30,000 B.C.

The wheel is invented.

600 B.C.

Babylonians use tar for the improvement of roads.

500 A.D.

An early culture builds a large city, of which a large hill still remains near Cahokia, on the Mississippi River opposite St. Louis.


The pueblos of Acoma and Moenkapi are founded.

1492 Christopher Columbus and crew sighted land in the present-day Bahamas (Oct. 12)

By 1500

Numerous trails traverse and criss-cross North America.

1539 – 42

Hernando de Soto makes his way across the Southeast of today’s U.S. On June 18, 1541, he and his company cross the Mississippi; a year later de Soto dies near today’s Vicksburg.

1540 – 42

Coronado, coming by land from Mexico, is the first European to enter the desert Southwest, searching for the legendary Seven Cities of Cibola.


Juan Cabrill explores the California coast.


Pedro Menendez founds St. Augustine, Florida, the oldest settlement of Europeans on what is today U.S. soil.


Coming from Hawaii, Sir Francis Drake explores the coast of Oregon, Washington, and Northern California.


Sir Walter Raleigh sets up a colony on Roanoke Island, which soon disappears without a trace.


Foundation of the first permanent English settlement at Jamestown, Virginia.


The French establish a settlement at Quebéc City.


The Spanish establish a colony at Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Henry Hudson, English explorer of Northwest Passage, employed by Dutch, sailed into New York harbor and up the Hudson River to Albany.

Samuel de Champlain explores upstate New York, especially the region of the lake eventually bearing his name.

1619 First Negro laborers landed by Dutch at Jamestown.


The pilgrims on the Mayflower reach Massachusetts Bay late in November, landing at Plymouth on Dec. 21.


The Dutchman Peter Minuit acquires Manhattan Island from Man-a-hat-a Indians for trinkets valued at $24.


Foundation of Massachusetts Bay Colony.

1634 Maryland founded as a Catholic colony with religious tolerance.
1636 Roger Williams founded Providence (Rhode Island). Harvard College founded in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
1638 Delaware established by Swedish trading company.


Twenty-year war against Powhatan Federation in Virginia ends with defeat and near extinction of native tribes in the Tidewater area.

1654 First Jews arrive in New Amsterdam.


British troups conquer New Amsterdam and rename it New York.

1681 William Penn establishes colony of Pennsylvania.


Setting out from Lake Michigan, La Salle follows the Illinois and the Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico and claims the land for France.

1692 Witchcraft delusion in New England, 19 persons executed at Salem, Massachusetts.


The French establish Ft. Detroit.

1713 France yielded Nova Scotia by treaty following Queen Anne's War.
1716 First theater in colonies opened at Williamsburg, Virginia.


The French establish St. Louis.


Paul and Peter Mallet, two Frenchmen, establish a trade line from Illinois to Santa Fe.


Setting out from French Canada, the brothers de la Verendrye enter what is today North and South Dakota and claim the land for France.


The French occupation of Ft. Duquesne, on the site of today’s Pittsburgh, opens a long row of hostilities between the British and French, as well as their respective native allies. The result is the Seven Years’ War, ending in 1763 with the French losing their North American possessions to the British.

1755 British moved Acadian French from Nova Scotia to Louisiana.


The first Mission of Spanish Franciscans is established in California.


Lexington and Concord (near Boston) witness the outbreak of open hostilities between American settlers and British troups. It is the culmination of increasing disagreements between the government in London and colonials resenting efforts to impose a stricter rule on the colonies.


Declaration of Independence.


Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown


London recognizes the independence of the thirteen former colonies.


Treaty of Paris establishes the United States, extending the territory to the Mississippi River.

1785 Russians settle Aleutian Islands.


Constitution passed by Constitutional Congress presided by George Washington.


First ten amendments of Constitution, the Bill of Rights, implemented.


Pedro Vials, a Frenchman, is ordered by the Spanish government to travel from Santa Fé to St. Louis

1793 Eli Whitney invented cotton gin.
1794 Whiskey rebellion in western Pennsylvania.
1800 Federal government moves from Philadelphia to Washington.


Louisiana Purchase doubles the land area held by the U.S.


Lewis and Clark lead a government-sponsored expedition from St. Louis to the estuary of the Columbia River and back to St. Louis.


Zebulon Pike explores the Southern Plains and Rocky Mountains

1807 Robert Fulton makes first successful steamboat trip on Clermont between New York City and Albany.

Trade with Europe discontinued by Embargo Act.

1808 Slave importation outlawed by U.S. (some 250,000 slaves were illegally imported during the next 50 years).
1810 Gov. Harrison of Indiana Territory begins war with Miami Indians and their Confederates; belligerence soon spreads across Great Lakes Region.
1812-15 Congress declared war against Britain because of trade restrictions. Various unsuccessful attempts at invading Canada suggest another reason for the war.


Traveling from west to east, Robert Stuart is the first to take the route of what is later to become the Oregon Trail.


Border treaties with England and Spain determine the confines of Oregon Territory

1819 Spain cedes Florida to U.S.


Beginnings of the fur trade in the West.

Missouri Compromise determines northern boundary of slavery.


William Becknell, a businessman, opens the Santa Fé Trail

Mexico declares independence from Spain


Monroe Doctrine devised by Secretary of State John Quincy Adams.


Trappers open up a route across the Rocky Mountains, which is to become South Pass.


The Erie Canal is opened, connecting Albany and Buffalo in upstate New York.

A law introduced by Senator Thomas Hart Benton orders the exploration and mapping of the Santa Fé trail.

Fort Vancouver is established by the Hudson Bay Company and soon becomes the trading center of the Pacific Northwest.

First passenger-carrying railroad operating in England.


Jedediah Strong Smith is the first white man to cross the Rocky Mountains and reach Southern California. He repeats the feat in the next year.


Independence, Missouri, is founded, and soon becomes the starting point of the trails to the west.

1828 First U.S. railroad, Baltimore & Ohio, was begun.
1831 Nat Turner's rebellion, the last major slave uprising in the U.S., is crushed in Virginia.


Texas declares its independence from Mexico.

The first white women cross South Pass in a wagon trail to Oregon.

The five Civilized Tribes (Cherokees, Crees, Chocktaws, Chicasaws, and Seminoles) are forced to leave their homes in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, and are sent on the Trail of Tears to Indian Territory, today’s Oklahoma).


Trecks on the Oregon Trail become regular annual affairs.

First wagon train for California left Independence, Missouri, and arrived in November.


Charles Preuss’ expedition provides maps of the territory traversed by the Oregon Trail. 10,000 copies of his description of the route are printed, and settlers used his maps.

1844 Samuel F. B. Morse patents telegraph.


Emigrants’ Guide for the journey to Oregon and California is published.


Border dispute leads to U.S.-Mexican War.

Brigham Young leads Mormons to Great Salt Lake.


Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the war between the U.S. and Mexico, with Mexico ceding neary half of its territory.

By agreement with Britain, Oregon becomes part of the U.S.


U.S. army assumes supervision of Oregon Trail and establishes Ft. Laramie.

News of California gold rush leads to new wave of migrants on the trails.


Ft. Union is established to protect trade on Santa Fé Trail.

Perhaps more than 10,000 Native Americans, some 12 tribes, participate in the conference leading to the first treaty of Ft. Laramie. Peaceful co-existence, the proposal of the treaty, lasts only for three years (before broken by whites).


Commodore Perry lands in Yokohama and forces the opening of Japanese ports.

Gadsden Purchase completes establishment of borders in the desert Southwest.


Butterfield Overland Post links St. Louis and Los Angeles by way of El Paso.


Near Titusville, Pennsylvania, Edwin Drake succeeds with the first oil drill.

Oregon is admitted as a state.


Pony Express established, connecting Missouri and California.


Confederate troups fire at Ft. Sumter.


Robert E. Lee surrenders at Appomattox Court House.

1867 U.S. buys Alaska from Russia, paying $7.2 million.


On May 10, a golden spike driven into a crosstie at Promontory, Utah, marks the completion of the first transcontinental railroad.

Women suffrage law passed in Territory of Wyoming.

1870 Great fire destroyed Chicago.
1871 Fighting with Apaches begins in the desert Southwest.
1872 Julers Verne publishes Around the World in 80 Days.

Congress founded first National Park, Yellowstone.


June 25, battle of Little Big Horn, "Custer’s Last Stand."

Alexander G. Bell patents the telephone.


A. L. Barber founds Trinidad Asphalt Company and provides Washington DC with an innovation, the first streets paved with asphalt.


Railroads reach Santa Fé; the Santa Fé Trail falls into disuse.

1882 Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust is first national monopoly.


The Santa Fé Railroad connects Los Angeles, Santa Fé, and Kansas City.

Completion of Brooklyn Bridge in New York.


The Northern Pacific Railroad links Seattle and St. Paul, Minnesota.


Karl Benz builds the first motor car.

In Atlanta, Georgia, John Pemberton invents Coca Cola.

Geronimo surrenders to General Miles.

Statue of Liberty dedicated Oct 28.

1888 J. B. Dunlop invents pneumatic tire.
1889 Indian Territory in Oklahoma is opened to settlers; within 24 hours, 50,000 settlers staked claims.
1890 Battle of Wounded Knee (SD), the last major conflict between Native Americans and U.S. troops; 200 Indians, men, women, and children, and 29 soldiers dead.
1892 Diesel engine patented.

Ellis Island opened as NY immigration depot.


Frank and Charles Duryea of Springfield, Massachusetts, build the first American motor car.

1894 Eugene V. Debs calls general strike of railroad workers to support Pullman Company strikers. The strike is broken, and Debs is jailed for six months.


The first gasoline-driven automobiles are sold by the Duryea Motor Wagon Company of Springfield, Massachusetts.

Duryeas win the first car race, averaging 5 mph (8km/h) on a 50 mile course around Chicago.


Supreme Court decision in Plessy vs. Ferguson approved racial segregation under the "separate but equal" clause

Buffalo, New York, is the first major American city that has its streets paved.


The first "Stanley Steamer" is commercially available.

Invention of Pepsi Cola.


A "Stanley Steamer" climbs Mt. Washington in New Hampshire.


The first steering wheel is built into a Packard "Ohio," replacing steering poles.

Cars powered by electric energy outnumber gasoline-driven ones by two to one.

Oil is discovered in Texas.

Oldsmobile introduces the speedometer.


Henry Ford founds Ford Motor Company.

The Brothers Wright succeed in flying the first morored airoplane.

Winning a $50 bet, Dr. Horation Jackson succeeds in crossing the U.S. in a car. Accompanied by a chauffeur and his dog, he is on the road for 65 days.


Campaigns for the improvement of roads are under way.

Henry Ford sets a speed record — 144 km/h

New York City Subway is opened.


Some 75,000 cars are on American streets


The first gas station opens at St. Louis.


General Motors founded.

Ford introduces the Model T car, priced at $850.


The first country road is being paved.

Alice Ramsey is the first woman to drive an automobile across the U.S., the trip lasting 41 days.

1910 Boy Scouts of America incorporated.


The first Indianapolis 500 car race is held.


In Redlands, California, the first street markings are introduced.


A total of 2.3 million cars is reached.

Lincoln Highway, the first transcontinental road, is marked.


The "Federal Aid Road Act" introduces federal financing of highway construction.


Wisconsin introduces the system of numbered roads and highways.

First traffic light (with three colors) is installed.


Dwight Eisenhower directs a military convoy across the country; the excessive duration (two months) makes necessary the proper pavement of roads.


Prohibition begins; number of cars exceeds 6.5 million.

First regular licensed radio broadcast begun Aug. 20.


The first original White Castle hamburger stand (in Wichita, Kansas) introduces the era of fast food.


Doughnut tires and gas gauges are introduced.

The Ford Motor Company manufactures nearly half of the new cars and trucks in use in the U.S.


The system of numbering the federal highways is introduced. The emblem used for the signs is designed by Frank Rogers.

The first motel is opened in San Louis Obispo, California.


Route 66 is established, stretching from Chicago to Los Angeles.


Ford discontinues assembling the model T, of which 27 million were sold.

Lincoln Highway, the first coast-to-coast transit road, is all paved.

Charles A. Lindbergh flies first successful solo non-stop flight from New York City to Paris.

1927/28 Beginning of an extensive drought in the region of southern Plains ("dust bowl"), forcing over 1 million to migrate west.
1931 Empire State Building opened.

Al Capone convicted of tax evasion.

1932 Amelia Earhart is the first woman to fly Atlantic solo.

The Great Depression following the crash of the stock market in 1929 worsened; over 12 million unemployed.


End of prohibition.


Howard Johnson develops the system of franchise restaurants.

The first parking meters are introduced.

1936 Boulder Dam completed.


At the Universal Exposition in New York, Norman Bel Geddes advocates the system of limited-access highways.


The total number of cars in use in the U.S. exceeds 20 million.

Pennsylvania Turnpike and Arroyo Seco Parkway (today’s Pasadena Freeway) are opened to traffic.

First branch outlet of Dairy Queen is opened.


The monument on Mt. Rushmore is opened.


The national system of interstate and defense highways is approved by Congress.

War-time rationing of gasoline is set at two gallons (7.6 liters) per week.

The nationwide speed limit is set at 35 mph (48 km/h)


Bobby Troup writes the song "Get Your Kicks on Route 66," which Nat King Cole turns into a hit.


Death of Henry Ford.


The Volkswagen Beetle is introduced to America.

Richard and Maurice McDonald come up with their cheap and perfect fast food.


The first Holiday Inn opens at Memphis, Tennessee.

New Jersey Turnpike is opened to traffic.


In Montgomery, Alabama, a boycott of public busses ends segregation of public transportation.


The system of Interstate highways is introduced. Some 70,000 kilometers of top priority roads are planned, to be built largely with federal money. First estimates of the costs are near $27 billion; until today, more than $125 billion have actually been spent.


Sputnik I is launched successfully, the first earth-orbiting satellite.

Ford introduces the Edsel, the first car made according to customer’s wishes.


In Wichita, Kansas, the first Pizza Hut is opened.


Ford discontinues building the Edsel, having run up a deficit of $350 million.


California is the first state that introduces exhaust fume regulations.


The 350 hp Pontiac GTO inaugurates the era of power cars.


The oil crisis has the federal government impose a general speed limit of 55 mph (88 km/h).


Chrysler presents the mini van. The last part of the original Route 66, near Williams AZ, is replaced by I-40


Lyn St. James is the first woman to compete successfully in the Indianapolis 500, coming in 11th.

Currently in the United States more than 175 million persons have a driving licence, more than 200 million cars are registered, and over 6.5 million kilometers of paved highways criss-cross the country.