Chronology of events

These are events that have affected railroading, financing, and the issuance and trading of securities. Please contact me with additional events you think should be included. Also, please alert me to any errors you find, no matter how trivial.

Important rail and transportation-related events.
General monetary, financial, and market-related events.
Legal, regulatory, and industry decisions directly affecting railroads.
Other important national and international events



1792, Apr 2 The U.S. Congress passed the Mint Act which officially set the U.S. gold price at $19.39 per Troy ounce
1792, May 17 Twenty-four securities brokers agreed on rules and created first organized New York stock market
1804, Feb 22 First steam tramway (road, as opposed to railroad) locomotive built in Wales
1815, Feb 6 First North American railroad charter for Camden & Amboy
1815 Depression, 1815-1821, caused by pronounced inflation following War 0f 1812, encompassed Panic of 1819 with widespread bank failures
1817, Mar 8 New York Stock & Exchange Board organized; met under Buttonwood tree at 68 Wall Street
1819 Panic of 1819, often blamed on the Second Bank of the United States tightening credit, but probably the result of long-declining agricultural prices
1825, Sep 16 George Stephenson operated first steam railway locomotive (Blucher) for Stockton & Darlington Railway in County Durham (northeast England)
1826, Oct 7 First horse-powered railroad (3 miles long) completed in United States at Quincy, MA granite quarry
1827, Feb 28 Baltimore & Ohio Railroad chartered in Maryland
1827, May Mauch Chunk gravity railroad (9 miles long) built near Carbondale, PA
1828, Dec 22 Baltimore & Ohio completed first section of horse-drawn rail service
1829, Aug 8 Delaware & Hudson Canal Co ran first steam-powered locomotive 'Stourbridge Lion' near Carbondale, Pennsylvania
1830, Jun 1 Mohawk & Hudson became first railroad stock to be officially traded on NYS&E
1830, Aug 28 Peter Cooper operated 'Tom Thumb' - the first locomotive manufactured in the United Stares - on the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad
1830 John Stevens invented T-Rail
1831, Nov 21 Construction began on Staple Bend Tunnel, first railroad tunnel in U.S. near Mineral Point, Pennsylvania
1832, Nov 14 John Mason started first horse-drawn streetcar service along Bowery Street in New York
1833, Jun Staple Bend Tunnel completed as first railroad tunnel in U.S. (901 feet long = 0.17 mi)
1834, Jun 28 The U.S. Congress passed the Devaluation Act of 1834 which officially set the U.S. gold price at $20.69 per Troy ounce
1835 Samuel Morse created telegraph based on earlier technology by Joseph Henry, 1830
1836, Jul 21 First railroad in Canada opens - Champlain & St Lawrence
1837, May 10 Banks in New York City stopped payment in gold and silver, precipitating the Panic of 1837. Six-year depression follows
1837, Nov 19 First railroad built in Cuba opens for service (Compañía de Caminos de Hierro de la Habana)
1840 Depression, 1840-1843, period of massive foreclosures and serious deflation
1842 Brokers began trading stocks too small for listing on the New York Stock Exchange. Since they had no offices, and merely traded on Broad Street, they became known as 'Curbstone Brokers' and 'New York Curb Market.' This outdoors arrangement lasted until 1921.
1844, Mar 24 First message transmitted over telegraph line completed between Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
1846, Apr 13 Pennsylvania Railroad chartered
1846, Apr 25 Mexican-American War (Intervenión Estadunidense en México) declared by United States
1846, Aug 18 British government adopted 'standard gauge' of 4 ft 8-1/2 in, the same as the Stockton & Darlington road
1848, Jan 24 Gold discovered at Sutter's Mill in Coloma, California sets off California Gold Rush which lasts until about 1855
1848, Feb 2 Mexican-American War settled by Treaty of Guadalipe Hidalgo
1850, Sep 16 First railway in Mexico opened - 11 km between Veracruz and Molino
1850, Sep 20 President Millard Fillmore signed first Land Grant Act
1851, Jan 8 Construction began on Hoosac Tunnel at North Adams, Massachusetts
1851 First dispatch of trains by telegraph
1852, Feb 20 First rail connection between East Coast and Chicago
1854, Jul Stock market crash caused by discoveries of fraudulent stock issuances in New York & New Haven RR, Harlem Co, and Vermont Central Ry
1855, Jan 28 Panama Railroad completed across Isthmus of Panama
1856, Apr 21 Chicago Rock Island & Pacific train crossed first railroad bridge across Mississippi River between Rock Island, Illinois and Davenport, Iowa
1856, Sep 21 Illinois Central Railroad completed between Chicago and Cairo, IL
1857, Apr Severe Baltimore & Ohio Railroad labor strike resulted in several deaths
1857, Jun Panic of 1857, last until Dec 1858 and seriously disrupted European investment in U.S. railroads, serious effects in Midwest
1857, Aug 24 Failure of New York branch of Ohio Life Insurance & Trust Co precipitated the Panic of 1857
1857, Oct 14 Run on bank deposits forced suspension of withdrawals on Wall Street banks. Numerous bank failures
1857 St Louis connected by rail to East Coast
1858, Jul Gold discovered near future location of Denver, Colorado sets off 'Pikes Peak Gold Rush' (even though Pikes Peak is 85 miles to the south)
1861, Apr 12 Confederate forces fired on Fort Sumter, South Carolina, and precipitated the American Civil War
1861, Oct Overland Telegraph and Pacific Telegraph completed transcontinental telegraph system and quickly merged into Western Union.
1862, Jul 1 Congress passed Pacific Railway act which authorized construction of Transcontinental railroad. Act created Union Pacific Railroad Company
1863, Jan 10 First subway opened in London
1863, Jan 29 New York Stock & Exchange Board changed name to New York Stock Exchange
1864, Aug Gold hit $261.75
1864 George Pullman invented Pullman sleeping car
1865, Apr Recession, 1865-1867, deflationary period following the Civil War, even though there was substantial railroad investment
1865, May 26 Confederate Trans-Mississippi Department forces surrendered by signing military convention and essentially ending the Civil War
1865, Nov 6 Investors cornered Milwaukee & Prairie Du Chien Railway Co stock price driven from $40 to $210 and back to $110; many brokerages failed because of inability to cover short sales
1865, Dec 9 New York Stock Exchange occupied new building
1865, Dec 25 Giant Union stockyards opened in Chicago
1865 Smelters in Chicago milled first steel rails
1866, Apr Investors cornered Michigan Southern RR stock; price driven from $84 to $104 and back to $80 within 24 hours. Heavy speculation and 'corners' in Reading, Chicago & Rock Island, Hudson River, Cleveland & Pittsburg and Northwestern
1866, Aug 20 President Andrew Johnson issued proclamation that officially ended Civil War
1867, Nov 15 NYSE introduced stock tickers
1867, Dec 7 Charles T Harvey successfully demonstrated first cable-pulled elevated railway in New York
1868, Jan 16 William Davis patented refrigerator car
1868, Apr 20 New York legislature gave full control of Erie to Jay Gould and James Fisk; Commodore Vanderbilt defeated
1868, Jul Jay Gould became president of Erie Railway (the first Gould railroad)
1868, Jul 1 West Side Elevated opened between Cortlandt Street and Battery Place in New York
1869, Feb 1 New York Stock Exchange required shares of all listed companies to be officially registered (anti stock-watering decree)
1869, Apr 13 George Westinghouse received patent for automatic air brake
1869, May 8 Open Board of Brokers merged with New York Stock Exchange
1869, May 10 Union Pacific and Central Pacific drove 'Golden Spike' at Promontory Point, Utah and officially completed the transcontinental railroad
1869, Sep 24 Black Friday Panic precipitated by Jay Gould, James Fisk and Abel Corbin (the Gold Ring) to corner the gold market and drove gold to $162, stocks took serious hits and many brokerages failed
1871, Jan 17 Andrew Smith Hallidie patented first cable car
1871, Apr 20 First steam-powered elevated railway operation in New York City
1872, Jan 6 Edward Stokes murdered James Fisk in Grand Central Hotel, New York
1872, Mar 15 Jay Gould forced to resign from board of Erie; replaced by John Dix
1872, Aug 20 William Robinson received patent for closed track circuit signal system which allowed for automatic signaling
1872, Sep 4 New York Sun began exposing Credit Mobilier financing which resulted in huge railroad financing scandal
1872, Nov 20 Gould, Schell and Clark corner Erie stock and drive price from $83.75 on Nov 20 to $230 on Nov 23; prices quickly fell back to $85, seriously hurting Drew and Smith
1872 Vanderbilt interests acquired sufficient Union Pacific stock to install Horace Clark as president
1872 Canadian railroads converted lines to standard gauge of 4 ft 8-1/2 in
1873, Feb 12 The U.S. Congress passed the Coinage Act of 1873 which officially set the U.S. gold price at $20.67 per Troy ounce
1873, Apr 29 Eli H. Janney patented knuckle coupler
1873, Jun Jay Gould acquired first Union Pacific shares upon death of Horace Clark
1873, Aug 1 First cable car opened for operation in San Francisco
1873, Sep 18 Jay Cooke & Co failed due to inability of Northern Pacific to repay loans and Cooke's inability to sell securities in Europe
1873 Panic of 1873, ostensibly caused by depressed silver prices, speculation in Northern Pacific, failure of Jay Cooke & Co as well as European financial problems
1873, Sep 30 New York Stock Exchange reopened
1873, Oct Beginning of 'Long Depression' (aka 'Great Depression') that lasted until Mar, 1879, investment in railroads and mining hurt seriously
1873, Nov 26 Hoosac Tunnel completed (25,081 feet long = 4.75 mi, longest in North America until 1916 when exceeded by Connaught Tunnel)
1874 First commercial typewriters introduced
1874, Mar Jay Gould elected to Union Pacific board of directors
1874, Jul 4 Eads Bridge, first railroad bridge across Mississippi River below Missouri River, opened at St Louis
1877, Jan 4 Cornelius 'Commodore' Vanderbilt dies, leaving 95% of his estate to eldest son William Henry Vanderbilt
1877, Jul 14 Railroads decreased pay because of depression which resulted in strikes, labor unrest, and violence; labor unions increased power
1877, Sep 25 Patent filed for first modern stapler (important for the rise in pages of coupons fastened to bonds)
1878, Jan 28 First commercial telephone exchange
1879, Nov William Henry Vanderbilt sold 250,000 shares of New York Central & Hudson River at 120 per share to J.S. Morgan & Co
1880, Jan Jay Gould acquired Missouri Kansas & Texas stock and became president
1882, Mar 13 To counter reports of financial hardship, Gould displayed $53 million in stocks and offered to show an additional $30 million
1882, Mar 21 Chicago Stock Exchange organized
1883 First railway to operate with power supplied by overhead wire system created by Siemens & Halske put into service in Austria
1883, Aug 8 Southern Pacific and Atlantic & Pacific railroads completed line from New Orleans to Pacific Coast at Needles, CA
1883, Sep 8 Northern Pacific Railroad completed
1883, Nov 18 U.S. and Canadian railroads adopted four standard time zones
1884, May 6 Grant & Ward, Metropolitan Bank and Marine Bank failed and precipitated failure of 15 additional brokers and banks
1884, Jul 3 Charles Dow created stock average (precursor to Dow Jones Industrial Average) which included nine railroad issues (Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul, Chicago & North Western, Delaware Lackawanna & Western, Lake Shore, Louisville & Nashville, Missouri Pacific, New York Central, Northern Pacific (preferred), and Union Pacific).
1884, Sep 4 Telephone service between New York and Boston
1885, Feb 16 Charles Dow modified 'Dow Dozen' to include twelve railroads and two industries. (New railroads: Central Pacific, Central RR of New Jersey, and Delaware & Hudson)
1886, Jan 2 Two companies removed from Dow Average (constituents included Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul, Chicago & North Western, Delaware & Hudson, Delaware Lackawanna & Western, Lake Shore, Louisville & Nashville, Missouri Pacific, New York Central, Northern Pacific (preferred), and Union Pacific)
1886, May 31 Standard gauge of 4 ft 8-1/2 in adopted by Southern railroads
, mid-1880s Typewriters common in offices
1887, Feb 4 Interstate Commerce Act signed into law by Pres. Grover Cleveland; intended to insure reasonable rates, prevent pooling, and stop two-tiered pricing
1890, Sep 29 Congress passed law to require railroads to forfeit unused land grants
1892, Apr 19 Charles and Frank Duryea perfected first automobile
1892, Oct 18 Telephone service between New York and Chicago
1893, Jan Panic of 1893 caused by run on gold supply, decreased European investment in U.S. securities and increased unemployment rate
1893, Jan 6 Great Northern Railway completed to Scenic, Washington
1892, Feb Philadelphia & Reading Railroad failed with $125,000,000 debt and led to collapse of stocks on New York market
1893, Mar 2 Railroad Safety Appliance Act made air brakes and automatic couplers mandatory
1893, Jun 27 New York stock market collapsed and began 4-year depression
1894, Apr 9 Dow average modified (constituents included Chicago Burlington & Quincy, Chicago Milwaukee & St Paul, Chicago & North Western, Chicago Rock Island & Pacific, Delaware & Hudson, Delaware Lackawanna & Western, Louisville & Nashville, Missouri Pacific, Northern Pacific (preferred), and Union Pacific).
1894, May 11 Pullman Palace Car Co slashed wages and precipitated strike
1894, Jul 2 U.S. government issued injunction against striking Pullman Palace Car Co. workers
1894, Jul 3 President Cleveland sent U.S. troops to Chicago to enforce injunction; two men killed on July 6; troops withdrawn on July 20
1895, Jan 14 New York trolley employees begin strike; riots followed; strike eventually stopped by New York and Brooklyn militia
1895, Feb 25 Cuban insurrection again Spain began, ultimately ending in the start of the Spanish-American War
1895, Dec Panic of 1896, a short recessionary caused at least in part by monetary policy, arguments over 'Free Silver' and low U.S. government gold reserves
1896 First American-made gasoline powered automobile (Duryea Motor Wagon C0) sold in United States
1896, May 26 Charles Dow created Dow Jones Industrial Average; all railroads moved to Dow Jones Railroad Average
1897, Sep 1 First electrified U.S. subway opened in Boston
1898, Apr 25 U.S. Congress declares war on Spain
1898, Jul 17 Spanish surrender at Santiago Bay, Cuba and end shooting of Spanish-American War
1898, Dec 10 Spain and U.S. sign Treaty of Paris, Spain cedes Guam, Cuba, Puerto Rico and Philippines to U.S
1900 Railroad Safety Appliance Act fully in force after 7-year grace period.
1901, May 9 James Hill and J.P. Morgan fought with Edward Harriman and Kuhn Loeb over control of Great Northern and Northern Pacific; stock hit $1000/share and precipitated panic and collapse in other stocks
1901, Nov 13 Northern Securities Co formed to control Great Northern and Northern Pacific. Near-monopoly in northern shipping follows, eventually resulting in major trust company
1902, Feb Southern Pacific Co began construction on 12-mile trestle across Great Salt Lake, Utah and finished in Mar 1904, ultimately replaced by a causeway finished in 1959
1902, Mar 10 Attorney General began prosecution against Northern Securities Company for violating the Sherman Anti-Trust law
1902, May 20 Republic of Cuba formed, although U.S. occupation remain until 1909
1903, Feb 19 Congress passed Elkins Act and outlawed all rebates on published railroad freight rates
1904, Mar 14 Supreme Court ruled against Northern Securities Co. for violating the Sherman Anti-Trust law
1904, Oct 27 First New York subway opened
1906, May 21 Congress passed Hepburn Act which allowed the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate railroad, pipeline, and terminal rates
1907, Oct Panic of 1907 precipitated by a 50% drop in the NYSE and numerous runs on banks and an attempt to corner the market on United Copper Company stock
1908, Oct 1 Ford Model T introduced
1910, Jun 18 Congress passed the Mann-Elkins Act which allowed the Interstate Commerce Commission to begin proceedings against railroads, pipelines, terminals, telegraph, and telephone companies in violation of rate regulations
1910, Nov 20 Beginning of the Mexican Revolution (civil war) that followed the election of Francisco Madero and consequent rebellions
1913, Dec 23 Federal Reserve system created after a lingering series of financial panics, particularly the Panic of 1907
1914, Apr 2 Construction began on Connaught Tunnel, British Columbia
1914, Jul 28 Austria-Hungary declares war against Serbia, initiating the start of World War I
1914, Jul 31 Chicago Stock Exchange closed through December 11 upon declaration of war (World War I)
1914, Jul 31 New York Stock Exchange closed through November 27 upon declaration of war
1914, Aug 1 Germany declares war against Russia (8/1), France and Belgium (8/3)
1915, Jan 25 First transcontinental telephone call New York to San Francisco
1916, Aug 29 Congress passed Army Appropriations Act which included clause that allowed the President to take control of any system of transportation during times of war
1916, Dec 16 Connaught Tunnel completed (26,516 feet long = 5.02 mi, longest in North America unil 1927 when exceeded by Moffat Tunnel)
1916 All-time peak of Class I track mileage in the United States (254,037 miles)
1917, Apr 6 U.S. ended neutral stance and declared war against Imperial German Government
1917, Aug 10 Congress passed Priority Law which authorized the President to force carriers to give precedence to military defense traffic
1917, Dec 28 President Woodrow Wilson used Federal Possession and Control Act to take possession of 'each and every system of transportation...within the boundaries of the United States;' U.S. Railroad Administration created
1918, Mar 19 United States adopted five standard time zones across the nation and Alaska
1918, Mar 21 Congress passed Railway Control Act to officially control U.S. railway system during World War I
1918, Aug Seven-month post-World War I recession caused by end of war production, transportation and mining serious hurt
1918, Nov 11 Germany signed Armistice and all major fighting of World War II ended
1918 Heavy usage of trucks grew throughout World War 1
1920, Jan Depression of 1920-21 turned out to be the most deflationary period in American history exceeding that after the Civil War
1920, Feb 28 Congress passed Esch-Cummins Act and created the Railroad Labor Board
1920, Mar 1 Government relinquished control of all railroads
1920, Apr 26 Stock Clearing Corporation established
1920, Dec Theoretical end (or at least cool-down) of the Mexican Revolution with the election of Álvaro Obregón Salido (even though he too was assassinated in 1928)
1920 Over one million trucks on American roads
1921 'Curbstone Brokers' ('New York Curb Market') moved indoors
1922, Oct 4 Canada created Canadian National Railway and nationalized system.
1923, Oct Construction began on Moffat Tunnel between Boulder and Grand Counties, Colorado
1923, Dec First diesel locomotive demonstrated
1925, Dec 28 Construction began on Cascade Tunnel between Chelan and King Counties, Washington
1925 Diesel locomotives production began
1927, Jan 7 transatlantic telephone service between New York and London
1927, Feb 18 Moffat Tunnel completed (32,788 feet long = 6.21 mi, longest in North America until exceeded by Cascade Tunnel in 1928 in 1989)
1928, Dec 28 Cascade Tunnel completed (41,183 feet long = 7.80 mi, longest in North America until exceeded by Mount Macdonald Tunnel in 1988)
1929, Oct 24 Stock prices collapsed on New York Stock Exchange; day became known as 'Black Thursday;' market collapse eventually forced widespread decrease in American commerce and became known as Great Depression
1929 'Curbstone Brokers' ('New York Curb Market') renamed New York Curb Exchange
1930, Sep 3 Thomas Edison ran first experimental electric passenger train between Hoboken and Montclair, NJ
1933, Mar 6 President Roosevelt ordered 'Bank Holiday' from Mar 6 to Mar 9 (Executive Proclamation 2039); banks and stock exchanges closed
1933, Mar 9 President Roosevelt extended 'Bank Holiday' indefinitely (Executive Proclamation 2039)
1933, Mar 10 President Roosevelt ordered banks reopened (Executive Order 6073)
1933, Apr 5 President Roosevelt ordered confiscation of all gold coins, gold certificates, and bullion (Executive Order 6102)
1933, Apr 19 President Roosevelt officially took U.S. off gold standard
1933, May 27 Congress passed Federal Securities Act which required full disclosure about stocks offered to the public
1933, Jun 5 Congress nullified all U.S. contracts that promised to repay interest or principal in gold. (House Joint Resolution. 192, 73rd Congress, 1st Session. 'Joint Resolution to Suspend the Gold Standard and Abrogate the Gold Clause')
1934, Jan 30 The U.S. Congress passed the Gold Reserve Act which officially set the U.S. gold price at $20.67 per Troy ounce
1934, Jan 31 President Roosevelt issued Presidential Proclamation 2072 which officially set the U.S. gold price at $35.00 per Troy ounce
1934, May First streamlined diesel locomotives (CB&Q Pioneer Zephyr) put into service
1934, Jun 6 President Roosevelt signed Securities Exchange Act which created the commission assigned to regulate exchanges and stock transactions
1934, Jun 7 Congress passed Corporate Bankruptcy Act which allowed corporate reorganization with support of two-thirds of creditors
1935 Intercity bus ridership exceeded railroad ridership
1937 All rail service ended in Belize
1937, Jun 29 The Chamber of Senators nationalized Mexican railroads
1939, Sep 1 World War II (was generally considered) started when Germany invaded Poland, followed by declarations of war against Germany by France and the United Kingdom on Sep 3
1943, Dec 27 President Roosevelt ordered (Executive Order 9412) and Federal takeover of railroads to prevent shutdown by labor
1944, Jan 18 U.S. Army returned control of railroads to private ownership
1945, May 7-8 Germany signed total and unconditional surrender (V-E Day) effectively ending World War II in Europe
1945, Aug 14 Japan signed armistice (V-J Day) ending World War II in Pacific followed by official surrender on Sep. 2, 1945
1946, May 17 President Truman (Executive Order 9727) authorized Federal control of railroads to prevent collapse of transportation system during transportation strike; strike ended May 25
1948, May 10 President Truman (Executive Order 9957) authorized Army to operate railroads
1948, Jul 9 U.S. Army returned control of railroads.
1950, Jun 5 United States Supreme Court decides that segregation in railroad dining is illegal (Henderson v United States)
1950, Aug 26 President Truman ordered U.S. Army to operate railroads to prevent transportation strike (Executive Order 10155)
1952, May 23 U.S. Army returned railroads to private control
1953, Jan 5 New York Curb Exchange renamed American Stock Exchange
1953, Jul 26 Cuban Revolution began under Fidel Castro
1956, Apr 26 Intermodal containerized shipping started
1956, Jun 29 Interstate Highway System authorized
1960, Aug Foreign ownership in Cuba nationalized, including sugar and railroad properties
1963, Apr 25 President Kennedy authorized Department of Interior to operate Alaska railroads (Executive Order 11107)
1966, Oct 15 Federal Railroad Administration established by Department of Transportation Act of 1966
1970, Jan Dow Jones added air lines to Railroad Index of 20 stocks and renamed average to Transportation Average
1970, Jun 21 Penn Central declared bankruptcy, the largest corporate bankruptcy in U.S. history at the time
1971, May 1 AMTRAK created by Congressional Passenger Service Act
1971, Dec 18 President Richard Nixon signed the 'Smithsonian Agreement' which unofficially set the U.S. gold price at $38.00 per Troy ounce
1972, Mar 31 The U.S. Congress passed the Par Value Modification Act which officially set the U.S. gold price at $42.22 per Troy ounce
1973, Sep 21 The U.S. Congress passed Public Law 93-110, 'An Act to amend the Par Value Modification Act' which officially set the U.S. gold price at $42.22 per Troy ounce
1974, Jan 2 Regional Rail Revitalization Act of 1973 created the United States Railway Association that oversaw the creation of Consolidated Rail Corp, aka Conrail
1976, Feb 5 Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act decreased U.S. regulations and formed Conrail.
1976, Oct 19 The U.S. Congress passed an act to amend the Bretton Woods Agreement (90 State. 2660) to officially abandon any U.S. currency relationship to gold
1980, Jul 1 Motor Carrier Act partially deregulated trucking industry and increased numbers of trucking companies
1980, Oct 14 President Jimmy Carter signed Staggers Rail Act which further deregulated railroads and led to divestiture of thousands of miles of unprofitable lines and sharp growth in regional lines
1984, Apr 27 Construction began on Mount Macdonald Tunnel, eastern British Columbia
1989, Dec 12 Mount Macdonald Tunnel completed (47,510 feet long = 9.0 mi, longest in North America)
1996, Jan 1 Interstate Commerce Commission dissolved and replaced by Surface Transportation Board
2011, Jun All rail service ended in Guatemala
2012 All rail service ended in El Salvador
2021, Sep All rail service ended in Nicaragua