Essential Chronology

December 16, 1773: Boston Tea Party

June 14, 1775: Congress establishes the Continental Army

July 6, 1775: Congress issues Declaration of the Cause and Necessity of Taking Up Arms

April 19, 1775: A British attack at Lexington, Massachusetts starts the War of Independence

October 13, 1775: Congress establishes the Continental Navy

November 10, 1775: Congress establishes the Marine Corps

July 4, 1776: Congress adopts Declaration of Independence

November 15, 1777: The Articles of Confederation become effective

October 19, 1781: Cornwallis surrenders at Yorktown, Virginia, ending British military action

September 3, 1783: Great Britain signs Treaty of Paris, recognizing America’s independence

May 25, 1787: The Constitutional Convention opens in Philadelphia with a quorum of seven states to discuss revising the Articles of Confederation

September 17, 1787: All 12 state delegations approve the Constitution. Of the 42 delegates present, 39 sign it and the Convention formally adjourns

June 21, 1788: The Constitution becomes effective for the ratifying states when New Hampshire is the ninth state to ratify it

March 4, 1789: The first Congress under the Constitution convenes in New York City

April 30, 1789: George Washington is inaugurated as the first president of the United States

June 8, 1789: James Madison introduces proposed Bill of Rights in the House of Representatives

September 24, 1789: Congress establishes a Supreme Court, 13 district courts, three ad hoc circuit courts, and the position of Attorney General

September 25, 1789: Congress approves 12 constitutional amendments and sends them to the states for ratification

February 2, 1790: Supreme Court convenes for the first time

August 4, 1790: Congress establishes the U.S. Coast Guard

December 15, 1791: Virginia ratifies the Bill of Rights, and 10 of the 12 proposed amendments become part of the U.S. Constitution

May 30, 1868: First Memorial Day

September 18, 1947: Congress establishes the U.S. Air Force

May 21, 1949: Armed Forces Day

November 11, 1954: First Veterans Day (Armistice Day)