Events up to 1889


Etienne Moreau theorized on the properties and distribution of ether. Thomas Edison begins research on a prototype Ether Propeller.

A 60-year old man named Yang Lu-ch'an starts teaching boxing in Peking. Although Yang's style, known as t'ai chi ch'uan or "Grand Ultimate Boxing," used soft, flowing techniques rather than hard, linear techniques, it was quite capable of defeating first-rate Shaolin boxers. Yang was a native of Hopeh Province, and first learned inner boxing from Ch'ang-hsing of Honan Province. He then taught the method to his sons Pan-hou and Chien-hou, and the latter taught his sons Shao-hou and Ch'eng-fu.

While preparing for a London prize-fight with English champion Tom Sayers, John C. Heenan becomes the first American boxer known to lift weights and punch bags as part of his training regimen. While lacking much practical ring experience, Heenan was superbly fit, and could run a quarter-mile in 56 seconds. Training during this period consisted of avoiding hard liquor, tobacco, spicy food, and sexual intercourse; jogging and wind-sprinting two to four miles a day; and sparring with gloves for an hour or more each day. The inspiration for the regime came from horse racing. In the words of Francis Dowling's Fistiana, "A man put to training is like a colt to be broken in." Viewing pugilists as human race horses is not entirely figurative, either, as managers were not above doping fighters to ensure they lost and a majority shareholder of the race track at Saratoga Springs, New York, was none other than former pugilist John Morrissey. Morrissey was undoubtedly the most economically successful pugilist of the nineteenth century. Though his fame came from boxing, his income came from organized gambling. (Morrissey was a pioneer of pari-mutuel ticket selling, English-style bookmaking, and off-track betting.) He was also intimately involved in Tammany politics, and his testimony helped topple Boss Tweed in 1868.

Feng Kue-fen introduces the term "self-strengthening" into the Chinese political lexicon. While the phrase originally meant using European arms and manufacturing methods to defend traditional Chinese values, by 1935, it also meant using foreign calisthenics to strengthen Chinese bodies and spirits for military service.


The Germans introduce smokeless small arm cartridges. These were shotgun shells designed by a Prussian officer named E. Schultz. The propellant was nitrated wood pulp, or the same stuff that Alfred Nobel later called dynamite.


General James Miranda Barry, the Inspector General of the British Army Medical Department, dies in London, and is discovered after death to have been female.


First working ether flyer mechanism demonstrated by Edison.


German chemists develop chloracetophenone, or CN. Burning CN creates an irritant cloud that irritates the eyes and upper respiratory tract. Hence its popular name, "tear gas."


Edison and Armstrong travel in a primitive Ether Flyer to Mars, and return. Earth discovers that Mars is inhabited. The discovery of liftwood on Mars revolutionizes flight.

Franco-Prussian War between France and Germany begins.


Franco-Prussian war ends in German victory. Wilhelm I crowned Emperor of Germany at the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles.

An English soldier named Sir George Tomkyns Chesney publishes a tale about a nearly bloodless German conquest of Britain called "The Battle of Dorking." This fantasy fathered a late-Victorian literary genre and grandfathered Tom Clancy's post-modern techno-thrillers.

Feuds between rival Chinese gangs erupt into violence in San Francisco and British Columbia.


First British foothold on Mars with the establishment of the Permanent British Quarter in Parhoon.

The German Army adopts its first Mauser rifle. This was a single-shot bolt-action weapon firing an 11.15x60mm bullet propelled by 77 grains of black powder. Although the rifle was improved with the addition of a tubular magazine in 1884, its cartridge had become obsolete due to the development of smokeless propellants. Therefore a new 7.9mm Mannlicher rifle replaced it in 1888.


Edison loses patent suit against Armstrong Ether Flyer Company. Both firms compete vigorously in design and construction of spacecraft.


Armstrong expedition to Venus fails to return.

Belgians and French establish enclaves on Mars.


Collingswood Expedition to Venus fails to return.

The Sharps Rifle Company of Bridgeport, Connecticut introduces three new cartridges in .50 caliber for its custom-made Model 1874 hunting rifles. Although advertised as buffalo guns, these rifles cost $118 from the factory. Therefore they were hardly common on the American frontier. Instead, the .50 caliber Sharps rifles that slaughtered the bison herds (and made the amazing 1,400 yard shot that ruined the war magic of the Comanche war chief Eeshatai at the Battle of Adobe Walls in 1874) were military surplus Model 151 Sharps breechloading rifles converted to cartridge firing and rebored to shoot .50-70 Government cartridges.

Mary Baker Eddy publishes Science and Health. Four years later, the First Church of Christ Scientist is established to teach the doctrines contained in this book. These doctrines taught that illness was error, and that evil was imaginary, as the physical world was illusory. Theological influences included Calvinism, Swedenborgianism, and nineteenth century millenarianism.

The Russian mystic Helena Blavatsky and the American lawyer Henry Olcott establish the Theosophical Society in New York and London. While Blavatsky was something of a charlatan, and Olcott was important mainly for supporting Sri Lankan Buddhism during a time of profound Christian oppression, together they were among the first Europeans or Americans to systematically mine Vedic and Buddhist philosophies for religious truths. The Theosophists' purported universalism was hardly universal, as Theosophists downplayed orthodox Christianity and Judaism, scorned Confucianism, Islam, Sikhism, Taoism, and ignored animism. Theosophist Katherine Tingley introduced yoga into Southern California in 1899.

Parisian street gangsters are reported shaving their heads and dressing in metal-studded leather jackets. The press responded by called such people "Apaches." This name referred to a Belgian pepperbox revolver of the same name that had a blade under its barrel and a knuckle-duster in its butt rather than the Athabascan people of the American Southwest. Around 1890, the Apache name also began to describe a sadomasochistic dance genre in which tattooed, scarred women fought knife or saber duels while stripped to their underclothes, or smiled while men slapped them around.


London "Times" Venus rescue expedition fails to return.

During the Satsuma Rebellion, where Imperial conscripts used rifles and artillery to shoot down tens of thousands of sword-wielding samurai, the exclamation "Banzai!" enters the Japanese political lexicon. (While the expression literally means "Ten thousand years!" it is better translated as "Long live the Emperor!") During this same rebellion, the Japanese yakuza gangs also bought themselves a vast amount of political goodwill by giving their support to the hard-pressed Imperial forces. The Japanese government repaid this debt following the war by allowing the gangsters to organize and control the Japanese longshore, construction, and rickshaw companies. This mob control over Japanese rickshaw companies is noted because prostitution was not a big business in Okinawa prior to the arrival of the Japanese in the 1880s.


German Ether Dirigible lands on Venus and discovers fate of the first three expeditions.

By washing his hands and cleaning his saws between amputations, a Russian physician named von Bergmann introduces asepsis to military medicine. This is important because more soldiers historically died from disease than wounds or enemy action.


Nicholas August Otto and Eugen Langen make the first high-speed, four-stroke, internal combustion engine. In 1885, the German engineer Gottlieb Daimler mounts a half-horsepower version on a bicycle to create the first motorcycle, while another German engineer named Karl-Friedrich Benz mounts a .85 horsepower version on a three-wheeled carriage to create the first modern automobile.

During its most violent year as a cow town, Dodge City, Kansas, witnesses the shooting deaths of four gamblers and two "sporting ladies". While this caused Dodge City's homicide rate to temporarily approach the sustained homicide rates of the Bowery and the Barbary Coast, it was also an aberration. For one thing, the shooting victims were white instead of African American, Mexican, or Chinese. For another, several of the victims were carrying guns at the time of their death. And for another, Dodge City did not report another homicide for the rest of the decade.


Nilotic peoples throughout the Southern Sahara are reported fighting with sharpened wrist bracelets. The object of this fighting was to cause cuts to the head, as the bloodshed supposedly guaranteed bountiful harvests. The blood that ran during such duels was considered virtuous, and the sick often tried to touch it. While the symbolic value of these weapons is indicated by their Shangan name, bagussa, meaning "things that cause fear," Europeans thought that the Africans wore these sharpened bracelets for self-defense against Swahili slavers.

Commercially rolled cigarettes become popular in the United States. The cigarettes were popular mainly with urban youth. Tobacco-chewing moralists were outraged, saying, "Begin smoking at 10, mind shattered by 14!" And how had these urban youths acquired the smoking habit? Probably by taking jobs stripping tobacco and rolling cigarettes in squalid New York City sweat shops.


Germany establishes first colony on Venus.

Heidelberg expedition returns from Venus.

First Russian expedition lands on Venus.

In deference to the political Left, the French government makes Bastille Day the French national holiday.

First Italian expedition lands on Venus.

Second War of the Parhoon Succession results in establishment of a British crown colony on Mars.

Princess Christina Station established on Mercury

Battle Studies by Charles Ardant du Picq teaches three generations of French and Japanese soldiers that sufficient élan during the attack can neutralize an enemy's technological superiority.


HMS Aphid launched at Syrtis Major -- the first Terran-designed steam flier on Mars.

Korea's King Kojong hires a Japanese soldier named Horimoto Reizo to train the Pyolgigun, or "Special Skills Force", to march and shoot in the European fashion. The Korean royal bodyguard was not amused by this threat to its existence, and had Horimoto killed and the Pyolgigun disbanded in 1882. Payback came in 1910, when the Japanese Army disbanded the Korean royal bodyguard and ordered its surviving members returned to their home provinces. According to the traditions of a modern Korean combatives system known as Kuk Sool Won, a former bodyguard named Myung Deuk Suh subsequently began teaching koong joong mu sool ("aristocratic martial arts") to his grandchildren as a way of preserving the old ways.

Japanese ultra-nationalists establish the Black Ocean Society in Tokyo. Killers associated with this organization assassinated the Korean queen in 1895, and as late as 1931, Prince Saionji Kimmochi described them as "villains and roughnecks." The society had strong underworld connections. This was partly because military intelligence could be collected in whorehouses and gambling dens, and partly because the Japanese subsidized the expenses of their Chinese adventures by selling thirty tons of Iranian opium a year. Japanese martial art instructors whose lives intersected with this society or a successor known as the Amur River Society include Shorinji kenpo's Doshin So, aikido's Ueshiba Morihei, and Goju Kai karate's Yamaguchi Gogen.


First German colonial governor takes residence at Venusstadt.

Meepsoor and Moeris Lacus accept status as British protectorates.

Belgian Legion involved in frequent fighting in the Coprates Valley on Mars.


Due to increasing numbers of crimes involving firearms, the constables of the London Metropolitan Police are told that they can carry firearms for defense. Most constables continued to prefer truncheons, in part because they received no firearm instruction until 1966.

Russian intervention in Hecates Lacus civil war leads to Treaty of Cebrenia recognizing Russia's "special interests" in the region.

British fight aerial campaign against pirates in the Aerian Hills.

Rebellion in the Sudan grows.

The "Orient Express" (Paris to Istanbul railroad) makes its first run.


Hiram S. Maxim, an American living in London, patents his first belt-fed machine gun. While an eminently practical design, navies liked Maxim guns more than armies. This was mostly due to expense. In other words, while a cruiser captain might feel well-equipped with a handful of Maxim guns, an infantry battalion commander required dozens, and one gun, without cart or spare parts, cost $1800, plus another $25 per minute to shoot.

General Gordon reaches Khartoum as governor of the Sudan. The Mahdi refuses to negotiate and brings Khartoum under seige.

Liam O'Connor in the Fenian Ram makes first attack on British shipping on Mars.

British aerial squadron bombards Shastapash.

The British polymath Captain Richard Francis Burton publishes The Book of the Sword.

The German Army becomes the first major European military to issue repeating rifles to its regular infantry. This was a bolt-action Mauser rifle loading 11mm bullets from a tubular magazine below the barrel.

Japanese make their first landing on Mars.

A 20-year old American woman named Etta Hattan adopts the stage name of Jaguarina, and bills herself as the "Ideal Amazon of the Age." Whether Hattan was all of that is of course debatable, but she was certainly Amazon enough to defeat many men at mounted broadsword fencing during her 15-year professional career.


The Dervish Army captures Khartoum and massacres the garrison. Two days later it destroys the desert column. British evacuate the Sudan. Later in the year the Mahdi dies.

A French engineer, Paul Vielle, patents the first practical smokeless high-velocity gunpowder.

The Congo (in Africa) and the Upper Coprates (on Mars) become the personal possessions of King Leopold II of Belgium.

Germany annexes Tanganyika and Zanzibar, renaming them East Africa.

Japan establishes Unebi Station near Euxinus Lacus on Mars.

Bulgaria seizes Eastern Rumelia.

Serbia and Trans-Balkania declare war on Bulgaria and Ruritania, but are quickly beaten and withdrawn to prewar boundaries.

Posthumous publication of Karl Marx's 'Das Kapital'.


The Haymarket Riot (May 4th): 7 Chicago police officers are killed by a bomb and 8 anarchists are arrested despite their lack of involvement; several are eventually executed.

The French army introduces the 8mm Lebel rifle, first in the world to use a small-bore smokeless propellant.

28 October: Statue of Liberty dedicated in New York Harbor.

The Supreme Court rules that corporations are "persons" under the 14th amendment and cannot be denied profits or the right of due process.

General George Boulanger becomes French war minister.

HMS Locust, first armored aerial gunboat built on Earth, launched at Portsmouth; the ether battleship HMS Duke of York follows a few months later.

The "Mylarkt Incident" (exchange of gunfire between German and British aerial vessels on Mars) begins steady deterioration in Anglo-German relations.

The French Académie d'Armes contributes to the continuing stylization of European fencing by introducing the grand, or formal civil, salute.


Explorers' Club founded.

The J. Stevens Arms & Tool Company develops the .22 Long Rifle cartridge. This quickly became the most popular rimfire cartridge ever made.

British besiege and capture the Martian city of Shastapsh.

The "Avenel Incident" brings Britain and Oenotria to the brink of war.

The Fenian Ram destroyed by British aerial gunboats in the Meroe Highlands, but O'Connor survives and escapes.

The ether battleship HMS Duke of Cambridge is launched.

Successful aerial campaign waged against High Martian pirates of the Astusapes Highlands, culminating in near-total destruction of Barrovaangian fleet.

Leopold II declares the Lower Coprates a Belgian protectorate.

Construction begins on the Tehuantepec Ship Railroad, in Mexico.


The Great Blizzard of 1888 paralyzes the east coast (March 12th) and causes 400 deaths.

"Ripper" murders take place in Whitechapel district of London.

Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany dies in March and is succeeded by his son Fredrick III, who dies in June and is succeeded by his son Wilhelm II.

General Boulanger is forcibly retired from the French Army and elected to the Chamber of Deputies.

The ether battleship HMS Duke of Clarence is launched.

Benjamin Harrison elected president of the United States (although Grover Cleveland wins the popular vote).

Explorers' Club Expedition to Tibet - only one survivor returns.

Catherwood's expedition to the Sahara vanishes en route from Equatoria to Algeria.

Admiral John Fisher becomes Third Sea Lord of the Royal Navy, responsible for the design and procurement of ships - naval and aerial.

Sidney Boynton, United States Ambassador to the Oenotrian Court, is kidnapped by Barrovaangian King Hattabranx, but he is later rescued by British gunboats. First recorded successful assault on a large kraag.

Pedro II, emperor of Brazil, abolishes slavery.

The "Kodak No. 1" camera is introduced by George Eastman.


Emperor Franz Josef's son Rudolph commits suicide (January 30th) after killing his 16 year old mistress.

Milan Obrenovich abdicates (March 6th) from the Serbian throne in favor of his 13 year old son, Alexander; Milan settles in Paris as a "private citizen". Bulgaria and Ruritania mobilize.

Johannes IV, emperor of Abyssinia, is killed in battle against the Mahdists at Mettema (March 11th) and is eventually succeeded by Menelik II during a period of civil war.

Italian troops mass on the Abyssinian borders in Eritrea and Somaliland (spring) and invade after the death of Johannes IV. A protectorate is declared on May 2nd.

The French physiologist Charles-Edouard Brown-Séquard [b. April 8, 1817, d. April 1, 1894], considered a founder of endocrinology, injects himself with hormones from bull testicles in hopes of experiencing a return of vigor. He continues to experiment by isolating serums from various animal glands to increase human physical performance.

Otto Lilienthal publishes Der Vogelflug als Grundlage der Fliegekunst ("bird flight as a basis for aviation"), which becomes an influential book for early aviation pioneers.

Nintendo is founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi to produce handmade playing cards.

General Boulanger flees from France (April 1st) after his coup attempt is detected.

The German Luft Stellung Wotan is first flown, much to the dismay of other European powers.

The first Great Land Rush occurs in Oklahoma (April 22); nearly 2 million acres are claimed in a day by settlers.

The Exposition Universelle in Paris draws 28 million visitors between May 5th and October 31st. The aerial fortress Charlemagne is first seen here. The artificial fiber rayon, a form of cellulose manufactured by the comte de Chardonnet, wins the Grand Prix.

Cordite is invented by Dewar and Abel, joins ballistite among the useful "smokeless powders".

Johnstown (Pennsylvania) flood kills an estimated 5,000 people on May 13th when a dam bursts 18 miles above Johnstown.

In Samoa on May 15th, three US and three German ships sink in a typhoon because their captains refuse to leave before the others warships; almost 200 drown. The British HMS Calliope saves herself by steaming into the wind at full speed.

Electrocution replaces hanging as the official method of capital punishment in New York State.

A huge locust swarm crosses the Red Sea and destroys crops in the Nile Valley.

The "Naval Defence Act" passed by Parliament establishes the "two power" standard.

The Tehuantepec Ship Railroad begins operation on June 1st.

Britain, Germany and the United States sign an agreement to divide Samoa between them (June 14th).

Butch Cassidy robs a bank in Telluride, Colorado (June 24th) and escapes into Utah with $20,000 - his first major crime.

During the last nationally ranked London Prize Rules fight in the United States, John L. Sullivan beats Jake Kilrain. The July 8th fight (which featured Bat Masterson as a timekeeper and a future mayor of New Orleans as the referee) established Sullivan as America's first sports icon. The fight itself lasted 2 hours, 16 minutes, and was distinguished by more hip-throws, foot-spiking, and name-calling than clean punches. Put another way, "Mr. John started a-sweatin' about the second round," said a witness named Miss Mattie many years later. "He grunted and snorted a heap. Mr. Jake danced like a bridegroom at his weddin' dinner. Finally Mr. John hit Mr. Jake so hard Mr. Jake just didn't get up and that all it was to it."

Ferdinand de Lesseps abandons the Panama Canal project when the [first] French company formed to build the canal goes bankrupt and loses the money of thousands of investors.

London dock strike, August 19th to September 14th.

Pedro II, emperor of Brazil, overthrown by military coup (November 15th). Brazilian expansionist move north checked by the United States Navy in the Battle of the Mona Passage.

First confirmation of existence of Selenite civilization beneath the surface of Luna.

Belgians complete conquest of the Coprates. Columns begin raiding outside the Coprates in pursuit of rebels. Anti-human riots break out in many cities on Mars.

Oenotrian Empire declares war on Britain.

In the previous ten years, the Italians report 2,759 duels. All but about 200 were fought with swords rather than pistols, and fewer than 50 combatants died.

Gaslight: 1889 Index Page