Old West/Frontier Timeline for Writers (19th Century)

Historical fiction can be a delight or doozy, depending on how you look at it.  Much of my ghostwriting work has been in this genre, and I find myself spending a lot of time checking facts to make sure I get things right.  To save both myself (and you!) some time, I’ve started this timeline of the 1800s in America.  It will include anything I come across that’s relevant to life in America, even if it’s an invention or publication in another country so your characters will have some news to talk about.  This timeline works well for writers working with frontier and pioneer life, mail order bride stories, westerns, and more.  Each link will open in a new tab so you can explore a little more but still come back easily.  I’ll be updating it regularly, so be sure to check back!

Have an event you’d like to see on the timeline?  Just leave me a comment!



British troops burn the White House during the War of 1812 (August 24)


-Illinois becomes a state (Dec 3)


Washington Irving publishes “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” in a collection of short stories entitled The Sketch Book of Geoffrey Crayon, Gent.  They’re considered the first American short stories.


-Missouri becomes a state (August 10)


a patent for tinning sardines in America was granted to Thomas Kensett.  The food had originally been invented in 1810 to help feed Bonaparte’s troops.


Fort Boise (Idaho Territory) is established


the Daguerrotype is invented in France  (the first made in the U.S. were in 1839)


-Dallas, TX is founded


Charles Dickens publishes A Christmas Carol (Dec 19)


James Wilson Marshall discovers gold near Coloma, California, sparking the gold rush of 1849

Elizabeth Blackwell is the first woman in the U.S. to receive a medical degree (Jan 23)

the Mexican-American War ends with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo


-California becomes a state (September 9)


-the Australian Gold Rush begins (Feb 12)

Moby Dick (Herman Melville) is published


copper is discovered in Arizona

the Nebraska Territory is established


-Dallas, TX is officially incorporated


the first schoolhouse in Colorado is built in Boulder


the Territory of Colorado is established (February)

-the Civil War begins (April 12)

-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow publishes “Paul Revere’s Ride”


The Homestead Act is signed into law by President Lincoln, allowing Americans to claim 160-acre plots of public land (May 20)


Montana becomes a territory

Jules Verne publishes A Journey to the Centre of the Earth


-the Civil War ends (May 9)


Nebraska becomes a state (March 1)

Lincoln is chosen as the capital of Nebraska (territorial capital was Omaha)


the transcontinental railroad is completed in Promontory, Utah (May 10)

Jules Verne publishes 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (translated to English in 1873)


the city of Boulder, Colorado (formerly Boulder City) is incorporated


Jules Verne publishes Around the World in Eighty Days


-Colorado is admitted to the Union as the 38th state (August 1)


-The University of Colorado in Boulder opens (September)

-The American Museum of Natural History opens in New York


Buffalo Bill Cody starts “Buffalo Bill’s Wild West” show

-Northern Pacific railroad completed in Idaho


Pocatello, Idaho is founded

Montana becomes a state (November 8)


Idaho becomes a state (July 3)

-Wyoming becomes a state (July 10)


Colorado becomes the second state to allow women the right to vote


Arizona becomes a state (February 14)

* * *

Ashley O’Melia is an independent author and freelancer from Southern Illinois. She holds her Bachelor’s Degree in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University. Her books include The Wanderer’s Guide to Dragon Keeping and The Graveside Detective. Her short stories have been published in The Penmen Review, Siren’s Call, and Subcutaneous. Ashley’s freelance work has spanned numerous genres for clients around the world. You can find her on Facebook and Amazon.



Filed under On Writing

5 responses to “Old West/Frontier Timeline for Writers (19th Century)

  1. What a great idea. So nice of you to share.

  2. Brilliant list! I would like to add one 🙂 In February 1851 the Australian Gold Rush began in New South Wales, redefining Australia’s national identity

  3. Pingback: 20th Century Timeline for Writers (1900-1999) | Ashley O'Melia, Author

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