The 1880’s is often a neglected decade in the study of American history. Lying between Reconstruction and “The Gay Nineties”, it is largely ignored by historians. There were no big wars, and no serious financial depressions; yet, during this 10-year period, there were many significant beginnings and endings. There was a unique financial problem in the federal government, and there were a host of personalities who are still famous today.
In 1889, four states joined the Union (North & South Dakota, Montana, and Washington), and the population increased 13 million to a total of 63 million. It was the height of the Victorian Age (named after Queen Victoria of England). It was a time of sentimental songs and “gingerbread” architecture… a time when small boys were dressed in Little Lord Fauntleroy outfits, women wore corsets and bustles, and boxers and baseball players didn’t wear gloves. Doctors ran the local drugstore, teachers received a 25-cent/week raise after teaching 5 years, and there was no personal income tax. Railroads were moving into their glory years, steamboats were on the decline, and city transportation consisted mostly of trolley cars and bicycles.
In the 1880’s the great cattle drives from Texas were dying out, buffalo were being killed to the point of extinction, and the remaining Indian nations were once again “resettled” into smaller reservations. The Civil Rights Act of 1875, which had previously guaranteed Negroes equal accommodations in public facilities, was declared unconstitutional.
Immigrants from Europe were flooding into the country, unions were organizing to fight low wages and unsafe working conditions, and people were moving from farms to cities, building the urban base that was to become 20th-Century America.
Standard Oil Co. controlled 90% of the nation’s oil business. By 1889, four railroads had been built to the west coast (meaning one could travel coast to coast in 7 days). Women could vote in some states, but not in national elections. The following magazines began publishing in the 1880’s: National Geographic, Popular Science, Cosmopolitan, McCalls, Ladies Home Journal, and Good Housekeeping.
Most schools consisted of 1 or 2 rooms. In rural areas, classes were held for about 5 months each year, 6 days a week, 10 hours a day. Colleges were not co-ed. There were no medical schools; doctors learned from on the job training. Postage was reduced from 3 cents to 2 cents. The most popular novel was Ben Hur.
1880: Salvation Army was established in America; James Garfield was elected President; Electric street lamps were introduced in Wabash, IN.
1881: A famous Gunfight was held at the O.K. Corral; The American Red Cross was Founded; President Garfield was assassinated; Chester A. Arthur became President; Sitting Bull surrendered; Billy the Kid was killed.
1882: Jesse James was killed; The Knights of Columbus was established; Congress passed an Immigration Act that established a 50-cent head tax on each immigrant.
1883: The Brooklyn Bridge was completed; The US was divided into 4 time zones.
1884: Grover Cleveland was elected President; Baseball pitchers were now allowed to throw overhand; Mark Twain completed “Huckleberry Finn”.
1885: The Washington Monument was complete; Low-wheeled bicycles were introduced; Electric trolley cars were introduced.
1886: The Statue of Liberty was dedicated; Richard Sears published his first mail order catalog; Geronimo was captured; the A.F. of L was founded.
1887: The Surplus in the US Treasury reached $100 million; the Interstate Commerce Act passed.
1888: Benjamin Harrison was elected President; the Catcher’s mitt was introduced; Casey at the Bat was written; George Eastman introduced the “Kodak” camera.
1889: The Johnstown Flood happened; John L. Sullivan won the last bare-knuckle championship; the Oklahoma Land Rush occurred; Edison put motion pictures on film.
By 1890: The frontier was “officially” closed.
But, there were also many great hymns written in the 1880s. Check out these hymns … just a few of those written. One of the hymns written in the 1880s is usually picked in most people’s Top 3 Favorite Hymns (I’ll let you decide which one that is)! Maybe your favorite was one of those new songs written in the 1880s…
1880: Softly and Tenderly Jesus Is Calling; Tell Me the Story of Jesus
1881: Ye Must be Born Again; Sunshine in My Soul
1882: Jesus Is Tenderly Calling; O Love That Will Not Let Me Go;
‘Tis So Sweet to Trust in Jesus; Faith Is the Victory; Take Time to Be Holy;
1883: There Shall Be Showers of Blessing; I Know Whom I Have Believed;
My Faith Looks Up to Thee
1885: How Great Thou Art ; The Unclouded Day; At the Cross
1886: Standing on the Promises; Higher Ground; I Will Sing the Wondrous Story;
Holy Spirit, Breathe on Me
1887: Leaning on the Everlasting Arms; Trust and Obey; Lead On, O King Eternal;
More about Jesus; I’ve a Message from the Lord
1888: O the Deep, Deep Love of Jesus