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§Of World Interest
The population of the World is estimated between 1.128 and 1.402 billion people. The population of Great Britain had doubled in the last 50 years from roughly 9 million to roughly 18 million. This is considered to be one of the minima years of the "little ice age".
July – Taiping Rebellion: Hong Xiuquan orders the general mobilisation of rebel forces.
Work was begun on the Panama Railway and completed in 1855. Before this, the transit across the isthmus was by the old trails, which were falling into disrepair; a transit would usually take four or five days. William H. Aspinwall, the man who had taken up the operation of the Pacific mail ships, instigated a scheme to construct a railway across the isthmus; he and his partners created a company, raised $1,000,000 from the sale of stock, and began work. Their venture was singularly well-timed, as the discovery of gold in California created a rush of emigrants wishing to cross the isthmus.
In May 1850, the first sod was turned on the project; but very quickly, the difficulty of the scheme became apparent. The heat was stifling, and deluges of rain for almost half the year required the workers to operate in water up to four feet deep. Yellow fever and malaria took a deadly toll, and despite the continual importation of large numbers of workers, there were times when the work stalled for simple lack of fit workers.
June 1 – The postage stamp issues of Austria begin with a series of imperforate typographed stamps featuring the coat of arms.
May 16 – The French battleship Le Napoléon is launched.
Richard Wagner had completed Lohengrin before the Dresden uprising, and now wrote desperately to his friend Franz Liszt to have it staged in his absence. Liszt, who proved to be a friend indeed, eventually conducted the premiere in Weimar in August.
The Great Irish Famine continued. It was caused by a potato disease commonly known as late blight.
§Persia (Modern Iran)
July 9 - Mírzá 'Alí-Muhammad, known as the Báb, is executed by a firing squad in Tabriz, Persia for claiming to be a prophet.
January 5 - William Robinson dies from drinking too much water in Death Valley. In 1995 a trunk is found by Jeremy Freeman that supposedly contains the belongings of William Robinson. It was later debunked. Robinson was a Jayhawker heading to California for the gold rush. The group was stranded in the desert. When they finally found water, Robinson drank too much too quickly and died. His two closest traveling companions were John Lewis West who ultimately settled in Montana and John Wesley Plummer who settled in Toulon, Stark Co., IL
The United States Census of 1850 was the seventh census of the United States. Conducted by the Census Office on June 1, 1850, it determined the resident population of the United States to be 23,191,876 — an increase of 35.9 percent over the 17,069,453 persons enumerated during the 1840 Census. The total population included 3,204,313 slaves.
This was the first census where there was an attempt to collect information about every member of every household, including women, children, and slaves. Prior to 1850, census records had only recorded the name of the head of the household and broad statistical accounting of other household members (three children under age five, one woman between the age of 35 and 40, etc.). It was also the first census to ask about place of birth.
Hinton Rowan Helper made extensive use of the 1850 census results in his politically notorious book The Impending Crisis of the South.
James Gadsden, president of the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company, advocated secession by South Carolina. when California was admitted to the Union as a free state. Gadsden considered slavery “a social blessing” and abolitionists as “the greatest curse of the nation.”
January 29 – Henry Clay introduces the Compromise of 1850 to the U.S. Congress.
Compromise of 1850
The Compromise of 1850, which created the Utah Territory and the New Mexico Territory, would facilitate a southern route to the West Coast since all territory for the railroad was now organized and would allow for Federal land grants as a financing measure. Competing northern or central routes championed, respectively, by Stephen Douglas of Illinois and Thomas Hart Benton of Missouri would still need to go through unorganized territories. A precedent for using federal land grants had been established when Millard Fillmore signed a bill promoted by Douglas that allowed a Mobile to Chicago railroad to be financed by "federal land grants for the specific purpose of railroad construction." In order to satisfy Southern opposition to the general principle of Federally-supported internal improvements, the land grants would first be transferred to the appropriate state or territorial government which would oversee the final transfer to private developers.
By 1850, however, the majority of the South was not interested in exploiting its advantages in developing a transcontinental railroad or railroads in general. Businessmen like Gadsden, who advocated economic diversification, were in the minority. The Southern economy was based on cotton exports, and then-current transportation networks met the plantation system's needs. There was little home market for an intra-South trade, and in the short term, the best use for capital was to invest it in more slaves and land rather than in taxing it in order to support canals, railroads, roads, or in dredging rivers. Historian Jere W. Roberson wrote:
“Southerners might have gained a great deal under the 1850 land grant act had they concentrated their efforts. But continued opposition to Federal aid, filibustering, an unenthusiastic President, the spirit of "Young America", and efforts to build railroads and canals across Central America and the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Mexico divided their forces, leaving a lot of time for the Pacific railroad. Moreover, the Compromise of 1850 encouraged Southerners not to antagonize opponents by resurrecting the railroad controversy.
March 7 – United States Senator Daniel Webster gives his "Seventh of March" speech in which he endorses the Compromise of 1850 in order to prevent a possible civil war.
March 16 – Nathaniel Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is published.
March 19 – American Express is founded by Henry Wells & William Fargo.
April 4 – Los Angeles, California is incorporated as a city.
April 15 – San Francisco, California is incorporated as a city.
April 19 – Clayton-Bulwer Treaty is signed by the United States and Great Britain, allowing both countries to share Nicaragua and not claim complete control over the proposed Nicaragua Canal.
May 7 – The Brigantine USS Advance is loaned to the United States Navy.
Bloody Island Massacre
May 15 - A starved and sexually abused group of Pomo Indians in California revolted against their captors, Andrew Kelsey and Charles Stone.
A 1st Dragoons Regiment of the United States Cavalry contingent under Nathaniel Lyon, then still a lieutenant, and Lieutenant J. W. Davison tried to locate Augustine's band to punish them. When they instead came upon a group of Pomo on Bonopoti (later called Bloody Island), they slaughtered many including women and children. The National Park Service has estimated the army killed 60 of 400 Pomo; other accounts say 100 were killed. Some of the dead were relatives of Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake and Robinson Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California. Estimates of the number of people killed on the island vary between 60 and 400. The army killed 75 more Indians along the Russian River.
One of the few Pomo survivors of the massacre was a 6-year-old girl named Ni'ka, or Lucy Moore. She hid underwater and breathed through a tule reed. Her descendants have formed the Lucy Moore Foundation to work for better relations between the Pomo and residents of California.
May 23 – The USS Advance puts to sea from New York to search for John Franklin's Arctic expedition.
June 3 – The traditional date of Kansas City, Missouri's founding. This is the date on which it is incorporated by Jackson County, Missouri as the "Town of Kansas".
The prolonged period of drought between 1849 and 1905 in Arizona continues.
Old-growth redwood forest covered more than 2,000,000 acres (8,100 km2) of the California coast.
Vice President Millard Fillmore becomes the 13th President of the United States serving from 1850 until 1853, and the last member of the Whig Party to hold that office. He succeeded from the Vice Presidency on the death of President Zachary Taylor, who died of acute gastroenteritis, becoming the second U.S. President to assume the office in this manner. Fillmore was never elected President in his own right; after serving out Taylor's term he was not nominated for the Presidency by the Whigs in the 1852 Presidential election, and in the 1856 Presidential election he again failed to win election as President as the Know Nothing Party and Whig candidate.
California was admitted into the Union as a state. Also that year, gold-bearing quartz was found at Gold Hill in Grass Valley, a small town in North Eastern California. This led to the development of the great underground mines in that district and a major industry the continued for more than 100 years.
President Millard Fillmore ordered that Alcatraz Island be set aside specifically for military purposes based upon the U.S. acquisition of California from Mexico following the Mexican-American War.
- John Gribbin, The Scientists, Random House, Copyright 2002 by John and Mary Gribbin, pp. xix-xx, 359-361.