The Year Was 1870

Fountain of Trevi, Rome, Italy The year was 1870 and it marked the start of the Franco-Prussian War. Following a devastating defeat at Sedan in September, in which Emperor Louis Napoleon surrendered himself to the Prussian army, the siege of Paris began. Through the siege, Parisians used hot air balloons and carrier pigeons to communicate with the outside world.

The Franco-Prussian War had repercussions in Italy as well. While much of Italy had been unified, Rome had been under the protection of France. The French troops had to be put into service against Prussia, leaving Rome to the Italian troops. And in October, Rome joined the Kingdom of Italy, and would become the capital the following year.  

The U.S. was still recovering from the Civil War and in 1870 Virginia, Mississippi, Texas, and Georgia rejoined the Union;  Georgia being the last of the former Confederate States to be readmitted. 

To be readmitted, these states had to agree to both the fourteenth and fifteenth amendments. The fourteenth amendment stated that “All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside,” and the fifteenth amendment said that, “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

While this legislation did not give women the right to vote, several western states and territories granted suffrage to women. Wyoming Territory was the first in 1869, and in 1870, Louisa Ann Swain became the first woman to cast a legal vote since 1807 (when New Jersey was the last of several states to revoke women’s right to vote).  Utah Territory granted suffrage to its female population in 1870, a right that would be revoked by the Edmunds-Tucker Act in 1887.

The growing United States were also realizing a need to monitor weather conditions and the telegraph enabled scattered weather stations to communicate observations to one another. In 1870, Congress passed a resolution “to provide for taking meteorological observations at the military stations in the interior of the continent and at other points in the States and Territories…and for giving notice on the northern (Great) Lakes and on the seacoast by magnetic telegraph and marine signals, of the approach and force of storms,” which was the start of the Weather Bureau.

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