The year 1909 saw the inauguration of the only US President to formerly hold the position of Chief Justice: William Howard Taft. He, along with his cabinet, became notorious for their ample use of so-called “dollar-diplomacy”.


With a population of just 1.7 billion, the world was a much smaller place at the start of the 20th century. These 365 days saw the beginnings of many things we now take for granted: communist paranoia, middle schools, instant coffee, anti-drug taskforces, credit unions, and pedestrian-jammed subway lines.

Famous criminal Clyde Barrow, the namesake of McCarthyism, Joseph McCarthy, and the first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah were also all born in 1909. The world also witnessed the end of the inventor of instant photography, Edwin Land, Apache-chief Geronimo, Japanese Prime Minister Ito Horiboemi, and the King of Belgium, Leopold II.

In 1909, the names Mary and John were common place choices for new parents. To help set the scene, imagine a time where the most movies were monochromatic classics like Carmen, Andreas Hofer, and The Life of Moses. Off the silver screen, the bookworms of the world were engrossed in The Road to Oz, Martin Eden, and Three Lives. Keep reading to find out what made 1909 so fundamental to life as we know it.

A lot changed on the Earth in 1909. First and foremost, let’s look at some of the year’s notable firsts. These include, the first rescue at sea facilitated by radio, the first federal legislation preventing narcotic use, the opening of the first junior high school, the first woman to drive cross-country, and the test of the world’s first army plane. For anyone out there who can’t function without a nice hot cup of joe, these twelve months also saw the invention of instant coffee.

The world became a much bigger place after these twelve months as well. Polish Explorer, Shackleton, set a world record for going farther south on the world than any other human being. In addition, Robert Peary became the first person in history to reach the North Pole, and the first cement laid at the Panama Canal heralded a future of easier travel between the Eastern and Western hemispheres. While relationships between Nicaragua and the US soured after an invasion, Japan attempted to increase diplomacy by gifting the US with the first of its infamous cherry trees.

Therefore, whether you rely on instant coffee to put some pep in your step, or have a desktop background of Washington in bloom, you should write a thank-you note to 1909.

Discover how the world looked like in 1909

Nobel Prize

Nobel Prizes

All Nobel Prize winners of 1909

Peace Prize

  • Auguste Marie François Beernaert
  • Paul-Henri-Benjamin d'Estournelles de Constant


  • Selma Lagerlöf


  • Karl Ferdinand Braun
  • Guglielmo Marconi


  • Wilhelm Ostwald

Physiology or Medicine

  • Emil Theodor Kocher


Which were the most popular Movies released in those months?
Watch popular movies, TV series and live events, start your 30-day free trial

Before and After

Before and After

Directed by: Barbet Schroeder



Directed by: Wu Min-Hsiung

Raffaello Sanzio e la fornarina

Raffaello Sanzio e la fornarina

Directed by: Edoardo Bencivenga

Starring: Charles Krauss, Josette Andriot, Rene Sylvaire

Country: United States of America

Marin Faliero doge di Venezia

Marin Faliero doge di Venezia

Directed by: Giuseppe de Liguoro

Starring: Giuseppe de Liguoro, Salvatore Papa, Arturo Pirovano

Les heures - Épisode 4: Le soir, la nuit

Les heures - Épisode 4: Le soir, la nuit

Directed by: Louis Feuillade

Starring: Alice Tissot, Renée Carl, Christiane Mandelys, Maurice Vinot

Country: United States of America

Popular names

Which were the top popular names given to babies born in 1909 in the USA ?


Historical Events

Which were the important events of 1909?


  • 01 Jan Drilling begins on the Lakeview Gusher.
  • 05 Jan Colombia recognizes the independence of Panama.
  • 09 Jan Ernest Shackleton, leading the Nimrod Expedition to the South Pole, plants the British flag 97 nautical miles (180 km; 112 mi) from the South Pole, the furthest anyone had ever reached at that time.
  • 16 Jan British explorer Ernest Shackleton finds magnetic south pole.
  • 25 Jan Richard Strauss' opera Elektra receives its debut performance at the Dresden State Opera.
  • 27 Jan The Young Left is founded in Norway.
  • 28 Jan United States troops leave Cuba with the exception of Guantanamo Bay Naval Base after being there since the Spanish-American War.
  • 01 Feb US Assay Office in Salt Lake City, Utah opens.
  • 02 Feb Italian writer Marinetti publishes Futurist Manifest in Paris.
  • 08 Feb France and Germany sign treaty about Morocco.
  • 12 Feb Robert Fowler runs world record marathon (2:46:52.6).
  • 15 Feb The Flores Theater fire in Acapulco, Mexico kills 250.
  • 16 Feb Serbia mobilizes against Austria-Hungary.
  • 18 Feb Boston Red Sox trade Cy Young, at age 41, to Cleveland Naps.
  • 20 Feb Publication of the Futurist Manifesto in the French journal Le Figaro.
  • 22 Feb Great White Fleet, first US fleet to circle the globe, returns to Virginia.
  • 23 Feb Russian tsar Nicolas II dissolves Finnish Diet.
  • 26 Feb Kinemacolor, the first successful color motion picture process, is first shown to the general public at the Palace Theatre in London.
  • 03 Mar Stanley Cup: Ottawa Senators beat MontrTal Wanderers, 8-3.
  • 04 Mar President Taft inaugrated as 27th US President during 10-inch snowstorm.
  • 10 Mar Jack Johnson fights Victor McLaglen to no decision in six for box title.
  • 14 Mar Amsterdam Social-Democratic Party (SDP) forms.
  • 21 Mar The remains of the Báb were placed in his Shrine of the Báb on Mount Carmel in Haifa, Israel.
  • 23 Mar Theodore Roosevelt leaves New York for a post-presidency safari in Africa. The trip is sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution and National Geographic Society.
  • 30 Mar The Queensboro Bridge opens, linking Manhattan and Queens.
  • 31 Mar Gustav Mahler conducts New York Philharmonic for his first time.
  • 04 Apr Sport Club Internacional was founded in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.
  • 06 Apr 1st credit union forms in US
  • 09 Apr The U.S. Congress passes the Payne-Aldrich Tariff Act.
  • 11 Apr The city of Tel Aviv (then known as Ahuzat Bayit) is founded.
  • 13 Apr The Turkish military reverses the Ottoman countercoup of 1909 to force the deposal of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
  • 14 Apr Anglo-Persian Oil Company forms in London.
  • 15 Apr New York Giants Red Ames second no-hitter, loses in 13 on a 7 hitter to Brooklyn Dodgers.
  • 18 Apr Joan of Arc is beatified in Rome.
  • 19 Apr 13th Boston Marathon won by Henri Renaud of New Hampshire in 2:53:36.8.
  • 24 Apr Harry Hillman and Lawson Robertson run 100 metre 3-legged race in 11 seconds.
  • 27 Apr Sultan of Ottoman Empire Abdul Hamid II is overthrown, and is succeeded by his brother, Mehmed V.
  • 01 May Netherlands begins unity with Belgium.
  • 02 May Honus Wagner steals his way around bases in first inning against Chicago Cubs.
  • 03 May 35th Kentucky Derby: Vincent Powers on Wintergreen wins in 2:08.2.
  • 07 May Construction begins on first 100 houses in Ahuzat Bayit (Tel Aviv).
  • 08 May Frederick Barrett runs world record marathon (2:42:31)
  • 12 May 34th Preakness: Willie Doyle aboard Effendi wins in 1:39.8.
  • 13 May Christian National Labor Workers (CNV) party begins in the Netherlands
  • 17 May White firemen on Georgia railroad strike to protest hiring blacks.
  • 24 May Bristol University granted Royal Charter.
  • 29 May In Shepard, Texas, USA a meteorite drops through a house.
  • 30 May National Conference on the Negro is held.
  • 01 Jun (to October 16) The Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition is held in Seattle, Washington.
  • 02 Jun 43rd Belmont: Eddie Dugan aboard Joe Madden wins in 2:21.6
  • 07 Jun Cleveland Industrial Exposition opens.
  • 12 Jun Shine On, Harvest Moon by Ada Jones and Billy Murray hits #1
  • 15 Jun Representatives from England, Australia and South Africa meet at Lord's and form the Imperial Cricket Conference.
  • 16 Jun Jim Thorpe makes his pro baseball pitching debut for Rocky Mount (ECL) with 4-2 win, this will cause him to forfeit his Olympic medals
  • 18 Jun Nannie Burroughs forms national training School for Women
  • 20 Jun 1st balloon honeymoon (Roger Burham & Eleanor Waring)
  • 23 Jun Confessional parties win Dutch parliamentary elections
  • 24 Jun 15th US Golf Open: George Sargent shoots a 290 at Englewood Golf Club - New Jersey
  • 25 Jun George Sargent wins US Open golf tournament
  • 26 Jun 23rd US Womens Tennis: H Hotchkiss beats Maud Barger-Wallach (60 61)
  • 27 Jun 23rd US Womens Tennis: Hazel H Wightman beats M Barger-Wallach (60 61)
  • 30 Jun Jack Johnson fights Tony Ross to no decision in 6 for hw boxing title
  • 12 Jul 16th Amendment approved (power to tax incomes).
  • 15 Jul Ty Cobb hits 2 inside-the-park HRs
  • 16 Jul Detroit and Washington play longest scoreless game in AL history-18 innings
  • 19 Jul Cleveland shortstop Neal Ball executes an unassisted triple play
  • 24 Jul Brooklyn Dodger Nap Rucker strikes out 16 Pittsburgh Pirates
  • 25 Jul August 2 ampndash quotTragic Weekquot: The city of Barcelona experiences a workers' uprising.
  • 27 Jul Orville Wright tests first US Army airplane, flying 1h12m.
  • 30 Jul Wright Brothers deliver 1st military plane to the army
  • 01 Aug British SS Waratah disappears on Sydney to London, 300 killed
  • 02 Aug 1st Lincoln head pennies minted
  • 05 Aug US Senate confirms A. Piatt Andrew as Mint Director.
  • 06 Aug Alice Huyler Ramsey and three friends become the first women to complete a transcontinental auto trip.
  • 07 Aug US issues 1st Lincoln penny
  • 10 Aug Algemeene Netherlands Toonkunstenars Ver (ANTV) begins
  • 11 Aug Liner Arapahoe is 1st ship to use SOS distress call
  • 15 Aug A group of mid-level Greek Army officers launches the Goudi coup, seeking wide-ranging reforms.
  • 18 Aug Mayor of Tokyo Yukio Ozaki presents Washington, D.C. with 2,000 cherry trees, which President Taft decides to plant near the Potomac River.
  • 19 Aug Indianapolis 500 race track opens
  • 26 Aug Middlesex beat Gloucs (Bristol) by Inn and 31 in a single day
  • 29 Aug AH Latham of France sets world airplane altitude record of 155 m.
  • 30 Aug Burgess Shale fossils are discovered by Charles Doolittle Walcott.
  • 31 Aug A J Reach Co patents cork-centered baseball
  • 02 Sep English King Edward VII signs South Africa Bill
  • 04 Sep Japan and China sign the Jiandao/Gando Treaty, which gives Japan a way to receive railroad concessions in Manchuria.
  • 06 Sep Word received, Admiral Peary discovers North Pole five months earlier.
  • 07 Sep Eugene Lefebvre (1878 : 1909), while test piloting a new French-built Wright biplane, crashes at Juvisy, France when his controls jam. Lefebvre dies, becoming the first 'pilot' in the world to lose his life in a powered heavier-than-air craft.
  • 09 Sep Jack Johnson fights Al Kaufman to no decision in 10 for boxing title
  • 13 Sep Ty Cobb clinches AL HR title with his 9th HR (all inside-the-park)
  • 23 Sep The Phantom of the Opera (original title: Le Fantome de l'Opera), a novel by French writer Gaston Leroux, is first published as a serialization in Le Gaulois.
  • 25 Sep Hudson-Fulton Celebration opens in New York.
  • 27 Sep 29th US Mens Tennis: W A Larned beats W J Clothier (61 62 57 16 61)
  • 02 Oct 1st rugby match (Twickenham)
  • 08 Oct Chicago Cubs beat New York Giants 4-2 in a playoff to win National League pennant.
  • 09 Oct Ty Cobb steals home in World Series game
  • 13 Oct An agreement by Germany, Italy and Switzerland gives the Germans and Italians access to the Gotthard Rail Tunnel.
  • 14 Oct Pirates beat Tigers, 5-4, forces 1st full 7 game world series
  • 16 Oct Jack Johnson KOs Stanley Ketchel in 12 for heavyweight boxing title
  • 18 Oct Comte de Lambert of France sets airplane altitude record of 300 m.
  • 26 Oct Ito Hirobumi, Resident-General of Korea, was shot to death by Korean independence supporter Ahn Jung-geun at the Harbin train station in Manchuria.
  • 02 Nov Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity is founded at Boston University.
  • 07 Nov Knights and Ladies of Saint Peter Claver organizes in Mobile Alabama.
  • 11 Nov Construction of navy base at Pearl Harbor begins
  • 13 Nov Ben Simpson of Hamilton Tigers kicks 9 singles in a game.
  • 16 Nov EVV Eindhoven soccer team forms
  • 18 Nov US invades Nicaragua, later overthrows President Zelaya.
  • 19 Nov Former Dutch Premier Abraham Kuyper denies corruption
  • 20 Nov Jack Williams of Ottawa Rough Riders kicks 9 singles in a game.
  • 23 Nov Wright Brothers forms million dollar corp to manufacture airplanes
  • 26 Nov Sigma Alpha Mu is founded in the City College of New York by 8 Jewish young men.
  • 04 Dec 1st Grey Cup game is played. The University of Toronto Varsity Blues defeat the Toronto Parkdale Canoe Club 26 : 6.
  • 07 Dec Leo Baekeland, Yonkers New York, patents first thermosetting plastic (Bakelite).
  • 08 Dec Bird banding society found.
  • 11 Dec Canadian Football exhibition game played in Van Cortlandt Park in Bronx, Hamilton Tigers beat Ottawa Rough Riders, 11-6 before 15,000.
  • 14 Dec New South Wales Premier Charles Wade signed the Seat of Government Surrender Act 1909, formally completing the transfer of State land to the Commonwealth to create the Australian Capital Territory.
  • 16 Dec US pressure forces Nicaraguan President JosT Santos Zelaya from office.
  • 17 Dec Karl Landsteiner develops a system of blood grouping.
  • 21 Dec 1st junior high school established (Berkeley, California)
  • 23 Dec Albert becomes king of Belgium.
  • 31 Dec Manhattan Bridge opens.