The Year Was 1880

The year was 1880 and it was known as “The Gilded Age”–a post-Civil War era of industrialization and economic growth. Railroads continued to grow and the oil industry was still young. Methods for refining oil to produce kerosene helped drop the price of the fuel. Kerosene was used in lamps to light homes, and oil was used as a lubricant for machinery, important in this age of industrialization. John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Company controlled 90 percent of the oil market in 1880 and his control over all aspects of extraction, production, and transportation of the product was the start of an era of “trusts.”

The rise of oil weakened the whaling industry. Prior to the use of kerosene, whale oil had been used in lamps, but it was expensive because of a shortage due to overfishing. With the price of kerosene dropping, the need for whale oil for fuel was all but eliminated.

In 1880, the town of Wabash, Indiana, found a new way to light its streets when it had the first electric streetlight installed. Another first for electricity also occurred in 1880 as Thomas Edison developed the first electric railway in Menlo Park, New Jersey.

Temperance reformers made progress in 1880 with the passing of legislation in Kansas prohibiting the manufacture and sale of alcohol except for medicinal purposes (a loophole which was widely used).

In Canada, women scored a victory when Dr. Emily Stowe became the first woman to be given a license to practice medicine in Canada.

Britain was involved in several conflicts in 1880. While the Battle of Kabul signaled the end of the second Anglo-Afghan War on 1 September, December marked the beginning of the first Boer War, pitting the British against the Boers, or “Afrikaners.”

The U.S. saw several natural disasters in 1880. On 12 October, a hurricane struck Brownsville, Texas, causing extensive damage and taking numerous lives.

In Missouri, disaster came in the form of a tornado outbreak that killed 152 people in southwestern and central parts of the state. Particularly hard hit was the town of Marshfield in Webster County.

The winter that year is noted for the “Blizzard of 1880.” The snows began in October and continued throughout the winter. Laura Ingalls Wilder made the storms the subject of her book, “The Long Winter.” 

8 thoughts on “The Year Was 1880

  1. These general reviews by year are excellent to help “set” your genealogy. Next step is the state and local history and or newspaper to understand what was happening in a specific community.
    Can’t wait to see more early newspapers on line!
    Keep up the great work!

  2. The year in 1880 is also seen as a turning-point in US power-broking in the world. By 1880, USA had become the greatest power house of industrial output. This had exceeded Great Britain and already its great rival in Europe was the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm I. By the Panic of 1870 Britain had relinquished its role as leader of world production when the Argriculrural depression caused widespread disillusionment in the predominantly rural parts of Britain; the Government coming to the realisation that imported food must come from American wheat grown in the “bread basket” of the world on the Plains of the mid-west. During 1870’s Britain relinqusihed its leadership in purely industrial terms to a fast expanding USA. (see: statistics of UK Government, Dept. ONS, part of the Treasury, published as the ‘Blue Books’).

  3. Outlook Express does not give me the option to print only the portion of The Year Was… without the comments or the sidebar. I used to be able to do this by clicking at the bottom of the article but that is no longer included. Was this intentional?
    I don’t feel the need for the archives list and blogroll every time I print “The Year Was…” and I’m using more paper and ink than I wish. Is there a way around this?

  4. Yes there is a away around this. Double click on the “Ancestry Weekly Journal” e-mail title, in your Inbox (not the e-mail itself). A new screen will pop up in which you can select what you want printed…click, “file” “print” and then you should be able to click “selection” to print what you want. The trick is to double click first on the e-mail notification in the inbox section. It took me a while to figure this out but it works. Hope I’ve explained this OK. Mary V

  5. Edna, you can highlight the article and print only that. I like to print the comments as well, so I always click on “print or add comments”, then highlight the article and the comments and print the highlighted part of the page. Try doing that next time to see if it works for you. Good luck!

  6. I think these articles are absolutley wonderfull in helping to really set the stage for reviwing the lives of our ancestors. I hope that this type of article continues for other dates as well.

  7. Pingback: The Year Was 1880…. « Sarah’s Notebook

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