Timeline of World Events
Lincoln presidency, Civil War starts
Only days after Lincoln becomes president, seven states break from the union to form the Confederate States of America. The remaining states fight the seceding states over re-uniting the country.
Civil War ends, Secret Service
On April 9, Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee meet at the Appomattox Court House in Virginia. Grant requires only that the Confederate soldiers lay down their arms—ending the war. The U.S. Department of Treasury creates the Secret Service in 1865 to eliminate counterfeit money. An estimated one-third of all currency in circulation is fake.
U.S. adopts Gold Standard
The Gold Standard backs U.S. dollars with gold—fixing the exchange rate in relation to how much gold each bill can buy. People can cash-in their money for gold.
First Impressionist exhibit
Impressionism is a major movement in painting during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The style marks a revolution in the visual representation of light by breaking it down into small strokes of unmixed primary colors.
Civil Rights Act
The Civil Rights Act of 1875 states that no citizen can be denied equal use of public facilities. When Congress passes the act, many southern whites are still bitter about the Civil War and end of slavery. Not only is the act rarely enforced, it will be declared unconstitutional with the Civil Rights Cases of 1883.
Alexander Graham Bell invents the telephone after studying acoustics—hearing and sound—for deaf education. By 1900, there will be almost 800,000 telephones in the U.S.
Light bulb invented
Many people had tried to produce light by passing electricity through a filament, or single thread, in a vacuum, a space empty of air. The filaments of early light bulbs quickly burnt out until 1879, when Thomas Edison tries using a carbonized thread that glows for up to 170 hours.
The U.S. fights the Spanish-American War to stop Spanish control of Cuba. On April 20, 1898, Congress declares war. The U.S. achieves a swift and total victory due mainly to the weakness of Spanish forces.
In 1909 the first penny inscribed with the profile of President Abraham Lincoln is issued to commemorate his 100th birthday.
16th amendment, Federal Reserve Act
The 16th Amendment gives Congress the authority to collect taxes on any income. The Federal Reserve Act creates a system to regulate the flow of money. The Federal Reserve System (the nation's central bank) has the authority to issue Federal Reserve Notes—the only currency produced in the U.S.
Federal Trade Commission
Congress establishes the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to replace the Bureau of Corporations. The FTC enforces laws designed to protect consumers, maintains a competitive market, and assists lawmakers with decisions.
World War I start
The U.S. enters the war after President Woodrow Wilson attempts to make peace between both sides. Despite Wilson's efforts, Germany pledges to unleash its submarines against all allied ships.
World War I end
Terms of peace are spelled out during the Paris Peace Conference. The victors force Germany to agree to pay for all damage to civilian properties and other indirect war costs. Europe is divided up between the winners. The treaty leaves more Europeans living on foreign soil than in any earlier historic period.
The passage of the 18th amendment tips-off an era known as"Prohibition." The 18th amendment prohibits the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages. Engaging in these activities illegally becomes commonplace.
The 19th amendment gives women the right to vote.
Scopes Monkey Trial
In 1925, Tennessee passes a law forbidding teachers from expressing any theory that denies"divine creation." John T. Scopes, a young biology teacher in Dayton, Tenn., gets arrested for teaching his students that humans and other primates, including monkeys, derive from a common ancestor. Ultimately Scopes is fined $100.
On Oct. 29, 1929 more than 16 million shares of stock sell causing prices to plummet. It's a record-breaking drop.
Economic imbalances caused by World War I begin to take a toll on the world-wide economy. In the U.S. too much wealth falls into too few hands. More than 1,000 banks collapse in 1930. In the next two years, 3,700 banks will collapse, causing depositors to lose their money.
Washington/American Eagle quarter
In 1932, the U.S. discontinues its old "Miss Liberty" quarter design and mints the first quarters with a portrait of President George Washington on one side and the American Eagle on the other.
21st Amendment, FDIC created, Gold Standard ends
In February Congress submits the 21st Amendment, which ends Prohibition. By the end of the year a majority of state legislators ratify it. In April Congress establishes the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC) to guarantee that citizens' money in banks will be paid back to them if the bank collapses. President Franklin D. Roosevelt also takes the U.S. off the gold standard that month—causing the U.S. dollar's value to fall. Roosevelt hopes this will help the U.S. sell more goods in other countries and help lift the U.S. out of its economic slump.
Gold Reserve Act
The U.S. government began buying gold on the open market in an attempt to increase the price by increasing demand. When this fails, Congress passes the Gold Reserve Act, which sets the price of gold at $35 an ounce—a 40% increase.
Fair Labor Standards Act, Jefferson nickel
This act creates the first minimum wage, 25 cents an hour, and a maximum work week of 44 hours. It establishes standards for overtime pay and outlaws the sale of items produced by children in state-to-state commerce. The five-cent nickel, featuring President Thomas Jefferson's portrait, is introduced.
World War II begins
On Sept. 1, Adolph Hitler's troops invade Poland, causing U.S. allies Great Britain and France to declare war on Germany. Two years later the U.S. will declare war on Japan and Germany will declare war on the U.S.
World War II ends
On May 8 Germany surrenders after its resources are exhausted and Adolph Hitler takes his own life. On Aug. 15, Japan surrenders after the U.S. drops atomic bombs on both Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Baby Boom begins
In this year alone, more than 10% of all single females age 14 and older get married. The birth rate increases from 20 babies per 1,000 people to 25 per 1,000—and remains there until 1956.
North Atlantic Treaty
The U.S., Great Britain, France, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Denmark, Norway, Portugal, Iceland, and Canada agree that an attack against one of them is an attack against all. They form the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).
Korean War begins, first credit card
Following World War II, Korea was divided at the 38th parallel with the north side backed by the communist Soviet Union and the south backed by the United Nations. In June, North Korea crosses the line and invades South Korea, prompting President Harry S. Truman to send U.S. forces to South Korea to keep communism out. Also that year, Diners Club issues the very first credit card. Card holders can charge meals at 27 different restaurants in New York.
Korean War ends
By 1951, North Korea had engaged in peace talks with the U.S. Many interruptions caused talks to drag on for two years until the war ends in 1953.
In God We Trust
The U.S. Department of Treasury's Bureau of Engraving and Printing begins printing the inscription"In God We Trust" on all U.S. currency.
First bank credit card
Bank of America issues the first bank credit card, called BankAmericard. That credit card is now called Visa.
Civil Rights Act, Vietnam war begins
This Civil Rights Act makes racial segregation illegal, removes obstacles blocking southern blacks from voting, and outlaws employer discrimination against blacks and women. Later that year North Vietnamese gunboats fire on Americans in the Gulf of Tonkin. President Lyndon B. Johnson demands authorization from Congress to prevent further attacks. Without ever declaring war, this gives the U.S. the ability to continue sending troops to Vietnam—in an attempt to keep communism from spreading from North Vietnam to South Vietnam.
Chemical Bank installs the first ATM in its Rockville Centre, N.Y., branch. A user inserts a card and receives a package with a set amount of cash.
Price freeze ordered
The major economic challenge President Richard M. Nixon faces is rapid inflation resulting from heavy military expenditures during the Vietnam war. In 1971 Nixon orders a price and wage freeze because inflation reached 5%. He then establishes a commission with the ability to regulate price and wage increases once the freeze ends. It only slows inflation, but does not stop it.
U.S. pulls troops out of Vietnam, smart card invented
In January 1973, the U.S. reaches an agreement with North Vietnam to end U.S. involvement in the war. The North Vietnamese keep large portions of South Vietnam if they release American prisoners of war. The war continues between North and South Vietnam. Roland Marino, a Frenchman, develops the smart card in 1973, but the cards will not be issued until 1981 by the French telephone system.
Inflation reaches the double digits at this point, hurting the poor and retired the worst. Others begin to buy unnecessary things because the rate of saving money is less than the rate of inflation. That means people lose money by saving it because the longer it sits idle, the less it can purchase.
By December the U.S. is in a full-scale recession. Unemployment reaches 10%.
Federal deficit peak
In 1983, the federal deficit balloons to $195 billion, more than double the $59 billion of three years earlier.
Security thread and microprinting are added to the 1990 Series $100, $50, and $20 bills. These features make currency more difficult to copy.
Persian Gulf War
Iraq invades Kuwait and refuses to remove its troops. U.S. and its ally countries set a deadline for Iraqi withdrawal, but Iraq fails to comply. The U.S. and its allies consequently use force to drive Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.
"New" $100 bills
The redesigned $100 bills are introduced. They include a whole new set of counterfeit protections.
"New" $50 bills
The new $50 bills are the first notes to have a large, dark number on a light background—to help people with poor eyesight determine the bill's denomination.
"New" $20 bills, 50 State Quarter Program Act, budget surplus
Redesigned $20 bills are introduced. They include the same security features of the $100 and $50 bills. The State Quarter Program Act establishes a program whereby five new commemorative state quarters will be released each year for 10 years. The designs incorporate each state's unique history. At the end of fiscal year 1998 the U.S. government reports a budget surplus of $70 billion. It is the first federal surplus in three decades and the largest ever.