Where Were You in 1855?

September 16, 2010


Yes, this is my house! Photo taken in 1910.

Well, that IS a silly question. It’s a take-off on that old phrase from American Graffiti (what a stupid movie, by the way), “Where were you in ’62?”

1855 was the year my house was built. 😀 I have done extensive research on the property as well as the architectural style, because I am terribly curious like that. If you are curious, too, you can read about it here. But this post is not about my home’s history. It’s about what happened IN history. That year. 1855. Because it seems like a million miles away–a long time ago in a galaxy fa—

Er, never mind.

I’m reading this book on Queen Victoria. I love biographies, and I have read several on Victoria already. I’m up to the point in the book where it’s just about the time my house was built, when Victorian England was beginning to bloom. It seems like eons ago, eons. It was *only* 150+ years ago now. In the scope of time, that’s just a vapor. But the world was so different back then!

So WHAT happened in 1855? What was the world like?! Here’s what I discovered!

  • Congress approves $30,000 to test camels for military use. Not the first nor the last of Congress’ goofy ideas…
  • Later, Congress would declare all-out war against a camel named Joe...

  • Abraham Gesner patents kerosene.
  • 1st train crosses 1st US railway suspension bridge, Niagara Falls. Yaaaah, I wonder who were the first brave souls who rode the first train over that bridge!
  • Soldiers of the Royal Canadian Rifles at the Tête du Pont barracks clear ice from Lake Ontario and use field hockey sticks and lacrosse balls to play what is reputed to be the first game of ice hockey. Cool!
  • Wisconsin Supreme Court declares US Fugitive Slave Law unconstitutional.
  • Isaac Singer patents sewing machine motor. Woohoo! Shouts of joy from women around the globe on this one.
  • My mom had one of these. She said it was far better than any of the newer electric models.

  • The first bridge over the Mississippi River opens in what is now Minneapolis, Minnesota (a crossing made today by the Father Louis Hennepin Bridge).
  • New Zealand is hit by the strongest earthquake ever recorded in New Zealand (Magnitude 8.1 on the Richter Scale); five people died.
  • David Livingstone becomes the first European to see Victoria Falls in what is now present-day Zambia-Zimbabwe. Neat! Livingstone was a great missionary to Africa, and loved the people very much. An interesting note about Livingstone is that, after his death, his body was buried in his native Scotland, but his heart was buried in Africa.
  • David Livingstone won the hearts of Africans when he fearlessly battled an attacking lion.

  • Alexander II of Russia ascends the Russian throne, upon the death of his father Nicholas I.
  • Ottawa, Ontario is incorporated as a city. I had no idea Ottawa was so young!
  • In Brooklyn, New York, the first edition of Walt Whitman’s book of poems, titled Leaves of Grass, is published.
  • Castle Clinton in NYC opens as the first U.S. receiving station for immigrants.
  • Crimean War in Europe was in its second year. I know a lot about history, but I have no idea about what this was about!
  • Charlotte Bronte was a preacher's daughter.

  • John Bartlett publishes “Familiar Quotations.” Now I know why there are no movie quotes in it.
  • Charlotte Brontë, at the age of 38. She authored Jane Eyre.

So it was an “OK” year. And it was the year that my home was built, by a man for his young bride. Unfortunately, they never had children, so the big bedrooms remained empty, and the wife died about 20 years later. When was your house built?

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4 Responses to “Where Were You in 1855?”

  1. Miss Szymanski Says:

    Hey, that’s pretty cool. I remember learning some of that stuff in history! 😉 I’ll have to look up the Crimean War, though; I remember the name, but I’m terrible about remembering what happened in which war… it just never was my strong point. :p

  2. Secondary Roads Says:

    In 1855 my second great grandfather had been living in Michigan for four years. He had moved here from western New York.

    This house was built in 1993 on a factory floor in Indiana. It was installed here in Michigan that summer.

  3. Carole Says:

    Wow, fun post! I would have far less interesting things to post as this house was built in 2002. What is pretty cool though is that we took pictures all the way through the construction process, so it’s kind of neat to look back at those. Someday when we move, we’ll have to make copies of some of the pictures and tuck them in a wall or something for someone else who wonders about the house…

  4. NYCO Says:

    In 1855, my great-great-great-great-grandfather was farming in Nelson (Madison County).

    My house was built in 1953.