1900 - 2000
February 25, 1901 United States Steel is incorporated, following the combination of 10 companies. It is the first billion-dollar corporation in America and in its first year of production makes 67% of all the steel produced in the country.
October 3, 1902 President Theodore Roosevelt intervenes in the anthracite coal strike in Pennsylvania, marking the first time that the federal government acted as a neutral party rather than as a strikebreaker.
1905 Sarah B. Walker, an African-American entrepreneur, develops a hair formula for black women in Denver, and organizes the Madame C.J. Walker Company, sending workers to provide treatment to clients in their homes.
June 27, 1905 The Industrial Workers of the World (often called the Wobblies), led by mine union leader “Big Bill” Haywood, holds founding convention in Chicago, challenging the more conservative craft-oriented American Federation of Labor.
1906 Upton Sinclair publishes his novel “The Jungle,” a shocking exposé of unsanitary conditions in the American meatpacking industry. The book helps win support for federal oversight of food processing industries, resulting in the Meat Inspection Act of 1906.
January 26, 1907 Congress passes a law to forbid corporations from contributing to election campaigns for national office.
February 1908 The U.S. Supreme Court rules that the Sherman Anti-Trust Act applies to labor unions.
November 22, 1909 Clara Lemlich, a young Jewish immigrant, leads 20,000 women garment workers in New York on strike for better wages and union recognition. When the strike ends in February 1910, women win higher wages and a 52-hour work week.
March 25, 1911 The Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in New York City kills 146 young mostly Jewish and Italian immigrant women and reveals unsafe conditions in the garment industry.
May 3, 1911 Governor Francis McGovern of Wisconsin signs into law the nation’s first workmen’s compensation law, compelling employers to compensate workers injured on the job.
May 15, 1911 The U.S. Supreme Court orders the Standard Oil Company and American Tobacco Company dissolved for “unreasonable” restraint on trade.
February 25, 1913 The 16th Amendment imposes a federal income tax.
May 19, 1913 The California Alien Land Law prohibits land ownership by aliens ineligible for citizenship; by 1925, 13 additional states had similar legislation.
December 1, 1913 Ford introduces an assembly line for the mass production of autos in Highland Park, Michigan.
December 23, 1913 Reacting to the banking crisis of 1907, the Federal Reserve Act is approved, establishing the Federal Reserve System as the national bank, regulator of the money supply, holder of centralized bank reserves, and the “lender of last resort.”
1916 The CIT banking group partners with 4,000 Studebaker Automobile dealers to provide financing to car buyers, who pay 1/3 down and the remainder in eight monthly payments.
July 25, 1916 New York introduces a comprehensive zoning code to ensure light and air for the canyons of lower Manhattan.
February 23, 1917 The Smith-Hughes Law establishes federal-state vocational education and creates the Federal Board of Vocational Education.
April 2, 1917 President Wilson calls a special session of Congress for a declaration of war against Germany. The war causes terrible inflation as participants break from the gold standard and issue currency freely.
December 26, 1917 The federal government assumes control of the nation’s railroads; President Wilson appoints Secretary of the Treasury William McAdoo Director General of Railroads.
January 26, 1919 The 18th Amendment prohibits the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating beverages within the United States.
September 9, 1919 In Boston 1,117 policemen (72% of the force) strike to form a union; Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge orders state militia to patrol the city. Police Commissioner Edwin Curtis fires the strikers and hires unemployed servicemen as replacements.
November 2, 1920 Pittsburgh’s KDKA, the first commercial radio station in the United States, broadcasts election results. By 1922, three million Americans own radios.
September 7, 1921 Atlantic City holds the first Miss America beauty pageant to extend the tourist season.
May 26, 1924 The National Origins Act of 1924 limits the number of immigrants, favors northern and western Europeans over southern and eastern Europeans, and bans all immigration from East and South Asia.
July 1, 1925 Cleveland opens the first municipal airport in the U.S in continuous operation; 100,000 visitors celebrate the occasion.
August 25, 1925 A. Philip Randolph organizes the first national black labor union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, in Harlem.
1926 Clarence Birdseye introduces packaged frozen vegetables, using his flash freezing process.
November 15, 1926 The National Broadcasting Company (NBC), jointly owned by RCA, General Electric, and Westinghouse, broadcasts its first show over a 25-station network to nearly half of the nation’s five million radio owners.
April 1927 The Great Mississippi River Flood is the worst river flood in America’s history.
1928 Doubleday begins mass production for the distribution of inexpensive books to a mass market.
1928 Edsel Ford, son of Henry Ford, starts Ford’s Universal Credit Corporation, making it possible to buy Ford automobiles on credit. CIT buys Universal Credit in 1935.
May 3, 1928 The National City Bank of New York (now Citibank) is the first commercial bank to grant unsecured personal loans to its depositors.
October 24, 1929 On “Black Thursday”, the New York Stock Exchange suffers a plunge in stock value.
June 17, 1930 The Hawley-Smoot Tariff Act raises duties on hundreds of imported goods up to 50%; U.S. exports decline 2/3 by 1932.
December 11, 1930 The Bank of U.S. fails, the largest bank in the U.S. to fail to date, spurring banks across the United States to close.
March 19, 1931 Gambling is legalized in Las Vegas.
September 12, 1931 Bank panic closes 800 banks, many of them in Detroit, Cleveland, and Chicago.
March 23, 1932 The Norris-LaGuardia Act allows workers to organize unions, restricts the use of injunctions against labor activities, and declares yellow-dog contracts unenforceable.
May 12, 1933 The Federal Emergency Relief Administration is created with an appropriation of $500,000,000. The measure provides the first direct federal grants to States for unemployment relief, medical attention, and medical supplies to recipients of unemployment relief.
June 16, 1933 Congress passes legislation establishing the National Recovery Administration (NRA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA), and passes the Glass-Steagall Banking Reform Act.
May 11, 1934 A dust storm sends millions of tons of topsoil east across the Great Plains.
June 6, 1934 The Securities and Exchange Commission is established, providing penalties for manipulation of stock prices and authority to set margin requirements on stock purchases.
June 12, 1934 The Airmail Act requires airplane manufacturers to relinquish control of airlines. Boeing divests itself of American Airlines.
April 8, 1935 Congress appropriates $5 billion to provide “work relief.” Included in the program are the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and the Public Works Administration (PWA).
August 14, 1935 Title VI of the Social Security Act is passed, authorizing the expenditure of up to $2 million on health grants to the states for “investigation of disease and problems of sanitation.”
December 30, 1936 Flint, Michigan is the scene of a 44-day sit-down strike against General Motors. The strike legitimizes the United Auto Workers union, whose membership grows from 30,000 to 500,000 in one year.
September 1, 1937 The National Housing Act (Wagner-Steagall Act) inaugurates the federal housing program.
October 30, 1938 Panic sweeps nation as “Martians” invade New Jersey on radio show presented by Orson Welles.
October 8, 1940 The federal corporate tax rate is raised to 24 percent and excessive business profits are taxed.
December 30, 1940 The Arroyo Seco Parkway (today known as the Pasadena Freeway) is opened, connecting Pasadena and Los Angeles. This first freeway in southern California begins a wave of highway construction that transforms urban transportation in America.
June 17, 1941 The Colorado River Aqueduct is completed and brings its first water to Los Angeles along a 242-mile route.
December 7, 1941 Japan attacks Pearl Harbor and the U.S. enters World War II.
June 22, 1944 President Roosevelt signs the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act (the G.I. Bill), which provides funds for American veterans to pursue higher education.
April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson breaks the color barrier, playing his first game for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
May 7, 1947 William Levitt opens suburban community of Levittown, New York, selling 17,447 houses for about $8,000 each, before branching out to build over 140,000 homes in various subdivisions across America. By 1960, not a single one of Levittown’s 82,000 residents in New York was African-American.
1949 The Ford Motor Company begins funding the first pension plan for blue-collar workers.
1950 Pittsburgh is the first major American city to demolish and reshape a large part of its downtown, creating the Golden Triangle.
1951 Stanford University sponsors Stanford Industrial Park, a research facility containing Hewlett-Packard, General Electric and Lockheed; area becomes known as Silicon Valley.
1953 Carter Products, the maker of Carter’s Little Liver Pills, begins marketing Miltown tranquilizer.
1954 Swanson Frozen Foods introduces the first TV dinners, backed by a nationwide advertising campaign.
1954 George Johnson, a sharecropper’s grandson, starts pioneering Johnson Products, selling Ultra Sheen for hair care.
April 1, 1954 Television station WQED, the world’s first community-sponsored, educational, noncommercial station, goes on the air.
May 17, 1954 In Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court unanimously rules that any laws mandating or permitting segregation of children into “separate but equal” public schools are unconstitutional.
April 12, 1955 University of Pittsburgh researcher and City College of New York graduate Dr. Jonas Salk announces the development of a safe and effective polio vaccine, following a nationwide test.
July 17, 1955 Disneyland amusement park opens in Anaheim, California.
June 29, 1956 Congress passes the multibillion dollar Federal Aid Highway Act, creating an interstate highway system linking all state capitals and most cities with populations larger than 50,000. The act authorizes spending $33.5 billion over 13 years.
October 4, 1957 The Soviet Union launches Sputnik 1 into orbit around the earth, and spurs the U.S. government to increase science research.
September 1958 BankAmericard, the first comprehensive credit card, begins offering credit in California; the card evolves into Visa.
September 2, 1958 The National Defense Education Act authorizes a $1 billion four-year program of federal financial assistance to strengthen science, mathematics, and foreign-language instruction.
1959 Research Triangle Park is created near Raleigh, North Carolina, by state and local government, nearby universities, and business community; it’s home today to over 130 research and development facilities, including the largest IBM location in the world, employing 11,000.
1959 A team of mathematicians under the leadership of Dr. Grace Hopper develop the computer language COBOL, computer business-oriented language.
January 17, 1961 In his farewell address, President Eisenhower warns the nation of the growing power of the “military-industrial complex.”
March 19, 1962 Michael Harrington’s “The Other America” reveals that 40-50 million Americans live in poverty.
August 28, 1963 The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom brings 250,000 Americans to the capital, setting in motion the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. gives his “I have a dream” speech.
January 8, 1964 In his State of the Union message to Congress, President Lyndon B. Johnson declares a national “war on poverty.”
July 2, 1964 The U.S. Congress passes the Civil Rights Act, stating that institutions accepting federal funding shall not discriminate on the basis of race
October 3, 1965 President Johnson signs the Hart-Celler Immigration Act at the Statute of Liberty, eliminating the quota system of the National Origins Act of 1924.
November 8, 1965 The Higher Education Act provides financial assistance to college students in the form of Basic Educational Opportunity Grants, renamed Pell Grants in 1980 to honor the legislation’s sponsor Senator Claiborne Pell.
January 2, 1971 Congressional ban prohibiting radio and television advertising of cigarettes goes into effect.
June 8, 1972 Congress passes a higher education aid bill (known as Title IX) that includes a provision barring Federal aid to any public colleges that discriminate against women.
January 11, 1973 Wage and price controls are instituted to fight inflation and remain in force until April 1974.
February 28, 1975 New York City cancels a large note issue because of concern over its weak financial condition.
1977 Citibank introduces the 24-hour automated teller machine (ATM) and the Citicard.
June 6, 1978 Proposition 13 in California is passed, capping property tax rates and reducing public funding of schools, libraries, and other institutions.
May 10, 1980 The federal government approves $1.5 billion in loan guarantees to save the Chrysler Corporation from bankruptcy, the largest rescue of an American corporation.
December 19, 1980 The U.S. prime interest rate reaches an all-time high of 21.5%.
August 12, 1981 IBM introduces the IBM Personal Computer for $1,565, which quickly becomes the industry standard. Time magazine chooses the “personal computer” as its 1982 Man of the Year.
August 13, 1981 President Reagan signs the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which reduced individual tax rates 23% over three years and dropped the top tax rate from 70% to 50%.
1986 A boycott of South Africa grows as GM, Honeywell, IBM, Coca-Cola, General Electric, Proctor & Gamble leave the country.
October 19, 1987 New York Stock Exchange crashes as Dow Jones loses nearly 23% of its value due to fears of inflation, rising interest rates, steep trade deficits, and computerized trading.
April 14, 1989 Federal regulators seize the Lincoln Savings and Loan of Irvine, California, the start of a savings and loan bailout costing taxpayers more than $500 billion by 1993.
February 5, 1993 Congress passes the Family and Medical Leave Act, providing many employees the right to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave during a 12-month period for family or medical reasons without the threat of losing their job.
August 22, 1996 President Clinton signs the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act of 1996; it imposes work requirements for welfare recipients and alters the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program which had provided aid to mothers and children since 1935.
September 11, 2001 Al-Qaeda terrorists attack the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, murdering nearly 3,000 people. The attack also permanently damaged the Borough of Manhattan Community College/CUNY’s Fiterman Hall, a 15-story building, reducing the College’s instructional space by 1/3.
December 2, 2001 Energy giant Enron files for bankruptcy following revelations of widespread accounting fraud.
August 29, 2005 Hurricane Katrina devastates New Orleans; it takes an estimated 1,700 lives along the Gulf of Mexico coast. Despite federal pledges to rebuild the city, neighborhoods throughout New Orleans remain in tatters years later.
January 9, 2007 Apple introduces the iPhone, combining a mobile phone, a widescreen music player, and an Internet communications device.
September 15, 2008 Lehman Brothers files for bankruptcy and Bank of America purchases Merrill Lynch for $50 billion in the midst of a financial crisis.
January 21, 2009 Toyota announces that it has surpassed General Motors as the world’s number one car manufacturer, selling 8.972 million cars in 2008, 616,000 more than the American auto firm. In spite of these figures, Toyota reported its first operating loss in its history.
March 23, 2010 President Barack Obama signs the Affordable Health Care for America Act, enabling millions of Americans to obtain health insurance.
June 20, 2011 In Wal-Mart Stores vs. Dukes, No. 10-277, the U.S. Supreme Court throws out the employment discrimination class-action suit against Wal-Mart that had sought billions of dollars on behalf of as many as 1.5 million female workers.