History Timeline 1500s

Above: Painting, entitled Discovery of the Mississippi, by William H. Powell, 1847, is located in the Rotunda of the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Right: Giovanni de Verrazzano, 1889, engraving by F. Allcarini, Tocchi, courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Giovanni da Verrazzano

Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1500s


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  • Timeline

  • 1500-1509

    1500: Indian culture flourishes in Florida as exemplified by the woodcarving in the Calusa culture. The Calusa had been living in this area for 1,000 years prior to European contact.
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  • May 11, 1502 - Christopher Columbus left Spain on his fourth voyage to the New World, landing back on the islands of Martinique and Jamaica in June. This voyage would take him to Central America, but not to North America.
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  • 1507 - The native population on the island of Hispaniola among the Taino population is decimated when European disease begins to affect the native population. Several epidemics of smallpox over the first fifty years after European settlement saw a decrease in their population from hundreds of thousands to less than five hundred.

    1507 - A new world map by Martin Waldseemuller names the continents of the New World "America" in honor of Amerigo Vespucci's contention that Brazil and the West Indies were not the far reaches of Asia, but actually a new continent.

    August 8, 1508 - First European colony and oldest known European settlement in United States territory is founded at Caparra, Puerto Rico, by Ponce de Leon. It becomes the first capital of the island with Ponce de Leon as its governor. Caparra would be abandoned in 1521.
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  • 1510-1519

    August 8, 1511 - Catholic Church under Pope Julius II begins to participate in the colonization of the New World, establishing three dioceses, including one in Puerto Rico and two in Hispaniola.

    December 27, 1512 - Burgos' Laws announced by Ferdinand II of Aragon, under pressure of Catholic Church, to end exploitation of indigenous people in Hispaniola and Puerto Rico. Codified first laws governing behavior of Spaniards in America.
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  • March 4, 1513 - Ponce de Leon leaves Puerto Rico to explore the coast of Florida, looking for the Fountain of Youth. There were two hundred men and three ships undertaking the exploration.

    April 2, 1513 - Ponce de Leon sights land near St. Augustine, coming ashore the next day and claiming the land for Spain. He names the land La Florida, after the Easter season Festival of Flowers.

    1514-1515 - Bartolome de las Casas, a chaplain advocates for better treatment of the native population in the colonies, giving up his Indian slaves, and championing the cause in writings and meetings with Spanish leaders.
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  • 1520-1529

    January 17, 1524 - Voyage of Giovanni da Verrazzano leaves Madeira, eventually entering New York harbor during a French expedition from the Carolinas to Nova Scotia. It is regarded by many as the first European exploration of the Atlantic seaboard of North America (assuming John Cabot did not return from his last voyage there) since the Norse expeditions five hundred years earlier.
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  • March 11, 1526 - Marriage between Emperor Charles V of Spain and ruler of the Holy Roman Empire and Isabella of Portugal, the sister to King John III, defuses disagreement over Treaty of Tordesillas and partitioning of New World territory between Spain and Portugal.

    June 17, 1527 - The Narváez expedition leaves Spain to explore and colonize Spanish Florida under the command of Pánfilo de Narváez. There were 600 members of the expedition.

    April 12, 1528 - After much hardship and stops in the Caribbean, the Narváez expedition reaches Florida near Tampa Bay and debarks two days later in Boca Ciega Bay, where they encounter natives of the Safety Harbor region. For the next four years, the expedition met a dire fate due to battles with natives (Timucua, Apalachee, and Tocobaga), the sea, and starvation. The expedition had split into several forces by the end of this year, and in total, slightly more than eighty members of the original expedition had survived, some reaching the Galveston, Texas area by boat.

    April 22, 1529 - The Treaty of Zaragosa attempts to clarify the Treaty of Tordesillas from 1494 between Spain and Portugal. Again this treaty attempted to clarify previous boundaries agreed between only two nations, Spain and Portugal, plus earlier boundaries by the papacy. All lands would still be divided between the two nations, with the Philippines and North America to Spain, and the Moluccas to Portugal.
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  • 1530-1539

    1532 - Four men associated with the original Narváez expedition attempt to reach posts of the Spanish Empire in Mexico. These men were Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca, Alonso del Castillo Maldonado, Andrés Dorantes de Carranza, and a slave, Estevanico. They became the first men from Europe and Africa to enter the American west, traveling across Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.

    June 9, 1534 - French explorer Jacques Cartier, searching for the northwest passage to Asia, becomes the first European to discover the St. Lawrence River area, encountering natives of the Iroquois Confederacy until turning back at Anticosti Island.
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  • July 1536 - Survivors of the Narváez expedition reach fellow Spaniards near Sinaloa, Mexico.

    May 25, 1539 - Hernando de Soto lands in Florida with nine ships and six hundred and twenty men at Shaw's Point in today's Bradenton, Florida, and begins to explore the interior of the Americas. They explored the western coast of Florida and encamped during the winter at Anhaica in Apalachee territory.
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  • November 17, 1539 - Precursor to Coronado expedition is sent toward Cibola under Melchior Diaz, searching for the Lost Cities of Gold mentioned by a previous Marcos de Niza expedition into New Mexico and Arizona.
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    February 23, 1540 - Exploration of the southwest and western United States to California by European expeditions begins when Fernando Vasquez de Coronado departs Compostela, in present day Mexico, looking to conquer the Seven Cities of Gold. The two year expedition took him into the lands of the United States, into New Mexico and to the Grand Canyon. The expedition included 335 Spanish, 4 monks, and over 1,000 natives. During one scouting party, members of the expedition became the first Europeans to discover the Grand Canyon.
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  • 1540-1541 - The first war between native Americans and Europeans in the southwest occurs between troops of Coronado and the Tiwa Indians. The Tiguex war was waged near Bernalillo, New Mexico against the dozen pueblos of the tribe on the American and Mexican sides of the Rio Grande River.
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  • 1540 - The de Soto expedition continues into Georgia in search for gold and a passage west. He would proceed into the mountains of North Carolina and Tennessee. An ambush in northern Alabama, which may have been precipitated by actions of the expedition, by the Mabilian Indian tribe, resulted in twenty Spanish explorer deaths and the demise of thousands of Indian warriors. De Soto burned the city. He would later winter near Tupelo, Mississippi.

    April 23, 1541 - The Coronado expedition continues to search for the city of Quivira and traverses the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Oklahoma until their final destination near Lyons, Kansas. At this time, they were only a few hundred miles from the exploration by de Soto.
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  • May 8, 1541 - After a Chicasaw raid earlier in the year, de Soto's expedition was in dire shape, however, they push forward, reaching the Mississippi River and becoming the first documented Europeans to witness it. Hernando de Soto led his expeditionary force across the Mississippi River and would explore Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. This expedition lay claims to these territories for the Spanish. De Soto would die early in 1542.


    1550 - Spanish colonies in northern Mexico attacked near Zacatecas, starting forty year Chichimeca War between natives of the Chichimecas Confederation and New Spain started over silver mines and encroachment on indigenous lands.
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  • August 1550 to May 1551 - A debate over the treatment and status of Indians in the New World is held in Valladolid, Spain. The Valladolid debate pitted the Bishop of Chiapas, who stated that the American Indian was a free man deserving equal treatment to European colonists per theology. The opposite viewpoint, that Indians were natural slaves, was debated by a fellow Dominican, using claims of theology as well as natural law.
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  • August 15, 1559 - Don Tristan de Luna y Arellano arrives from Vera Cruz, Mexico, into Pensacola Bay to establish Spanish colony called Santa Maria de Ochuse with one thousand five hundred colonists.

    September 19, 1559 - Pensacola colony devastated by hurricane, and moves inland to an abandoned Indian village named Nanipacana, which they renamed Santa Cruz de Nanipacana. Colony abandoned in August 1561.

    November 17, 1559 - Elizabeth I becomes Queen of England.


    February 18, 1562 - Jean Ribault, French naval officer, with Rene de Laudonnière second in command, leaves France with one hundred and fifty colonists for the New World, establishing Charlesfort on Parris Island in South Carolina, which was abandoned several years later.

    June 22, 1564 - French explorer Rene de Laudonnière arrives at Florida's St. John's River, establishing a French colony for the Hugeanots at Fort Caroline near Jacksonville, and befriending the Timucua.
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  • 1564-1565 - The first known painting of American Indians by European colonists is made by French artist Jacques le Moyne.

    September 8, 1565 - Spanish explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, a Spanish admiral, founds St. Augustine, Florida. It is the first permanent settlement in the United States and serves as a military outpost and base for Catholic missionary settlements.
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  • September 20, 1565 - Spanish soldiers under Pedro Menéndez de Avilés from St. Augustine attack French colony at Fort Caroline, destroying the fort and resettling the site until 1569.
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  • 1570-1579

    May 20, 1570 - Abraham Ortelius, Flemish Netherlands cartographer publishes the first modern world atlas of fifty-three maps, the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (Theatre of the World). He is credited with first to imagine continents had at one time been joined together.

    September 10, 1570 - Attempt to establish the Ajacán Mission on the Virginia peninsula by Spanish missionaries fails.

    August 21, 1571 - Martin Frobisher is hired by the English crown to explore the northern coast of the Americas for the Northwest Passage. He would head three expeditions through the next decade.
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  • June 17, 1579 - Francis Drake claims the lands of California for Great Britain and Queen Elizabeth I, landing in Drake's Bay and naming it New Albion. Drake is on his voyage around the world in the ship, the Golden Hind.
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  • July 26, 1579 - Sir Francis Drake leaves San Francisco to traverse the Pacific Ocean.


    September 26, 1580 - Francis Drake returns home to Plymouth, England, becoming the second expedition to circumnavigate the globe. He returns with fifty-nine men, a cargo of spices, and Spanish treasure.

    August 17, 1585 - Roanoke Island colony is founded by an expedition organized by Sir Walter Raleigh (Raleigh never visited North America himself) during his attempt to colonize the area of Virginia and North Carolina. The colony fails.

    June 6, 1586 - The city of St. Augustine, Florida, is razed by Francis Drake.

    July 27, 1587 - A second try to colonize Roanoke Island is attempted by Sir Walter Raleigh under the governor John White. White came back to England to find more supplies, but his return was delayed due to the need for ships to fight the Spanish Armada.

    July 20, 1588 - First battle of the English fight against the Spanish Armada begins, leading to their defeat nine days later and the lessening of Spain's influence in the New World and the rise of English influence in the Americas.
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  • 1590-1599

    August 18, 1590 - John White's return trip to the Roanoke Island Colony finds no signs of the colonists, beyond the words CROATOAN and CRO carved into tree trunks. The fate of its people is unknown to this date, and is often referred to as the "Lost Colony of Roanoke Island."

    November 22, 1595 - Sir Francis Drake, an English privateer, lands in San Juan Bay, Puerto Rico, to loot the city with twenty-seven ships and two thousand and five hundred soldiers. Spanish forts defeat the raid.

    April 30, 1598 - Juan de Onate y Salazar, claims the land north of the Rio Grande River with first permanent settlements, in present day New Mexico, for Spain.
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  • June 15, 1598 - Royal Navy of England attacks Puerto Rico with twenty-one ships under George Clifford, conquering the island and holding it for several months before abandoning it back to Spanish authority.

    January 22, 1599 - Juan de Onate responds to the Acoma Pueblo attack on his troops in December with brutal attack against Acoma population, devastating pueblan people and enslaving their captives.

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