January – The Pangkor Treaty (also known as the Pangkor Engagement), by which the British extended their control over, first the Sultanate of Perak and later the other independent Malay States, is signed.
January 1 – New York City annexes The Bronx.
January 2 – Ignacio María González becomes head of state of the Dominican Republic for the first time.
January 3 – Battle of Caspe (Third Carlist War): Campaigning on the Ebro in Aragon for the Spanish Republican Government, Colonel Eulogio Despujol surprised a Carlist force under Manuel Marco de Bello at Caspe, northeast of Alcañiz. In a brilliant action the Carlists were routed, losing 200 prisoners and 80 horses, while Despujol was promoted to Brigadier and became Conde de Caspe.
Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh, second son of Queen Victoria, marries Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, only daughter of Tsar Alexander III of Russia.
Camille Saint-Saëns' composition Danse macabre receives its première.
February 21 – The Oakland Daily Tribune publishes its first issue.
February 23 – Walter Clopton Wingfield patents a game called "sphairistike" which is more commonly called lawn tennis.
February 24-February 25 –First Battle of Somorrostro (Third Carlist War): Determined to raise the siege of Bilbao by the Pretender Don Carlos VII, Republican commander Marshal Francisco Serrano sent General Domingo Moriones with a relief force of 14,000 men. Carlists, under General Nicolás Ollo, entrenched at Somorrostro outside Bilbao drive back a courageous assault by General Fernando Primo de Rivera and then the entire Republican army. The republicans lose 1,200 men, and Moriones loses his nerve demanding reinforcements and a replacement for himself. Moriones men entrenched and waited.
March 14 – Battle of Castellfollit de la Roca (Third Carlist War): Appointed to command the Spanish Republican army in the north, General Ramón Nouvilas attempted to relieve the Carlist siege of Olot in Girona. But at Castellfollit de la Roca, in one of the Government’s worst defeats, Nouvilas was routed by Carlist General Francesc Savalls, and captured along with about 2,000 of his men. Olot capitulated two days later.
Hawaii signs a treaty with the United States granting exclusive trading rights.
The Dresden English Football Club is founded, first soccer club on European mainland.
March 25–27 – Second Battle of Somorrostro (Third Carlist War): In a renewed attempt to raise the siege of Bilbao by Don Carlos VII, Republican commander Marshal Francisco Serrano himself arrived with 27,000 men and 70 cannon. However, in three days of fierce fighting, the Carlist General Joaquín Elío, with just 17,000 men, once again drove off the attack at nearby Somorrostro, and it was another six weeks before Serrano managed to relieve Bilbao.
March – The Young Men's Hebrew Association in Manhattan (which still operates today as the 92nd Street Y) is founded.
April 15–May 15 – First exhibition of the group of young painters, Société Anonyme Coopérative des Artistes, Peintres, Sculpteurs, Graveurs, at the studio of the photographer Nadar in Paris. Louis Leroy's critical review of it published on 25 April gives rise to the term Impressionism for the movement, with reference to Claude Monet's Impression, Sunrise.
May 2 – Siege of Bilbao (Third Carlist War): The siege is lifted.
May 9 – The first commercial horse-drawn carriage debuts in the city of Bombay, plying two routes.
May 20 – Levi Strauss and Jacob Davis receive a U.S. patent for blue jeans with copper rivets. The price is $13.50 per dozen.
May 27 – The first group of the Dorsland Trek, a series of expeditions undertaken by Trekboere in search of political independence and better farming conditions, departs from South Africa under the leadership of Gert Alberts to settle in Angola.
June 14 – Michel Domingue becomes head of state of Haiti.
June 22 – Andrew Taylor Still starts the movement for osteopathic medicine in the United States at Kirksville, Missouri.
June 25–June 27 – Battle of Monte Muro (Third Carlist War): Carlist forces entrenched around Abárzuza, on the approach to Estella in Navarre, repel an attack by Isabelino/Liberal (supporters of Queen Isabella II) troops led by General Manuel Gutiérrez de la Concha, Marqués del Duero, who is killed on the third day of fighting.
Universal Postal Union is established.
Philadelphia Zoo opens, the first public zoo in the United States.
Sholes and Glidden typewriter, with cylindrical platen and QWERTY keyboard, first marketed, in the United States.
The Bank of Spain emits the first peseta banknotes.
July 14 – The Chicago Fire of 1874 burns down 47 acres of the city, destroying 812 buildings, killing 20, and resulting in the fire insurance industry demanding municipal reforms from Chicago's city council.
July 23 – Aires de Ornelas e Vasconcelos is appointed the Archbishop of the Portuguese colonial enclave of Goa.
July 24 – Mathew Evans and Henry Woodward patent the first incandescent lamp with an electric light bulb.
July 24 – Sack of Cuenca (Third Carlist War): After Carlist forces successfully defended Estella, Don Alfonso de Bourbon, brother of the Don Carlos VII, led 14,000 Catalan Carlists south to attack Cuenca 136 km from Madrid, held by Republicans under Don Hilario Lozano. After two days the outnumbered garrison capitulated but Don Alfonso permitted a terrible slaughter. The city is sacked. Subsequently another republican force defeats the disorderly Catalans who flee back to the Ebro.
July 31 –July 31, 1874 - Patrick Francis Healy, S.J., first Black man to receive a PhD, inaugurated as president of Georgetown University, the oldest Catholic University in America, and became the first Black to head a predominantly white university
August 11 – Battle of Oteiza (Third Carlist War): Two months after Government forces were repulsed from Carlist-held Estella, in Navarre, Republican General Domingo Moriones made a fresh diversionary attack a few miles to the southeast at Oteiza. In heavy fighting Moriones secured a costly tactical victory over Carlist General Torcuato Mendíri, but the war continued another 18 months before Estella finally fell.
September 14 — Battle of Liberty Place: In New Orleans, former Confederate Army members of the White League temporarily drive Republican Governor William P. Kellogg from office, replacing him with former Democratic Governor John McEnery. U.S. Army troops restore Kellogg to office five days later.
September 28 — Texas–Indian wars: U.S. Army Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie leads his force of 600 men on the successful raid of the last sanctuary of the Kiowa, Comanche and Cheyenne Indian tribes, a village inside the Palo Duro Canyon in Texas, and carries out their removal to the designated Indian reservations in Oklahoma.
October 9 – Treaty of Bern establishes the General Postal Union to coordinate the exchange of international mail.
October 19 – The modern University of Zagreb is founded in Zagreb.
November 2 – The first issue of Japanese language newspaper Yomiuri Shinbun published in Tokyo, Japan.
November 4 – Democrats gain control of the United States House of Representatives for the first time since 1860.
November 7 – Harper's Weekly publishes a cartoon by Thomas Nast which is the first use of an elephant as a symbol for the Republican Party in the United States.
November 9 – New York Zoo hoax, a supposed breakout of animals from the Central Park Zoo.
November 10 – John Ernst Worrell Keely demonstrates his "induction resonance motion motor", a perpetual motion machine which eventually turns out to be a fraud.
November 11 – The Gamma Phi Beta sorority is founded at Syracuse University. This is the first women's Greek letter organization to be called a sorority.
November 25 – The United States Greenback Party is established as a political party, made primarily of farmers financially hurt by the Panic of 1873.
December 1 – Iceland is granted a constitution and limited home rule from Denmark.
December 29 – General Martínez and Brigadier General Luís Daban stage a pronunciamento at Sagunto and proclaim Isabel's son Alfonso as King of Spain. Subsequently the Madrid garrison follows suit and the First Spanish Republic comes to an end.
The Agra Canal opens in India.
St. Nicholas' Church, Hamburg, designed by English architect George Gilbert Scott, is completed. Its 147 metres (482 ft)-tall spire makes it (briefly, and by 5m) the world's tallest building (a title held since 1647 by Strasbourg Cathedral).
The House of Keys, lower house of the Tynwald, the legislature of the Isle of Man, moves from Castletown to Douglas.
Charles Taze Russell and the Bible Student movement claim this year marks the invisible return of Jesus Christ to earth.
Gold is discovered in the Black Hills.
The San Diego Natural History Museum is founded.
The following Association football clubs are founded in Great Britain:
Bolton Wanderers (as Christ Church F.C.)
Heart of Midlothian.
English chemist C. R. Alder Wright synthetizes heroin for the first time.
Supreme Council 33° Ancient and Accepted Scottish Rite of Freemasonry of Canada is founded.
The medieval Frankish Tower on the Acropolis of Athens is demolished.
January 1 – Gustav Albin Weißkopf, German-born aviation pioneer (d. 1927)
January 4 – Josef Suk, Czech composer and violinist (d. 1935)
January 5 – Joseph Erlanger, American physiologist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1965)
January 13 – Alexandros Hatzikyriakos, Greek admiral and politician (d. 1958)
January 16 – Robert W. Service, American poet (d. 1958)
January 20 – Steve Bloomer, English footballer, cricketer and baseball player (d. 1938)
January 21 – Frederick Madison Smith, American religious leader and author (d. 1946)
January 25 – William Somerset Maugham, English author (d. 1965)
January 28 – Vsevolod Meyerhold, Russian Theatre Practitioner (d. 1940)
January 29 – John D. Rockefeller, Jr., American entrepreneur (d. 1960)
February 1 – Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Austrian writer (d. 1929)
February 2 – William T. Innes, American writer, ichthyologist, publisher (d. 1969)
February 3 – Gertrude Stein, American writer and patron of the arts (d. 1946)
February 6 – Henry C. Mustin, American naval aviation pioneer (d. 1923)
February 9 – Amy Lowell, American poet (d. 1925)
Elsa Beskow, Swedish writer (d. 1953)
Fritz Hart, English-born composer (d. 1949)
February 15 – Sir Ernest Shackleton, Irish explorer (d. 1922)
February 17 – Thomas J. Watson, American computer pioneer (d. 1956)
February 20 – Mary Garden, American opera soprano of Scots descent (some sources state her birth year as 1877) (d. 1967)
February 23 – Konstantin Päts, Estonian president (d. 1956)
February 24 – Honus Wagner, baseball player (d. 1955)
March 4 – Stephen Victor Graham, United States Navy Rear Admiral and 18th Governor of American Samoa (d. 1955)
March 5 – Henry Travers, English actor (d. 1965)
March 11 – Charles Sumner, American senator and civil rights activist (b. 1811)
March 12 – Charles Weeghman, American restaurateur and owner of Chicago Cubs (d. 1938)
March 20 – Börries von Münchhausen, German poet (d. 1945)
March 24 – Harry Houdini, Hungarian-born magician (d. 1926)
March 26 – Robert Frost, American poet (d. 1963)
March 29 – Lou Henry Hoover, First Lady of the United States (d. 1944)
March 30 – Charles Herbert Lightoller, 2nd Officer of the RMS Titanic (d. 1952)
April 8 – Stanisław Taczak, Polish general, commander-in-chief of the Greater Poland Uprising (d. 1960)
April 15 – Johannes Stark, German physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1957)
April 19 – Ernst Rüdin, Swiss psychiatrist and geneticist (d. 1952)
April 25 – Guglielmo Marconi, Italian inventor, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physics (d. 1937)
April 28 – Sidney Toler, American actor, playwright and Theatre director (d. 1947)
May 3 – François Coty, French perfume manufacturer (d. 1934)
May 7 – Ilmari Kianto, Finnish poet (d. 1970)
May 9 – Howard Carter, British archaeologist (d. 1939)
May 14 – Polaire, French actress and singer (d. 1939)
May 19 – Gilbert Jessop, English cricketer (d. 1955)
May 26 – Henri Farman, pioneer French pilot and aircraft designer (d. 1958)
May 29 – G. K. Chesterton, English author (d. 1936)
June 11 – Lyman Gilmore, American aviation pioneer (d. 1951)
June 16 – Arthur Meighen, 9th Prime Minister of Canada (d. 1960)
June 19 – Peder Oluf Pedersen, Danish engineer and physicist (d. 1941)
July 3 – Richard B. Bennett, 11th Prime Minister of Canada (d. 1947)
July 4 – Moloko Temo, South African supercentenarian (d. 2009)
July 14 – Abbas II, last khedive of Egypt (d. 1944)
July 25 – Alfred Walton Hinds, 17th Naval Governor of Guam (d. 1957)
July 26 – Serge Koussevitzky, Russian conductor (d. 1951)
July 27 – Frank Shannon, American actor (d. 1959)
July 29 – J. S. Woodsworth, Canadian politician (d. 1942)
August 6 – Charles Fort, Dutch-American writer and researcher into anomalous phenomena (d. 1932)
August 8 – Albert Stanley, 1st Baron Ashfield, British-American businessman (d. 1948)
Herbert Hoover, 31st President of the United States (d. 1964)
Jirō Minami, Japanese general and Governor-General of Korea (1936-1942) (d. 1955)
August 27 – Carl Bosch, German chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1940)
Paul Kuhn, German operatic tenor (d. 1966)
Redcliffe N. Salaman, British botanist (d. 1955)
Henry Fountain Ashurst, American politician (d. 1962)
Arnold Schoenberg, Austrian composer (d. 1951)
September 21 – Gustav Holst, English composer (d. 1934)
October 3 – Charles B. Middleton, American actor (d. 1949)
October 8 – Nance O'Neil, stage & film actress, friend of Lizzie Borden (d. 1965)
October 9 – Nicholas Roerich, Russian painter (d. 1947)
October 13 – József Klekl, Slovene politician in Hungary (d. 1948)
October 15 – Prince Alfred of Edinburgh and Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (d. 1899)
October 20 – Charles Ives, American composer (d. 1954)
October 26 – Martin Lowry, English chemist (d. 1936)
November – Salima Machamba Sultan of Mohéli (d. 1964)
November 15 – August Krogh, Danish zoophysiologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1949)
November 29 – Egas Moniz, Portuguese physician and neurologist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1955)
Winston Churchill, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature (d. 1965)
Lucy Maud Montgomery, Canadian author (d. 1942)
Friedrich Hasenöhrl, Austrian physicist (d. 1915)
December 7 – James L. Kraft, Canadian-American entrepreneur and inventor (d. 1953)
December 13 – Josef Lhévinne, Russian pianist (d. 1944)
December 17 – William Lyon Mackenzie King, 10th Prime Minister of Canada (d. 1950)
December 22 – Franz Schmidt, Austrian composer (d. 1939)
December 26 – Khan Bahadur Ahsanullah, great Educationist, Philosopher, Philanthropist, Social Reformer, Sufi Thinker, Scientist and Spiritual Person (d. 1965)
Thomas W. Benoist, American aviator, aircraft designer and manufacturer, and founder of the world's first scheduled airline (d. 1917)
Cecil Hunter-Rodwell, British colonial administrator (d. 1953)
Margaret G. Hays, turn-of-the-century American female comics writer and artist (d. 1925)
January 8 – Abbé Charles Étienne Brasseur de Bourbourg, French writer and historian (b. 1814)
January 14 – Johann Philipp Reis, German scientist and inventor (b. 1834)
January 17 – Chang and Eng Bunker, Siamese twins and sideshow performers (b. 1811)
January 19 – August Heinrich Hoffmann von Fallersleben, German poet (b. 1798)
February 3 – William Charles Lunalilo, last monarch of the House of Kamehameha (b. 1835)
February 8 – David Friedrich Strauss, German theologian (b. 1808)
February 24 – John Bachman, American Lutheran minister, social activist and naturalist, (b. 1790)
March 8 – Millard Fillmore, 13th President of the United States (b. 1800)
March 10 – Moritz von Jacobi, German engineer and physicist (b. 1801)
March 20 – Hans Christian Lumbye, Danish composer (b. 1810)
April 13 – Etō Shimpei, Japanese statesman (executed) (b. 1834)
April 20 – Alexander H. Bailey, American politician (b. 1817)
June 20 – John Ruggles, American politician (b. 1789)
June 21 – Anders Jonas Ångström, Swedish physicist (b. 1814)
July 8 – Agnes Strickland, English popular historian (b. 1796)
July 12 – Fritz Reuter, German novelist (b. 1810)
July 24 – Gijsbert Haan, Dutch-American religious leader (b. 1801)
August 14 – Jonathan Clarkson Gibbs, African-American minister and politician (b. 1821)
October 6 – Samuel M. Kier, American oil magnate (b. 1813)
October 23 – Abraham Geiger, German rabbi, a founder of European Reform Judaism (b. 1810)
October 28 – William Henry Rinehart, American sculptor (b. 1825)
November 29 – Ioan Manu, Russian politician (b. 1803)
December 7 – Constantin von Tischendorf, German Biblical scholar (b. 1815)
December 22 – Johann Peter Pixis, German pianist and composer (b. 1788)
1874 (MDCCCLXXIV) was a common year starting on Thursday (dominical letter D) of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Tuesday (dominical letter F) of the Julian calendar, the 1874th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 874th year of the 2nd millennium, the 74th year of the 19th century, and the 5th year of the 1870s decade. As of the start of 1874, the Gregorian calendar was 12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.