The Year Was 1887

The year was 1887 and on 23 February an earthquake struck the Riviera. Hardest hit was the Genoese Riviera, where 1,500 people perished. All told the death told was estimated at 2,000. Property damage was extensive throughout the Riviera and even as far north as Switzerland.

One of the worst floods in world history claimed an estimated 2 million lives when the silt-filled Yellow River, or Hwang Ho, in China flooded 50,000 square miles wiping out entire towns and villages.

In London, following a period of unrest there was a ban on meetings in Trafalgar Square. Times were tough as a result of the “Long Depression” which had begun in 1873. A meeting was scheduled there by socialists on 13 November to protest the recently pass Crimes Act which prohibited many forms of protest. As 10,000 protesters moved towards the park, the police responded with violence and hundreds were injured on “Bloody Sunday.”

Further north, Sheffield in South Yorkshire was in the grips of a smallpox epidemic that sickened more than eight hundred people. An insurance system was set up where contributors could derive benefits if they or someone in their family was ill. This not only helped the families to get through the difficult times, it discouraged sick or exposed persons from reporting to work because they needed a paycheck, which helped with containment.

In the U.S., Congressman Henry Dawes of Massachusetts sponsored legislation aimed at assimilating Native Americans and the break-up of tribes. Tribal lands were taken and family heads were given plots of grazing or farmland. Any additional land was opened up to white settlers. In the end, the Dawes Act was responsible for the loss of two-thirds of the 150 million acres previously under control of Native Americans. 

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