The year was 1849 and in the United States rumblings of the Civil War were becoming louder. The year began with James Knox Polk as president, and on March 5, Zachary Taylor, often called â€œOld Rough and Ready,â€ took the oath of office. A popular war hero, he would have little time to make an impact because of his sudden death in July of 1850.
Americans were flocking to the gold fields of California.Â Click on the newspaper image on the right to read a letter from California thatÂ wasÂ printed in the Alton Telegraph And Democratic Review (Alton, Illinois)Â on 01 June 1849.
In the upper Midwest, Minnesota became a United States territory. It encompassed 166,000 square miles of land that was originally part of the Iowa and Wisconsin Territories. This included the current area of Minnesota, as well as some of the Dakotas.
Although Elizabeth Blackwell made history that year as the first woman to receive a medical degree, she would have to overcome more obstacles when setting up her practice.
1849 had its share of disasters. On the plantation of Pierre SauvÃ© on May 3, a levee failed and the city of New Orleans was flooded, displacing more than 12,000 people.
Further north, in St. Louis, other elements were at play. An epidemic of Asiatic cholera claimed over 4,000 lives. In the same city, on May 17, a steamer named The White Cloud caught fire. The ship burnt through its moorings and drifted downriver, setting twenty-two more steamboats alight, and the fire moved onto land, burning fifteen city blocks.
(More on the St. Louis disasters can be found in the Family and Local History Collection at Ancestry.com, in the Annals of St. Louis, and a Brief Account of Its Foundation and Progress, 1764-1928).
In Ireland, the potato famine continued after the blight struck again resulting in a total crop failure in 1848. A cholera epidemic added more misery to a country already ravaged by deaths, starvation, evictions, and mass emigration brought on by the famine.
Following a year of upheaval in Europe, the Hungarian Revolution of 1848-49, led by Lajos Kossuth, was suppressed by Austrian forces.Â Italians seeking unification saw a similar fate under the leadership of Giuseppe Garibaldi.Â
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