Colonial Era Timeline
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Colonial Era Timeline
1499 to 1763

1499 - Italian navigator, Amerigo Vespucci, sights the coast of South America during a voyage of discovery for Spain.

1507 - The name "America" is first used in a geography book referring to the New World with Amerigo Vespucci getting credit for the discovery of the continent.

1513 - Ponce de León of Spain lands in Florida.

1519-1522 - Ferdinand Magellan is the first person to sail around the world.

1524 - Giovanni da Verrazano, sponsored by France, lands in the area around the Carolinas, then sails north and discovers the Hudson River, and continues northward into Narragansett Bay and Nova Scotia.

1541 - Hernando de Soto of Spain discovers the Mississippi River.

1565 - The first permanent European colony in North America is founded at St. Augustine (Florida) by the Spanish.

1584 - Sir Walter Raleigh lands on Roanoke Island and names the surrounding area Virginia, in honor of Queen Elizabeth I of England.

1587 - After multiple attempts, Roanoke Colony is established. By 1590 the settlers of this colony had made a strange disappearance.

1587 - The first English child, Virginia Dare, is born in Roanoke, August 18th.

1606 - The London Company sponsors a colonizing expedition to Virginia.

1607 - Jamestown is founded in Virginia by the colonists of the London Company. By the end of the year, starvation and disease reduce the original 105 settlers to just 32 survivors. Capt. John Smith is captured by Native American Chief Powhatan and saved from death by the chief's daughter, Pocahontas.

1607 - Captain John Smith, a leader of Jamestown, led expeditions in Virginia. The next year he sailed north to explore the Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac river. In 1614 he spent a summer on Monhegan Island, off the coast of Maine, and mapped the coast south to Cape Cod. He called the area New England. 

1608 - In January, 110 additional colonists arrive at Jamestown. In December, the first items of export trade are sent from Jamestown back to England and include lumber and iron ore.

1609 - The Dutch East India Company sponsors a seven month voyage of exploration to North America by Henry Hudson. In September he sails up the Hudson River to Albany.

1609 - Native tobacco is first planted and harvested in Virginia by colonists.

1609 - 1610 - Approximately 440 Jamestown settles die during the Starving Time.

1609 - 1610 - Santa Fe established in New Mexico.

1612 - Virginians plant their first tobacco crop. Tobacco became known as Virginia's Green Gold. 

1613 - A Dutch trading post is set up on lower Manhattan Island.

1614 - Thomas Hunt, an English sea captain, kidnapped about twenty-seven Indians off the Massachusetts coast and took them to Spain, where they were sold as slaves. One of these men was a Patuxet Indian named Tisquantum, or Squanto

1614 - Pocahontas, daughter of Powhatan, marries tobacco farmer, John Rolfe, which helps establish temporary peace between the Powhatans and the English. 

1616 - Tobacco becomes an export staple for Virginia.

1616 - A smallpox epidemic decimates the Native American population in New England.

1619 - John Haney, a merchant, befriended Squanto and arranged for him to return to America. He traveled aboard an English ship and made his way back home to Patuxet (later to be named Plymouth). 

1619 - The first session of the first legislative assembly in America occurs as the Virginia House of Burgesses convenes in Jamestown. It consists of 22 burgesses representing 11 plantations.

1619 - Twenty Africans are brought by a Dutch ship to Jamestown for sale as indentured servants, marking the beginning of slavery in Colonial America.

1620 - November 9, the Mayflower ship lands at Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with 101 colonists. Squanto came to live with the Pilgrims and showed them how to plant corn, fish with nets, and hunt deer. On November 11, the Mayflower Compact is signed by the 41 men, establishing a form of local government in which the colonists agree to abide by majority rule and to cooperate for the general good of the colony. The Compact sets the precedent for other colonies as they set up governments.

1620 - The first public library in the colonies is organized in Virginia with books donated by English landowners.

1621 - One of the first treaties between colonists and Native Americans is signed as the Plymouth Pilgrims enact a peace pact with the Wampanoag Tribe, with the aid of Squanto, an English speaking Native American.

1624 - Thirty families of Dutch colonists, sponsored by the Dutch West India Company arrive in New York.

1624 - The Virginia Company charter is revoked in London and Virginia is declared a Royal colony.

1626 - Peter Minuit, a Dutch colonist, buys Manhattan island from Native Americans for 60 guilders (about $24) and names the island New Amsterdam.

1629 - In England, King Charles I dissolves parliament and attempts to rule as absolute monarch, spurring many to leave for the American colonies.

1630 - In March, John Winthrop leads a Puritan migration of 900 colonists to Massachusetts Bay, where he will serve as the first governor. In September, Boston is officially established and serves as the site of Winthrop's government.

1633 - The first town government in the colonies is organized in Dorchester, Massachusetts.

1634 - First settlement in Maryland as 200 settlers, many of them Catholic, arrive in the lands granted to Roman Catholic Lord Baltimore by King Charles I.

1635 - Boston Latin School is established as the first public school in America.

1636 - In June, Roger Williams founds Providence and Rhode Island. Williams had been banished from Massachusetts for "new and dangerous opinions" calling for religious and political freedoms, including separation of church and state, not granted under the Puritan rules. Providence then becomes a haven for many other colonists fleeing religious intolerance.

1636 - Harvard College founded.

1638 - Anne Hutchinson is banished from Massachusetts for nonconformist religious views that advocate personal revelation over the role of the clergy. She then travels with her family to Rhode Island.

1638 - The first colonial printing press is set up in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

1639 - First colonial printing business established by Stephen Daye in Boston, Massachusetts Colony. 

1641 - Slavery becomes legal in New England.

1646 - In Massachusetts, the general court approves a law that makes religious heresy punishable by death.

1652 - Rhode Island enacts the first law in the colonies declaring slavery illegal.

1660 - The English monarchy is restored under King Charles II.

1660 - The English Crown approves a Navigation Act requiring the exclusive use of English ships for trade in the English Colonies and limits exports of tobacco and sugar and other commodities to England or its colonies.

1663 - King Charles II establishes the colony of Carolina and grants the territory to eight loyal supporters.

1663 - Navigation Act of 1663 requires that most imports to the colonies must be transported via England on English ships.

1664 - The Dutch New Netherland colony becomes English New York after Gov. Peter Stuyvesant surrenders to the British following a naval blockade.

1664 - Maryland passes a law making lifelong servitude for black slaves mandatory to prevent them from taking advantage of legal precedents established in England which grant freedom under certain conditions, such as conversion to Christianity. Similar laws are later passed in New York, New Jersey, the Carolinas and Virginia.

1672 - The Royal Africa Company is given a monopoly in the English slave trade.

1673 - Dutch military forces retake New York from the British.

1673 - The British Navigation Act of 1663 sets up the office of customs commissioner in the colonies to collect duties on goods that pass between plantations.

1674 - The Treaty of Westminster ends hostilities between the English and Dutch and returns Dutch colonies in America to the English.

1675-1676 - King Philip's War erupts in New England between colonists and Native Americans as a result of tensions over colonist's expansionist activities. The bloody war rages up and down the Connecticut River valley in Massachusetts and in the Plymouth and Rhode Island colonies, eventually resulting in 600 English colonials being killed and 3,000 Native Americans, including women and children on both sides. King Philip (the colonist's nickname for Metacomet, chief of the Wampanoags) is hunted down and killed on August 12, 1676, in a swamp in Rhode Island, ending the war in southern New England and ending the independent power of Native Americans there. In New Hampshire and Maine, the Saco Indians continue to raid settlements for another year and a half.

1677 - North Carolina colonists rebel against English taxation. This was known as Culpeper's Rebellion

1680 - Pueblo Indians push the Spanish out of Santa Fe.

1681 - Pennsylvania is founded as William Penn, a Quaker, receives a Royal charter with a large land grant from King Charles II.

1682 - French explorer La Salle explores the lower Mississippi Valley region and claims it for France, naming the area Louisiana for King Louis XIV.

1682 - A large wave of immigrants, including many Quakers, arrives in Pennsylvania from Germany and the British Isles.

1685 - The Duke of York ascends the British throne as King James II.

1685 - Protestants in France lose their guarantee of religious freedom as King Louis XIV revokes the Edict of Nantes, spurring many to leave for America.

1686 - King James II begins consolidating the colonies of New England into a single Dominion depriving colonists of their local political rights and independence. Legislatures are dissolved and the King's representatives assume all of the judicial and legislative power.

1687 - In March, New England Royal Governor, Sir Edmund Andros, orders Boston's Old South Meeting House to be converted into an Anglican Church. In August, the Massachusetts towns of Ipswich and Topsfield resist assessments imposed by Gov. Andros in protest of taxation without representation.

1688 - In March, Gov. Andros imposes a limit of one annual town meeting for New England towns. The Governor then orders all militias to be placed under his control.

1688 - Quakers in Pennsylvania issue a formal protest against slavery in America.

1688 - In December, King James II of England flees to France after being deposed by influential English leaders.

1689 - In February, William and Mary of Orange become King and Queen of England. In April, New England Governor Andros is jailed by rebellious colonists in Boston. In July, the English government orders Andros to be returned to England to stand trial.

1690 - The beginning of King William's War as hostilities in Europe between the French and English spill over to the colonies. In February, Schenectady, New York is burned by the French with the aid of their Native American allies.

1691 - In New York, the newly appointed Governor of New England, Henry Sloughter, arrives from England and institutes royally sanctioned representative government. In October, Massachusetts gets a new royal charter which includes government by a royal governor and a governor's council.

1692 - In May, hysteria grips the village of Salem, Massachusetts, as witchcraft suspects are arrested and imprisoned. A special court is then set up by the governor of Massachusetts. Between June and September, 150 persons are accused, with 20 persons, including 14 women, being executed. By October, the hysteria subsides, remaining prisoners are released and the special court is dissolved.

1693 - The College of William and Mary is founded in Williamsburg, Virginia.

1696 - The Royal African Trade Company loses its slave trade monopoly, spurring colonists in New England to engage in slave trading for profit. In April, the Navigation Act of 1696 is passed by the English Parliament requiring colonial trade to be done exclusively via English built ships. The Act also expands the powers of colonial custom commissioners, including rights of forcible entry, and requires the posting of bonds on certain goods.

1697 - The Massachusetts general court expresses official repentance regarding the actions of its judges during the witch hysteria of 1692. Jurors sign a statement of regret and compensation is offered to families of those wrongly accused. In September, King William's War ends as the French and English sign the Treaty of Ryswick.

1699 - Williamsburg becomes the colonial capital of Virginia.

1699 - The English Parliament passes the Wool Act, protecting its own wool industry by limiting wool production in Ireland and forbidding the export of wool from the American colonies.

1700 - The Anglo population in the English colonies in America reaches 250,000.

1700 - The Anglo population in the English colonies in America reaches 275,000, with Boston (pop. 7000) as the largest city, followed by New York (pop. 5000).

1700 - In June, Massachusetts passes a law ordering all Roman Catholic priests to leave the colony within three months, upon penalty of life imprisonment or execution. New York then passes a similar law.

1701 - In July, The French establish a settlement at Detroit. In October, Yale College is founded in Connecticut.

1702 - In March, Queen Anne ascends the English throne. In May, England declares war on France after the death of the King of Spain, Charles II, to stop the union of France and Spain. This War of the Spanish Succession is called Queen Anne's War in the colonies, where the English and American colonists will battle the French, their Native American allies, and the Spanish for the next eleven years.

1702 - In Maryland, the Anglican Church is established as the official church, financially supported by taxation imposed on all free men, male servants and slaves.

1704 - In April, the first enduring newspaper in America, The Boston News-Letter, is published.

1705 - In Virginia, slaves are assigned the status of real estate by the Virginia Black Code of 1705. In New York, a law against runaway slaves assigns the death penalty for those caught over 40 miles north of Albany. Massachusetts declares marriage between African Americans and whites to be illegal.

1706 - January 17, Benjamin Franklin is born in Boston. In November, South Carolina establishes the Anglican Church as its official church.

1707 - England, Scotland and Wales are combined into the United Kingdom of Great Britain by the Act of the Union, endorsed by Queen Anne.

1710 - The English Parliament passes the Post Office Act which starts a postal system in the American colony controlled by the postmaster general of London and his deputy in New York City.

1711 - Hostilities break out between Native Americans and settlers in North Carolina after the massacre of settlers there. The conflict, known as the Tuscarora Indian War will last two years.

1712 - In May, the Carolina colony is officially divided into North Carolina and South Carolina. In June, the Pennsylvania assembly bans the import of slaves into that colony. In Massachusetts, the first sperm whale is captured at sea by an American from Nantucket.

1713 - Queen Anne's War ends with the Treaty of Utrecht.

1714 - Tea is introduced for the first time into the American Colonies. In August, King George I ascends to the English throne, succeeding Queen Anne.

1716 - The first group of black slaves is brought to the Louisiana territory.

1718 - New Orleans is founded by the French.

1718 - The Tuscarora people are defeated in a war with North Carolina colonists. With many of their people killed they move north to live with other Iroquois nations in New York Colony. 

1718 - Blackbeard, the pirate, is killed, putting an end to pirate raids along the southern colonial coast. 

1720 - The population of American colonists reaches 475,000. Boston (pop. 12,000) is the largest city, followed by Philadelphia (pop. 10,000) and New York (pop. 7000).

1725 - The population of black slaves in the American colonies reaches 75,000.

1726 - Riots occur in Philadelphia as poor people tear down the pillories and stocks and burn them.

1727 - King George II ascends the English throne.

1728 - Jewish colonists in New York City build the first American synagogue.

1729 - Benjamin Franklin begins publishing The Pennsylvania Gazette, which eventually becomes the most popular colonial newspaper.

1730 - Baltimore is founded in the Maryland colony.

1731 - The first American public library is founded in Philadelphia by Benjamin Franklin.

1732 - February 22, George Washington is born in Virginia. Also in February, the first mass is celebrated in the only Catholic church in colonial America, in Philadelphia. In June, Georgia, the 13th English colony, is founded.

1732-1757 - Benjamin Franklin publishes Poor Richard's Almanac, containing weather predictions, humor, proverbs and epigrams, selling nearly 10,000 copies per year.

1733 - James Oglethorpe founds Georgia Colony. 

1734 - In November, New York newspaper publisher John Peter Zenger is arrested and accused of seditious libel by the Governor. In December, the Great Awakening religious revival movement begins in Massachusetts. The movement will last ten years and spread to all of the American colonies.

1735 - John Peter Zenger is brought to trial for seditious libel but is acquitted after his lawyer successfully convinces the jury that truth is a defense against libel.

1737 - The first colonial copper coins are minted, in Connecticut.

1739 - England declares war on Spain. As a result, in America, hostilities break out between Florida Spaniards and Georgia and South Carolina colonists. Also in 1739, three separate violent uprisings by black slaves occur in South Carolina.

1740 - Fifty black slaves are hanged in Charleston, South Carolina, after plans for another revolt are revealed. Also in 1740, in Europe, the War of the Austrian Succession begins after the death of Emperor Charles VI and eventually results in France and Spain allied against England. The conflict is known in the American colonies as King George's War and lasts until 1748.

1741 - Russian Tsar, Peter the Great, sponsors an expedition by Danish navigator Vitus Bering to explore the coast of Alaska.

1743 - The American Philosophical Society is founded in Philadelphia by Ben Franklin and his associates.

1747 - The New York Bar Association is founded in New York City.

1750 - The Iron Act is passed by the English Parliament, limiting the growth of the iron industry in the American colonies to protect the English Iron industry.

1751 - The Currency Act is passed by the English Parliament, banning the issuing of paper money by the New England colonies.

1752 - The first general hospital is founded, in Philadelphia.

1753 - Benjamin Franklin and William Hunter are appointed as postmasters general for the American colonies.

1754 -1763 - Seven Years' War or The French and Indian War takes place between the French and Algonquin Indians and the Iroquois, allied by the English. 

1754 -  In May, George Washington leads a small group of American colonists to victory over the French, then builds Fort Necessity in the Ohio territory. In July, after being attacked by numerically superior French forces, Washington surrenders the fort and retreats.

1755 - In February, English General Edward Braddock arrives in Virginia with two regiments of English troops. Gen. Braddock assumes the post of commander in chief of all English forces in America. In April, Gen. Braddock and Lt. Col. George Washington set out with nearly 2000 men to battle the French in the Ohio territory. In July, a force of about 900 French and Indians defeat those English forces. Braddock is mortally wounded. Massachusetts Governor William Shirley then becomes the new commander in chief.

1756 - England declares war on France, as the French and Indian War in the colonies now spreads to Europe.

1757 - In June, William Pitt becomes England's Secretary of State and escalates the French and Indian War in the colonies by establishing a policy of unlimited warfare. In July, Benjamin Franklin begins a five year stay in London.

1758 - In July, a devastating defeat occurs for English forces at Lake George, New York, as nearly two thousand men are lost during a frontal attack against well entrenched French forces at Fort Ticonderoga. French losses are 377. In November, the French abandon Fort Duquesne in the Ohio territory. Settlers then rush into the territory to establish homes. Also in 1758, the first Indian reservation in America is founded, in New Jersey, on 3000 acres.

1759 - French Fort Niagara is captured by the English. Also in 1759, war erupts between Cherokee Indians and southern colonists.

1760 - The population of colonists in America reaches 1,500,000. In March, much of Boston is destroyed by a raging fire. In September, Quebec surrenders to the English. In October, George III becomes the new English King.

1762 - England declares war on Spain, which had been planning to ally itself with France and Austria. The British then successfully attack Spanish outposts in the West Indies and Cuba.

1763 - The French and Indian War, known in Europe as the Seven Year's War, ends with the Treaty of Paris. Under the treaty, France gives England all French territory east of the Mississippi River, except New Orleans. The Spanish give up east and west Florida to the English in return for Cuba.

1763 - In May, the Ottawa Native Americans under Chief Pontiac begin all-out warfare against the British west of Niagara, destroying several British forts and conducting a siege against the British at Detroit. In August, Pontiac's forces are defeated by the British near Pittsburgh. The siege of Detroit ends in November, but hostilities between the British and Chief Pontiac continue for several years.