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1900 - 1909

Events, people, places, and other important happenings during the first years of the 20th century.
  1. First Flight at Kitty Hawk
  2. The Boer War

1900-1909 Timeline
A year-by-year look at the first decade of the 20th century.

1906 San Francisco Earthquake
The large earthquake that hit San Francisco in 1906 devastated the city. How big was it? How many people were killed? Why were there fires after the quake?

Australia Becomes a Commonwealth
After ten years of planning, the six colonies of Australia joined together in a federation to create the Commonwealth of Australia on January 1, 1901.

The Boer War
The Boer War (1899-1902) was fought between the British and the Boers (Dutch settlers) in South Africa. The Boers, who were terribly outnumbered, used guerrilla tactics to outwit the British; however, in the end, the Boers lost and their two republics became absorbed by the British into South Africa. Learn more about the Boer War.

Boxer Rebellion
In 1900, a group known as the Boxers murdered thousands of foreigners, especially missionaries, in an attempt to rid China of all foreign influence.

Brownie Camera
In 1900, the Eastman Kodak Company introduced a low-priced, point-and-shoot, hand-held camera -- the Brownie.

Einstein Proposes His Theory of Relativity
In 1905, Albert Einstein, a 26-year-old patent clerk, wrote a paper that revolutionized science. In his Special Theory of Relativity, Einstein explained that the speed of light was constant but that both space and time were relative to the position of the observer. Find out more about Einstein's Theory of Relativity by reading this article.

First Fatal Airplane Crash
Just five years after the Wrights' first flight, Orville Wright was in the first fatal airplane crash, which left Orville severely injured and his passenger dead.

The First License Plates Issued in the U.S.
In order to create order on the roads, Massachusetts became the first U.S. state to issue license plates in 1903.

First Nobel Prizes Awarded
A newspaper mistakenly ran an obituary for Alfred Nobel which called him the merchant of death. Not wanting to go down in history with such a horrible epitaph, Nobel created a will that shocked his relatives but established the Nobel Prizes. The very first Nobel Prizes were awarded in 1901.

First Silent Movie: The Great Train Robbery
Produced by Thomas Edison but directed and filmed by Edison Company employee Edwin S. Porter, The Great Train Robbery was the first narrative movie, one that told a story. Learn more about the film that set the standard for the future of movie production.

Max Planck Formulates Quantum Theory
In 1900, German theoretical physicist Max Planck (1858-1947) discovered an equation that explained the surprising results that other scientists had found when heating black bodies. To create the equation, Planck discovered that energy is distributed in quanta, creating the beginnings of quantum physics.

NAACP Is Founded
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded on February 12, 1909.

SOS Accepted as Universal Distress Signal
After being agreed upon at the 1906 Radiotelegraphic Conference, the Morse code signal of three dots, three dashes, and then three dots (sent together, without spacing) went into effect as the international signal for distress on July 1, 1908.

Teddy Roosevelt Simplifies Spelling
In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt directed the Government Printing Office to change the spelling of 300 specific words in all executive correspondence. In so doing, Roosevelt was supporting a new movement of simplified spelling. However, many were very unhappy with this change.

The Tunguska Event: Huge and Mysterious Explosion in Siberia
At 7:14 a.m. on June 30, 1908, a giant explosion shook central Siberia. The explosion caused a magnitude 5.0 earthquake and leveled 80 million trees. Although many believe a meteor caused the blast, no crater or pieces of meteorite have yet been found. What happened in Tunguska?

Typhoid Mary First Captured
Typhoid Mary had no idea that she was infected with the disease yet her work as a cook infected many. Find out all about Typhoid Mary and why authorities had a difficult time capturing Mary.

U.S. President William McKinley Assassinated
At 4:07 p.m. on September 6, 1901, Leon Czolgosz shot U.S. President William McKinley twice. Although many expected the President to recover after having emergency surgery, President McKindley died at 2:15 a.m. on September 14, 1901 from gangrene.

Queen Victoria Dies
On January 22, 1901, Queen Victoria died, ending the longest reign of any British monarch and signaling the end of the Victorian Era. Find out more about her death and her funeral.

WSPU Founded by Emmeline Pankhurst
In 1903, Emmeline Pankhurst founded the Women's Social and Political Union (WSPU), which evolved into a militant, women's suffrage organization in the United Kingdom. Learn more about the WSPU, which helped bring about the vote for women in Britain.

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