Historical Events in 1881

Appointment of Interest

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

Historic Event

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]
  • 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
  • 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"

Historic Event

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

Historic Event

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

Historic Event

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

Historic Event

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

Contract of Interest

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

Appointment of Interest

May 17 Frederick Douglass appointed recorder of deeds for Washington, D.C.

  • May 17 Revised version of New Testament

Historic Event

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

Historic Event

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

Victory in Battle

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 (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

Music History

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

Historic Event

Sep 20 Chester A. Arthur sworn in as 21st president

  • 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

Sports History

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