Decades: 1830s 1840s 1850s 1860s 1870s - 1880s - 1890s 1900s 1910s 1920s 1930s
Years: 1878 1879 1880 1881 1882 - 1883 - 1884 1885 1886 1887 1888
January 16 - The Pendleton Civil Service Reform Act, establishing the United States Civil service, is passed
January 19 - The first electric lighting system employing overhead wires begins service (Roselle, New Jersey) It was built by Thomas Edison.
February 16 - Ladies Home Journal is published for the first time.
February 23 - Alabama becomes the first U.S. state to enact an antitrust law.
February 28 - The first vaudeville theater is opened, in Boston, Massachusetts
May 24 - Brooklyn Bridge is opened to traffic after 14 years of construction.
May 30 - In New York City, a rumor that the Brooklyn Bridge was going to collapse causes a stampede which crushes twelve people.
August 12 - The last quagga dies at the Artis Magistra zoo in Amsterdam.
August 26 - Krakatau volcano eruption (local time)
September 15 - The Bombay Natural History Society is founded.
Heinrich Hermann Robert Koch (German bacteriologist) discovers the cholera bacillus.
October 1 - Sydney Boys High School is founded in Sydney, Australia. It is the first boys public school in Australia.
October 15 - The Supreme Court of the United States declares part of the Civil Rights Act of 1875 to be unconstitutional since it allowed individuals and corporations to discriminate based on race.
November 3 - American Old West: Self-described "Black Bart the Po-8" gets away with his last stagecoach robbery, but leaves an incriminating clue that eventually leads to his capture.
November 18 - American and Canadian railroads institute four standard continental time zones, ending the confusion of thousands of local times.
November 28 - Whitman College is chartered as a four-year college in Walla Walla, Washington.
Year in topic
1883 in literature
January 3 - Clement Attlee, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1967)
January 6 - Khalil Gibran, poet, painter, novelist (d. 1931)
January 10 - Francis X. Bushman, actor (d. 1966)
January 10 - Aleksei Tolstoy, writer (d. 1945)
February 15 - Sax Rohmer, author (d. 1959)
February 7 - Eubie Blake, musician, composer (d. 1983)
February 11 - Paul August von Klenau Danish composer/conductor
February 23 - Karl Jaspers, philosopher (d. 1969)
February 23 - Victor Fleming, director (d. 1949)
March 19 - Joseph Stilwell, American soldier (d. 1946)
April 1 - Lon Chaney, actor (d. 1930)
April 11 - Hozumi Shigeto, Japanese author
May 18 - Walter Gropius, architect, founder of Bauhaus (d. 1969)
May 20 - King Faisal I of Iraq (d. 1933)
May 23 - Douglas Fairbanks, Sr, actor, cofounder of United Artists (d. 1939)
July 4 - Rube Goldberg, cartoonist (d. 1970)
July 29 - Benito Mussolini, fascist dictator of Italy
August 23 - US General Jonathan Wainwright, Medal of Honor recipient
November 8 - Arnold Bax, composer
December 3 - Anton Webern, Austrian composer
December 25 - Maurice Utrillo, a "Montmartre" artist
Alberto Gerchunoff, Argentine writer
January 10 - Samuel Mudd, formerly doctor to John Wilkes Booth
January 23 - Gustave Doré, French artist
February 13 - Richard Wagner, German composer
March 14 - Karl Marx, German philosopher
April 30 - Edouard Manet, painter
May 24 - Abdel Kadir, Algerian leader
May 26 - Edward Sabine, astronomer
October 30 - Robert Volkmann, composer