1896 and the second the following year.

Superintendent Charles Henry Cutbush, uncle of mental patient Thomas Cutbush, believed to be Jack the Ripper, shot himself in front of his daughter, because it is claimed, he knew his nephew was the murderer. He had for sometime being suffering from depression and mild paranoid delusions


The 1896 Summer Olympics, officially known as the Games of the I Olympiad, were an international multi-sport event which was celebrated in Athens, Greece, from April 6 to April 15, 1896. It was the first Olympic Games held in the Modern era. Ancient Greece was the birthplace of the Olympic Games, consequently Athens was perceived to be an appropriate choice to stage the inaugural modern Games. It was unanimously chosen as the host city during a congress organized by Pierre de Coubertin, a French pedagogue and historian, in Paris, on June 23, 1894. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) was also established during this congress.

Despite many obstacles and setbacks, the 1896 Olympics were regarded as a great success. The Games had the largest international participation of any sporting event to that date. Panathinaiko Stadium, the first big stadium in the modern world, overflowed with the largest crowd ever to watch a sporting event. The highlight for the Greeks was the marathon victory by their compatriot Spiridon Louis. The most successful competitor was German wrestler and gymnast Carl Schuhmann, who won four gold medals.

After the Games, Coubertin and the IOC were petitioned by several prominent figures including Greece's King George and some of the American competitors in Athens, to hold all the following Games in Athens. However, the 1900 Summer Olympics were already planned for Paris and, except for the Intercalated Games of 1906, the Olympics did not return to Greece until the 2004 Summer Olympics, some 108 years later.


March 9 - Responding to national outrage at the defeat at Adowa, Italian Prime Minister Francesco Crispi resigns.


The Indian Famine was a six-year event that took place between 1896 and 1902. One of many famines to hit India throughout the years, this one was the worst, claiming an estimated 19 million lives.

§North America


The economic depression came to an end.

By January, the Cabinet was questioning PM Mackenzie Bowell's competence. Seven ministers resigned in order to force Bowell into stepping down as prime minister. The Cabinet also prevented Bowell from replacing his ministers and the government fell into crisis. The Governor General The Earl of Aberdeen intervened and reinstated 6 ministers and Charles Tupper joined the cabinet and assumed virtual control of the party. Bowell resigned in favor of Charles Tupper and remained in the Senate until his death.

Conservative Charles Tupper became prime minister following Bowell's resignation. However, Tupper was forced to call an immediate election and, despite a vigorous and aggressive campaign, Tupper lost to Liberal Wilfrid Laurier. Tupper's reign as prime minister was the shortest in Canadian history.

July 11 - Wilfrid Laurier becomes Canada's seventh prime minister. Liberal Wilfrid Laurier won the federal election based mainly on his proposed compromises in the Manitoba Schools Question. Laurier was the first French-Canadian prime minister.

August 16 - Gold was discovered in the Klondike.

§United States

Archaeologists excavating Pueblo Bonito, a 650-room, multistory brick edifice in northwestern New Mexico’s Chaco Canyon, found the remains of 14 people in a burial crypt

May 27 - The costliest and third deadliest tornado in U.S. history levels a mile wide swath of downtown St. Louis, Missouri, incurring $2.9 billion (1997 USD) in normalized damages, killing more than 255 and injuring over 1,000 people.

July 9 - The Cross of Gold speech was a speech delivered by William Jennings Bryan at the 1896 Democratic National Convention in Chicago. The speech advocated bimetallism. At the time, the Democratic Party wanted to standardize the value of the dollar to silver and opposed pegging the value of the United States dollar to a gold standard alone. The inflation that would result from the silver standard would make it easier for farmers and other debtors to pay off their debts by increasing their revenue dollars. It would also reverse the deflation which the U.S. experienced from 1873-1896.

August 16 - Skookum Jim Mason, George Carmack and Dawson Charlie discover gold in the Klondike.

§U.S. Economy

The United States was still suffering an economic depression that would last until 1897. The Klondike gold, discovered in August, would greatly assist in the nation's recovery.

§U.S. Industry

May 26 - Charles Dow publishes the first edition of the Dow Jones Industrial Average.

June 4 - The Ford Quadricycle, the first Ford vehicle ever developed, is completed, eventually leading Henry Ford to build the empire that "put America on wheels".

September 22 - The ice cream cone is invented by NY pushcart vendor, Italo Marciony. While there are other later claims for invention of the ice cream cone, his claim may be the best, since he had a patent for a waffle mold, granted in December, 1903, eight months before the St. Louis Fair, where other claims for the invention originated. His invention was “…like a waffle iron and producing several small pastry cups with sloping sides.”

At the time, most ice cream from vendors was sold in serving glasses called "penny licks" (because you'd lick the ice cream from the glass, and it cost a penny to do so). There was a major problem with sanitation (or the lack thereof), but Marciony's problem was that many people would accidentally break the glasses, or not so accidentally walk off with them. His first solution was to make cone-like containers out of paper which worked fine until he was hit with a stroke of genius. He came up with the idea of making an edible container for his cool treat. So in 1896 he began baking edible waffle cups with sloping sides and a flat bottom - shaped like his serving glass - and it was an instant hit.

On September 22, 1903, he filed a patent application out of the city and state of New York, and U.S. Patent No. 746971 was issued to him on December 15, 1903.

November 16 - Buffalo, NY receives power from Niagara Falls generators in the first AC generators.

§U.S. Law

March 23 - The New York State Legislature passes the Raines Law, restricting Sunday alcoholic beverage sales to hotels.

May 18 - Plessy v. Ferguson: The U.S. Supreme Court introduces the "separate but equal" doctrine and upholds segregation.

§U.S. States

January 4 - Utah is admitted as the 45th U.S. state.

§U.S. Politics

November 3 - U.S. presidential election, 1896: Republican William McKinley defeats William Jennings Bryan.


Nicholas II was crowned Tsar of Russia on May 13, 1896. Four days later, a banquet was going to be held for the people at Khodynka Field. In the area of one town square buffooneries, theaters, 150 buffets for distribution of gifts, and 20 pubs were built for the celebrations. Nearby to the celebration square was a field which had a ravine and many gullies. On the evening of May 17, people who had heard rumours of rich coronation gifts from the tsar (the gifts, which everybody was to receive, were actually a bread roll, a piece of sausage, gingerbread and a mug) began to gather in anticipation.

At about 5 o'clock in the morning of the coronation day, several thousand people (some say as many as 500,000) were already gathered on the field. Suddenly a rumour spread among the people that there was not enough beer and presents for everybody. A police force of 1,800 men failed to maintain civil order, and in a catastrophic crush, and resulting panic to flee the scene, 1,389 people were trampled to death and roughly 1,300 were otherwise injured.

When they learned about the accident, Nicholas and Alexandra were shocked. They spent the rest of the day visiting hospitals and comforting the wounded. A festive ball was to be held that night at the French embassy in Moscow. Despite the deaths, Nicholas attended the ball for diplomatic reasons.

In the aftermath of the accident, the negligence of the imperial authorities caused public indignation in Russia, and a number of minor officials were dismissed. However, many mystic writers in Russia say that Nicholas unwillingness to cancel the coronation ball predestined his death in Soviet Russia.



Swedish chemist Svante Arrhenius became the first scientist to quantify the impact of carbon dioxide on the temperature of the global atmosphere.

§South America


October 5 - After a long siege, Brazilian government troops take Canudos in north Brazil, crushing Antonio Conselheiro and his followers.

§South Pacific


December 30 - Jose Rizal, Filipino scholar and poet, is executed in the Philippines. Moments before his execution by a firing squad of native infantry of the Spanish Army, backed by an insurance force of Spanish troops, the Spanish surgeon general requested to take his pulse; it was normal. Aware of this, the Spanish sergeant in charge of the backup force hushed his men to silence when they began raising '¡vivas!' with the partisan crowd. His last words were those of Jesus Christ: "consummatum est",--it is finished.


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