1869 was a common year starting on Friday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Wednesday of the Julian calendar, the 1869th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 869th year of the 2nd millennium, the 69th year of the 19th century, and the 10th and last year of the 1860s decade. As of the start of 1869, the Gregorian calendar was 12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.
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- January 3 – Abdur Rahman Khan is defeated at Tinah Khan, and exiled from Afghanistan.
- January 5 – Scotland's oldest professional football team, Kilmarnock F.C., is founded.
- January 20 – Elizabeth Cady Stanton is the first woman to testify before the United States Congress.
- January 21 – The P.E.O. Sisterhood, a philanthropic educational organization for women, is founded at Iowa Wesleyan College in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
- January 27 – The Republic of Ezo is proclaimed on the northern Japanese island of Ezo (which will be renamed Hokkaidō on September 20) by remaining adherents to the Tokugawa shogunate.
- February 5 – Prospectors in Moliagul, Victoria, Australia, discover the largest alluvial gold nugget ever found, known as the "Welcome Stranger".
- February 20 – Ranavalona II, the Merina Queen of Madagascar, is baptized.
- February 26 – Mahbub Ali Khan, 2-1/2, begins a 42-year reign as Nizam of Hyderabad.
- March – In Japan, the daimyōs of the Tosa, Hizen, Satsuma and Chōshū Domains are persuaded to return their domains to the Emperor Meiji, leading to creation of a fully centralized government in the country.
- March 1 – The North German Confederation issues 10gr and 30gr value stamps, printed on goldbeater's skin.
- March 4 – Ulysses S. Grant is sworn in, as the 18th President of the United States.
- March 6 – Dmitri Mendeleev makes a formal presentation of his periodic table to the Russian Chemical Society.
- March 9 – Southern Illinois University Carbondale is founded.
- March 24 – Titokowaru's War ends with the surrender of the last Māori troops at large, in the South Taranaki District of New Zealand's North Island.
- April 6 – The American Museum of Natural History is founded in New York.
- May – In France, the opposition, consisting of republicans, monarchists and liberals, polls almost 45% of the vote in national elections.
- May 4–10 – Naval Battle of Hakodate: The Imperial Japanese Navy defeats adherents of the Tokugawa shogunate.
- May 6 – Purdue University is founded in West Lafayette, Indiana.
- May 10 – The First Transcontinental Railroad in North America is completed at Promontory, Utah, by the driving of the "golden spike".
- May 15 – Women's suffrage: In New York, Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton form the National Woman Suffrage Association.
- May 18 – One day after surrendering at the land Battle of Hakodate (begun 4 December 1868), Enomoto Takeaki turns over Goryōkaku to Japanese forces, signaling the collapse of the Republic of Ezo.
- May 22 – Sainsbury's first store, in Drury Lane, London, is opened.
- May 26 – Boston University is chartered by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
- June 1 – The Cincinnati Red Stockings open the baseball season as the first fully professional team.
- June 2 – Sherwood College is founded in Nainital, India.
- June 15 – John Wesley Hyatt patents celluloid, in Albany, New York.
- June 27 – The fortress of Goryōkaku is turned over to Imperial Japanese forces, bringing an end to the Republic of Ezo, the Battle of Hakodate and the Boshin War.
- June 30–July 2 – The first Estonian Song Festival takes place in Tartu.
- July 10 – Gävle, Sweden is destroyed in a city fire; 8,000 people become homeless.
- August 9 – August Bebel and Wilhelm Liebknecht found the Social Democratic Workers' Party of Germany (SDAP).
- August 27 – The University of Oxford wins the first international boat race held on the River Thames, against Harvard University.
- August 31 – Irish scientist Mary Ward is killed by a steam car, probably the world's first victim of a mechanically-propelled road vehicle.
- September 5 – The foundation stone is laid for Neuschwanstein Castle in Bavaria (southern Germany).
- September 11 – Work on the Wallace Monument is completed in Stirling, Scotland.
- September 12–13 – The P&O's SS Carnatic runs aground and sinks in the Red Sea; 31 drown.
- September 24 – Black Friday: The Fisk–Gould Scandal causes a financial panic in the United States.
- October 8 – Austria-Hungary sends reinforcements to battle the uprising in Krivošije.
- October 11 – The Red River Rebellion breaks out, against British forces in Canada.
- October 16 – England's first residential university-level women's college, the College for Women (predecessor of Girton College, Cambridge), is founded at Hitchin, by Emily Davies and Barbara Bodichon.
- November 4 – The first issue of the scientific journal Nature is published in London, edited by Norman Lockyer.
- November 6 – The first game of American football between two American colleges is played. Rutgers University defeats Princeton University 6–4, in a forerunner to American football and College football.
- November 17 – In Egypt, the Suez Canal, linking the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea, is inaugurated in an elaborate ceremony.
- November 19 – The Hudson's Bay Company surrenders its claim to Rupert's Land in Canada, under its letters patent, back to the British Crown.
- November 23 – In Dumbarton, Scotland, the clipper ship Cutty Sark is launched (it is one of the last clippers built, and the only one to survive into the 21st century).
- December – Leo Tolstoy's novel War and Peace is published in complete book form, in Russia.
- December 7 – American outlaw Jesse James commits his first confirmed bank robbery, in Gallatin, Missouri.
- December 8 – The First Vatican Council opens in Rome.
- December 10 – The first American chapter of Kappa Sigma is founded, at the University of Virginia.
- December 10 – Women's suffrage: The Wyoming territorial legislature gives women the right to vote, the first such law in the world.
- December 31 – Paraguayan War: Triple Alliance forces take Asunción.
- Basutoland becomes a British protectorate (abolished in 1966).
- The capital of the Isle of Man moves from Castletown to Douglas.
- Arabella Mansfield became the first woman in the United States awarded a license to practice law, at Mount Pleasant, Iowa.
- James Gordon Bennett, Jr. of the New York Herald asks Henry Morton Stanley to find Dr. David Livingstone.
- The Co-operative Central Board (later Co-operatives UK) is founded in Manchester, England.
- Friedrich Miescher discovers deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA).
- The Ladies National Association for the Repeal of the Contagious Diseases Acts is founded, in Great Britain.
- French missionary and naturalist Père Armand David receives the skin of a giant panda from a hunter, the first time this species becomes known to a Westerner; he also first describes a specimen of the "pocket handkerchief tree", which will be named in his honor as Davidia involucrata.
- In France, Hippolyte Mège-Mouriès patents margarine.
- The University of Otago is founded, making it New Zealand's oldest university.
- Glasgow University Rugby Football Club is founded in Scotland.
- January 4 – Tommy Corcoran, American baseball player (d. 1960)
- January 10 – Grigori Rasputin, Russian mystic (d. 1916)
- January 11 – Carl Theodore Vogelgesang, American admiral (d. 1927)
- January 15 – Stanisław Wyspiański, Polish dramatist, poet, painter and architect (d. 1907)
- January 22 – José Vicente de Freitas, Portuguese colonel and politician, 97th Prime Minister of Portugal (d. 1952)
- January 24 – Yoshinori Shirakawa, Japanese general (d. 1932)
- January 25 – Max Hoffmann, German general (d. 1927)
- February 11
- February 14 – Charles Thomson Rees Wilson, Scottish physicist, Nobel laureate (d. 1959)
- February 26 – Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya, Russian Marxist revolutionary, Vladimir Lenin's wife (d. 1939)
- February 28 – William V. Pratt, American admiral (d. 1957)
- March 3
- March 12 – George Forbes, New Zealand Prime Minister, first leader of the New Zealand National Party (d. 1947)
- March 14 – Algernon Blackwood, English writer (d. 1951)
- March 15 – Stanisław Wojciechowski, 2nd President of the Republic of Poland (d. 1953)
- March 18 – Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (d. 1940)
- March 22 – Emilio Aguinaldo, 1st President of the Philippines (d. 1964)
- March 23 – Calouste Gulbenkian, Armenian businessman, philanthropist (d. 1955)
- March 29 – Edwin Lutyens, British architect (d. 1944)
- April 2 – Hughie Jennings, American baseball player (d. 1928)
- April 4 – Mary Colter, American architect (d. 1958)
- April 8 – Harvey Cushing, American neurosurgeon (d. 1939)
- April 10 – Signe Bergman, Swedish suffragist (d. 1960)
- April 11 – Gustav Vigeland, Norwegian sculptor (d. 1943)
- April 12 – Henri Désiré Landru, French serial killer (d. 1922)
- April 27 – May Moss, Australian women's rights activist (d. 1948)
- May 3 – Warren Terhune, United States Navy Commander, 13th Governor of American Samoa (d. 1920)
- May 5 – Hans Pfitzner, German composer (d. 1949)
- May 9 – Tyrone Power Sr, English-born actor (d. 1931)
- May 12 – Carl Schuhmann, German athlete (d. 1946)
- May 13 – Bob Dalton, Wild Western outlaw (d. 1892)
- May 18 – Rupprecht, Crown Prince of Bavaria, Bavarian military leader, last Bavarian crown prince (d. 1955)
- May 20 – John Stone Stone, American physicist, inventor (d. 1943)
- May 30 – Giulio Douhet, Italian general, air power theorist (d. 1930)
- June 7 – Grand Duke Alexander Alexandrovich of Russia (d. 1870)
- June 17 – Flora Finch, English-born comedian (d. 1940)
- June 27 – Hans Spemann, German embryologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1941)
- June 28 – Lydia Wahlström, Swedish historian, women's rights activist (d. 1954)
- July 11 – Pío Valenzuela, Filipino doctor, patriot (d. 1956)
- July 14 – Bruno Albert Forsterer, U.S. Marine Sergeant (d. 1957)
- July 17 – Mariette Rheiner Garner, Second Lady of the United States (d. 1948)
- July 19 – Xenophon Stratigos, Greek general (d. 1927)
- August 10 – Laurence Binyon, English poet, scholar (d. 1943)
- August 11 – Hale Holden, president of Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad 1914-1918 and 1920-1929 (d. 1940)
- August 13 – Paul Behncke, German admiral (d. 1937)
- August 14 – Armas Järnefelt, Finnish composer, conductor (d. 1958)
- September 3 – Fritz Pregl, Austrian chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1930)
- September 6 – Felix Salten, Austrian author (d. 1945)
- September 11 – Charles Kilpatrick (cyclist), American one-legged trick cyclist (d. 1927)
- September 17 – Christian Lous Lange, Norwegian pacifist, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d. 1938)
- September 19 – Ben Turpin, American actor and comedian (d. 1940)
- September 23 – Mary Mallon (Typhoid Mary), first known (in the United States) asymptomatic carrier of the pathogen associated with typhoid fever (d. 1938)
- September 26 – Winsor McCay, American cartoonist, animator (d. 1934)
- October 2 – Mohandas Gandhi, Indian political leader, Father of the Nation (d. 1948)
- October 21 – William Edward Dodd, American historian, diplomat (d. 1940)
- October 25 – John Heisman, American football coach (d. 1936)
- October 26 – Washington Luís, 13th President of Brazil (d. 1957)
- October 27 – Viola Allen, American actress (d. 1948)
- October 31 – William A. Moffett, American admiral (d. 1933)
- November 10 – Wayne Wheeler, American temperance movement leader (d. 1927)
- November 11 – Victor Emmanuel III, King of Italy (d. 1947)
- November 20 – Herbert Tudor Buckland, seminal British Arts and Crafts architect (d. 1951)
- November 22 – André Gide, French writer, Nobel laureate (d. 1951)
- November 24 – Óscar Carmona, President of Portugal (d. 1951)
- November 25 – Herbert Greenfield, Premier of Alberta, Canada (d. 1949)
- November 30 – Gustaf Dalén, Swedish physicist, Nobel laureate (d. 1937)
- December 5 – Ellis Parker Butler, American humorist (d. 1937)
- December 16 – Hristo Tatarchev, Bulgarian revolutionary, leader of the revolutionary movement in Macedonia and Eastern Thrace (d. 1952)
- December 20 – Charley Grapewin, American vaudeville performer, stage and film actor (d. 1956)
- December 22
- December 24 – Henriette Roland Holst, Dutch poet, socialist (d. 1952)
- December 30 – Stephen Leacock, British-Canadian author, economist (d. 1944)
- December 31 – Henri Matisse, French painter (d. 1954)
- January 1
- January 18 – Bertalan Szemere, 3rd Prime Minister of Hungary (b. 1812)
- January 19 – Carl Reichenbach, German chemist (b. 1788)
- January 30 – William Carleton, Irish novelist (b. 1794)
- February 15 – Ghalib, Indian poet (b. 1796)
- March 8 – Hector Berlioz, French composer (b. 1803)
- March 20 – John Pascoe Grenfell, British admiral of the Brazilian Navy (b. 1800)
- March 24 – Antoine-Henri Jomini, French general (b. 1779)
- April 2 – Christian Erich Hermann von Meyer, German palaeontologist (b. 1801)
- April 20 – Carl Loewe, German composer (b. 1796)
- June 16 – Charles Sturt, Australian explorer (b. 1795)
- June 20 – Hijikata Toshizō, Japanese military commander (b. 1835)
- July 18 – Laurent Clerc, French advocate for the American deaf (b. 1785)
- July 22 – John A. Roebling, American bridge engineer (b. 1806)
- July 28 – Carl Gustav Carus, German physiologist (b. 1789)
- August 31 – Mary Ward, Irish scientist, first car crash victim (b. 1827)
- September 4 – John Pascoe Fawkner, Australian pioneer, settler and politician, (b. 1792)
- September 12 – Peter Mark Roget, British lexicographer (b. 1779)
- October 8 – Franklin Pierce, 14th President of the United States (b. 1804)
- October 13 – Charles Augustin Sainte-Beuve, French literary critic (b. 1804)
- October 16 – Joseph Ritner, American politician (b. 1780)
- October 23 – Edward Smith-Stanley, 14th Earl of Derby, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1799)
- October 31 – Charles A. Wickliffe, American politician, 14th Governor of Kentucky (b. 1788)
- November 8 – Christodoulos Hatzipetros, Greek military leader (b. 1798)
- December 8 – Narcisa de Jesús Martillo, Ecuadorian saint (b. 1832)
- December 18 – Louis Moreau Gottschalk, American composer, pianist (b. 1829)
- "Ceremony at "Wedding of the Rails," May 10, 1869, at Promontory Point, Utah". World Digital Library. 1869-05-10. Retrieved 2013-07-20.
- Baren, Maurice (1996). How it All Began Up the High Street. London: Michael O'Mara Books. ISBN 1-85479-667-4.
- Penguin Pocket On This Day. Penguin Reference Library. 2006. ISBN 0-14-102715-0.
- Palmer, Alan; Veronica (1992). The Chronology of British History. London: Century Ltd. pp. 290–291. ISBN 0-7126-5616-2.
- "Giant Panda". Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 2010. Retrieved 2010-08-09.