Timeline: 1870 – 1900

Era 6: Development of the Industrial United States – 1870 to 1900


Compiled by Tom Sullivan and Louise Troehler

1870
The population of Keene was 5,971.

1871
The Civil War soldiers’ monument was erected in the common. Martin Milmore of Boston was the sculptor of the eight-foot bronze figure of a Union infantryman.

James Scollay Taft founded Hampshire Pottery.

1872
Keene Natural History Society was organized.

1873
John A. Wright started making Wright’s Silver Cream. The company was incorporated under J. A. Wright & Company in 1893.

3 July
City charter apporved by legislature.

1874
10 March
At the town’s annual meeting, the residents voted to adopt a city charter.

14 April
City officers and officers from five wards were elected.

5 May
The chosen officers were organized as a city government.

1875
2 February
Keene Public Library was incorporated into the city, thereby becoming a free library without fees.

March
The first postal letter boxes were installed in Keene at the railroad station.

December
Keene Humane Society was organized.

Horatio Colony was elected the first mayor of Keene.

1876
4 July
Keene celebrated the Centennial with the rest of the nation.

December
The new High School was dedicated on Winter Street.

1878
December
Last spike of the Manchester and Keene Railroad was driven in Keene, opening up rail service to points east.

1879
Women were permitted to vote in school district affairs.

Keene’s first telephones were introduced with two subscribers.

1880
The population of Keene was 6,789.

1881
The Cheshire County Telephone Company was established. The first calls were between Keene and Marlborough and Keene and Gilsum.

25 September
Keene mourns the death of assassinated President James Garfield.

1882
Keene businessman Samuel W. Hale elected governor of New Hampshire.

1885
The first fire alarm box system was started and the fire station was built. It was enlarged in 1892 and rebuilt in 1926.

Barnum, Bailey & Hutchinson Circus came to Keene. Their famous elephant Albert was killed in Keene after he attacked and killed his keeper.

1886
June
Electric light poles were erected on Roxbury Street. George Wheelock, the city’s the first Park Commissioner, gives land to the city, which will become Wheelock Park. He also deeded Robin Hood Park in 1897.

The first concrete sidewalks were constructed on the east side of Main Street.

The Wilkins Toy Company was started in Beaver Mills.

1887
Caroline Ingersoll and the Ladies of Keene saved a pine grove, known today as the Ladies Wildwood Park on Park Avenue.

Keene Toboggan Club erected a chute that was located on Grant Street. The chute was forty feet high, 12 feet wide and 175 feet long. People also skied there. It was moved in 1910 to North Lincoln Street.

1888
March
Blizzard of 1888. Snow drifted into snow banks twelve to fifteen feet high.

Cash registers first appeared in local stores.

1889
Bicycling became popular. About 2,000 “wheels” were being used in Keene.

1890
The population in Keene was 7,446.

1891
The city purchased a steamroller and the first macadam pavement was laid.

1892
7 April
Elliot City Hospital, an eighteen-bed facility, was established on Main Street, and is presently Elliot Hall at Keene State College. The hospital was made possible by John Henry Elliot’s donation of his home and property. It later became known as Elliot Community Hospital.

Fire station enlarged.

Charles C. Beedle began the C.C. Beedle Piano Company in Keene.

October
Keene celebrated the 400th anniversary of Columbus coming to America.

1893
The YMCA erected a three story building on West Street. Classes in penmanship, bookkeeping, business, and English were offered.

The Peerless Insurance Company was started, from which the Peerless Casualty Company began in 1901.

1894
Harry Thayer Kingsbury purchased the Wilkins Toy Company, thereby starting the Kingsbury Manufacturing Company. The Kingsbury Machine Company division was established in 1920.

1895
The Keene Gas & Electric Light Company plant on Wilson Street opened.

Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show with Annie Oakley performed in Keene.

Walter and Windsor H. Goodnow opened twelve department stores in New England between 1895 and 1920, with one in Keene.

1896
11 July
The first horseless carriage appeared in Keene. It was a maroon seven hundred-pound Duryea. It was part of the Barnum and Bailey Circus exhibit.

23 November
The first motion picture was shown in Keene. The community’s first motion picture house, The Nickel Theatre, opened in 1905.

1897
Keene’s Country Club was started, along with the introduction of golf to the community.

1898
15 February
The Spanish American War started. Keene men answered the call to serve their country. Although the Keene men were ordered to Cuba twice, their orders were cancelled each time. The only battles the Keene unit fought were those against typhoid, dysentery, fever, and the other ills of the poorly equipped camps of the period. The soldiers returned on the evening of September 13th, and were greeted by 5,000 happy citizens. Bonfires were lit to signal that the train was approaching. Fireworks were set off and the soldiers received a hot supper at the armory.

1899
28 February
The city proudly dedicated its first library building. The Henry Colony Victorian mansion was donated by Edward Carrington Thayer.

April
Two heavy naval cannons arrived in Keene and were placed on each side of the Soldier’s Monument.

July
The city entered into a contract with the Keene Gas Light Company. One hundred incandescent streetlights were erected.

A bicycle path was started.

Sprague & Carleton founded a local furniture factory. Keene was known as the porch chair capital of the United States. Sprague & Carleton was one of several local chair companies that produced up to one million rocking chairs each year.

1900
September
The Keene Electric Railway (trolley) opened for regular service with a route that included Keene to Marlborough.

The Trinity Bicycle factory converted to manufacture automobiles as the Steamobile Company of America.

By 1900, electric power was being provided on a 24-hour basis.

The population in Keene was 9,165 people.


Tom Sullivan teaches elementary school in Keene and Louise Troehler is a HSCC volunteer.