1878 in the United States
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Events from the year 1878 in the United States.
- President: Rutherford B. Hayes (R-Ohio)
- Vice President: William A. Wheeler (R-New York)
- Chief Justice: Morrison Waite (Ohio)
- Speaker of the House of Representatives: Samuel J. Randall (D-Pennsylvania)
- Congress: 45th
- January 28 – The Yale News becomes the first daily college newspaper in the United States.
- February 18 – The Lincoln County War begins in Lincoln County, New Mexico.
- February 19 – The phonograph is patented by Thomas Edison.
- February 23 – Bland–Allison Act, leading to first minting of the Morgan dollar.
- February 28 – Mississippi State University is created by the Mississippi Legislature (under the name The Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi).
- March 26 – University of California, Hastings College of the Law is founded.
- April 4 – The Gunfight at Blazer's Mill occurs in Lincoln County, New Mexico.
- May 2 – The Washburn "A" Mill in Minneapolis, Minnesota explodes, killing 18.
- May 14 – Salem witchcraft trial, the last of its kind in the U.S., opens in Salem, Massachusetts.
- June 18 – Posse Comitatus Act signed into law to limit the powers of the federal government of the United States in using the United States Army to enforce domestic policy within the U.S.
- July 12 – Yellow fever epidemic begins in New Orleans. It will eventually kill 4,500 people.
- July 26 – In California, the poet and American West outlaw calling himself "Black Bart" makes his last clean getaway when he steals a safe box from a Wells Fargo stagecoach. The empty box is found later with a taunting poem inside.
- August 9 – The Wallingford Tornado of 1878, the deadliest tornado in Connecticut history, destroys the town of Wallingford, killing 34 people and injuring 70 or more.
- September 30 – The ship Priscilla arrives in Hawaii from Funchal, Madeira, marking the beginning of the Portuguese immigration to the Hawaiian Islands (1878–1913).
- October 1 – Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) opens as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College.
- November 18 – Soprano Marie Selika Williams becomes the first African American artist to perform at the White House.
- Yellow fever in Mississippi Valley kills over 13,000. 2020
- U.S. arbitration rejects Argentine claims to Paraguay's part of the Chaco region.
- The Johns Hopkins University Press, America's oldest university press, is established
- Albert Augustus Pope's Pope Manufacturing Company begins producing the Columbia high-wheel bicycle outside Boston, signalling the beginning of a bicycle craze in the U.S.
- The Remington No. 2 typewriter, the first with a shift key enabling production of lower as well as upper case characters, is introduced.
- Champlain College, in Burlington, VT is founded.
- October 2 – The Buffalo Bisons of the International League defeat the National League champion Boston Red Caps behind the pitching of Pud Galvin to become Baseball's First Undisputed Champion
- January 6 – Carl Sandburg, poet and historian (died 1967)
- January 9 – John B. Watson, psychologist (died 1958)
- January 29 – Walter F. George, U.S. Senator from Georgia from 1922 to 1957 (died 1957)
- February 1 – Hattie Caraway, U.S. Senator from Arkansas from 1931 to 1945 (died 1950)
- February 18 – Kate Gordon, psychologist (died 1963)
- February 27 – Alvan T. Fuller, Governor of Massachusetts from 1925 to 1929 (died 1958)
- February 28 – Hugh A. Butler, U.S. Senator from Nebraska from 1941 to 1954 (died 1954)
- March 31 – Jack Johnson, boxer (died 1946)
- April 28 – Lionel Barrymore, actor (died 1954)
- May 5 – Edward Gay II, U.S. Senator from Louisiana from 1918 to 1921 (died 1952)
- May 21 – Glenn H. Curtiss, aviation pioneer (died 1930)
- May 25 – Bill Robinson, African American tap dancer (died 1949)
- June 1 – C. Harold Wills, automobile engineer and businessman (died 1940)
- June 3 – Barney Oldfield, automobile racer and pioneer (died 1946)
- June 4 – Thomas D. Schall, U.S. Senator from Minnesota from 1925 to 1935 (died 1935)
- June 12 – James Oliver Curwood, novelist and conservationist (died 1927)
- July 3 – George M. Cohan, singer, dancer, composer, actor and writer (died 1942)
- July 12 – Claude C. Bloch, admiral (died 1967)
- July 29
- August 2 – Nathan L. Bachman, U.S. Senator from Tennessee from 1933 to 1937 (died in 1937)
- August 4 – Ernest Lundeen, U.S. Senator from Minnesota from 1937 to 1940 (died 1940)
- August 28 – George Whipple, pathologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1934 (died 1976)
- August 31 – Frank Jarvis, track athlete (died 1933)
- September 14 – Scott Loftin, U.S. Senator from Florida in 1936 (died 1953)
- September 20 – Upton Sinclair, novelist (died 1968)
- October 2 – Richard Spikes, African American inventor (died 1963)
- October 16 – Maxie Long, track athlete (died 1959)
- October 17 – Louise Dresser, actress (died 1965)
- October 18 – Blind Uncle Gaspard, Cajun vocalist and guitarist (died 1937)
- October 19 – Alphonse Picou, jazz clarinettist (died 1961)
- November 17 – Grace Abbott, social worker and activist (died 1939)
- November 26 – Major Taylor, first African-American World Champion Cyclist (died 1932)
- November 23 – Ernest King, Commander in Chief, U.S. Fleet and Chief of Naval Operations (COMINCH-CNO) during World War II (died 1956)
- December 1 – Nathaniel Baldwin, inventor and Mormon fundamentalist (died 1961)
- C. Louise Boehringer, educationalist (died 1956)
- February 11 – Charles Magill Conrad, U.S. Senator from Louisiana from 1842 to 1843 (born 1804)
- March 6 – Asa Biggs, U.S. Senator from North Carolina from 1855 to 1858 (born 1811)
- March 29 – Mark Hopkins, Jr., entrepreneur (born 1813)
- May 25 – John Scott Harrison, member of the United States House of Representatives from Ohio, son of William Henry Harrison, father of Benjamin Harrison (born 1804)
- June 16 – Crawford Long, American surgeon and pharmacist (born 1815)
- June 27 – Sidney Breese, U.S. Senator from Illinois from 1843 to 1849 (born 1800)
- September 23 – Kinloch Falconer, 23rd Secretary of State of Mississippi (born 1838)
- October 5 – George Boyer Vashon, African-American attorney, educationalist, abolitionist, essayist and poet (born 1824)
- November 16 – Sarah Harris Fayerweather, African-American whose 1832 admission to a Connecticut school resulted in the first integrated schoolhouse (born 1812)
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