World History 1871

About the history of the world in 1871, Barnum organizes his first circus, the Chicago fire breaks out, the Franco-Prussian War ends.



* Simon Ingersoll, 53, of Stanwich, Conn., invented the pneumatic rock drill.

* P. T. Barnum, 61, opened his first circus, billed rather immodestly as "Barnum's Own Greatest Show on Earth," in Brooklyn.

* The Italian Law of Guarantees granted the pope sovereignty over Vatican City inside Rome, immunity from arrest, and an annual appropriation of 3.2 million lire.

Jan. 18 While German artillery was still battering Paris into submission, Bismarck convened a meeting of the Prussian hierarchy at Versailles, which was already occupied by German troops. There, in the Hall of Mirrors, the German Empire was born as William I was proclaimed emperor and Bismarck became chancellor. With this event, Germany replaced France as the dominant power on the Continent. Only Great Britain remained a potential threat to Germany.

Mar. 18-May 28 The people of Paris, outraged at the French government's buckling under to German demands at the close of the Franco-Prussian War, formed the Paris Commune. After the French National Assembly had agreed to cede the iron-rich provinces of Alsace and Lorraine to the victorious Germans and to transfer the capital from Paris to Versailles, Parisians seceded from France with a view to becoming, with other cities, an autonomous part of a French confederacy. As Prussian troops looked on from positions north of the city, French nationalist forces recaptured Paris street by street, block by block. During the final "bloody week," the beleaguered Communards shot their hostages, including the Archbishop of Paris, and put the torch to the city hall, the Palace of Justice, the Tuileries palace, and other grand buildings. In return, the Versailles government executed 20,000 Parisians and exiled 7,500 others before a general amnesty, granted in 1880, ended the reprisals.

Oct. 8 Fire broke out in the barn of Patrick and Catherine O'Leary at 137 De Koven Street, Chicago, and quickly spread throughout the city, which at that time consisted almost entirely of wooden structures. The holocaust claimed 300 lives, left 100,000 people homeless, and destroyed 17,500 buildings. (See "Natural and Manmade Disasters: Peshtigo Fire," Chap. 9.)

Nov. 10 Henry Morton Stanley, 30, a reporter for the New York Herald, found David Livingstone, 58, a Scottish missionary and explorer at Ujiji on Lake Tanganyika in what is now Tanzania, Africa. Surviving malaria, dysentery, and mutiny on the part of the African members of the expedition, Stanley entered Ujiji emaciated to find the missing Livingstone in a similar condition compounded by internal bleeding. With the immortal words "Dr. Livingstone, I presume," Stanley broke out a bottle of champagne that had survived the trip, and the two men sat down to a hearty meal and a long talk. For the next four months they explored the northern end of Lake Tanganyika together, before Stanley returned to civilization to file his story. Livingstone remained in Africa, where he died just two years after the famous meeting. He was buried at Westminster Abbey. Stanley returned to explore Africa himself, founded the Belgian Congo (now Zaire), won election to the British Parliament, and attained knighthood. His final request before his death in 1904 was to be buried beside Livingstone at Westminster Abbey. The request was denied.

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