The Year Was 1885

The year was 1885 and the flow of settlers to western Canada increased greatly with the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway.

And in Canada’s North-West Territories there were rumblings of a rebellion. In what is now Saskatchewan and Alberta, three groups had grievances with the Canadian government in Ottawa. The Metis, descendants of fur traders and indigenous peoples, were concerned about legal claim to their land; white settlers were waiting for official property titles necessary to secure loans and felt their interests weren’t represented; and the starving First Nations peoples who had been promised farming equipment and aid were angry that treaties weren’t being observed.

The rebellion, which would only last for two months, was led by Louis Riel, a Metis who had fought for the rights of Manitoba residents during the Red River uprising in 1869-70. He formed a provisional government and armed forces. These forces clashed with government troops at Duck Lake and although the Metis claimed this first victory, the rebellion was subdued by the end of May, and Louis Riel was arrested and hung for treason. 

In the United States, anti-Chinese sentiment was on the rise following the California gold rush, which had brought more than 100,000 Chinese to American shores. In September of 1885, violence erupted. In a Union Pacific Coal Mine in Rock Springs, Wyoming, there was a dispute over who had the right to work in a particularly rich area of the mine. Paid by the ton, white workers rioted, burning the Chinese quarter of town, and killing twenty-eight Chinese miners. The perpetrators were never prosecuted and Army troops had to be called in to protect those Chinese who wished to return to their homes.

In Chicago, Sarah E. Goode, a former slave, became the first African American woman to be awarded a patent from the U.S. government for her design of a “cabinet bed.” Her invention could be used as a cabinet by day, but opened into a bed for sleeping.

In June of 1885 the U.S. received a package–actually two hundred and fourteen packages. In them was the Statue of Liberty, waiting to be assembled on Bedloe’s Island. The statue would be unveiled in late October of 1886.

Great strides were made in the field of medicine in 1885, when Louis Pasteur successfully treated Joseph Meister for rabies with his new vaccine.

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One thought on “The Year Was 1885

  1. My grandmother and her family arrived from Germany in 1883 and I had always pictured their seeing the Statue of Liberty. They missed Ellis Island, too. So this helps to keep that time in focus. Thanks!

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