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The Year 1874 in History

Oro City (renamed Leadville in 1878), Colorado saw a silver discovery that would be exploited later in the decade, leading to several fortunes, including that of H.A.W. Tabor (whose wife, Baby Doe, was a former lady of the night) made from his memorable Matchless Mine. (The Unsinkable Molly Brown musical play was based upon Tabor’s life; in the late nineteenth century he built the Tabor Grand Theatre in Denver, the theatrical showplace of the West for many years.) Leadville would become a famous mining center, and in the 1890s its Ice Palace, a large structure made of frozen blocks, would achieve nationwide acclaim.

On the shore of Lake Chautauqua, near Jamestown, New York, the Chautauqua movement had its beginning as a summer training program for Sunday school instructors. As time went on, traveling tent shows as well as permanent locations (such as that which survives today in Boulder, Colorado) provided a lyceum for public speakers and other entertainment, some of which included lengthy oral dissertations on various aspects, often obscure, of religion, politics, science, travel, and other subjects. Many of these were translated to print and published in a magazine, The Chautauquan. In 1875, President U.S. Grant visited Lake Chautauqua and reported a fine experience there, an event which gave the movement a fine boost. Years later, perennial presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan would be in great demand as a Chautauqua speaker.

In New York City the first electrically-propelled streetcar went into service, but most transportation continued to be provided by horsepower in the literal sense. In Massachusetts a law was enacted which limited the daily working hours of women to 10. There were no effective child labor laws in the United States, and it was not unusual to see six- to ten-year-old children working from dawn to dusk in textile mills, coal mines, and other hazardous occupations.

Barnum’s Hippodrome opened in New York City in March 1874; later it was known as Madison Square Garden, the first of three buildings to use that name. The Remington typewriter was introduced, and would go on to great success and fame. The latter notably increased 18 years later when the backers of the typewriter paid an astounding $10,000 for the first acceptable 1892 Columbian commemorative half dollar.

In Paris, a group of artists held an exhibition which included Impression: Sunrise, by Claude Monet, whose work inspired art writer Louis Leroy to call Monet and his circle "Impressionists," a name which endured. Painters in the group included Camille Pissarro, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Dégas, Édouard Manet, Pierre Auguste Renoir, Alfred Sisley, and Berthe Morisot. In the same city the Opéra, begun in 1863, was completed. Thomas Hardy’s novel, Far From the Madding Crowd, was published. Robert Frost, Herbert Hoover, and Winston Churchill were born.

At the mints, silver dimes, quarters, and half dollars continued to display arrowheads at the date, signifying a small increase in weight which first took place with the 1873 coinage. In 1875 the arrowheads would be discontinued. Arrowheads at dates, familiar from 1853-1855, were not new even then; for example, a reverse die of a 1787 Connecticut copper showed arrowheads at the date (Henry C. Miller, who described the series in a 1920 study, called them by the heraldic term pheons). The Carson City Mint continued to turn out coins in the gold and silver series, nearly all of which would become notably rare in later years, the 1874-CC trade dollar being the only exception. In Philadelphia, patterns were made for a new denomination, the 20-cent piece, and for Dana Bickford’s international $10 piece (one of a string of ill-conceived proposals for a coin readily interchangeable across foreign borders; like the others, doomed to failure as it was created without any regard for constantly changing exchange rates).