- The United Kingdom declares war against Ghana's King Kofi KariKari, who was involved in the trading of slaves. The war ended by July and the British established the Gold Coast Colony.
- January 17 - Indian Wars: First Battle of the Stronghold during the Modoc War.
- February 11 - Spanish Cortes deposes King Amadeus I and proclaims the First Spanish Republic.
- February 12 - Former foreign minister Emilio Cistelar y Ripoli becomes prime minister of the new Spanish Republic.
- February 20 - The University of California opens its first medical school in San Francisco, California
- March 1 - E. Remington and Sons of Ilion, New York start production of the first practical typewriter.
- March 3 - Censorship: The United States Congress enacts the Comstock Law, making it illegal to send any "obscene, lewd, or lascivious" books through the mail.
- April 1 - The British steamer SS Atlantic sinks off Nova Scotia killing 547.
- April 15 - 17 - Indian Wars: Second Battle of the Stronghold
- May 9 Der Krach: Vienna stock market crash heralds Long Depression
- May 23 - The Canadian Parliament establishes the North West Mounted Police (which will be renamed the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in 1920).
- June 4 - Indian Wars: The Modoc War ends with the capture of Captain Jack.
- July 21 - At Adair, Iowa, Jesse James and the James-Younger gang pull off the first successful train robbery in the American West (US$3,000 from the Rock Island Express).
- August 4 - Indian Wars: While protecting a railroad survey party in Montana, the Seventh Cavalry, under Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer, clash for the first time with the Sioux (near the Tongue River; only one man on each side is killed).
- September 16 - German troops leave France upon completion of payment of indemnity for Franco-Prussian War.
- September 18 - New York stock market crash.
- November 6 - Formation of the Halifax Rugby Club.
- November 7 - Alexander Mackenzie becomes Canada's second prime minister.
- Coors Brewing Company begins making beer in Golden, Colorado.
- DDT first synthesized.
- Swedish arms company Bofors is incorporated.
- Prince Edward Island joins the Canadian Confederation.
- In Mexico, Veracruz to Mexico City railroad completed.
- Royal Montreal Club in Montreal, Quebec is founded, becoming the first permanent golf club in North America.
- Henry Rose exhibits barbed wire at an Illinois county fair, which is taken up by Joseph Glidden and Jacob Haish, who invent a machine to mass-produce it.
- Britain puts pressure on Sultan Barghash Sayyid who closes slave markets in Zanzibar
- Peter Tchaikovsky composes The Tempest
- First running of the Preakness Stakes horse race in Baltimore, Maryland
- July 1 - Alice Guy-Blaché, pioneer French/American filmmaker (d. 1968)
- January 9 - Napoleon III, last emperor of France, in exile in England
- January 18 - Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, author
- January 20 - Fr. Basil Anthony Mary Moreau, founder of the Congregation of Holy Cross
- February 7 - Sheridan Le Fanu, writer
- April 11 - Edward Canby, US Army General killed during peace negations with Captain Jack
- May 6 - José Antonio Páez, First Venezuelan president
- May 20 - Sir George-Étienne Cartier, French-Canadian statesman
- September 17 - Alexander Berry, Scotish adventurer, founder of Berry, Australia.
- September 22 - Friedrich Frey-Herosé, member of the Swiss Federal Council (b. 1801)
- September 23 - Jean Chacornac, astronomer (b. 1823)
- October 3 - Captain Jack, Modoc tribal leader, hanged for the murder of Edward Canby
- October 6 - Sir Paweł Edmund Strzelecki, Polish explorer and geologist (b. 1797)
- December 14 - Louis Agassiz, Swiss-American geologist and naturalist
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