The Year Was 1884

Washington Monument, Washington, D.C.The year was 1884 and it was an election year. The candidates’ campaigns were both marred by scandal. The Democratic candidate Grover Cleveland, who had been governor of New York, was reported to have had an illegitimate son with a young widow. Rather than deny the charges, Cleveland stepped up, admitted the affair, and took responsibility. This diffused the situation and eyes turned to his Republican opponent, James Blaine, who was accused of taking bribes from a railroad in exchange for a land grant. Cleveland won the election by a narrow margin and began the first of two non-successive terms.

The women’s suffrage movement was gaining momentum and on 8 March, Susan B. Anthony petitioned Congress for women’s right to vote. A suffragist who devoted much of her life to the cause, Ms. Anthony died in 1906, fourteen years before the amendment, nicknamed in her honor the “Anthony Amendment,” would be ratified in August of 1920.

In England, it was the vote of working class males in rural areas that was at stake. William Gladstone negotiated the 1884 Reform Act, which would enfranchise more than 6 million men.

1884 was a year of important monuments in the U.S. It marked the completion of the Washington Monument. It was also the year that the Statue of Liberty was presented to the United States and its cornerstone laid.

Progress was also made in an area near and dear to the family historian’s heart–photography. In 1884, George Eastman was granted a patent for photographic film. Through his efforts to make photography available to the mainstream, he created photographic film with 100 exposures, which could be distributed in a hand-held camera box and then sent in for developing, reloaded, and sent back to the consumer for more photographs. The “Kodak” camera, introduced in 1888, sold for $25.

For “storm chasers,” 1884 brought tornados into focus as the first funnel cloud was reportedly captured on film in the Dakota Territory.  It also was the year of an unprecedented outbreak of tornados in the Southeast that is frequently referred to as the “Enigma Outbreak.” More than sixty tornados swept southeastern states, with casualty estimates ranging from anywhere between 150 and 2,000.

A 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck the area southeast of Colchester, England. It was felt as far away as Belgium and France, and it destroyed several villages.

Across the pond, an earthquake centered in Jamaica Bay also rattled windows, knocked down chimneys, and caused damage in New York City and the surrounding area. Its effects were felt from Maine to Virginia and west to Ohio.

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7 thoughts on “The Year Was 1884

  1. My great-grandparents were married in 1884. This article truly puts their time and influences in perspective. Thanks.

  2. A great article to add to my family history. My maternal grandfather was born in 1884, in Charleston, SC. It is nice to know what other world events happened that year.

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