1859 in the United States
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Events from the year 1859 in the United States.
- President: James Buchanan (D-Pennsylvania)
- Vice President: John C. Breckinridge (D-Kentucky)
- Chief Justice: Roger B. Taney (Maryland)
- Speaker of the House of Representatives: James Lawrence Orr (D-South Carolina)
- Congress: 35th (until March 4), 36th (starting March 4)
- January 1 – Minting of Indian Head cent begins.
- January 10 – Lucy Cobb Institute opens in Athens, Georgia.
- January 28 – The city of Olympia is incorporated in the Territory of Washington.
- February 14 – Oregon is admitted as the 33rd U.S. state (see History of Oregon).
- February 27 – U.S. Congressman Daniel Sickles shoots Philip Barton Key for having an affair with his wife.
- March 21 – The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania issues the charter establishing the Zoological Society of Philadelphia, the first organization of its kind in the United States and founder of the nation's first zoo.
- June 8 – The discovery of the Comstock Lode in the western Utah Territory (present-day Nevada) sets off a rush of prospectors to the area.
- June 15 – The so-called Pig War border dispute between the Americans and the British on the San Juan Islands begins by the death of the namesake pig.
- July – Pike's Peak Gold Rush begins in the Colorado Territory.
- July 1 – The first intercollegiate baseball game is played, between Amherst and Williams Colleges.
- August 27 – Edwin Drake drills the first oil well in the United States, near Titusville, Pennsylvania, starting the Pennsylvanian oil rush.
- September – Joshua Abraham Norton proclaims himself "Emperor of the United States" in San Francisco.
- September – Solar storm of 1859, aka the Carrington Event, a powerful geomagnetic solar storm
- October 16 – Militant abolitionist leader John Brown raids the Harpers Ferry Armory in Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in an unsuccessful bid to spark a general slave rebellion.
- October 18 – Troops under Colonel Robert E. Lee overpower John Brown at the Federal arsenal.
- November 1 – The current Cape Lookout, North Carolina, lighthouse is lighted for the first time (its first-order Fresnel lens can be seen for 19 miles).
- December 2 – John Brown is hanged for his October 16 raid on Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.
- The Rancho Rincon de Los Esteros Land Grant is confirmed to Rafael Alvisa, (part of modern-day Santa Clara County, California).
- The University of Michigan Law School is founded.
- Approximate date – The song Dixie is written, probably by Dan Emmett.
- Bleeding Kansas (1854–1860)
- January 6 – Duncan U. Fletcher, U.S. Senator from Florida from 1909 to 1936 (died 1936)
- January 9 – Carrie Chapman Catt, women's suffrage leader (died 1947)
- January 12 – Henry Heitfeld, U.S. Senator from Idaho from 1897 to 1903 (died 1938)
- February 22 – Samuel D. Nicholson, U.S. Senator from Colorado from 1921 to 1923 (died 1923)
- February 25 – John Burke, 24th Treasurer of the United States (died 1937)
- March 12 – Abraham H. Cannon, Mormon apostle (died 1896)
- April 12 – Junius George Groves, slave-born potato farmer (died 1925)
- May 12 – William Alden Smith, U.S. Senator from Michigan from 1907 to 1919 (died 1932)
- August 15 – Charles Comiskey, baseball baseman, manager and owner (died 1931)
- September 16 – Frank R. Gooding, U.S. Senator from Idaho from 1921 to 1928 (died 1928)
- September 17 – Billy The Kid, Old West gunfighter (died 1881)
- October 20 – John Dewey, educator born in Vermont (died 1952)
- November 1 – Charles Brantley Aycock, 50th Governor of North Carolina (died 1912)
- January 28 – William H. Prescott, Hispanist historian (born 1796)
- January 29 – William Cranch Bond, astronomer (born 1789)
- February 25 – Edward A. Hannegan, U.S. Senator from Indiana from 1843 to 1849 (born 1807)
- February 27 – Philip Barton Key II, United States Attorney for the District of Columbia, murdered (born 1818)
- March 19 – Oliver H. Smith, U.S. Senator from Indiana from 1837 to 1843 (born 1794)
- March 30 – James Matthews Legaré, poet and inventor (born 1823)
- April 14 – George M. Bibb, U.S. Senator from Kentucky from 1811 to 1814 (born 1776)
- June 8 – Walter Hunt, inventor (born 1796)
- July 30 – Richard Rush, 8th United States Attorney General and 8th United States Secretary of the Treasury (born 1780)
- August 2 – Horace Mann, educator and abolitionist (born 1796)
- August 15 – Nathaniel Claiborne, politician (born 1777)
- September 2 – Delia Bacon, playwright and writer on the Shakespeare authorship question (born 1811)
- September 16 – David C. Broderick, U.S. Senator from California from 1857 to 1859 (born 1820)
- November 28 – Washington Irving, author (born 1783)
- December 2 – John Brown, abolitionist, hanged (born 1800)
- Media related to 1859 in the United States at Wikimedia Commons