Fun Facts from the 1800s

With several deadlines looming (and panic setting in) I’ve been immersed in the 1800s all month. Thanks to my ongoing series of books set during this fascinating century, I’ve been jumping around the various decades during my research. I’ve come across some fascinating information, discoveries really, about the “good old days.”

So, what were the most talked about events of the 1800s? Here’s a list of a few key moments and inventions in our American history, by decade.


1800-1810
Napoleonic Wars continue
Less than 5% of the world”s population lives in cities.
U.S. buys Louisiana Territory and New Orleans from France
Lewis and Clark Expedition to explore from Mississippi River to Pacific Ocean
Zebulon Pike explores Rockies and names peak in Colorado
Mayonnaise invented
1st Accurate Census
London’s Pall Mall lit by gas
Carbon paper invented
West Point Military Academy founded
First shoes made for left and right feet


1810-1820
Steamship “Savannah” first to cross Atlantic – in 26 days.
The kaleidoscope (invented by Sir David Brewster)
Sushi (bite-size fish on small mounds vinegary rice) in Japan
The Waltz and the quadrille are introduced in England
Stephenson”s Steam Locomotive
Food in tin cans patented in London by Peter Durand
Mr. Jeremiah Chubb”s detector lock
Professional Horseracing in U.S.
Gas Light Company of Baltimore-streets lit up
Mississippi Steamboat “Washington”; Double- decked

steamboat in Wheeling, VA;
Pawnbrokers in New York

1820-1830
Beethoven goes deaf
A high school established in Boston
Gas street lighting in Boston
Mr. Macintosh”s waterproof fabric
Lenses for lighthouses that cast light out to sea
Mechanical pencils
Louis Braille”s writing system for the blind
Rugby Football
Poem: “The Night Before Christmas”
Friction matches (“lucifers”)
W.A. Burt”s typewriter
Discovery of the Great Salt Lake
America”s first modern hotel opens with bathrooms-the Tremont House, Boston
Antarctica discovered
First social fraternity -Kappa Alpha

1830-1840
Patents granted: The bellows, reaping machine, Colt”s revolving cylinder for guns, fireproof safe, diving suit, mechanical reaper, ice-making machine, the hand wrench, the “bed spring,” cotton seed planter, corn planter, phosphorous friction matches, the screw propeller, mechanical lawn mower, sandpaper
Jim Bowie”s Bowie Knife
Soda Fountains
Thomas Davenport”s electric motor
Mr. Macintosh”s galoshes and raincoats
Graham crackers
The modern bicycle invented in Scotland
Samuel F.B. Morse”s telegraph and his Morse Code
A woman”s college at Mount Holyoke
Horse-drawn trolleys in New York
Photography! (Daguerreotype)

1840-1850
New inventions: pneumatic and rubber tires, the artificial leg, sewing machine, the dental chair, Venetian blinds, safety pin, telegraph ticker that prints letters of alphabet, method of taking photos with plates, blackboards in schools, rubber bands
The Y.M.C.A.
Doughnuts with holes invented in Camden Maine
Ice skating
The sport of skiing in Norway
Tattooing of sailors in New York
The Smithsonian Institution
Solid eating chocolate
World”s first dental college in Baltimore
US Naval Academy at Annapolis, MD opened
First Christmas cards, and printed Valentines Day cards


Ho-kay, that’s enough for now. I’ll finish the rest of the decade the next time I post. Stay tuned for more…

Renee Ryan

Award-winning, multi-published author Renee Ryan sold her first book by winning the 2001 inaugural Dorchester/Romantic Times New Historical Voice Contest. She sold her second book to Harlequin Love Inspired Historical and has since sold nine more manuscripts to Love Inspired and Love Inspired Historical.


Updated: October 8, 2013 — 6:55 am

16 Comments

  1. Hi Renee! You could take any one of these tidbits and build a whole story around it. I honed in on chocolate, tattooing of sailors, and graham crackers. Thanks for the trivia fun.

  2. Hi Vicki!

    Can you tell I love trivia??? I’m with you…lots of great kernels for boarding the “what if” train. 😉

  3. There’s a downside to be immersed in another century. Recently my husband came home from the doctor and I asked him what the sheriff said.

    So watch out; you could be committed.

    Margaret

  4. wow thanks for all those great answers to future trivia questions.. Our family is a great one for this game, and I just might have an edge now…lol

  5. Thanks for the chuckle this AM. I love the picture of the typewriter. I learned to type on something that looked like that. I went from that (non-electric), to electric to the computer. Being a student and then a Secretary for more years than I wish to think about, I used them all.
    Very interesting to think that all this happened in the 1800’s. Can’t wait for the next installment.
    Mary J

  6. There is a BOOK in every single line of this blog, Renee. I started seeing things I wanted to comment on. MAYONNAISE? Seriously?
    But there was just so much.
    Somehow I thought skiing was forever, the kind of thing cave men probably did. Ice skating, maybe I get why that took a while, odd idea to balance on blades on ice, but sliding down a snowy mountain that makes sense.
    Gas Lights in London by 1810. That seems so EARLY.
    The donuts were a hit, huh? 🙂

  7. I love history, Renee, so this was very interesting! Thanks for the post!

  8. Kathleen, my pleasure. We take so much of our modern day inventions for granted, but what struck me most was how “early” some of my favorites were introduced in the century.

  9. Mary J, I learned on a similar typewriter, too. At the time, electric typewriters were everywhere. But teacher was old school and said I MUST learn the basics. Kind of like driving a stick-shift before relying on an automatic. Ah…the good old days. LOL

  10. Mary, I could have done an entire post on food. Donuts and mayonnaise made the cut. Hmmm, any wonder I struggle with weight issues???

  11. Hi Valri, I always think it’s fun to get a tiny glimpse of the things our ancestors had a chance to get excited over.

  12. Amazing facts, Renee. Any one of them would make a wonderful blog topic.

    Good luck with the deadlines, and stay calm! xox

  13. Thanks Tanya!!! But, um, calm left the building weeks ago!

  14. Thanks for all the great little tidbits. I love this sort of thing. I am surprised at the timing of quite a few of these items. Some happened much earlier (or later ) than I thought. You wonder why they felt it important to note when the first donuts with holes were made or when mayonnaise was invented. I was surprised at how early THE NIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS was written. I always had the impression it was Victorian.
    Good luck with your deadlines, Renee.

  15. Renee, II loved this, and, I too was surprised that a lot of these things started way back then. I mean a bid surprised. One was putting food in tin cans. Who’d a tho’t it? History wasn’t my favorite thing. Had a hard time with dates and places. only subject I really had any problem with. Course made good grades but really had to study right before a test. Of course, back then Algebra and even typing wasn’t available until 11th grade. Still not too sure I could have mastered that Algebra, I married just before school was out in 10th grade. Then got PG first thing. Not my plan. Then tho’t mother could watch the baby for me to finish school, but plans interrupted again. My asthma got lots worse and had to move away from where my folks lived, so end of my schooling.
    Love you ladies on here. Fun reading and always can depend to get some laughs. Thanks! Maxie

Comments are closed.

Petticoats & Pistols © 2015