February/March 2007 | Volume 58, Issue 1
1. 1606: The Virginia Company is formed to seek profit from a new business: American settlement.
2. 1612: John Rolfe plants West Indian tobacco in Virginia, the cash crop that assures the colony’s success.
3. 1614: John Smith, finding no gold, sets his men to fishing for cod off New England, pointing the way to the area’s first economic mainstay.
4. 1619: The first blacks arrive in Virginia as indentured servants. Within a few decades slavery becomes the dominant labor system in the South.
5. 1626: The Dutch settle Manhattan, founding the most commercially minded city on earth.
6. 1646: Saugus Iron Works begins operation in Massachusetts, the first major American industrial enterprise.
7. 1652: The first pine tree shilling is minted, giving Massachusetts a reliable money supply.
8. 1784: Thomas Jefferson designs the American currency system, the first decimal money in the world.
9. 1789: Samuel Slater immigrates to New England from the English Midlands, carrying in his head the plans for textile machinery, and becomes “the father of American manufactures.”
10. 1792: A group of brokers sign the Buttonwood Agreement, origin of the New York Stock Exchange.
11. 1807: Robert Fulton demonstrates the first practical steamboat.
12. 1818: The Black Ball Line starts the first regularly scheduled ocean passenger service.
13. 1828: Construction of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad begins.
14. 1832: Andrew Jackson vetoes the charter renewal of the Second Bank of the United States, and the country will not have a central bank until 1913.
15. 1835: James Gordon Bennett founds the New York Herald and creates the mass media.
16. 1837–43: The first major depression in the United States.
17. 1840: Cyrus McCormick sells his first reaper, beginning the mechanization of agriculture.
18. 1844: Samuel F. B. Morse demonstrates his telegraph, which will revolutionize the speed of communications.
19. 1848: Gold is discovered in California, moving the country’s economic center of gravity sharply westward while setting off an economic boom.
20. 1857–58: The second major depression occurs.
21. 1861–65: The Civil War takes place. It will vastly enlarge the size of the federal government and the national debt, making Wall Street the second-largest securities market in the world, after London, and greatly boosts American industrial production.
22. 1872: Andrew Carnegie visits a steel mill in England and decides to go into steel. By 1900 the Carnegie Steel Company produces a quarter of all American steel.
23. 1873–79: The third major depression occurs.
24. 1879: Thomas Edison perfects the light bulb and begins designing a system to supply households and businesses with electricity, inaugurating the age of electricity.
25. 1887: The Interstate Commerce Commission is created, the first federal regulatory body.
26. 1893–98: The fourth major depression occurs.
27. 1901: United States Steel is organized by J. P. Morgan, in the largest of a wave of mergers that sweeps the American economy beginning in the 1890s.
28. 1903: The Wright Brothers’ first airplane takes off from Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, inaugurating the air age.
29. 1907: A panic on Wall Street, aborted by J. P. Morgan, shows the need for a central bank, which is created six years later.
30. 1911: Standard Oil Co. of New Jersey v. United States is decided, forcing the breakup of the company under the Sherman Antitrust Act.
31. 1913: Personal income tax begins.
32. 1914: World War I starts, and the United States emerges as the center of the financial world, replacing London.
33. 1920: Commercial radio broadcasts commence, inaugurating the age of electronic media.
34. 1929–33: The fifth, and by far the worst, major depression occurs.
35. 1946: ENIAC, the first digital computer, begins operation.
36. 1947: The transistor is developed. It will greatly reduce the size and cost of electronic equipment.
37. 1951: The credit card is invented, expanding the availability of credit to the middle class.
38. 1968: The first four computers are hooked together into what will become the Internet.
39. 1975: “May Day” marks the end of fixed commissions on Wall Street, which will cause a huge, ongoing expansion in trading as the cost of trading rapidly declines.
40. 1977: The Apple II is introduced, and the era of the personal computer begins.