U.S. Historical Timeline

1492
In August, Christopher Columbus begins a voyage under the Spanish flag to find a westward passage to the Indies. In October land is sighted in the Bahamas. This begins the period of colonization of the New World by the Spanish.
 
1497
John Giovanni Cabot sailing under the English flag rediscovers the North American coast landing at New Foundland.
 
1513
Ponce de Leon explores the coast of Florida looking for the Fountain of Youth sites land near St. Augustine. Claiming the land for Spain he names it La Florida after the Easter season Festival of Flowers.
 
1524
Giovanni da Verrazano enters New York harbor during a French expedition from the Carolinas to Nova Scotia.
 
1540
Exploration of the southwest and western United States to California by European expeditions begins when Fernando Vasquez de Coronado departs Compostela, in present-day Mexico, looking to conquer the Seven Cities of Gold. The two-year expedition took him into the lands of the United States, into New Mexico, and to the Grand Canyon.
 
1585
Roanoke Island colony is founded by an expedition organized by Sir Walter Raleigh (Raleigh never visited North America himself) during his attempt to colonize the area of Virginia and North Carolina. The colony fails.
 
1590
John White's return trip to the Roanoke Island Colony finds no signs of the colonists, beyond the words CROATOAN and CRO carved into tree trunks. The fate of its people is unknown to this date, and is often referred to as the "Lost Colony of Roanoke Island."
 
1607
The three ships land in Jamestown, establishing the first English settlement in the United States. There are 103 settlers among them. Upon arrival, Captain John Smith is named to the governing council.
 
1609
Henry Hudson, working for the Dutch, sails into New York harbor and up the river that would bear his name to Albany.
 
1614
The history of Jamestown continues with the marriage of Pocahontas to John Rolfe, who would bring tobacco seeds to the colony and begin its harvesting this year. Their marriage led to eight years of peace among the colonists and Indians.
 
1618-1619
The smallpox epidemic wipes out 90% of the Native Americans in the Massachusetts Bay area.
 
1619
First representative assembly, the House of Burgesses, held in America is elected in Jamestown. The next month, the Dutch land with indentured servants in Jamestown.
 
1620
The Puritan expedition which left England for the New World on September 6, reaches Cape Cod near Provincetown, not their original destination of Virginia. They explore the coastline for an appropriate settlement location. A landing party searches the coast for a suitable site for a settlement and start to move the entire party to Plymouth Harbor. Plymouth Rock was identified as the first solid land the Pilgrims set foot on. The Puritans begin to establish a settlement in Plymouth. They form the Mayflower Compact, which established a government and legal structure. During the next winter, half of the colonists would perish. The site of the settlement had previously been the location of an Indian village that had been wiped out in 1617 by a plague.
 
1626
Peter Minuit, one of eight men left by Dutch explorers headed for the Albany area from the ship New Netherland on Manhattan Island, buys the island from the Man-a-hat-a Indians for $24 in trinkets.
 
1634
Maryland is founded as a Catholic colony promoting religious tolerance. The subsequent state is named for Queen Henrietta Maria, wife of England's Charles I.
 
1636
Providence, Rhode Island is founded as a colony by Roger Williams. Its charter would be granted eight years later as a democratic colony believing in the separation of church and state.
 
1641
Witchcraft is made a capital crime in English law.
The Massachusetts colony becomes the first colony to legalize slavery.
 
1650
Slavery is legalized in Connecticut and recognized in the American colonies.
 
1652
Rhode Island passes the first law in the American colonies restricting slavery, making it illegal for more than ten years.
 
1654
Jewish settlement in the American colonies begins with the arrival of twenty-three settlers from Brazil in New Amsterdam.
 
1683
The colony of Pennsylvania is established when William Penn signs a treaty with the Delaware Indians and pays for Pennsylvania lands.
 
1691
The Plymouth colony, which had remained independent since its founding in 1620, joins the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
 
1692-1693
The Salem witch hunts, spurred by preaching, results in the arrest of one hundred and fifty people and the death of nineteen. These trials were held in Essex, Suffolk, and Middlesex counties.
 
1716
The first theater in the colonies opens for business in Williamsburg, Virginia.
 
1732
Poor Richard's Almanac is published for the first of its twenty-six annual editions by Benjamin Franklin in Philadelphia.
 
1740
Alaska is reached by Captain Vitas Bering under the employment of the Russians.
 
1752
Benjamin Franklin invents the lightning rod earlier in the year proving that lightning was electricity by flying a kite in a thunderstorm.
 
1754
George Washington and his troops attack Fort Duquesne, an initial action of the French and Indian War between the English and French which began when French forces built and occupied Fort Duquesne in Pittsburgh and did not heed warnings to leave Virginia territory.
 
Battle of Fort Necessity occurs in southeast Pennsylvania in a small fort built for supplies. That battle of the French and Indian War ends in a truce.
 
1762
France cedes Louisiana to Spain.
 
1763
French and Indian War ends with a peace treaty that cedes Canada and the American midwest to the English.
 
1764
The Sugar Act places a duty on various commodities, including lumber, food, molasses, and rum in the British colonies.
 
1766
Stamp Act is repealed.
 
1770
The Boston Massacre (drawing below) occurs when British troops fire into a Boston mob, who were demonstrating against British troops at the customs commission.
 
1773
The Boston Tea Party caused Parliament to close the port of Boston and pushed the American colonies one step closer to war.
 
1775-1783
American Revolution.
 
1776
The United States declares its Independence from Great Britain.
 
1789
George Washington becomes the first U.S. President.
 
1790
First U.S. Census.
 
1791
Bill of Rights is ratified.
 
1796
A trail through Allegheny Mountains at Cumberland Gap widened to enable Conestoga wagons to travel on it. This would become the Wilderness Road.
 
1803
Louisiana Territory is purchased from France
 
1804-1805
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark explore the Louisiana Territory.
 
1806
Congress authorizes the construction of a federal financed paved road, which would become known as the National Road (today is known as U.S. 40/Interstate 70).
 
1812
The U.S. declares war on Great Britain.
 
1812-1815
War of 1812
 
1814
British capture and burn Washington D.C.
 
1815
War of 1812 ends with the Treaty of Ghent.  A wave of immigration begins.
 
1817-1898
Indian Wars
 
1825
Erie Canal opens.
 
1830
Indian Removal Act grants authority to move Eastern Indians to Western lands.
 
1845
Beginning this year and for the next several years, over one million Irish immigrants arrived in America.
 
1846
U.S. declares war on Mexico.
 
1848
U.S. Mexico War ends; Mexico cedes claims to Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Nevada.
 
1849
California Gold Rush begins.
 
1861-1865
U. S. Civil War.
 
1867
The U.S. purchases the Alaska Territory from Russia for $7.2 million.
 
1869
 
Suez Canal opens in Egypt linking the Mediterranean and Red seas.
1898
 
The U.S. declares war on Spain in April. 
 
Both countries sign an armistice, ending the Spanish-American War in August.
 
United States and Spain sign the Treaty of Paris 1898, officially ending the Spanish-American War.
 
1898-1902
Spanish-American War
 
1914
 
Principe assassinates Archduke Ferdinand of the Ottoman Empire in June.
 
World War I begins as the Ottoman Empire declares war on Bosnia in July.
 
Panama Canal opens in August.
 
1915
British liner Lusitanian sunk by German U-Boats, killing 128 American passengers.
 
Girl Scouts established in June.
 
1916
Boy Scouts established in May.
 
The U.S. National Park Service established in August.
 
1917-1918
World War I
 
1917
The U.S. enters World War I on the side of the Allies in April.
 
1918
Allied and Central Powers sign an armistice, ending World War I in November.
 
1919
Treaty of Versailles signed, ending World War I in June.
 
1929
New York Stock Market crashes to an all-time low (referred to as "Black Tuesday"), signaling the start of the Great Depression in October.
 
1939
Germany invades Poland; then France and Great Britain declare war on Germany in September; then Germany and the Soviet Union sign the Warsaw pact, keeping the Soviet Union out of World War II.
 
1940
British evacuate over 300,000 soldiers from Dunkirk, France back across the English Channel and France surrenders to Germany in June.
 
1941
Germany invades the Soviet Union in June.
 
In December, the Japanese forces attack the United States naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; the U.S. declares war on Japan; Germany and Italy declare war on the U.S.
 
1941-1945
World War II
 
1944
Allied forces invade Normandy (referred to as "D-Day") on June 6; a German surprise attack begins the Battle of the Bulge followed by Allied forces pushing the German troops past the German border in December.
 
1945
In August, the U.S. drops the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan, followed by the second on Nagasaki, Japan.
 
In September, Japan unconditionally surrenders to the United States, ending World War II.
 
1946
Winston Churchill proclaims "an iron curtain has swept across the continent (Europe)," beginning the Cold War in October.
 
1947
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) established by Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Great Britain, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, and the United States in April.
 
1950
The Korean War officially starts as North Korea invades South Korea.
 
1950-1953
The Korean Conflict
 
1952
The U.S. detonates the first thermonuclear device in November.
 
1964
Segregation abolished in the United States in July.
 
The U.S. begins military presence in Vietnam in August.
 
1964-1975
Vietnam War
 
1969
American astronaut Neil Armstrong is the 1st human to walk on the Moon in July.
 
1970
The U.S. begins withdrawing troops from Vietnam.
 
1973
The U.S. and Vietnam sign a peace treaty, ending the Vietnam War in January; by March, the last of American forces leave Vietnam.
 
1990-1991
Desert Shield/Desert Storm
 
1992
The U.S. and Russia sign a treaty officially ending the Cold War.
 
1999
Panama gains control of the Panama Canal from the United States.
 
2001
On September 11, Al Qaeda terrorists crash three planes into the New York's World Trade Center and the U.S. Pentagon. Heroic passengers on fourth plane, United Flight 93, foil hijackers and plane.
 
2002
On October 11, 2002, the U.S. Congress passes the Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq.
 
2003
Missile attacks on Baghdad mark the start of a U. S.-led campaign to topple the Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. U. S. forces advance into central Baghdad in early April.
 
The National Human Genome Research Institute announces the successful completion of the Human Genome Project.
 
2005
In August, hundreds of people are killed when Hurricane Katrina, the most destructive storm to hit the U. S. in decades, sweeps through gulf coast states. Much of the city of New Orleans is submerged by floodwaters.
 
2008
Democratic Senator Barack Obama becomes the first black president of the United States.
 
2011
U. S. forces kill Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in an operation in the Pakistani city of Abbottabad in May.
 
The final Space Shuttle mission is completed with the landing of Atlantis on July 21, bringing about the end of the 30-year program.