United States and American History: 1869

About the history of the United States in 1869, Heinz company starts, the transcontinental railroad is completed, Black Friday on Wall Street.


--H. J. Heinz organized a food-packing company to market the 1st of his "57" varieties: horseradish.

Jan. Comanche Chief Toch-a-way met Gen. Philip Sheridan at Fort Cobb, Mo. To the Indian's initial greeting of friendship, "Me good Indian," Sheridan is reported to have replied, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian."

Feb. 6 Harper's Weekly published a new cartoon version of "Uncle Sam." He now had chin whiskers.

May 10 At Promontory Point, Utah, a silver sledge slammed a golden spike into a railroad tie, completing the transcontinental railroad. Built in just over 3 years, by 20,000 workmen, it had 1,775 mi. of track. The railroad's promoters had been given 23 million acres of land and $64 million in loans as an incentive. May 24 One-armed, 110-lb. John Wesley Powell set out to map the last unsurveyed and unexplored frontier in the U.S.: the Grand Canyon of the Colorado. His party of 10 men left Green River City in 4 customized boats, strengthened to withstand the river's treacherous rapids: the Emma Dean, named for the cousin he married, the Maid of the Canyon, Kitty Clyde's Sister, and No Name. Two weeks later, he lost No Name in an accident and continued with 3 boats. Frank Goodman, the English adventurer who joined the party on a whim, changed his mind and left in the early stages of the expedition. Three others (Billy Dean and 2 brothers--O.G. and Seneca Howlands) decided to climb out by a side canyon at Separation Rapid. They were met by a band of Shivwits Indians and killed. Powell abandoned their boat, the Emma Dean. At the junction of the Virgin River, Powell greeted the 3 Mormons who had been sent by Brigham Young to watch for him, and he considered his epic journey over. Four of his party, still enthused with the adventure, continued on: 2 (Summer and Bradley) stopped at Fort Yuma, Ariz., and the others (Hawkins and Hall) took the last boat all the way to salt water at the Gulf of California. Three times during the 101-day trip through 1,000 mi. of torrents and rapids Powell was erroneously reported as having been killed.

Sept. 6 A fire broke out in the only shaft of the Avondale Mine in Luzerne County, Pa., and 175 men died because the mine owners had not constructed a safety exit. John Siney of the Workingmen's Benevolent Association spoke to friends and relatives at the mine gate: "Men, if you must die with your boots on, die for your families, your homes, your country, but do no longer consent to die like rats in a trap for those who have no more interest in you than in the pick you dig with."

Sept. 24 Black Friday in Wall Street. James Fisk and Jay Gould plotted to corner the gold market. They hoped to buy all the $15 million of gold then in circulation and thus drive up its price. The conspiracy failed when President Grant ordered additional government gold sold by the U.S. Treasury in the open market. However, Gould's Administration spies (including Grant's brother-in-law) leaked news of Grant's decision, and Gould was still able to clear a profit of $11 million.

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