The year was 1855 and in Smithfield, in northwestern London, the last Bartholomew Fair was held.Â Originally more of a market than a fair, it grew to become more of a carnival and freak show atmosphere, rife with drinking, prostitution, and riots. The Times of London, of 9 August 1788 included the following editorial note:
It is somewhat extraordinary that the Corporation do not abolish Bartholomew’s Fair, which at present is a convocation of all that can injure the morals and drain the purses of the lower class of inhabitants. It does much mischief, without creating any one benefit, and is a nuisance much more hurtful to the people than skittle-grounds and trap-ball. There is not a sober Citizen in London who would not thank the Corporation if they abolished this annual scene of idleness, drunkenness, and debauchery.
In other news, Britain, France, Turkey, and Sardinia were engaged in the Crimean War against Russia.Â Years of disputes over lands in the Middle East and religious differences were major factors in the cause of the war that would last into 1856.
Around the world, a bloody Civil War in China was raging. At the heart of the rebellion was Hung Hsiu-châ€™uan, a Cantonese student who had visions in which he believed he was visited by God the Father and his son, Jesus Christ. He began a movement that turned into a full blown rebellion when the government began targeting Hung and his followers. By that time, the movement had a large army and had built up a treasury. The Taiping Rebellion is largely considered to have been one of the most bloody conflicts in history with casualties estimated at around 20 million.
Events in Kansas were leading towards another bloody conflict. The Territory of Kansas was created on 30 May 1854 and with a legislative election, pro-slavery bands flocked across Kansas borders, swaying the corrupt election in favor of the pro-slavery candidates. Violence erupted in many places as pro- and anti-slavery forces struggled to win the state, earning Kansas the nickname “Bleeding Kansas” or “Bloody Kansas.”
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TheÂ image is of Leavenworth, Kansas Terr., 1856 and is available in the Library of Congress Photograph Collection at Ancestry.com. Click on the image to enlarge it.