1885 was a common year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar, the 1885th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 885th year of the 2nd millennium, the 85th year of the 19th century, and the 6th year of the 1880s decade. As of the start of 1885, the Gregorian calendar was 12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.
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- January 3–4 – Sino-French War – Battle of Núi Bop: French troops under General Oscar de Négrier defeat a numerically superior Qing Chinese force, in northern Vietnam.
- January 4 – The first successful appendectomy is performed by Dr. William W. Grant, on Mary Gartside.
- January 17 – Mahdist War in Sudan – Battle of Abu Klea: British troops defeat Mahdist forces.
- January 20 – American inventor LaMarcus Adna Thompson patents a roller coaster.
- January 24 – Irish terrorists damage Westminster Hall and the Tower of London with dynamite.
- January 26 – Mahdist War in Sudan: Troops loyal to Mahdi Muhammad Ahmad conquer Khartoum; British commander Charles George Gordon is killed.
- February 5 – King Léopold II of Belgium establishes the Congo Free State, as a personal possession.
- February 7 – The play La vida alegre y muerte triste by dramatist José Echegaray opens.
- February 9 – The first Japanese arrive in Hawaii.
- February 16 – Charles Dow publishes the first edition of the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The index stood at a level of 62.76, and represented the dollar average of 14 stocks: 12 railroads and two leading American industries.
- February 21 – United States President Chester A. Arthur dedicates the Washington Monument.
- February 23
- Sino-French War – Battle of Đồng Đăng: France gains an important victory over China, in the Tonkin region of modern-day Vietnam.
- An English executioner fails after several attempts to hang John Babbacombe Lee, sentenced for the murder of his employer Emma Keyse; Lee's sentence is commuted to life imprisonment.
- February 26 – The final act of the Berlin Conference regulates European colonization and trade, in the scramble for Africa.
- February 28 – February concludes without having a full moon.
- March 3 – A subsidiary of the American Bell Telephone Company, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), is incorporated in New York.
- March 4 – Grover Cleveland is sworn in, as the 22nd President of the United States.
- March 7 – The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Madrid is founded.
- March 14 – Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera The Mikado opens, at the Savoy Theatre in London.
- March 26
- Prussian deportations: The Prussian government, motivated by Otto von Bismarck, expels all ethnic Poles and Jews without German citizenship from Prussia.
- The North-West Rebellion in Canada by the Métis people, led by Louis Riel, begins with the Battle of Duck Lake.
- First legal cremation in England: Mrs Jeannette C. Pickersgill of London, "well known in literary and scientific circles", is cremated by the Cremation Society at Woking, Surrey.
- March 30 – The Battle for Kushka triggers the Panjdeh Incident, which nearly gives rise to war between the British Empire and Russian Empire.
- March 31 – The United Kingdom establishes the Bechuanaland Protectorate.
- April 2 – Frog Lake Massacre: Cree warriors led by Wandering Spirit kill 9 settlers at Frog Lake in the Northwest Territories.
- April 3 – Gottlieb Daimler is granted a German patent, for his single-cylinder water-cooled engine design.
- April 11 – Luton Town Football Club is created by the merger of (Luton) Wanderers F.C. and Luton Excelsior F.C. in England.
- April 14 – Sino-French War: A French victory at Kép causes China to withdraw its forces from Tonkin, in the final engagement of the conflict.
- April 30 – A bill is signed in the New York State legislature, forming the Niagara Falls State Park.
- May 2
- May 9–12 – North-West Rebellion – Battle of Batoche: Canadian government forces inflict a decisive defeat on Métis rebels, bringing an end to their part in the rebellion.
- May 19 – After a three-month legislative battle in the Illinois General Assembly, John A. Logan is re-elected to the United States Senate.
- May 20 – The first public train departs Swanage railway station, on the newly built Swanage Railway in England.
- June 3 – Battle of Loon Lake: The Canadian North-West Mounted Police and allies force a party of Plains Cree warriors to surrender in the last skirmish of the North-West Rebellion, and the last battle fought on Canadian soil.
- June 17 – The Statue of Liberty arrives in New York Harbor.
- June 23 – Robert Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquess of Salisbury, becomes Prime Minister of the United Kingdom.
- June 24 – Randolph Churchill becomes Secretary of State for India.
- July 6 – Louis Pasteur and Émile Roux successfully test their rabies vaccine. The patient is Joseph Meister, a boy who was bitten by a rabid dog.
- July 14 – Sarah E. Goode is the first African-American woman to apply for and receive a patent, for the invention of the hideaway bed.
- July 15 – The Reservation at Niagara Falls opens, enabling access to all for free. Thomas V. Welch is the first Superintendent of the Park.
- July 20 – Professional football is legalized in Britain.
- July 28 – Louis Riel's trial for treason begins in Regina.
- August 19 – S Andromedae, the only supernova seen in the Andromeda Galaxy so far by astronomers, and the first ever noted outside the Milky Way, is discovered.
- August 29 – Gottlieb Daimler is granted a German patent for the Daimler Reitwagen, regarded as the first motorcycle, which he has produced with Wilhelm Maybach.
- September 2 – The Rock Springs massacre occurs in Rock Springs, Wyoming; 150 white miners attack their Chinese coworkers, killing 28, wounding 15, and forcing several hundred more out of town.
- September 6 – Eastern Rumelia declares its union with Bulgaria, completing the Unification of Bulgaria.
- September 8 – Saint Thomas Academy is founded in Minnesota.
- September 12 – Arbroath FC defeats Bon Accord FC, 36-0, in the highest score ever in professional football.
- September 15 – A train wreck of the P. T. Barnum Circus kills giant elephant Jumbo, at St. Thomas, Ontario.
- September 18 – The union of Eastern Rumelia with Bulgaria is proclaimed at Plovdiv.
- September 30 – A British force abolishes the Boer republic of Stellaland, and adds it to British Bechuanaland.
- October 3 – Millwall F.C. is founded by workers on the Isle of Dogs in London, as Millwall Rovers.
- October 12 – The city of Fresno, California is incorporated.
- October 13 – The Georgia Institute of Technology is established in Atlanta, as the Georgia School of Technology.
- October 25 – Symphony No. 4 (Brahms) is premiered in Meiningen, Germany, with Johannes Brahms himself conducting it.
- November – The Third Anglo-Burmese War begins.
- November 7 – Canadian Pacific Railway: In Craigellachie, British Columbia, construction ends on a railway extending across Canada. Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald considers the project to be vital to Canada, due to the exponentially greater potential for military mobility.
- November 14–November 28 – Serbo-Bulgarian War: Serbia declares war against Bulgaria, but is defeated in the Battle of Slivnitsa on November 17–November 19.
- November 16 – Louis Riel, Canadian rebel leader of the Métis, is executed for high treason.
- December 1 – The U.S. Patent Office acknowledges this date as the day Dr Pepper is served for the very first time; the exact date of Dr. Pepper's invention is unknown.
- December 28 – 72 Indian lawyers, academics and journalists gather in Bombay, to form the Congress Party.
- Karl Benz produces the Benz Patent-Motorwagen, regarded as the first automobile (patented and publicly launched the following year).
- John Kemp Starley demonstrates the Rover safety bicycle, regarded as the first practical modern bicycle.
- Chile's Matrimony and Civil Registry laws come into effect.
- A cholera outbreak occurs in Spain.
- The Home Insurance Building in Chicago, designed by William Le Baron Jenney, is completed. With ten floors and a fireproof weight-bearing metal frame, it is regarded as the first skyscraper.
- Bicycle Playing Cards are first produced.
- The Soldiers' and Sailors' Families Association is established in the United Kingdom, to provide charitable assistance.
- Camp Dudley, the oldest continually running boys' camp in the United States, is founded.
- John Ormsby publishes his new English translation of Don Quixote, acclaimed as the most scholarly made up to that time. It will remain in print through the 20th Century.
- Michigan Technological University (originally Michigan Mining School) opens its doors for the first time, in the future Houghton County Fire Hall.
- January 6 – Florence Turner, American actress (d. 1946)
- January 8 – John Curtin, 14th Prime Minister of Australia (d. 1945)
- January 11
- January 12 – Harry Benjamin, American endocrinologist, sexologist (d. 1986)
- January 14 – Constantin Sănătescu, 44th Prime Minister of Romania (d. 1947)
- January 16 – Zhou Zuoren, Chinese writer (d. 1967)
- January 21 – Umberto Nobile, Italian politician, airship designer (d. 1978)
- January 25 – Roy Geiger, American general (d. 1947)
- January 26
- January 27
- January 28 – Władysław Raczkiewicz, former President of Poland (d. 1947)
- February 1 – Friedrich Kellner, German diarist, (d. 1970)
- February 7
- February 9 – Alban Berg, Austrian composer (d. 1935)
- February 10 – Rupert Downes, Australian general (d. 1945)
- February 13
- February 14
- February 15 – Princess Alice of Battenberg (d. 1969)
- February 18 – Richard S. Edwards, American admiral (d. 1956)
- February 21 – Sacha Guitry, Russian-born dramatist, writer, director, and actor (d. 1957)
- February 22 – Pat Sullivan, Australian-born director, animated film producer (d. 1933)
- February 24
- February 26 – Aleksandras Stulginskis, President of Lithuania (d. 1969)
- March 6 – Ring Lardner, American writer (d. 1933)
- March 7 – John Tovey, British admiral of the fleet (d. 1971)
- March 11 – Sir Malcolm Campbell, English land, water racer (d. 1948)
- March 14 – Raoul Lufbery, American World War I pilot (d. 1918)
- March 27 – Julio Lozano Díaz, President of Honduras (d. 1957)
- March 31 – Pascin, Bulgarian painter (d. 1930)
- April 1
- April 3
- April 4 – Bee Ho Gray, American Wild West star, silent film actor and vaudeville performer (d. 1951)
- April 7 – Walther Schwieger, German U-boat commander of U-20, which sank the Lusitania (d. 1917)
- April 12 – Hermann Hoth, German general (d. 1971)
- April 13
- April 16 – Charles Debbas, 1st President, 5th Prime Minister of Lebanon (d. 1935)
- April 17 – Karen Blixen, Danish author (d. 1962)
- April 29 – Frank Jack Fletcher, American admiral (d. 1973)
- May 2
- May 5 – Agustín Pío Barrios, Paraguayan guitarist, composer (d. 1944)
- May 7 – George "Gabby" Hayes, American actor (d. 1969)
- May 9 – Eduard C. Lindeman, American social worker, author (d. 1953)
- May 12 – Paltiel Daykan, Russian-born Israeli jurist (d. 1969)
- May 14 – Otto Klemperer, German conductor (d. 1973)
- May 15 – Robert James Hudson, Governor of Southern Rhodesia (d. 1963)
- May 20 – Faisal I of Iraq (d. 1933)
- May 21
- May 22 – Toyoda Soemu, Japanese admiral (d. 1957)
- May 24 – Susan Sutherland Isaacs, English educational psychologist, psychoanalyst (d. 1948)
- May 27 – Richmond K. Turner, American admiral (d. 1961)
- May 30 – Arthur E. Andersen, American accountant (d. 1947)
- June 2 – Hans Gerhard Creutzfeldt, German neuropathologist (d. 1964)
- June 4 – Arturo Rawson, President of Argentina (d. 1952)
- June 5 – Georges Mandel, French politician, World War II hero (d. 1944)
- June 9
- June 14 – E. L. Grant Watson, English writer, anthropologist, and biologist (d. 1970)
- June 13 – John Palm, Curaçao-born composer (d. 1925)
- June 21 – Harry A. Marmer, Ukrainian-born American mathematician, oceanographer (d. 1953)
- June 22 – Milan Vidmar, Slovenian electrical engineer, chess player (d. 1962)
- June 24
- June 28
- June 29 – Andrew Tombes, American comedian and character actor (d. 1976)
- July 4 – Louis B. Mayer, American film producer (d. 1957)
- July 6
- July 8
- July 9 – Luo Meizhen, Chinese supercentenarian (d. 2013)
- July 10 – Mary O'Hara, American author and screenwriter (d. 1980)
- July 14 – King Sisavang Vong of Laos (d. 1959)
- July 15 – Abd al-Rahman al-Mahdi, 1st Prime Minister of Sudan (d. 1959)
- July 16 – Hakuun Yasutani, Sōtō rōshi (d. 1973)
- July 18 – Marino Moretti, Italian poet and author (d. 1979)
- July 19 – Aristides de Sousa Mendes, Portuguese diplomat, humanitarian (d. 1954)
- July 22 – John Thomas Kennedy, American lieutenant general (d. 1969)
- July 28 – Monte Attell, American boxer (d. 1960)
- July 29 – Theda Bara, American silent film actress (d. 1955)
- August 1 – George de Hevesy, Hungarian chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1966)
- August 7 – Billie Burke, American actress (d. 1970)
- August 18 – Bede Fanning, Australian public servant (d. 1970)
- September 7 – Eleonore Baur, German Nazi, only woman to participate in Munich Beer Hall Putsch (d. 1981)
- September 11
- September 15 – James P. Boyle, American politician (d. 1939)
- September 20 – Enrico Mizzi, 6th Prime Minister of Malta (d. 1950)
- September 21 – Thomas de Hartmann, Russian composer (d. 1956)
- September 22
- September 25 – Mineichi Koga, Japanese admiral (d. 1944)
- October 3 – Sophie Treadwell, American playwright, journalist (d. 1970)
- October 7 – Niels Bohr, Danish physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1962)
- October 9 – Raymond DeWalt, American inventor, businessman (d. 1961)
- October 11 – François Mauriac, French writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1970)
- October 19 – Charles E. Merrill, American banker, co-founder of Merrill Lynch (d. 1956)
- October 24 – Rachel Katznelson-Shazar, Zionist political figure, wife of third President of Israel (d. 1975)
- October 28 – Per Albin Hansson, 2-time Prime Minister of Sweden (d. 1946)
- October 30 – Ezra Pound, American poet (d. 1972)
- November 1 – Anton Flettner, German aviation engineer, inventor (d. 1961)
- November 2 – Harlow Shapley, American astronomer (d. 1972)
- November 5 – Will Durant, American philosopher, writer (d. 1981)
- November 8
- November 9 (October 28 (O.S.)) – Velimir Khlebnikov, Russian poet (d. 1922)
- November 11
- November 15 – Frederick Handley-Page, British aviation pioneer, aircraft company founder (d. 1962)
- November 26 – Heinrich Brüning, Chancellor of Germany 1930-1932 (d. 1970)
- November 28 – John Willard, American playwright, actor (d. 1942)
- November 30
- December 2 – George Minot, American physician, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1950)
- December 6 – Ernest Palmer, American cinematographer (d. 1978)
- December 13 – Mario Talavera, Mexican songwriter (d. 1960)
- December 19
Unknown birth month: Otto Orkin(died February 11, 1968), pesticide founder, though some birth years are given for 1887 and 1888. His grave marker lists 1885.
- January 11 – Mariano Ospina Rodríguez, President of Colombia (b. 1805)
- January 13 – Schuyler Colfax, 17th Vice President of the United States (b. 1823)
- January 26 – Charles "Chinese" Gordon, British general (killed in battle) (b. 1833)
- February 1 – Sidney Gilchrist Thomas, British inventor (b. 1850)
- February 8 – Nikolai Severtzov, Russian explorer, naturalist (b. 1827)
- February 19 – José María Pinedo, Argentinian naval commander (b. 1795)
- March 12 – Próspero Fernández Oreamuno, President of Costa Rica (b. 1834)
- April 2 – Justo Rufino Barrios, Central American leader (b. 1835)
- April 25 – Queen Emma of Hawaii (b. 1836)
- May 2 – Terézia Zakoucs, Hungarian Slovene author (b. 1817)
- May 4 – Irvin McDowell, American general (b. 1818)
- May 17 – Jonathan Young, United States Navy commodore (b. 1826)
- May 19 – Robert Emmet Odlum, American swimming instructor (died as result of becoming the first person to jump from the Brooklyn Bridge) (b. 1851)
- May 20 – Frederick Theodore Frelinghuysen, 29th United States Secretary of State (b. 1817)
- May 22 – Victor Hugo, French author (b. 1802)
- June 11 – Amédée Courbet, French admiral (b. 1827)
- June 17 – Edwin Freiherr von Manteuffel, German field marshal (b. 1809)
- June 22 – Muhammad Ahmad, Sudanese Mahdi (b. 1844)
- July 21 – Karolina Sobańska, Polish noble, agent (b. 1795)
- July 23 – Ulysses S. Grant, American Civil War general, 18th President of the United States (b. 1822)
- August – Aga Khan II, Iranian religious leader (b. 1830)
- August 10 – James W. Marshall, American contractor, builder of Sutter's Mill (b. 1810)
- August 29 – Moriz Ludassy, Hungarian journalist (b. 1825)
- September 2 – Giuseppe Bonavia, Maltese architect (b. 1821)
- September 6 – Narcís Monturiol, Catalan intellectual, artist and engineer, inventor of the first combustion engine-driven submarine, which was propelled by an early form of air-independent propulsion (b. 1819)
- September 15
- October 5 – Thomas C. Durant, American railroad financier (b. 1820)
- October 29 – George B. McClellan, American Civil War general, politician (b. 1826)
- November 16 – Louis Riel, Canadian-American leader (executed) (b. 1844)
- November 24 – Nicolás Avellaneda, Argentine president (b. 1837)
- November 25
- November 26 – Thomas Andrews, Irish chemist (b. 1813)
- December 8 – William Henry Vanderbilt, American entrepreneur (b. 1821)
- December 13 – Benjamin Gratz Brown, American politician (b. 1826)
- December 15 – Ferdinand II of Portugal, consort of Queen Maria II (b. 1816)
- September 2–September 7 – The film Back to the Future Part III takes place during this time. Dr. Emmett Brown is initially murdered by Buford "Mad Dog" Tannen in Hill Valley, California (1885); however, Marty McFly later prevents this murder.
- The stage "Bury My Shell at Wounded Knee", in the 1992 video game Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time, is set in this year.
- The Nickelodeon TV movie, Lost in the West, takes place in this year.
- Palmer, Alan; Veronica (1992). The Chronology of British History. London: Century Ltd. pp. 310–311. ISBN 0-7126-5616-2.
- Williams, Hywel (2005). Cassell's Chronology of World History. London: Weidenfeld & Nicolson. pp. 438–440. ISBN 0-304-35730-8.
- Dow Record Book Adds Another First. Philly.com. Retrieved 2013-07-08.
- The Hutchinson Factfinder. Helicon. 1999. ISBN 1-85986-000-1.
- "Cremation". The Times (31405). London. 1885-03-27. p. 10.
- Gardiner, Mark (1997). Classic motorcycles. MetroBooks. p. 16. ISBN 1-56799-460-1.
- Brown, Roland (2005). The Ultimate History of Fast Motorcycles. Bath: Parragon. p. 6. ISBN 1-4054-5466-0.
- Wilson, Hugo (1993). The Ultimate Motorcycle Book. Dorling Kindersley. pp. 8–9. ISBN 1-56458-303-1.
- Benz, Carl Friedrich (1925). Lebensfahrt eines deutschen erfinders; erinnerungen eines achtzigjahrigen. Leipzig: Koehler & Amelang.
- "Icons of Invention: Rover safety bicycle, 1885". Making the Modern World. Science Museum (London). Archived from the original on May 22, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
- "Home Insurance Building". SkyscraperPage. Archived from the original on June 29, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-27.
- Otto Orkin, findagrave listing Retrieved July 9, 2017
- Appletons' Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events of the Year 1885. 25. New York: D. Appleton and Co. 1887 – via Hathi Trust.