Historical Events in 1881

Appointment of Interest

Jan 1 Ambrose Bierce is appointed editor of "The Wasp" magazine

Event of Interest

Jan 1 Dr John Watson is first introduced to Sherlock Holmes in story written by Arthur Conan Doyle

  • Jan 2 Camille Saint-Saëns' 3rd Violin Concerto in B, premieres in Paris, France, with Spanish virtuoso Pablo de Sarasate as soloist and dedicatee

Music History

Jan 4 Johannes Brahms' "Academic Festival Overture" premieres in Breslau

  • Jan 22 "Cleopatra's Needle", a 3,500-year-old Ancient Egyptian obelisk is erected in Central Park, New York [1]

Event of Interest

Jan 25 Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell form the Oriental Telephone Company.

  • Jan 26 Union of Baptists Communities forms in Foxholl
  • Jan 28 Battle at Laing's Neck Natal: Boers beat superior powered British
  • Feb 1 US Assay Office in St Louis, Missouri authorized
  • Feb 5 Phoenix, Arizona incorporates
  • Feb 7 Battle at Ingogo, Transvaal: Boers beat superior British forces
  • Feb 10 Jacques Offenbach's opera "Les Contes d'Hoffman" premieres in Paris
  • Feb 13 The feminist newspaper La Citoyenne is first published in Paris by activist Hubertine Auclert
  • Feb 19 Kansas becomes 1st state to prohibit all alcoholic beverages

Music Premiere

Feb 20 Conductor Hans Richter leads the Vienna Philharmonic in premiere of Anton Bruckner's "Symphony No. 4", in Vienna, Austria-Hungary

  • Feb 24 China and Russia sign the Sino-Russian Ili Treaty.
  • Feb 24 De Lesseps' Company begins work on Panama Canal
  • Feb 26 -27] Natal: British troops under Major General Colley occupy Majuba Hill
  • Feb 26 P&O's SS Ceylon begins world's 1st round-the-world pleasure cruise from Liverpool
  • Feb 27 Battle at Amajuba: South African Boers vs British army under General Colley
  • Mar 4 California becomes 1st state to pass plant quarantine legislation

President Inaugurated

Mar 4 James A. Garfield inaugurated as the 20th President of the United States of America

  • Mar 4 Sherlock Holmes & Dr. Watson begin their 1st case together in "A Study in Scarlet"

Event of Interest

Mar 4 South African politician Paul Kruger accepts ceasefire during First Boer War

  • Mar 7 Southern University opens in New Orleans
  • Mar 12 Andrew Watson makes his Scotland debut as the world's first black international football player and captain


Mar 13 Alexander II of Russia is assassinated by members of far-left terror group 'People's Will' who throw a bomb at him in the city of St. Petersburg

The Greatest Show on Earth

Mar 18 Barnum & Bailey Circus, traveling as "The Greatest Show on Earth", debuts at Madison Square Garden in New York City following the merger of two existing circus groups [1]

  • Mar 23 Boers & Britain sign peace accord; end 1st Boer war
  • Mar 23 Gas lamp sets fire to Théâtre Municipal” opera house in Nice, France; 70 die, and building completely destroyed
  • Mar 25 43rd Grand National: Irish jockey Tommy Beasley wins his second consecutive GN aboard 11/2 co-favourite Woodbrook
  • Mar 26 Thessaly is freed and becomes part of Greece again
  • Mar 27 Rioting takes place in Basingstoke, Hampshire in England, to protest against the Salvation Army's daily vociferous promotion of rigid Temperance
  • Mar 28 "Greatest Show On Earth" formed by P. T. Barnum and James Anthony Bailey
  • Apr 1 Anti-Jewish riots in Jerusalem
  • Apr 1 Kingdom post office in Netherlands opens

Event of Interest

Apr 2 Sixth Impressionist Exhibition opens in Paris organized by Edgar Degas and showing his famous "Little Dancer of Fourteen Years", the only sculpture shown in his lifetime

  • Apr 5 Transvaal regains independence under British suzerainty
  • Apr 11 Spelman College founded as Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary in basement of Friendship Baptist Church, Atlanta
  • Apr 14 The Four Dead in Five Seconds Gunfight in El Paso, Texas.
  • Apr 16 In Dodge City, Kansas, Bat Masterson fights his last gun battle
  • Apr 18 Natural History Museum opens in South Kensington, England

Music Premiere

Apr 23 W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan's comic opera "Patience" premieres at The Opera Comique, London

  • Apr 25 250,000 Germans petition to bar foreign Jews from entering Germany
  • Apr 27 Pogroms against Russian Jews start in Elisabethgrad

Event of Interest

Apr 28 Billy the Kid escapes from the Lincoln County jail in Lincoln, New Mexico

  • Apr 28 French troops sent into Tunisia
  • May 5 Anti-Jewish rioting in Kyiv, Ukraine

Stanley's 1st Congo Contract

May 8 Henry Morton Stanley signs the first of many contracts with the Congolian monarch

  • May 10 Lighthouse on Ameland begins operation
  • May 11 Bedřich Smetana's opera "Libuše" premieres iat the Natonal Theater, in Prague
  • May 12 Treaty of Bardo, Tunisia becomes a French protectorate
  • May 16 World's 1st electric tram enters service in Lichterfelder (near Berlin)
  • May 17 7th Kentucky Derby: HOF jockey Jim McLaughlin aboard heavy favourite Hindoo wins in 2:40.00

Recorder of Deeds Frederick Douglass

May 17 Frederick Douglass appointed recorder of deeds for the District of Columbia

  • May 17 Revised version of New Testament

Event of Interest

May 21 American Red Cross founded by Clara Barton

  • May 21 US National Lawn Tennis Association is established in NYC, New York
  • May 24 Overloaded Canadian river ferry "Princess Victoria" sinks near London, Ontario, 180 die
  • May 24 Turkey cedes Thessaly and Arta back to Greece.
  • May 27 9th Preakness: T Costello aboard Saunterer wins in 2:40.5
  • Jun 1 Bell Phone opens 1st Dutch telephone exchange
  • Jun 1 Ridden by outstanding English jockey Fred Archer, Iroquois wins the Epsom Derby to become first American-owned and bred horse to take out a European classic race
  • Jun 2 Haarlem-Zandvoort Railway opens
  • Jun 7 15th Belmont: T. Costello aboard Saunterer wins in 2:47
  • Jun 12 The USS Jeannette, under the command of George Washington De Long, is crushed by Arctic ice after 21 months of ice-bound drifting
  • Jun 13 The USS Jeannette, under the command of George Washington De Long, sinks in the Arctic circle following 21 months of drifting after becoming trapped in the ice
  • Jun 14 Player piano patented by John McTammany Jr (Cambridge, Massachusetts)
  • Jun 16 Austria-Hungary and Serbia sign military treaty
  • Jun 19 Muhammad Ahmad becomes Mahdi of Sudan
  • Jun 24 200 drown as train runs off bridge near Cuautla, Mexico

Catholic Encyclical

Jun 29 Pope Leo XIII publishes encyclical Diuturnum illud

  • Jun 30 Henry Highland Garnet named US minister to Liberia
  • Jul 1 1st international telephone conversation, Calais, Maine to St Stephen, New Brunswick
  • Jul 1 General Order 70, the culmination of the Cardwell-Childers reforms of the British Army's organisation, comes into effect
  • Jul 1 US Assay Office in St Louis, Missouri opens
  • Jul 2 US President James Garfield shot by Charles J. Guiteau a disappointed office-seeker; Garfield dies 79 days later

Event of Interest

Jul 4 Booker T. Washington establishes Tuskegee Institute (Alabama)

  • Jul 13 Wimbledon Men's Tennis: William Renshaw beats defending champion John Hartley 6-0, 6-1, 6-1 for first of his 7 Wimbledon singles titles

Sitting Bull Surrenders

Jul 20 Sioux Indian Chief Sitting Bull, surrenders to US federal troops

  • Jul 26 French marines occupy Tunisian harbor city Sfax
  • Aug 1 US Quarantine Station authorized for Angel Island, San Francisco Bay
  • Aug 3 Boers signs Convention of Pretoria: Transvaal semi-autonomous
  • Aug 3 US National Lawn Tennis Association removes "National" from its name
  • Aug 4 122°F (50°C), Seville, Spain (European record)
  • Aug 27 Hurricane hits Florida & Carolinas; about 700 die
  • Aug 31 1st US men's single tennis championships held at Newport, Rhode Island
  • Sep 1 The Dwyer Brothers' 3-year-old Kentucky Derby winner Hindoo wins his 19th consecutive race, a purse event at Sheepshead Bay; winning streak snapped 6 days later in the September Handicap at Sheepshead

US Men's Tennis Open

Sep 3 1st US National Championship Men's Tennis, Newport R.I.: Richard Sears wins inaugural event beating William E. Glyn 6-0, 6-3, 6-2

  • Sep 3 Anton Bruckner completes his 6th Symphony
  • Sep 9 Egyptian military coup under colonel Arab "El Wahid"
  • Sep 11 Triple landslides bury Elm, Switzerland
  • Sep 13 America Lewis Howard Latimer invents and patents electric lamp with a carbon filament
  • Sep 18 Chicago Tribune reports on a televideo experiment

President Chester A. Arthur

Sep 20 Chester A. Arthur sworn in as 21st President of the United States of America

  • Sep 27 Chicago Cubs beat Troy 10-8 before record small "crowd" of 12
  • Oct 4 Edward Leveaux patents automatic player piano
  • Oct 11 David Houston patents roll film for cameras
  • Oct 12 Henry M Stanley signs contract with Congo monarch
  • Oct 13 Revival of Hebrew language as Eliezer Ben-Yehuda & friends agree to use Hebrew exclusively in their conversations

British Golf Open

Oct 14 British Open Men's Golf, Prestwick GC: Bob Ferguson retains title with 3 stroke win over Jamie Anderson in shocking weather conditions

  • Oct 15 1st American fishing magazine, "American Angler" published
  • Oct 22 Boston Symphony Orchestra gives its first concert

Statue of Liberty

Oct 24 Levi P Morton, US ambassador to France drives first rivet in Statue of Liberty

The Gunfight at OK Corral

Oct 26 Gunfight at the OK Corral: The most famous shootout in the Wild West occurs, between lawmen (including Wyatt Earp) and the Cowboys, with Tom and Frank McLaury and Billy Clanton killed

  • Oct 29 Judge (U.S. magazine) first published
  • Oct 31 Metropolitan club plays its last game of its non-league season. They win 80 of 151 games (18-43 versus NL teams)
  • Nov 2 Dutch New-Malthusiaanse Union forms
  • Nov 5 1,600 police and volunteers attack Māori settlement at Parihaka in western Taranaki which had become the symbol of protest against the confiscation of Māori land, New Zealand
  • Nov 5 French government-Ferry resigns


Nov 14 Charles J. Guiteau put on trial for the assassination of US President Garfield

  • Nov 14 Leon Gambetta forms French government
  • Nov 15 American Federation of Labor (AFL) founded (Pittsburgh)
  • Nov 19 A meteorite lands near the village of Großliebenthal, southwest of Odessa, Ukraine
  • Dec 3 Henry Morton Stanley founds Leopoldville (now Kinshasa)
  • Dec 4 The first edition of the Los Angeles Times is published
  • Dec 5 47th Congress (1881-83) convenes
  • Dec 8 Vienna's Ring Theater destroyed by gaslight fire, killing an estimated 384-1000 people

Music History

Dec 19 Opera "Hérodiade" by Jules Massenet is produced in Brussels