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  
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 Purtitans begin to establish 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. 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 after 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 peace treaty that cedes Canada and the American midwest to 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   United States declares its Independence from Great Britain.
1789   George Washington becomes first U.S. President.
1790   First U.S. Census.
1791   Bill of Rights is ratified.
1796   Trail through Allegheny Mountains at Cumberland Gap wdened 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 known as U.S. 40/Interstate 70).
1812   U.S. declares war on Great Britain  
1814   British capture and burn Washington D.C
1815   War of 1812 ens with the Treaty of Ghent. A wave of immigration begins.
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.