: 18th century
- 19th century
- 20th century
Decades: 1800s 1810s 1820s 1830s 1840s - 1850s - 1860s 1870s 1880s 1890s 1900s
Years: 1849 1850 1851 1852 1853 - 1854 - 1855 1856 1857 1858 1859
Arts, Sciences, Literature and Philosophy
- January 13 - The accordion is patented by Anthony Faas.
- February 11 - Major streets lit by coal gas for first time.
- February 17 - The British recognize the independence of the Orange Free State.
- February 28 - The United States Republican Party is organized in Ripon, Wisconsin.
- March 20 - The Boston Public Library opens to the public.
- March 28 - Crimean War: United Kingdom and France declare war on Russia, to begin the Crimean War.
- March 31 - Commodore Matthew Perry of the U.S. Navy, signs the Treaty/Convention of Kanagawa with the Japanese government, opening the ports of Shimoda and Hakodate to American trade. (See History of Japan)
- May 30 - The Kansas-Nebraska Act becomes law establishing the US territories of Nebraska and Kansas.
- July 6 - In Jackson, Michigan, the first convention of the U.S. Republican Party is held.
- July 13 - In the battle of Guaymas, Mexico, General Jose Maria Yanez stops the French invassion led by Count Gaston de Raousset Boulbon.
- September 20 - Crimean War: At the Alma, the Franco-English alliance wins the first battle of the war.
- October 17 - Newspaper The Age is founded in Melbourne, Australia.
- October 25 - Crimean War: The Battle of Balaclava occurs, overall a victory for the allies, but it included the disastrous cavalry Charge of the Light Brigade, from which only 200 of 700 men survive.
- November 5 - Crimean War: Russians lose again at the Battle of Inkerman.
- Frederick Augustus Albert succeeds to the throne of Saxony.
- Stockholm, Wisconsin is founded by immigrants from Karlskoga, Sweden (cf 1252).
- Chemistry Professor Benjamin Silliman, of Yale University is the first to fractionate petroleum by distillation.
- Abraham Pineo Gesner invents a process for extracting kerosene from coal.
- Said Pasha succeeds his nephew Abbas as pasha of Egypt.
- A Russian fort is established at the present site of Almaty.
- Aurora, Ontario is first settled.
- Spiegelthal excavates the tomb of Alyattes II.
- The Ambrotype is introduced for photography.
- Election of New York City mayor Fernando Wood begins the ascendancy of Tammany Hall.
- January 18 - Thomas Watson, telephone pioneer
- February 17 - Friedrich Alfred Krupp, industrialist (+ 1902)
- March 14 - Paul Ehrlich, physician, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1908 (+ 1915)
- March 14 - Thomas R. Marshall, US vice-president (+ 1925)
- March 15 - Emil Adolf von Behring, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 1901
- May 11 - Albion Woodbury Small, US sociologist
- July 3 - Leos Janacek, Czech composer
- July 12 - George Eastman, inventor of the Kodak camera
- July 27 - Takahashi Korekiyo, Japanese prime minister (+ 1936)
- August 2 - Milan I, king of Serbia
- October 16 - Oscar Wilde, Irish writer
- October 20 - Arthur Rimbaud, French poet
- December 23 - Victoriano Huerta, Mexican president
- December 24 - Thomas Stevens, world-circling bicyclist
- Diamond Bessie - prostitute and murder victim (+ 1877)
- Edward Harkness - US philanthropist (+ 1940)
- C. W. Post - cereal manufacturer (+ 1914)