World History 1855

About the history of the world in 1855, Walt Whitman publishes Leaves of Grass, refining of kerosene is developed, bleeding Kansas erupts over slavery.

TWO CENTURIES OF WORLD HISTORY: 1778-1978

1855

* Walt Whitman published his first volume of poetry, Leaves of Grass. Whitman's references to sex and the body caused one reviewer to call him the "dirtiest beast of his age." A friendlier critic described his work as "a sort of excited compound of New England transcendentalism and New York rowdy." Emerson, in a letter to Whitman, gave a terse evaluation of the work--"incomparable things, said incomparably well."

* R. S. Lawrence of Vermont invented the turret lathe, which, when pivoted, allowed a workman to use different cutting instruments on metal or wood, thus greatly facilitating the manufacture of uniformly shaped products and interchangeable parts.

* Samuel Colt, inventor of the Colt revolver and electric naval mines, and fellow American inventor Elisha Root built the largest private armory in the world at Concord, Mass. Colt, by employing the techniques of mass production, the assembly line, and the manufacture of interchangeable parts, for the first time in the armaments business, revolutionized the revolver and rifle industry and provided Americans, for better or worse, with a large supply of cheap firearms.

Note: Colt did not use the turret lathe at first. Interchangeable parts could be made with an ordinary lathe, but the turret lathe tremendously accelerated the production process.

Mar. 8 The first train crossed the newly completed Niagara Falls suspension bridge. John A. Roebling engineered the 825-ft. railroad bridge, which became the prototype for future bridges. His son, W. A. Roebling, using his father's design, completed the Brooklyn Bridge after the elder Roebling's death.

Mar. 27 In the U.S., Dr. Abraham Gesner patented a process for refining an oil which he called "kerosene."

Mar. 30 Kansas, split between proslavery and antislavery factions, held territorial elections. Although only 2,000 men were registered to vote, 6,000 votes were cast, because proslavery men rode in from neighboring Missouri. The resulting government passed laws calling for the death penalty for aiding a fugitive slave and two years' hard labor for questioning the legality of slavery. Antislavery forces set up an opposing government in Topeka.

Nov. 17 David Livingstone, doctor, missionary, and explorer, became the first European to see Victoria Falls on the Zambezi River. "We came in sight for the first time of the columns of vapour appropriately called 'smoke,' rising at a distance of five or six mi. exactly as when large tracts of grass are burned in Africa. Five columns now arose and, bending in the direction of the wind, they seemed placed against a low ridge covered with trees; the tops of the columns at this distance appeared to mingle with the clouds." Livingstone named the falls after the British queen, carved his initials into a tree, and proceeded up the Zambezi.

Dreaming of missionary work in china, Livingstone had been diverted to Cape Colony, South Africa, by the Opium War in China in 1840. In 1849 he had started on his first expedition into the heart of Africa. His second expedition had begun in 1853 with the oath "I shall open a path to the interior or perish." Returning to England on Dec. 9, 1856, he published Missionary Travels and Researches in South Africa (1857), which immediately sold 70,000 copies, making him a famous and wealthy man. He returned to Africa on Jan. 28, 1866, and was still exploring the continent at the time of this death in 1873.

Dec. 3 In Melbourne, Australia, Jonathan "Jack" Smith fought James Kelly in history's longest bareknuckle boxing match, which lasted 6 hours and 15 minutes and went 186 rounds.

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