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1878 (MDCCCLXXVIII) was a common year starting on Tuesday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Sunday of the Julian calendar, the 1878th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 878th year of the 2nd millennium, the 78th year of the 19th century, and the 9th year of the 1870s decade. As of the start of 1878, the Gregorian calendar was 12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.
- January 5 – Battle of Shipka Pass IV: Russian and Bulgarian forces defeat the Ottoman Empire.
- January 9 – Umberto I becomes King of Italy.
- January 17 – Battle of Philippopolis: Russian troops defeat the Turks.
- January 23 – Benjamin Disraeli orders the British fleet to the Dardanelles.
- January 24 – Russian revolutionary Vera Zasulich shoots at Fyodor Trepov, Governor of Saint Petersburg.
- January 28 – The Yale News becomes the first daily college newspaper in the United States.
- January 31 – Turkey agrees to an armistice at Adrianople.
- February 2 – Greece declares war on Turkey.
- February 7 – Pope Pius IX dies, after a 31½ year reign (the longest definitely confirmed).
- February 8 – The British fleet enters Turkish waters, and anchors off Istanbul; Russia threatens to occupy Istanbul, but does not carry out the threat.
- February 18 – The Lincoln County War begins in Lincoln County, New Mexico.
- February 19 – The phonograph is patented by Thomas Edison.
- February 20 – Pope Leo XIII succeeds Pope Pius IX, as the 256th pope.
- February 23 – Sadguru Shri Gajanan Maharaj appears at Shegaon, Dist: Buldhana, Maharashtra.
- February 24 – Anti-Russian demonstrations occur in Hyde Park, London.
- February 28 – Mississippi State University is created by the Mississippi Legislature (under the name The Agricultural and Mechanical College of the State of Mississippi).
- March 17 – Rev. John Jasper first preaches his sermon "The Sun Do Move."
- March 24 – The British Royal Navy frigate HMS Eurydice (1843) capsizes in the English Channel; all but 2 of the 319 crew members are killed.
- March 25 – Russia rejects a British proposal, to lay the San Stefano Treaty before a European congress.
- March 27 – In anticipation of war with Russia, Disraeli mobilizes the reserves, and calls up Indian troops to Malta.
- April 20 – The Stawell Gift is run for the first time in Australia.
- May 2 – The Washburn "A" Mill in Minneapolis explodes, killing 18.
- May 15 – The Tokyo Stock Exchange is established.
- May 25 – Gilbert and Sullivan's comic opera H.M.S. Pinafore debuts in London at the Opera Comique, with a first run of 571 performances.
- June 1 – The General Postal Union is renamed the Universal Postal Union (UPU).
- June 4 – Cyprus Convention: The Ottoman Empire cedes Cyprus to the United Kingdom, but retains the nominal title.
- June 10 – The League of Prizren is officially founded "to struggle in arms to defend the wholeness of the territories of Albania".
- June 13–July 13 – The Congress of Berlin convenes to discuss the Ottoman Empire.
- June 15 – Eadweard Muybridge produces the sequence of stop-motion still photographs Sallie Gardner at a Gallop in California (a predecessor of silent film), demonstrating that all four feet of a galloping horse are off the ground at the same time.
- June 20 – The U.S. Coastal Survey is renamed the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey.
- June 22 – Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld leaves Karlskrona, on a voyage that will make him the first man to navigate the Northern Sea Route, a shipping lane from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean, along the Siberian coast.
- July 4 – A match race between champion thoroughbred racehorses Ten Broeck and Mollie McCarty draws more than 30,000 fans to Louisville, and inspires the folk song, "Molly and Tenbrooks".
- July 13 – The Treaty of Berlin makes Serbia, Montenegro and Romania completely independent, confirms the autonomy of Bulgaria, makes Cyprus a British possession, and allows Austria-Hungary to garrison the Bosnia Vilayet.
- August 9 – The Wallingford Tornado of 1878, the deadliest tornado in Connecticut history, destroys the town of Wallingford, killing 34 people and injuring more than 70.
- August 26 – Uyedineniya Island is discovered in the Kara Sea, by Norwegian explorer Captain Edvard Holm Johannesen.
- September 3 – Over 640 die, when the crowded pleasure boat Princess Alice collides with the Bywell Castle, in the River Thames.
- September 12 – Cleopatra's Needle is erected in London, having arrived in England on January 21.
- September 20 – The Hindu, an Indian newspaper, is founded.
- October 1 – Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (Virginia Tech) opens as Virginia Agricultural and Mechanical College, in the United States.
- October 14 – The world's first recorded floodlit football fixture is played at Bramall Lane, in Sheffield, England.
- October 17 – John A. Macdonald returns to office, as Prime Minister of Canada.
- October 31 – A fire destroys the Eldkvarn gristmill mill in Stockholm, Sweden.
- November 17 – The first assassination attempt is made against Umberto I of Italy by anarchist Giovanni Passannante, armed with a dagger. The King survives with a slight wound in one arm. Prime minister Benedetto Cairoli blocks the aggressor, receiving a leg injury.
- November 21 – The Second Anglo-Afghan War commences, when the British attack Ali Masjid in the Khyber Pass.
- November 26 – American-born artist James McNeill Whistler's libel case against English critic John Ruskin, over a review of the painting Nocturne in Black and Gold – The Falling Rocket, (in which Whistler is described as "flinging a pot of paint in the public's face"), is decided in the High Court of Justice in London. Whistler wins a farthing in nominal damages and only half of the costs, leading to his bankruptcy, and alienates patrons.
- December 7 – The United States territory of New Mexico is linked to the rest of the nation by railroad for the first time, as the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway inaugurates a newly completed line through the Raton Pass.
- December 25 – Stella Maris Church in Sliema, Malta becomes a parish, seceding from the Parish of St. Helen's in Birkirkara.
- U.S. arbitration rejects Argentine claims to Paraguay's part of the Chaco region.
- Otto von Bismarck abandons his Kulturkampf, and forces through legislation outlawing the Social Democrats.
- The 10-year Nauruan Tribal War breaks out.
- Yellow fever in the Mississippi Valley kills over 13,000.
- Foundation of:
- Nainital Cantonment.
- The Buchan School, Isle of Man.
- The Johns Hopkins University Press, America's oldest university press.
- Geiger (corporation), formed as Geiger Brothers.
- The following English Association football clubs:
- Everton Football Club, formed as St Domingo.
- Grimsby Town F.C., formed as Grimsby Pelham.
- Ipswich Town Football Club, formed as amateur club Ipswich A.F.C. They will not turn professional until 1936.
- Newton Heath Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Football Club, the team that will become Manchester United.
- West Bromwich Albion F.C..
- Leo Tolstoy's novel Anna Karenina is published complete in book form in Moscow.
- Lester Allan Pelton produces the first operational Pelton wheel.
- The last confirmed Cape lion dies.
- E. Remington and Sons, in the United States, introduce their No. 2 typewriter, the first with a shift key, enabling production of lower as well as upper case characters.
- In Strasbourg, Alsace-Lorraine, the much studied stele of the Roman legionary Caius Largennius is discovered.
- Kawasaki Tsukiji Shipbuilding, as predecessor of Kawasaki Heavy Industries, a motorbike, helicopters, rolling stock and shipbuilding in Japan, was founded.
- January 4
- January 6 – Carl Sandburg, American poet and historian (d. 1967)
- January 9 – John B. Watson, American psychologist (d. 1958)
- January 11 – Theodoros Pangalos, Greek general, politician and President of Greece (d. 1952)
- January 12 – Ferenc Molnár, Hungarian-born author (d. 1952)
- January 16 – Harry Carey, American actor (d. 1947)
- January 20 – Finlay Currie, Scottish actor (d. 1968)
- January 22 – Constance Collier, English stage, screen actress (d. 1955)
- January 23 – Rutland Boughton, English composer (d. 1960)
- January 25 – Ernst Alexanderson, Swedish-born television pioneer (d. 1975)
- February 1 – Milan Hodža, Slovak politician, champion of regional integration in Europe (d. 1944)
- February 2 – Alfréd Hajós, Hungarian swimmer, architect (d. 1955)
- February 3 – Gordon Coates, 21st Prime Minister of New Zealand (d. 1943)
- February 5 – André Citroën, French automobile manufacturer (d. 1935)
- February 8 – Martin Buber, Austrian philosopher (d. 1965)
- February 14 – Kōki Hirota, 21st Prime Minister of Japan (d. 1948)
- February 16
- February 18 – Kate Gordon, American psychologist (d. 1963)
- February 21 – The Mother (Mirra Alfassa), multi-origined spiritual leader and founder of Auroville, India (d. 1973)
- February 26 – Emmy Destinn, Czech soprano (d. 1930)
- February 28 – Pierre Fatou, French mathematician (d. 1929)
- March 4
- March 5 – P. D. Ouspensky, Russian mathematician (d. 1947)
- March 7 – Boris Kustodiev, Soviet painter and designer (d. 1927)
- March 16
- March 20 – Heinrich XXIV, Prince Reuss of Greiz (d. 1927)
- March 22 – Michel Théato, Luxembourg athlete (d. 1919)
- March 26 – Henry Gullett, Australian politician (d. 1940)
- March 31 – Jack Johnson, American boxer (d. 1946)
- April 1 – C. Ganesha Iyer, Ceylon Tamil Philologist (d. 1958)
- April 4 – Stylianos Lykoudis, Greek admiral (d. 1958)
- April 6
- April 24 – Jean Crotti, Swiss artist (d. 1958)
- April 28
- April 30 – Władysław Witwicki, Polish psychologist, philosopher, translator, historian (of philosophy and art) and artist (d. 1948)
- May 2 – Roy Atwell, American actor, comedian and composer (d. 1962)
- May 3 – Jean Chiappe, French civil servant (d. 1940)
- May 10 – Gustav Stresemann, Chancellor of Germany, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d. 1929)
- May 13 – Julia Dean, American stage and film actress (d. 1952)
- May 16 – Taylor Holmes, American actor (d. 1959)
- May 21 – Glenn H. Curtiss, American aviation pioneer (d. 1930)
- May 22 – The Great Gama, Punjabi wrestler (d. 1960)
- May 25 – Bill Robinson, African-American tap dancer (d. 1949)
- May 27 – Anna Cervin, Swedish artist (d. 1972)
- May 28 – Paul Pelliot, French sinologist (d. 1945)
- June 1 – John Masefield, English poet, novelist (d. 1967)
- June 3 – Barney Oldfield, American automobile racer, pioneer (d. 1946)
- June 5 – Pancho Villa, Mexican revolutionary (d. 1923)
- June 10 – William Skelly, American oil magnate (d. 1957)
- June 12 – James Oliver Curwood, American writer, conservationist (d. 1927)
- June 20 – Will Mastin, American vaudevillian (d. 1975)
- June 22 – John Burton Cleland, Australian naturalist, microbiologist, mycologist and ornithologist (d. 1971)
- June 27 – He Xiangning, Chinese revolutionary, feminist, politician, painter and poet (d. 1972)
- July 1 – Gino Meneghetti, Italian thief (d. 1976)
- July 3 – George M. Cohan, American singer, dancer, composer, actor and writer (d. 1942)
- July 8 - Jimmy Quinn, Scottish footballer (d. 1945)
- July 10 – Otto Freundlich, German painter, sculptor (d. 1943)
- July 12
- July 16 – Andreas Hermes, German agricultural scientist, politician (d. 1964)
- July 17 – Mabel Van Buren, American actress (d. 1947)
- July 24 – Edward Plunkett, Baron Dunsany, Irish author (d. 1957)
- August 1
- August 2 – Princess Ingeborg of Denmark, Princess of Sweden (d. 1958)
- August 4 – Ernest Lundeen, American lawyer, politician (d. 1940)
- August 9 – Eileen Gray, Irish architect, furniture designer (d. 1976)
- August 10 – Alfred Döblin, German writer (d. 1957)
- August 13 – Harold Clarke Goddard, American professor, Shakespearean scholar (d. 1950)
- August 19 – Manuel L. Quezon, 2nd President of the Philippines (d. 1944)
- August 20 – Maria Assunta Pallotta, Italian Roman Catholic religious professed and blessed (d. 1905)
- August 27 – Pyotr Nikolayevich Wrangel, Russian general, anti-Bolshevik leader (d. 1928)
- August 28 – George Whipple, American scientist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1976)
- August 31 – Frank Jarvis, American athlete (d. 1933)
- September 2 – Werner von Blomberg, German field marshal (d. 1946)
- September 5 – Robert von Lieben, Austrian physicist (d. 1913)
- September 9 – Sergio Osmena, 4th President of the Philippines (d. 1961)
- September 13 – Matilde Moisant, American pilot (d. 1964)
- September 14 – Ion Farris, American politician, former Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives (d. 1934)
- September 18
- September 20 – Upton Sinclair, American writer (d. 1968)
- September 22 – Shigeru Yoshida, Prime Minister of Japan (d. 1967)
- September 24 – C. F. Ramuz, Swiss writer (d. 1947)
- September 28 – Jirō Tamon, Japanese general (d. 1934)
- October 1 – Othmar Spann, Austrian philosopher, economist (d. 1950)
- October 2 – Richard Spikes, African-American inventor (d. 1963)
- October 9 – Robert Warwick, American stage, screen actor (d. 1964)
- October 12 – Karl Buresch, 9th Chancellor of Austria (d. 1936)
- October 15 – Paul Reynaud, Prime Minister of France (d. 1966)
- October 16 – Maxie Long, American athlete (d. 1959)
- October 17 – Louise Dresser, American actress (d. 1965)
- October 29 – Alexander von Falkenhausen, German general (d. 1966)
- October 30 – Arthur Scherbius, German electrical engineer, mathematician, cryptanalyst and inventor (d. 1929)
- October 31 – Roberta Lawson, Indigenous American (Lenape) activist and musician (d. 1940)
- November 1 – Carlos Saavedra Lamas, Argentine politician, recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize (d. 1959)
- November 8 – Dorothea Bate, British archaeologist and pioneer of archaeozoology (d. 1951)
- November 14
- November 17 – Grace Abbott, American social worker, activist (d. 1939)
- November 23
- November 27 – William Orpen, Irish artist (d. 1931)
- December 1 – Nathaniel Baldwin, American inventor, supporter of the early Mormon fundamentalist movement (d. 1961)
- December 10 – C. Rajagopalachari, Indian politician, freedom fighter (d. 1972)
- December 18 – Joseph Stalin, leader of the Soviet Union (d. 1953)
- December 22 – Myer Prinstein, Polish-American athlete (d. 1925)
- December 25
- December 28 – Nikolai Bryukhanov, Soviet statesman, political figure who served as People's Commissar of Finances (d. 1938)
- December 31
- January 5 – Alfonso Ferrero La Marmora, 6th Prime Minister of Italy (b. 1804)
- January 8 – Nikolay Nekrasov, Russian poet (b. 1821)
- January 9 – King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy (b. 1820)
- January 18 – Antoine César Becquerel, French scientist (b. 1788)
- February 7 – Pope Pius IX (b. 1792)
- February 11 – Gideon Welles, American politician (b. 1802)
- February 18 – John Tunstall, American rancher, merchant, first man killed in the Lincoln County War (b. 1853)
- February 19 – Charles-François Daubigny, French painter (b. 1817)
- February 26 – Angelo Secchi, Italian astronomer (b. 1818)
- March 8 – Archduke Franz Karl of Austria (b. 1802)
- March 20 – Julius von Mayer, German physician, physicist and one of the founders of thermodynamics (b. 1814)
- March 27 – Sir George Gilbert Scott, British architect (b. 1811)
- April 4 – Richard M. Brewer, American gunslinger, cowboy (b. 1850)
- April 5 – Buckshot Roberts, American buffalo hunter who killed Richard M. Brewer (shot) (b. 1831)
- April 8 – Henrietta Treffz, Austrian soprano, first wife of Johann Strauss II (b. 1818)
- April 11 – Robert Wentworth Little, British occultist (b. 1840)
- April 12 – William M. Tweed, American politician (b. 1823)
- April 25 – Anna Sewell, English author (b. 1820)
- May 11 – Pierre Philippe Denfert-Rochereau, French military officer and politician (b. 1823)
- May 12 – Anselme Payen, French chemist (b. 1795)
- May 13 – Joseph Henry, American scientist (b. 1797)
- May 14 – Ōkubo Toshimichi, Japanese samurai, later leader of the Meiji restoration (b. 1830)
- May 28 – John Russell, 1st Earl Russell, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom (b. 1792)
- June 5 – Ernst von Bibra, German scientist (b. 1806)
- June 6
- June 12
- June 27 – Sidney Breese, U.S. senator from Illinois, father of the Illinois Central Railroad (b. 1800)
- July 1 – Catherine Winkworth, English translator of hymns (b. 1827)
- July 17 – Aleardo Aleardi, Italian poet (b. 1812)
- July 23 – Carl Freiherr von Rokitansky, Bohemian pathologist, philosopher and politician (b. 1804)
- August 13 – Henry James Montague, English-born actor (b. 1844)
- August 16 – Richard Upjohn, English-American architect (b. 1802)
- August 26 – Mariam Baouardy, Syrian Discalced Carmelite and Melkite Greek Catholic nun and saint, canonized (b. 1846)
- August 30 – James Geiss, English businessman (b. 1820)
- September 7 – Mehmed Ali Pasha, Prussian-born Ottoman military leader (b. 1827)
- October 4 – Dora Hand, dance hall singer, actress (b.1844)
- October 20 – Hiram Paulding, American admiral (b. 1797)
- November 20 – William Thomas, Welsh poet (b. 1832)
- November 28 – Orson Hyde, American religious leader (b. 1805)
- December 10 – Henry Wells, American businessman (b. 1805)
- December 14 – Princess Alice of the United Kingdom (b. 1843)
- December 18 – W H Payne, actor and mime artist (b. 1804)
- December 23 - Frederick Aiken, American lawyer, journalist, and soldier (b. 1832)
- December 25 – Henry K. Hoff, American admiral (b. 1809)
- New York Daily Herald, 24 Mar 1878, p.8.
- Ruskin, John (1877-07-02). Fors Clavigera.
- Whistler, J. McNeill (1890). The Gentle Art of Making Enemies.
- Borneman, Walter R. (2010). Rival Rails: The Race to Build America's Greatest Transcontinental Railroad. Random House Digital. p. 168.
- "V muzeu Emila Holuba se ukrýval kapský lev". Novinky.cz (in Czech). May 22, 2009. Retrieved August 26, 2011.
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