The Kingdom of Italy establishes Eritrea as its colony in the Horn of Africa.
In Michigan, the wooden steamer Mackinaw burns in a fire on the Black River.
The steamship Persia is wrecked off Corsica; 130 lives are lost.
Alice Sanger becomes the first female staffer in the White House.
January 11 – 1890 British Ultimatum: the United Kingdom demands Portugal withdraw its forces from the land between the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola (most of present-day Zimbabwe and Zambia)
January 15 – The Sleeping Beauty with music by Tchaikovsky is premiered at the Imperial Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, Russia.
The United Mine Workers of America is founded.
Nellie Bly completes her round-the-world journey in 72 days.
February 9 – The Weather Bureau is established within the United States Department of Agriculture.
February 17 – The British steamship Duburg is wrecked in the South China Sea: 400 lives are lost.
February 24 – Chicago is selected to host the Columbian Exposition
The British steamship Quetia founders in the Torres Straits: 124 lives are lost.
Léon Bourgeois succeeds Jean Antoine Ernest Constans as French Minister of the Interior.
March 3 – The first American football game in Ohio State University history is played in Delaware, Ohio, against Ohio Wesleyan, with the Ohio State Buckeyes winning 20–14.
March 4 – The Forth Bridge across the Firth of Forth in Scotland is opened to rail traffic.
March 8 – North Dakota State University is founded in Fargo.
March 17 – The first railway in Transvaal, the Randtram, opens between Boksburg and Braamfontein in Johannesburg.
March 20 – Kaiser Wilhelm II dismisses Otto von Bismarck.
March 27 – The March 1890 middle Mississippi Valley tornado outbreak, 24 significant tornadoes are spawned by one system killing least 146 people.
March 28 – Washington State University is founded in Pullman.
April 2 – Kashihara Shrine, a landmark spot in Nara Prefecture, Japan, officially built by Emperor Mutsuhito.(Emperor of Meiji)
April 14 – First International Conference of American States in Washington DC: Commercial Bureau of the American Republics founded.
May 1 – A coordinated series of mass rallies and one-day strikes held throughout many cities and mining towns in Europe and North America to demand an eight-hour workday.
May 2 – Oklahoma Territory becomes effective.
May 12 – The first ever official English County Championship cricket match begins in Bristol; Yorkshire beats Gloucestershire by 8 wickets.
May 20 – Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh moves to Auvers-sur-Oise on the edge of Paris in the care of Dr Paul Gachet where he will produce around seventy paintings in as many days.
May 31 – The 5-story skylight Arcade opens in Cleveland, Ohio.
June 1 – The United States Census Bureau begins using Herman Hollerith's tabulating machine to tabulate census returns using punched card input, a landmark in the history of computing hardware. Hollerith's company eventually becomes IBM.
June 12 – In Michigan, the wooden steamer Ryan is lost near Thunder Bay Island.
June 20 – The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde published by Philadelphia-based Lippincott's Monthly Magazine (dated July).
June 27 – Canadian-born boxer George Dixon defeats the British bantamweight champion in London, giving him claim to be the first black world champion in any sport.
July – Japanese general election of 1890: The first general election for the House of Representatives of Japan, about 5% of the adult male population elect a lower house of the Diet of Japan in accordance with the new Meiji Constitution of 1889.
July 1 – Heligoland–Zanzibar Treaty is signed by Great Britain and Germany.
July 2 – The Sherman Antitrust Act and Sherman Silver Purchase Act become United States law.
July 3 – Idaho is admitted as the 43rd U.S. state.
July 10 – Wyoming is admitted as the 44th U.S. state.
July 13 – In Minnesota, storms result in the Sea Wing disaster on Lake Pepin, killing 98.
July 14 – First recorded use of lime-green to describe a color.
July 26 – In Buenos Aires, the Revolution of the Park takes place, forcing President Juárez Celman's resignation.
July 27 – Death of Vincent van Gogh: van Gogh apparently shoots himself, dying two days later.
August 6 – At Auburn Prison in New York, William Kemmler becomes the first person to be executed in the electric chair.
August 20 – Treaty of London: Portugal and the United Kingdom define the borders of the Portuguese colonies of Mozambique and Angola.
August Kaiser Wilhelm II and Tsar Alexander III meet at Narva.
September 6 Dublin football club Bohemian F.C. were founded in the Gate Lodge, Phoenix Park.
September 19 – The Turkish frigate Ertuğrul founders off Japan; 540 lives are lost.
September 25 - Date of the trans-NorthAmerican race Steel Ball Run.
October 9 – The first brief flight of Clément Ader's steam-powered fixed-wing aircraft Ader Éole takes place in Satory, France. It flies uncontrolled approximately 50 m (160 ft) at a height of 20 cm, the first take-off of a powered airplane solely under its own power.
October 11 – In Washington, D.C., the Daughters of the American Revolution is founded.
October 12 – In Uddevalla, the Uddevalla Suffrage Association is founded. Formal founding event on November 2 a month later.
In Michigan, the schooner J.F. Warner is lost at Thunder Bay.
The Delta Chi fraternity is founded by 11 law students at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York.
November 4 – The first deep level London Underground (Tube) Railway, the City and South London Railway, opens officially.
November 21 – Edward King, Anglican bishop of Lincoln, is convicted of using ritualistic practices.
November 23 – King William III of the Netherlands dies without a male heir, and his daughter Princess Wilhelmina becomes Queen, causing the end of the personal union of thrones with Luxembourg (which requires a male heir) so that Adolphe, Duke of Nassau becomes Grand Duke of Luxembourg.
The Meiji Constitution goes into effect in Japan and its first Diet convenes.
At West Point, New York, the United States Navy defeats the United States Army 24–0 in the first Army–Navy Game of college football.
November – Scotland Yard, headquarters of the Metropolitan Police Service, moves to a building on London's Victoria Embankment, as New Scotland Yard.
December 15 – Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull is killed by police on Standing Rock Indian Reservation.
December 27 – The British steamship Shanghai burns in the East China Sea off the coast of Anhui Province; 101 lives are lost.
December 29 – Wounded Knee Massacre: At Wounded Knee, South Dakota, a Native American camp, the U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment tries to disperse the non-violent "Ghost-Dance" which was promised to usher in a new era of power and freedom to Native Americans but is feared as a potential rallying tool for violent rebellion by some in the U.S. government. Shooting begins, and 153 Lakota Sioux and 25 troops are killed; about 150 flee the scene. This is the last tribe to be defeated and confined to a reservation as well as the beginning of the decline of both the American Indian Wars and the American frontier.
The folding carton box is invented by Robert Gair, a Brooklyn printer who developed production of paper-board boxes in 1879.
The United States city of Boise, Idaho, drills the first geothermal well.
Brown trout are introduced into the upper Firehole River in Yellowstone National Park.
High School Cadets is written by John Philip Sousa.
William II of Prussia opposes Bismarck's attempt to renew the law outlawing the Social Democratic Party.
Blackwall Buildings, Whitechapel, noted philanthropic housing, is built in the East End of London.
English archaeologist Flinders Petrie excavates at Tell el-Hesi, Palestine (mistakenly identified as Tel Lachish), the first scientific excavation of an archaeological site in the Holy Land, during which he discovers how tells are formed.
American geostrategist Alfred Thayer Mahan publishes his influential book The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783.
Francis Galton announces a statistical demonstration of the uniqueness and classifiability of individual human fingerprints.
Alfred Tucker becomes Anglican Bishop of Eastern Equatorial Africa.
January 1 – Anton Melik, Slovenian geographer (d. 1966)
January 5 – Sarah Aaronsohn, member of the Jewish spy ring Nili (d. 1917)
January 4 – Victor Lustig, Bohemian-born con artist (d. 1947)
Kurt Tucholsky, German-born journalist and satirist (d. 1935)
Karel Čapek, Czech writer (d. 1938)
January 11 – Oswald de Andrade, Brazilian Modernist writer (d.1954)
January 19 – Élise Rivet, French Roman Catholic nun and war heroine (d. 1945)
January 22 – Fred M. Vinson, Chief Justice of the United States (d. 1953)
January 28 – Robert Franklin Stroud, Birdman of Alcatraz (d. 1963)
February 10 – Boris Pasternak, Russian writer (Doctor Zhivago), Nobel Prize laureate (declined) (d. 1960)
February 14 – Nina Hamnett, Welsh artist (d. 1956)
February 15 – Matome Ugaki, Japanese admiral (d. 1945)
February 16 – Francesco de Pinedo, Italian aviator (d. 1933)
February 17 – Ronald Fisher, English biologist (d. 1962)
Edward Arnold, American actor (d. 1956)
Adolphe Menjou, American actor (d. 1963)
February 24 – Marjorie Main, American actress (d. 1975)
Dame Myra Hess, English pianist (d. 1965)
Kiyohide Shima, Japanese admiral (d. 1973)
Freddie Keppard, American jazz musician (d. 1933)
Art Smith, American pilot (d. 1926)
March 3 – Norman Bethune, Canadian doctor and humanitarian (d. 1939)
(new style) Vyacheslav Molotov, Soviet politician (d. 1986)
Rupert Balfe, Australian rules footballer (d. 1915)
March 11 – Vannevar Bush, American engineer, inventor, and politician (d. 1974)
Beniamino Gigli, Italian tenor (d. 1957)
Fania Marinoff, Russian born American actress (d. 1971)
Lauritz Melchior, Danish-American tenor (d. 1973)
March 26 – Aaron S. "Tip" Merrill, American admiral (d. 1961)
March 28 – Paul Whiteman, American bandleader (d. 1967)
March 31 – William Lawrence Bragg, English physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1971)
April 6 – Anthony Fokker, Dutch aircraft manufacturer (d. 1939)
Paul Berth, Danish amateur footballer (d. 1969)
Marjory Stoneman Douglas, American conservationist and writer (d. 1998)
Harry W. Hill, American admiral (d. 1971)
Frank Murphy, American politician and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (d. 1949)
Dadasaheb Torne, Indian filmmaker (d. 1960)
April 11 – Rachele Mussolini, Italian, wife of Benito Mussolini (d. 1979)
April 15 – Percy Shaw, British inventor (d. 1976)
Fred Root, English cricketer (d. 1954)
Vernon Sturdee, Australian general (d. 1966)
April 17 – Victor Chapman, French-American fighter pilot (d. 1916)
April 18 – Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna of Russia (d.1958)
Maurice Duplessis, premier of Quebec (d. 1959)
Adolf Schärf, former President of Austria (d. 1965)
April 21 – Michitaro Tozuka, Japanese admiral (d. 1966)
April 24 – Masatane Kanda, Japanese general (d. 1983)
April 26 – Edgar Kennedy, American comedic actor (d. 1948)
May 1 – Laurence Wild, 1913 NCAA Men's Basketball All-American, former head coach for the Navy Midshipmen men's basketball, and 30th Governor of American Samoa (d. 1971)
May 4 – Franklin Carmichael, Canadian artist (d. 1945)
May 10 – Alfred Jodl, German general (executed) (d. 1946)
May 11 – Woodall Rodgers, mayor of Dallas, Texas (d. 1961)
May 15 – Katherine Anne Porter, American author (d. 1980)
May 19 – Ho Chi Minh, Prime minister/President of North Vietnam (d. 1969)
May 23 – Herbert Marshall, English actor (d. 1966)
June 1 – Frank Morgan, American actor (d. 1949)
June 6 – Ted Lewis, American jazz musician and entertainer (d. 1971)
June 10 – William A. Seiter, American film director (d. 1964)
June 12 – Junius Matthews, American actor (d. 1978)
June 16 – Stan Laurel, English-born actor (d. 1965)
June 17 – Hatazō Adachi, Japanese general (d. 1947)
June 21 – Lewis H. Brereton, American aviation pioneer and air force general (d. 1967)
June 25 – Charlotte Greenwood, American actress (d. 1977)
Oscar C. Badger II, American admiral (d. 1958)
Jeanne Eagels, American actress (d. 1929)
June 28 – William H. P. Blandy, American admiral (d. 1954)
June 29 – Hendrikje van Andel-Schipper, Dutch supercentenarian (d. 2005)
June 30 – Paul Boffa, 5th Prime Minister of Malta (d. 1962)
July 9 – Joseph-Alphida Crête, Canadian politician (d. 1964)
July 11 – Arthur Tedder, 1st Baron Tedder, British air force air marshal (d. 1967)
July 18 – Frank Forde, Australian Prime Minister (d. 1983)
July 20 – Verna Felton, American character actress (d. 1966)
July 22 – Rose Kennedy, American philanthropist and matriarch of the Kennedy family (d. 1995)
Daniel J. Callaghan, American admiral and Medal of Honor recipient (d. 1942)
Seiichi Itō, Japanese admiral (d. 1945)
July 29 – P. S. Subrahmanya Sastri, Sanskrit scholar. First to translate Tolkāppiyam into English (d. 1978)
August 2 – Marin Sais, American film actress (d. 1971)
August 3 – Konstantin Melnikov, Russian avant-garde architect (d. 1974)
August 4 – Erich Weinert, German writer and political activist (d. 1953)
August 5 – Erich Kleiber, Austrian conductor (d. 1956)
Angus L. Macdonald, Nova Scotia Premier (d. 1954)
Bechara El Khoury, President of Lebanon (d. 1964)
Jacques Ibert, French composer (d. 1962)
Elizabeth Bolden, American, last verified person born in 1890 (d. 2006)
August 18 – Walther Funk, German politician (d. 1960)
August 20 – H. P. Lovecraft, American writer (d. 1937)
Hans-Joachim Buddecke, German World War I fighter pilot and ace (d. 1918)
Henry "Son" Sims, American Delta blues fiddler and songwriter (d. 1958)
August 24 – Duke Kahanamoku, American swimmer (d. 1968)
September 7 – Harland Sanders, Founder of KFC (d. 1980)
September 8 – Dorothy Price, Irish physician (d. 1954)
Elsa Schiaparelli, French couturiere (d. 1973)
Sir Mortimer Wheeler, British archaeologist (d. 1976)
Agatha Christie, English writer (d. 1976)
Frank Martin, Swiss composer (d. 1974)
Jelly Roll Morton, American jazz pianist, composer, and bandleader (d. 1941)
Rachel Bluwstein, Israeli poet (d. 1931)
September 21 – Max Immelmann, German World War I fighter ace (d. 1916)
Kakuji Kakuta, Japanese admiral (d. 1944)
Friedrich Paulus, German field marshal (d. 1957)
September 24 – A. P. Herbert, English humorist, novelist, playwright and law reform activist (d. 1971)
Katherine Corri Harris, American socialite and actress first wife of John Barrymore (d. 1927)
Stanley Holloway, English actor (d. 1982)
Alice Joyce, American silent film actress (d. 1955)
Blanche Oelrichs, American poet second wife of John Barrymore (d. 1950)
October 2 – Groucho Marx, American comedian (d. 1977)
Henrich Focke, German aviation pioneer (d. 1979)
Eddie Rickenbacker, race car driver and American World War I fighter pilot (d. 1973)
October 13 – Conrad Richter, American novelist and short story writer (d. 1968)
October 14 – Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. general and 34th President of the United States (d. 1969)
Michael Collins, Irish patriot (d. 1922)
Paul Strand, American photographer (d. 1976)
October 17 – Roy Kilner, English cricketer (d. 1928)
October 20 – Sherman Minton, American politician and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (d. 1965)
October 25 – Floyd Bennett, American aviator and explorer (d. 1928)
October 29 – Hans-Valentin Hube, German army general (d. 1944)
Tomitarō Horii, Japanese general (d. 1942)
Jan Matulka, American painter (d. 1972)
November 8 – Conrad Weygand, German chemist (d. 1945)
November 16 – Elpidio Quirino, 6th President of the Philippines (d. 1956)
November 20 – Leon Cadore, American baseball pitcher (d. 1968)
November 22 – Charles de Gaulle, President of France (d. 1970)
November 23 – El Lissitzky, Russian artist and architect (d. 1941)
David Bomberg, English painter (d. 1957)
Fritz Lang, German-Austrian filmmaker, screenwriter, and actor (d. 1976)
December 6 – Dion Fortune, British occultist (d. 1946)
December 8 – Bohuslav Martinů, Czech composer (d. 1959)
December 10 – Henry Louis Larsen, American Marine Corp General; Governor of American Samoa and Governor of Guam (d. 1962)
December 11 – Carlos Gardel, Argentine tango singer (d. 1935)
December 12– Charles Basil Price, Canadian soldier and politician (d. 1975)
December 20 – Jaroslav Heyrovský, Czech chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1967)
December 21 – Hermann Joseph Muller, American geneticist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1967)
December 25 – Robert Ripley, American collector of odd facts (d. 1949)
December 26 – Uncle Charlie Osborne, Appalachian fiddler (d. 1992)
December 30 – Lanoe Hawker, British fighter pilot (d. 1916)
John Aae, Norwegian politician (d. 1968)
Taixu, Chinese Buddhist activist (d. 1947)
January 7 – Augusta of Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Empress Consort of William I, German Emperor (b. 1811)
January 18 – King Amadeus I of Spain (b. 1845)
John Jacob Astor III, American businessman (b. 1822)
Carl Heinrich Bloch, Danish painter (b. 1834)
March 3 – Innocenzo da Berzo, Capuchin friar (b. 1844)
March 7 – Karl Rudolf Friedenthal, Prussian statesman (b. 1827)
March 9 – Sir Mangaldas Nathubhoy, Indian politician (b. 1832)
March 16 – Princess Zorka of Montenegro (b. 1864)
April 1 – David Wilber, American politician (b. 1820)
April 1 – Alexander Mozhaysky, Russian aeronautical pioneer (b. 1825)
David de Jahacob Lopez Cardozo, Dutch Talmudist (b. 1808)
Joseph Merrick (The Elephant Man), English oddity (b. 1862)
June 24 – Subba Row, Hindu theosophist (b. 1856)
June 30 – Samuel Parkman Tuckerman, American composer (b. 1819)
July 7 – Henri Nestlé, Swiss confectioner and the founder of Nestlé (b. 1814)
July 9 – Clinton B. Fisk, American philanthropist and temperance activist (b. 1828)
John C. Frémont, American explorer and military officer (b. 1813)
Johann Voldemar Jannsen, Estonian journalist and poet (b. 1819)
July 15 – Gottfried Keller, Swiss writer (b. 1819)
July 29 – Vincent van Gogh, Dutch painter (b. 1853)
August 6 – William Kemmler, American murderer, first person executed in the electric chair (b. 1860)
August 11 – John Henry Newman, English Roman Catholic Cardinal (b. 1801)
October 4 – Catherine Booth, Mother of The Salvation Army (b. 1829)
October 20 – Richard Francis Burton, English explorer, linguist, soldier (b. 1820)
October 26 – Carlo Collodi, Italian writer (The Adventures of Pinocchio) (b. 1826)
November 3 – Ulrich Ochsenbein, member of the Swiss Federal Council (b. 1811)
November 4 – Félix du Temple de la Croix, French Army Captain & aviation pioneer (b. 1823)
November 8 – César Franck, Belgian composer and organist (b. 1822)
November 11 – Marie-Charles David de Mayréna, French adventurer and self-styled King of Sedang (b. 1842)
November 23 – King William III of the Netherlands (b. 1817)
November 24 – August Belmont, Sr., Prussian-born financier (b. 1816)
December 15 – Sitting Bull, Native American chief (b. c. 1831)
December 21 – Johanne Luise Heiberg, Danish actress (b. 1812)
December 26 – Heinrich Schliemann, German archaeologist (b. 1822)
December 31 – Pancha Carrasco, Costa Rican war heroine (b. 1826)
Comanche, American horse, survivor of Custer's cavalry at the Battle of the Little Bighorn
Ann Leah Underhill, one of the Fox sisters, American fraudulent medium (b. 1814)
1890 (MDCCCXC) was a common year starting on Wednesday (dominical letter E) of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Monday (dominical letter G) of the Julian calendar, the 1890th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 890th year of the 2nd millennium, the 90th year of the 19th century, and the 1st year of the 1890s decade. As of the start of 1890, the Gregorian calendar was 12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.