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1880 (MDCCCLXXX) was a leap year starting on Thursday of the Gregorian calendar and a leap year starting on Tuesday of the Julian calendar, the 1880th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 880th year of the 2nd millennium, the 80th year of the 19th century, and the 1st year of the 1880s decade. As of the start of 1880, the Gregorian calendar was 12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.
- January 22 - Toowong State School is founded in Queensland, Australia.
- February - The journal Science is first published in the United States, with financial backing from Thomas Edison.
- February 2
- The first electric streetlight is installed in Wabash, Indiana.
- The first successful shipment of frozen mutton from Australia arrives in London, aboard the SS Strathleven.
- February 4 - The Black Donnelly Massacre takes the lives of five members of one family in Biddulph Township, Middlesex County, Ontario, Canada.
- February 24 - The SS Columbia, which will be the first outside usage of Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulb, is launched at the Delaware River Iron Ship Building and Engine Works of John Roach & Sons in Chester, Pennsylvania.
- March 31 - Wabash, Indiana becomes the first electrically lit city in the world.
- April - The government of Cape Colony sets a deadline for the Basuto people to surrender their weapons; non-compliance leads to the Basuto Gun War.
- April 18 - 1880 United Kingdom general election: William Ewart Gladstone defeats Benjamin Disraeli, to become Prime Minister for the second time.
- April 19 - The Prime Minister of Sweden, Louis De Geer, resigns over the defeat of a defense reform bill in the country's Riksdag; he is succeeded by Count Arvid Posse (1880-1883).
- April 27 - The Royal University of Ireland is founded by charter, allowing the Catholic University of Ireland to re-form as University College Dublin.
- May 2 - After having her lights installed by Edison's personnel, the SS Columbia is lit up for the first time at the foot of Wall Street, in New York City.
- May 13 - In Menlo Park, New Jersey, Thomas Edison performs the first test of his electric railway.
- June - The SS Columbia sets off on her maiden voyage around Cape Horn to Portland, Oregon, carrying 13 locomotives and 200 railcars.
- June 1 - Tinius Olsen is awarded a United States Patent, for the Little Giant Testing Machine.
- June 28 - Australian police capture bank robber Ned Kelly, after a gun battle at Glenrowan, Victoria.
- June 29 - France annexes Tahiti.
- July 14 - Dorchester Penitentiary opens in Canada.
- July 22 - Abdur Rahman Khan becomes Emir of Afghanistan.
- July 27 - Second Anglo-Afghan War - Battle of Maiwand: Afghan troops under Ayub Khan defeat British and Indian forces, under Brigadier General George Burrows.
- August 14 - Cologne Cathedral is completed, after construction began in 1248, 632 years earlier.
- August 24 - The SS Columbia completes her maiden voyage, arriving without incident in Portland, Oregon, after a stopover in San Francisco.
- August 26 - Competing circus owners P. T. Barnum and James A. Bailey sign a contract in Bridgeport, Connecticut to create the Barnum & Bailey Circus. In 1907, the circus will merge forces with another competitor, the Ringling Brothers Circus.
- September 1 - Second Anglo-Afghan War - Battle of Kandahar: General Frederick Roberts, commanding British forces, defeats the Afghan troops of Mohammad Ayub Khan, bringing an end to the war.
- January 1 - Vajiravudh, Rama VI, King of Siam (d. 1925)
- January 2 - Louis Charles Breguet, French aircraft designer, builder and early aviation pioneer (d. 1955)
- January 3 - Father Francis Browne, Irish Jesuit priest, famous for his last photos of the RMS Titanic (d. 1960)
- January 6 - Tom Mix, American actor (d. 1940)
- January 10 - Manuel Azaña, 2nd President of the Spanish Second Republic, 55th Prime Minister of Spain (d. 1940)
- January 11 - Rudolph Palm, Curaçao-born composer (d. 1950)
- January 17 - Mack Sennett, Canadian director, producer (d. 1960)
- January 18 - Paul Ehrenfest, Austrian-Dutch physicist (d. 1933)
- January 19 - Henryk Minkiewicz, Polish general and politician (d. 1940)
- January 26
- January 28
- January 29 - W. C. Fields, American actor, comedian (d. 1946)
- March 1 - Lytton Strachey, English writer, biographer (d. 1932)
- March 4 - Channing Pollock, American playwright, critic (d. 1946)
- March 10 - Broncho Billy Anderson, American actor (d. 1971)
- March 11 - Harry H. Laughlin, American eugenicist (d. 1943)
- March 15 - Montagu Love, English actor (d. 1943)
- March 22 - Kuniaki Koiso, Prime Minister of Japan (d. 1950)
- March 23 - Heikki Ritavuori, Finnish Minister of the Interior (d. 1922)
- March 27 - Ruth Hanna McCormick, American politician, activist and publisher (d. 1944)
- March 28 - Louis Wolheim, American character actor (d. 1931)
- March 30 - Seán O'Casey, Irish writer (d. 1964)
- June 6 - W. T. Cosgrave, Irish politician (d. 1965)
- June 9 - William S. Pye, American admiral (d. 1959)
- June 17 - Carl Van Vechten, American writer, photographer (d. 1964)
- June 21 - Josiah Stamp, 1st Baron Stamp, British civil servant, industrialist and economist (d. 1941)
- June 24 - João Cândido Felisberto, Brazilian sailor (d. 1969)
- June 26 - Mitchell Lewis, American actor (d. 1956)
- June 27 - Helen Keller, American spokeswoman for the deaf and blind (d. 1968)
- June 29 - Ludwig Beck, German general, Chief of the General Staff (d. 1944)
- June 30 - Elisabeth Tamm, Swedish politician (d. 1958)
- August 4 - Werner von Fritsch, German general (d. 1939)
- August 6 - Hans Moser, Austrian actor (d. 1964)
- August 8 - Earle Page, 11th Prime Minister of Australia (d. 1961)
- August 10 - Robert L. Thornton, American businessman, philanthropist and mayor of Dallas, Texas (d. 1964)
- August 12 - Christy Mathewson, American baseball player (d.1925)
- August 15 - Anna Rüling, German journalist, the first known lesbian activist (d. 1953)
- August 19 - Jean Patou, French fashion designer (d. 1936)
- August 22 - George Herriman, American cartoonist (d. 1944)
- August 23 - Wyndham Standing, English stage, film actor (d. 1963)
- August 26 - Guillaume Apollinaire, French poet (d. 1918)
- August 29 - Marie-Louise Meilleur, longest-lived Canadian (verified) ever (d. 1998)
- August 30 - Nikolai Astrup, Norwegian painter (d. 1928)
- August 31 - Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands (d. 1962)
- September 12 - H. L. Mencken, American journalist (d. 1956)
- September 14
- September 15 - Chujiro Hayashi, Japanese Reiki master (d. 1940)
- September 16 - Alfred Noyes, English poet (d. 1958)
- September 20 - Ugo Cavallero, Italian field marshal (d. 1943)
- September 22 - Christabel Pankhurst, English suffragette (d. 1958)
- September 23 - John Boyd Orr, Scottish physician and biologist, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d. 1971)
- September 24 - Sarah Knauss, American supercentenarian verified as longest-lived American ever (d. 1999)
- September 27 - Pier Ruggero Piccio, Italian World War I fighter ace, air force general (d. 1965)
- September 29 - Liberato Pinto, 78th Prime Minister of Portugal (d. 1949)
- November 1
- November 2 - John Foulds, English classical music composer (d. 1939)
- November 3 - Avra Theodoropoulou, Greek suffragist (d. 1957)
- November 5 - Richard Oswald, Austrian film director (d. 1963)
- November 6 - Robert Musil, Austrian novelist (d. 1942)
- November 9 - Giles Gilbert Scott, British architect (d. 1960)
- November 10 - Jacob Epstein, American-born sculptor (d. 1959)
- November 12 - Harold Rainsford Stark, American admiral (d. 1972)
- November 18 - Naum Torbov, Bulgarian architect (d. 1952)
- November 22 - Charles Forbes, British admiral (d. 1960)
- November 25
- November 29 - Sara Allgood, Irish-American actress (d. 1950)
- December 1 - Joseph Trumpeldor, Russian Zionist (d. 1920)
- December 3 - Fedor von Bock, German field marshal (d. 1945)
- December 4 - Garfield Wood, American motorboat racer (d. 1971)
- December 10 - Jessie Aspinall, Australian doctor, first female junior medical resident at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (d. 1953)
- December 11 - Frank Tarrant, Australian cricketer (d. 1951)
- December 24 - Johnny Gruelle, American cartoonist, children's book author (d. 1938)
- December 31 - George Marshall, United States Secretary of State, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d. 1959)
- January 4
- January 8 - Joshua A. Norton, self-anointed Emperor Norton I of the United States of America (b. 1811)
- January 12
- January 14 - Frederick VIII, Duke of Schleswig-Holstein (b. 1829)
- January 20 - Captain Moonlite, Australian bushranger (hanged) (b. 1842)
- January 31 - Adolphe Granier de Cassagnac, French politician (b. 1806)
- February 18 - Nikolay Zinin, Russian organic chemist (b. 1812)
- February 29 - Sir James Milne Wilson, Premier of Tasmania (b. 1812)
- March 14 - Pagan Min, King of Ava (b. 1811)
- March 31 - Henryk Wieniawski, Polish composer (b. 1835)
- April 23 - Raden Saleh, Indonesian painter (b. 1807)
- April 27 - Joseph Vinoy, French general (b. 1803)
- May 2
- May 4 - Edward Clark, Confederate Governor of Texas (b. 1815)
- May 8 - Gustave Flaubert, French novelist (b. 1821)
- May 20 - Ana Néri, Brazilian nurse (b. 1814)
- June 8 - Maria Alexandrovna (Marie of Hesse), Empress Consort of Czar Alexander II of Russia (b. 1824)
- June 28 - Texas Jack Omohundro, American frontier scout, actor, and cowboy (b. 1846)
- July 7 - Lydia Maria Child, American novelist, abolitionist (b. 1802)
- July 9 - Paul Broca, French physician and anthropologist (b. 1824)
- July 17 - Tomasz Cho?odecki, Polish political activist (b. 1813)
- July 21 - Hiram Walden, American politician (b. 1800)
- August 9 - William Bigler, American politician (b. 1814)
- August 15 - Adelaide Neilson, English actress (b. 1848)
- August 16 - Herschel Vespasian Johnson, American politician (b. 1812)
- August 17 - Ole Bull, Norwegian violinist (b. 1810)
- August 24 - Chief Ouray, Native American leader (b. c. 1833)
- September 21 - Manuel Montt, 5th President of Chile (b. 1809)
- September 25 - John Tarleton, British admiral (b. 1811)
- October 5 - Jacques Offenbach, German-born French composer (b. 1819)
- October 14 - Victorio, Chiricahua Apache chief (b. c. 1825)
- October 22 - Alphonse Pénaud, French aviation pioneer (b. 1850)
- October 23 - Bettino Ricasoli, Italian statesman (b. 1809)
- November 11
- November 13 - August Karl von Goeben, Prussian general (b. 1816)
- November 23 - Sir Redmond Barry, Australian judge, sentenced Ned Kelly to death (b. 1813)
- November 28 - Aires de Ornelas e Vasconcelos, (Portuguese) Archbishop of Goa (b. 1837)
- November 30 - Jeanette Threlfall, English hymnwriter (b. 1821)
- December 7 - Maria Giuseppa Rossello, Italian Roman Catholic religious sister and blessed (b. 1811)
- December 20 - Gaspar Tochman, Polish-American soldier (b. 1797)
- December 22 - George Eliot, English writer (b. 1819)
Further reading and year books
- 1880 Annual Cyclopedia (1881) highly detailed coverage of "Political, Military, and Ecclesiastical Affairs; Public Documents; Biography, Statistics, Commerce, Finance, Literature, Science, Agriculture, and Mechanical Industry" for year 1880; massive compilation of facts and primary documents; worldwide coverage; 756 pp