What Happened in American History in 1871?

In the year 1871, several significant events took place in the United States of America. Let’s take a look at some of them.

The Great Chicago Fire

One of the most devastating fires in American history started on October 8, 1871, in Chicago. The fire was believed to have started in a barn owned by Patrick and Catherine O’Leary.

The flames quickly spread due to strong winds, and within hours, much of Chicago was engulfed in flames. The fire burned for three days before it was finally put out. It is estimated that the fire destroyed over 17,000 buildings and left around 100,000 people homeless.

The Ku Klux Klan Act

On April 20, 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant signed into law the Ku Klux Klan Act. This act aimed to suppress the activities of white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan who were terrorizing African Americans and their supporters during Reconstruction. The act granted federal authorities the power to prosecute individuals who violated civil rights laws and gave them authority over state courts in cases involving civil rights violations.

The Treaty of Washington

The Treaty of Washington was signed on May 8, 1871, between the United States and Great Britain. The treaty settled several disputes between the two countries that had arisen since the end of the Civil War.

One of these disputes involved British support for Confederate ships during the war. Under the terms of the treaty, Great Britain agreed to pay $15 million in damages to American ship owners affected by this support.

The Paris Commune

In March 1871, a group of radical socialists seized control of Paris and established what they called “the Paris Commune.” The commune was an attempt to create a socialist government that would represent working-class interests rather than those of the wealthy elite.

The commune was short-lived, however, as the French government soon sent troops to retake control of the city. The Paris Commune fell on May 28, 1871.

The Civil Rights Act of 1871

On April 20, 1871, President Ulysses S. Grant also signed into law the Civil Rights Act of 1871. This act granted citizens the right to sue anyone who violated their civil rights under federal law. It was aimed at protecting African Americans who were being denied their rights in many parts of the country.


In conclusion, 1871 was a year of both tragedy and progress in American history. The Great Chicago Fire left a lasting impact on the city and its residents, while the Ku Klux Klan Act and Civil Rights Act of 1871 helped to protect the civil rights of all Americans.

The Treaty of Washington settled disputes between two powerful nations and paved the way for future cooperation. And while the Paris Commune may have been short-lived, it was an important moment in socialist history and a reminder that people will fight for their beliefs and ideals no matter what challenges they face.