The Year Was 1872

Teton Range from Yellowstone Park, Wyoming (from LOC Photo Collection at Ancestry.com)The year was 1872, and in the U.S., it was an election year. In a landslide victory, President Ulysses S. Grant won a second term, defeating Horace Greeley, carrying 286 electoral votes to his forty-two. In that election, votes were cast by several women, including one Susan B. Anthony. The suffragette was later arrested and in 1873, after her trial, she is fined $100–a fine which she would never pay.

Also that year, for the first time, a woman was nominated for President of the United States. Victoria Woodhull, who grew up amidst a traveling family that sold patent medicines and fortune-telling, was nominated by the Equal Rights party, with Frederick Douglass nominated as her running mate–a nomination he later declined. Victoria and her sister, Tennessee, had with the help of Cornelius Vanderbilt, become the first women to found a banking and brokerage firm on Wall Street. From there, she and Tennie began publication of Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, which tackled many of the issues that interested them such as labor rights and women’s suffrage. It was her advocacy for “free love” that earned her the contempt of many, and amidst attacks on her person, Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly published a story revealing an affair between the highly respected Rev. Henry Ward Beecher and his best friend’s wife, along with another scandalous expose. The story landed Victoria in jail on election day for libel and for sending obscene materials through the mail, a violation of the Comstock Act.

The Amnesty Act of 1872 pardoned more than 150,000 Confederates, but excluded about 500 of those who had held a higher rank of authority. With the right to hold office and vote restored to these ex-Confederates, there was a shift in the balance of power and many of the reforms of Reconstruction were phased out. 1872 also marked the ending of the Freedman’s Bureau.

In the northwest, attempts to force a group of Modoc Indians to return to a reservation in Oregon resulted in the Modoc War (1872-73). Following sieges of the Modoc who were near Tule Lake, California, the group was eventually split and sent to reservations in Oregon and Oklahoma.

In November, “The Great Boston Fire of 1872″ largely destroyed that city, burning more than 700 buildings, and killing thirty people, twelve of them firemen.

1872 was historic in terms of conservation as Yellowstone became the first national park in the world. The move gave 1,221,773 acres protection “from injury or spoilation, of all timber, mineral deposits, natural curiosities, or wonders within.” There are now 388 national parks in the United States.

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2 thoughts on “The Year Was 1872

  1. Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas was established in 1832, 40 years before Yellowstone National Park.

  2. Thank you for mentioning Victoria Woodhull. I had never heard of her. Now I want to read more! Though she did have some unconventional practices and experiences her life does point out the horrible double-standard that has held women back for centuries.

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