United States and American History: 1874

About the history of the United States in 1874, a grasshopper plague, Tompkins Square riots, troops in Hawaii, Charley Ross is kidnapped, Republicans pick the elephant.


--The worst grasshopper plague in U. S. history scourged the Great Plains from the Dakotas to northern Texas.

--The discovery of gold brought thousands of gold seekers into the Black Hills reservation in the Dakota Territory.

--The woman's Christian Temperance Union was founded. The 1st president had been an active member of the Civil War Sanitary Commission.

Jan. 13 Police attacked a meeting of unemployed workmen in Tompkins Square in New York City. Hundreds were injured.

Feb. 13 American troops landed in Honolulu, Hawaii, to protect the King.

Mar. 11 Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, prominent abolitionist and fiery leader of the radical Republican forces in the Congress, died. Frederick Douglass was present at his deathbed. From 1870 until his death, Sumner had tried without success to pass legislation to desegregate the public schools.

July 1 Headline in the Philadelphia Inquirer: "A MYSTERY." The story: "On Wednesday last, Charley Brewster Ross, aged 4 years and his brother, aged 6, sons of Christian K. Ross, were playing in a lane in the rear of their residence, Germantown, when a wagon containing 2 men drove up, and at their invitation the children got in for the purpose of taking a ride. The vehicle was driven off and the oldest boy was....put out of the carriage, but Charley, the youngest, is still missing. The former states that he had been given some money by one of the men to buy shooting crackers, and that he started for the store for that purpose, but when he returned, the carriage and his little brother were missing."

The abduction of Charley Ross was America's 1st major kidnapping for ransom. The 2 kidnappers asked $20,000. Ross's fairly wealthy father, determined not "to compound a felony," refused to pay it. P. T. Barnum came forward, offering to pay the ransom if he could exhibit Charley Ross once the boy was released. Barnum's offer was ignored. Later, the elder Ross tried to negotiate with the kidnappers through classified ads, but following police advice, he continued to withhold the ransom. The kidnappers were trapped during a robbery and were both shot to death. Little Charley Ross was never found.

Aug. 21 The highest paid preacher in America, the Rev. Henry Ward Beecher, pastor of the wealthy Plymouth Church in Brooklyn, was sued by newspaper editor Theodore Tilton for $100,000 for alienation of his wife's affections. Tilton claimed that his young wife, Elizabeth, grieving over the death of their son, had gone to her pastor's house for consolation and there "she had surrendered her body to him in sexual embrace; that she had repeated such an act on the following Saturday evening at her own residence...that she had consequently upon those 2 occasions repeated such acts at various times, at his residence and at hers, and at other places..."

On trial, the Reverend Beecher admitted platonic friendship, denied adultery. After a 112-day trial, the jury balloted 52 times and then gave up (with a vote of 9 to 3 for Beecher). The hung jury saved Beecher and restored him to his worshipful flock, although the Louisville Courier-Journal branded him "a dunghill covered with flowers."

Nov. 7 The Republican party elephant was born--in a Thomas Nast cartoon in Harper's Weekly attacking a possible 3rd term for Democratic President U. S. Grant.

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