The Year Was 1869

Promontory Utah last spike transcontinental railroad.bmpThe year was 1869 and in the town of Taylorville, Illinois, it is remembered as the year that it rained–not cats and dogs–but amphibians. Following days of heavy rain, local residents found strange serpent-like creatures in “every ditch, brook, puddle, and pool.” Scientists believe that it was the “Lesser Siren” that rained down on the town, and that the creatures had been sucked into the atmosphere via a waterspout and carried on the jetstream for an hour or two before landing in Taylorville.

Later that year a more traditional, but deadlier storm struck the areas surrounding the Bay of Fundy, including New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and parts of Maine. Known as the “Saxby Gale,” a combination of weather factors and a lunar high tide conspired to create a devastating storm surge that caused extensive flooding that drowned both people and farm animals, and winds that grounded boats around the Fundy Basin.

In the U.S., east and west were finally connected by rail. On 10 May 1869 the last spike was driven in the transcontinental railroad at Promontory, Utah. (Click on the image to enlarge it.) With the joining of the Central Pacific Railroad and the Union Pacific Railroad the trip from the Missouri River west to the Pacific was reduced from four to six months to six days. 

Another transportation route was opened in 1869 with the opening of the Suez Canal. The canal created an all-water route from the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea, allowing easier access from Great Britain and Europe to India and east Africa. 

A New Jersey physician and dentist, Dr. Thomas Branwell Welch launched the fruit juice industry with the pasteurization of Concord grapes into “unfermented sacramental wine.” The beverage that would eventually be known as Welch’s Grape Juice earned nationwide popularity at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago.

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