100 American History Trivia Questions and Answers
The United States of America has packed quite a lot of action into the past 245+ years.
Although the first Indigenous tribes arrived in North America thousands of years before, the United States officially started with a bang in 1776 and has gone through decades of turmoil, triumphs and transitions.
Here are 100 American history trivia questions and answers for your next trivia night, patriotic party or any other occasion to learn more about the nation under the stars and stripes.
1600s (and earlier)
- How long ago do historians estimate the first settlers arrived on what is now American soil? More than 12,000 years ago.
- How did Indigenous tribes get here? Scholars believe they walked over a land bridge between Asia and Alaska.
- When did Christopher Columbus land in what would later become the United States? He didn’t. Most historians agree he landed in parts of Central and South America, as well as some Caribbean islands.
- What is the oldest European-founded city in the United States? St. Augustine, Florida, founded in 1565 by Don Pedro Menendez de Aviles of Spain.
- Who was the first European to land in North America? Leif Erikson arrived from Norway in the 10th century.
- What five countries formed colonies that would later become part of the United States territory? England, France, the Netherlands, Russia and Spain.
- What tribe was Pocahontas from? The Powhatan tribal nation.
- Who did Pocahontas marry? John Rolfe, a tobacco planter.
- What was the name of the first (permanent English) American colony? Jamestown, after King James I.
- What year was the Jamestown settlement established? In 1607.
- Why did the Pilgrims come to America? To start their own religious community after becoming dissatisfied with the Protestant Church in England.
- What was the name of the Pilgrims’ ship? The Mayflower.
- What year were the first enslaved Africans brought to American colonies? 1619.
- How many people were killed in the Salem Witch Trials? Twenty people were executed for suspicion of witchcraft (usually by hanging, not burning at the stake), and five more died in jail.
- What ultimately ended the Salem Witch Trials? The colony’s governor ordered an end to the trials after his own wife was accused of witchcraft.
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- How do historians refer to the time period in the 1730s and 1740s when colonists began embracing secular rationalism over religion? The Great Awakening.
- With the Proclamation Line of 1763, the British forbid American colonists from settling west of which natural barrier? The Appalachian Mountains.
- How many people were killed in the Boston Massacre? Five people were killed after British soldiers fired on a mob that was harassing them.
- What was the date of the Boston Tea Party? On Dec. 16, 1773, colonists dumped a shipment of tea into the Boston Harbor.
- What were colonists protesting with the Boston Tea Party? The Stamp Act, a British tax on print materials such as stamps and newspapers.
- After the Boston Tea Party, Great Britain punished colonists with several laws that took away Massachusetts’ right to govern itself. What were these laws called? The Intolerable Acts (or the Coercive Acts in Great Britain).
- What city was the first capital of the United States? New York City.
- When was the first American currency created? The Continental Congress began issuing paper money called Continentals after the Revolutionary War began in 1775.
- When was the Declaration of Independence signed? August 2, 1776 (The final draft was completed July 4, but it wasn’t actually signed until nearly a month later).
- Who do historians believe created the first American flag? Of course, Betsy Ross’ legacy is intertwined with the ubiquitous red, white and blue flag, but some historians believe Continental Congress member Francis Hopkinson may have been the true creator. He claimed credit for it and even sent a bill to Congress for the design.
- What was Hopkinson’s fee for creating the flag? A quarter-cask of wine.
- When did the Revolutionary War end? Sept. 3, 1783.
- What was the name of the treaty that ended the war? The Treaty of Paris.
- How many battles were fought during the American Revolution? More than 230.
- What was the first American state? Delaware.
- Who was the first president to live in the White House? John Adams.
- What founding father was credited with inventing bifocals? Benjamin Franklin.
- How many original British colonies existed in America? 13.
- What was the first governing document of the newly created United States, later replaced by the U.S. Constitution? The Articles of Confederation.
- Where was the Constitutional Convention held? Philadelphia.
- What started the great Chicago fire? It’s unknown, although rumors at the time involved a cow knocking over a lantern in a barn.
- Who led the first land expedition to the Pacific Coast? Meriwether Lewis and William Clark.
- Who was the first president to declare war? James Madison.
- What war did this declaration begin? The War of 1812 against Great Britain.
- Which president signed the Indian Removal Act, which moved Native Americans into unsettled land in the West in exchange for their land within state borders? President Andrew Jackson.
- How many Native Americans were forcibly relocated by the government under the Indian Removal Act? About 100,000.
- About 4,000 members of which Native American tribe died of cold, hunger or disease on the Trail of Tears? Cherokee.
- Who was the shortest-serving United States president? William Henry Harrison got sick and died 31 days into his term after being elected in 1841.
- When was the last time the Liberty Bell rang? In 1846 it rang for George Washington’s birthday by request of the Mayor of Philadelphia.
- What was the bloodiest single-day battle of American history? The Battle of Antietam, during the Civil War.
- How many people were killed at that battle? A total of 22,654 Union and Confederate soldiers were wounded or killed.
- When was the first U.S. dollar printed? 1862.
- Whose portrait was on it? Salmon P. Chase, the Secretary of the Treasury during the Civil War.
- Who was the Confederate president during the Civil War? Jefferson Davis.
- When was the Emancipation Proclamation issued? Jan. 1, 1863.
- What was the name of the battle after which General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant? The Battle of Appomattox Court House.
- What is the name of the theater where President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth? Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.
- When did the Civil War end? President Andrew Johnson officially declared victory on May 9, 1865.
- How many Africans were captured and forcibly transported during the entirety of the trans-Atlantic slave trade? Between 10 and 15 million.
- What state seceded from Virginia in 1863? West Virginia.
- About how many slaves were freed at the conclusion of the Civil War? 3.9 million.
- Who was the first president to be impeached? President Andrew Johnson in 1868.
- What country gifted the United States with the Statue of Liberty? France.
- Who was the first African American senator? Hiram Rhodes Revels took his oath of office in 1870.
- About how many Europeans immigrated to America from 1865 to 1918? About 27.5 million.
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- What was the first United States national monument? Devil’s Tower in Wyoming.
- When did Henry Ford’s Model T hit the market? 1908. But he wasn’t actually the first person to invent the automobile — German Karl Benz patented the first automobile in 1886.
- Who was captain of the Titanic when it sank on April 15, 1912? Edward Smith.
- What young women’s organization did Juliette Gordon Low establish in 1912? Girl Scouts of the USA.
- Who was the first woman to be elected to the U.S. Congress in 1916? Jeanette Rankin.
- What year did the United States enter World War I? 1917.
- Passed in 1919, which amendment prevented the sale of alcoholic beverages? The 18th Amendment.
- What was the United States’ first commercial radio station? KDKA in Pittsburgh.
- What year were American women granted the right to vote? In 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment.
- What was the date of the Black Tuesday stock market crash? October 24, 1929.
- When did the Japanese attack Pearl Harbor? Dec. 7, 1941.
- Who was the first United States president to appear on television? Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
- How many Americans were killed in World War II? The United States lost 1.3 million lives.
- Who was the first president to receive a Secret Service code name? President Harry Truman, who was called “General.”
- Which branch of the military did President John F. Kennedy serve in? The United States Navy.
- Which four presidents have been assassinated while in office? Abraham Lincoln, James Garfield, William McKinley and John F. Kennedy.
- When was the first year Veteran’s Day was celebrated? The first official Veteran’s Day was Nov. 11, 1954 and was planned to honor those who died in World War I. Eventually it was changed to honor everyone who has served in the military.
- What was the last state to be admitted into the union? Hawaii.
- Which law ended the application of Jim Crow laws and reversed the Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” decision made in Plessy v. Ferguson? The Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- Who was the first man on the moon? Neil Armstrong.
- Who refused to give up her bus seat, sparking national civil rights protests? Rosa Parks.
- What was the first state to legalize marijuana for medicinal use? California, in 1996.
- When did the U.S. government issue a formal apology to the surviving members of the Tuskegee Experiments (conducted from 1932-72)? 1997.
- What two pets did President Bill Clinton have while in office? A chocolate Labrador retriever named Buddy and a cat named Socks.
- Two sets of fathers and sons have served as presidents. What are their names? John Adams and John Quincy Adams, and George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush.
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- What’s the call sign of the president’s helicopter? Marine One.
- What state’s electoral votes ultimately decided the 2000 presidential election? Florida.
- What person and organization are widely believed to be behind the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001? Osama Bin Laden and al Qaeda.
- What year did Apple Computer introduce the first iPod? 2001.
- What was the name of the space shuttle that exploded on re-entry over Texas, killing all seven astronauts aboard? Columbia.
- What was the name of the hurricane that devastated New Orleans in 2005? Hurricane Katrina.
- What sports organization did Senator George Mitchell investigate after hearing rumors of athletes using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs? Major League Baseball.
- Why did former Vice President Al Gore win the Nobel Peace Prize? His work on climate change education through his movie “An Inconvenient Truth.”
- Who was the first Black president? Barack Obama.
- What year began the worst economic recession since the Great Depression? 2008.
- What type of exercise area did President Barack Obama have installed in the White House? A basketball court.
- Where is the geographical center of the U.S. population (approximated in the 2020 census)? About 9 miles outside of Hartville, MO.
- Which oil company’s rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers and countless species of wildlife? British Petroleum (BP)
- What year did the U.S. Supreme Court allow same-sex marriage? 2015.
- Who was the first woman to hold federal executive office in the United States? Kamala Harris.
America is filled with fascinating people and places that are making history even as we speak. What are your favorite American history trivia facts?
Sarah Pryor is a journalist, wife, mom and Auburn football fan living in Charlotte, NC.