January – Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War: British redcoats enter the Ashanti capital, Kumasi, and Asantehene Agyeman Prempeh I is deposed.
January 2 – The Jameson Raid comes to an end, as Jameson surrenders to the Boers.
January 4 – Utah is admitted as the 45th U.S. state.
January 5 – An Austrian newspaper reports that Wilhelm Röntgen has discovered a type of radiation later known as X-rays.
January 6 – Cecil Rhodes is forced to resign as Prime Minister of the Cape of Good Hope for his involvement in the Jameson Raid.
January 7 – Fannie Farmer publishes her first cookbook.
January 12 – H. L. Smith takes the first X-ray photograph.
January 18 – The X-ray machine is exhibited for the first time.
January 28 – Walter Arnold, of East Peckham, Kent, England, is fined 1 shilling for speeding at 8 mph (13 km/h) (exceeding the contemporary speed limit of 2 mph (3.2 km/h)), the first speeding fine.
February 1 – Puccini's opera La bohème premieres in Turin, Italy.
February 4 – International Association of Bridge and Structural Iron Workers is established in Pittsburgh.
February 11 – Oscar Wilde's play Salomé premieres in Paris.
February 19 – Braamfontein Explosion: A train carrying 56 tons of dynamite explodes at Braamfontein, Johannesburg, killing more than 78 people.
March 1 – Battle of Adwa: Ethiopia defends its independence from Italy, ending the First Italo-Ethiopian War.
March 3 – Publication begins of the world's first magazine with an orientation to male homosexuality, Der Eigene, by Adolf Brand in Berlin.
March 9 – Responding to national outrage at the defeat at Adwa, Italian Prime Minister Francesco Crispi resigns.
March 23 – The New York State Legislature passes the Raines law, restricting Sunday alcoholic beverage sales to hotels.
April – The first study of the sensitivity of global climate to atmospheric carbon dioxide is published. Svante Arrhenius presents his findings in his paper, "On the Influence of Carbonic Acid in the Air upon the Temperature of the Ground", the London, Edinburgh, and Dublin Philosophical Magazine and Journal of Science, as an extract of a paper that had been presented to the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences on December 11, 1895.
April 3 – The first edition of the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport is published.
April 4 – The first known women's basketball game between two colleges is played between Stanford and California.
April 6 – The opening ceremonies of the 1896 Summer Olympics, the first modern Olympic Games, are held in Athens.
April 7 – Nansen's Fram expedition to the Arctic reaches 86°13.6'N, almost 3° beyond the previous Farthest North attained.
April 9 – The National Farm School (later Delaware Valley College) is chartered in Doylestown, PA.
May 8 – Cricket: Against Warwickshire, Yorkshire sets a still-standing County Championship record when they accumulate an innings total of 887.
May 13 – The Franchise Bill is passed by the Colony of Natal's Legislative Assembly, disfranchising natives of other countries.
May 18 – Plessy v. Ferguson: The U.S. Supreme Court introduces the "separate but equal" doctrine and upholds racial segregation.
May 26 – Eleven years after its foundation, a group of 12 purely industrial stocks were chosen to form the Dow Jones Industrial Average. The index was composed entirely of industrial shares for the first time.
May 27 – St. Louis–East St. Louis tornado: The costliest and third deadliest tornado in U.S. history levels a mile wide swath of downtown St. Louis, Missouri, incurring US$2.9 billion (1997 USD) in normalized damages, killing more than 255 and injuring over 1,000 people.
June 4 – The Ford Quadricycle, the first Ford vehicle ever developed, is completed, eventually leading Henry Ford to build the empire that "put America on wheels".
June 7 – Mahdist War: British and Egyptian victory at the Battle of Ferkeh.
June 12 – J. T. Hearne sets a record for the earliest date of taking 100 wickets in cricket (it is equalled by Charlie Parker in 1931).
June 15 – The 1896 Sanriku earthquake and tsunami in Japan kills 27,000.
June 18 – The New York Telephone Company is formed, succeeding the Metropolitan Telephone and Telegraph Company, to control telephone service within New York City.
June 23 – Liberal leader Wilfrid Laurier defeats Charles Tupper during Canadian federal elections for the 8th Canadian Parliament to become the first francophone Prime Minister of Canada.
June 28 – Twin Shaft disaster: An explosion in the Newton Coal Company's Twin Shaft Mine in Pittston, Pennsylvania results in a massive cave-in that kills 58 miners.
July 9 – William Jennings Bryan delivers his Cross of Gold speech at the Democratic National Convention, which nominates him for President of the United States.
July 11 – Wilfrid Laurier becomes Canada's seventh prime minister and the first French-speaker to hold that office.
July 21 – In Washington, D.C., in response to a "call to confer" issued by Josephine St. Pierre Ruffin to all women of color, the National Association of Colored Women's Clubs is organized.
July 26 – International Socialist Workers and Trade Union Congress opens in London.
July 27 – A causeway is opened between the islands of Saaremaa and Muhu in Estonia.
July 30 – Atlantic City rail crash: Shortly after 6:30 pm, at a crossing just west of Atlantic City, New Jersey, two trains collide, crushing five loaded passenger coaches, killing fifty and seriously injuring approximately sixty.
August – 1896 Eastern North America heat wave.
August 14 – The Uganda Railway Act, 1896, is approved in the United Kingdom, for construction of a railway in Africa from Mombasa to Lake Victoria.
August 16 – Skookum Jim Mason, George Carmack and Dawson Charlie discover gold in the Klondike, Yukon.
August 17 – Bridget Driscoll is run over by a Benz car in the grounds of The Crystal Palace, London, the world's first motoring fatality.
August 23 – The Cry of Pugad Lawin initiates the Philippine Revolution.
The shortest war in recorded history, the Anglo-Zanzibar War, starts at 9 in the morning and lasts for 45 minutes of shelling.
Britain establishes a Protectorate over the Ashanti concluding the Fourth Anglo-Ashanti War.
September 2 – Clarkson University holds its first classes, with 17 students attending in Potsdam, New York.
September 15 – The Crash at Crush train wreck stunt is held in Texas.
September 22 – Queen Victoria surpasses her grandfather King George III as the longest-reigning monarch in British history.
September 30 – Italy and France sign a treaty whereby Italy virtually recognizes Tunisia as a French dependency.
October 1 – Gottlieb Daimler builts first worldwide gasoline truck.
October 2 – Victorian Football League established as Aussie rules football in Australia. (a predecessor for Australian Football League)
October 16 – The design of the Flag of Knoxville, Tennessee is officially approved by Knoxville City Council.
October 30 – Augusta, Kentucky: The Augusta High School cornerstone is laid, marking the end of the Augusta Methodist College.
November 3 – U.S. presidential election, 1896: Republican William McKinley defeats William Jennings Bryan. The event is viewed by some as a realigning election for the United States Republican Party
November 27 – Also sprach Zarathustra (Strauss) is first performed in Frankfurt.
The Udinese Calcio is founded.
'St. Augustine Monster': A large carcass, later postulated to be the remains of a gigantic octopus, is found washed ashore near St. Augustine, Florida.
December 1 – Archaeologist Alois Anton Führer, Nepalese General Khadga Samsher Rana, and an expedition rediscover the great stone pillar of Ashoka at Lumbini, traditionally the spot of the birthplace of Gautama Buddha, after using Faxian's records.
December 10 The premiere of Alfred Jarry's absurdist play Ubu Roi in Paris causes a near-riot.
December 14 – The Glasgow Subway, the third-oldest underground metro system in the world, opens.
December 25 – John Philip Sousa composes his magnum opus, The Stars and Stripes Forever.
December 30 – José Rizal, Filipino scholar and poet, is executed by Spanish authorities in the Philippines.
The Pontifical University of Maynooth is established by decree of the Vatican.
France establishes an administrative post in Abengourou, Ivory Coast.
Sperry & Hutchinson begin offering S&H Green Stamps to U.S. retailers.
Devonport High School for Boys is founded (in Plymouth, UK)
Blackpool Pleasure Beach, a popular English theme park (Britain's Biggest Tourist Attraction), is founded by Alderman William George Bean.
A school of mines opens in Kimberley and will later form the core of the University of the Witwatersrand.
Racing Club de Lyon, a football club in France, officially founded, as predecessor for Olympique Lyonnais.
January 2 – Dziga Vertov, Russian filmmaker (d. 1954)
Everett Dirksen, American politician (d. 1969)
André Masson, French artist (d. 1987)
Arthur Ford, American psychic spiritual medium, clairaudient (d. 1971)
Clifton Sprague, American admiral (d. 1955)
January 14 – John Dos Passos, American author (d. 1970)
January 18 – C. M. Eddy, Jr., American author (d. 1967)
January 20 – George Burns, American comedian (d. 1996)
January 23 – Charlotte, Grand Duchess of Luxembourg (d. 1985)
January 26 – József Kiss, Austro-Hungarian fighter pilot (d. 1918)
February 4 – Friedrich Hund, German physicist (d. 1997)
February 16 – Eugénie Blanchard French supercentenarian (d. 2010)
February 19 – André Breton, French writer (d. 1966)
February 23 – Herbert Weichmann, German politician and mayor of Hamburg (d. 1983)
February 25 – Heinrich Gontermann, German World War I fighter ace (d. 1917)
February 28 – Philip Showalter Hench, American physician, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1965)
February 29 – Morarji Desai, Indian politician (d. 1995)
Dimitri Mitropoulos, Greek conductor, pianist and composer (d. 1960)
Moriz Seeler, German writer, poet, film producer and man of the theatre (d. 1942)
March 13 – Field Eugene Kindley, American World War I fighter pilot (d. 1920)
March 20 – Wilfrid Reid "Wop" May, Canadian World War I pilot (d. 1952)
March 29 – Wilhelm Ackermann, German mathematician (d. 1962)
March 31 – Florrie Baldwin, British supercentenarian (d. 2010)
April 13 – Ira C. Eaker, World War II United States Army Air Forces general (d. 1987)
Gerhard Fieseler, German World War I flying ace, aerobatics champion, and aircraft designer and manufacturer (d. 1987)
Nikolay Nikolayevich Semyonov, Russian chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1986)
Ralph Hungerford, 33rd Governor of American Samoa (d. 1977)
Geertruida Wijsmuller-Meijer, Dutch war hero, resistance fighter and humanitarian (d. 1978)
April 26 – Ernst Udet, German World War I fighter ace and Nazi Luftwaffe official (d. 1941)
April 27 – Rogers Hornsby, American baseball player (d. 1963)
Hans List, Austrian founder of the AVL List (d. 1996)
Gary Davis, American musician (d. 1972)
Mark W. Clark, American general (d. 1984)
J. Lawton Collins, American general (d. 1987)
May 2 – Helen of Greece and Denmark, Queen Mother of Romania (d.1982)
May 3 – Karl Allmenröder, German World War I fighter pilot (d. 1917)
May 5 – Kaju Sugiura, Japanese admiral (d. 1945)
May 6 – Rolf Maximilian Sievert, Swedish medical physicist (d. 1966)
May 7 – John Dunville, British Army officer in World War I (d. 1917)
May 19 – Jorge Alessandri, President of Chile (d. 1986)
May 30 – Howard Hawks, American director (d. 1977)
Henry Allingham, British World War I veteran and world's oldest man (d. 2009)
Italo Balbo, Italian Fascist leader and aviator (d. 1940)
Robert S. Mulliken, American chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1986)
Douglas Campbell, American World War I flying ace (d. 1990)
Hope Summers, American actress (d. 1979)
June 18 – Philip Barry, American playwright (d. 1949)
June 19 – Wallis Simpson, American-born Duchess of Windsor (d. 1986)
June 25 – Keizō Komura, Japanese admiral (d. 1978)
July 2 – Quirino Cristiani, Argentine animated film director (d. 1984)
July 8 – James B. Wilson, American football player and coach (d. 1986)
July 9 – Maria Gomes Valentim, Brazilian supercentenarian (d. 2011)
July 10 – Maurice Zbriger, Canadian violinist, composer and conductor (d. 1981)
Mordecai Ardon, Israeli painter (d. 1992)
John Henry Cates, American businessman and political figure (d. 1986)
July 16 – Trygve Lie, Norway-born United Nations Secretary General (d. 1968)
July 20 – Ellen Louise Mertz, Denmark's first female geologists (d. 1987)
July 27 – Henri Longchambon, French politician (d. 1969)
Erich Hückel, German physicist and physical chemist (d. 1980)
Jean Piaget, Swiss psychologist (d. 1980)
Léonide Massine, Russian ballet dancer and choreographer (d. 1979)
August 12 – Ejner Federspiel, Danish actor (d. 1981)
August 13 – Rudolf Schmundt, German general (d. 1944)
August 14 – Albert Ball, British World War I fighter ace, Victoria Cross recipient (d. 1917)
Gerty Cori, Austrian-born biochemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1957)
Paul Outerbridge, American photographer (d. 1958)
August 18 – Jack Pickford, American actor (d. 1933)
August 22 – W. E. Lawrence, American actor (d. 1947)
August 26 – Besse Cooper, American supercentenarian; last known surviving person born in 1896 (d. 2012)
August 27 – Léon Theremin, Russian inventor (d. 1993)
August 30 – Raymond Massey, Canadian-born American actor (d. 1983)
September 1 – A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, Indian religious leader, founder-acharya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (d. 1977)
September 4 – Antonin Artaud, French stage actor and director (d. 1948)
September 10 – Adele Astaire, American dancer (d. 1981)
September 14 – Fray José de Guadalupe Mojica, Mexican Franciscan friar, tenor and film actor (d. 1974)
September 15 – Robert B. McClure, American general (d. 1973)
September 21 – Walter Breuning, American supercentenarian; last known surviving male born in 1896 (d. 2011)
September 22 – Uri Zvi Greenberg, Israeli poet and journalist (d. 1981)
September 24 – F. Scott Fitzgerald, American writer (d. 1940)
September 25 – Sandro Pertini, President of Italy (d. 1990)
September 30 – Jolie Gabor, Hungarian-American entrepreneur, jeweler and memoirist (d. 1997)
October 1 – Abraham Sofaer, Burmese-born actor (d. 1988)
October 7 – Paulino Alcántara, Filipino-Spanish soccer player (d. 1964)
October 12 – Eugenio Montale, Italian writer, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1981)
October 14 – Bud Flanagan, British entertainer and comedian (d. 1968)
October 27 – Edith Brown, RMS Titanic survivor (d. 1997)
October 28 – Howard Hanson, American composer (d. 1981)
October 31 – Ethel Waters, American singer and actress (d. 1977)
Carlos P. Garcia, 8th President of the Philippines (d. 1971)
Ian Wolfe, American actor (d. 1992)
Erika Abels d'Albert, Austrian artist (d. 1975)
Bucky Harris, American baseball player (d. 1977)
Marie Prevost, Canadian-born American actress (d. 1937)
Jimmy Dykes, American baseball player and manager (d. 1976)
Mary, Lady Heath (born Sophie Mary Peirce-Evans), Irish aviator (d. 1939)
Andreas Stihl, Swiss engineer, inventor and businessman (d. 1973)
November 13 – Nobusuke Kishi, Prime Minister of Japan (d. 1987)
November 14 – Mamie Eisenhower, First Lady of the United States (d. 1979)
November 15 – Giovanni Ancillotto, Italian World War I flying ace (d. 1924)
Oswald Mosley, leader of the British Union of Fascists (d. 1980)
Lawrence Tibbett, American opera singer and actor (d. 1960)
November 17 – Lev Vygotsky, Russian psychologist (d. 1934)
November 23 – Klement Gottwald, Czechoslovak communist politician (d. 1953)
Virgil Thomson, American composer and critic (d. 1989)
Jessie Royce Landis, American actress (d. 1972)
November 26 – Manuel A. Odría, 79th President of Peru (d. 1974)
December 1 – Georgi Zhukov, Soviet military leader, Marshal of the Soviet Union (d. 1974)
December 5 – Carl Ferdinand Cori, Austrian-born biochemist, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1984)
December 6 – Ira Gershwin, American lyricist (d. 1983)
December 8 – Christl Mardayn, German actress (d. 1976)
December 14 – Jimmy Doolittle, American aviation pioneer and World War II United States Army Air Forces general (d. 1993)
December 15 – Miles Dempsey, British general (d. 1969)
December 16 – Anna Anderson, pretender to the Russian throne (d. 1984)
December 17 – Robert Francis Anthony Studds, American admiral and engineer, fourth Director of the United States Coast and Geodetic Survey (d. 1962)
December 21 – Leroy Robertson, American composer (d. 1971)
December 23 – Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, Italian writer (d. 1957)
December 27 –
Louis Bromfield, American writer (d. 1956)
Carl Zuckmayer, German writer and playwright (d. 1977)
December 28 – Roger Sessions, American composer (d. 1985)
Lawrence Riley, American playwright and screenwriter (d. 1974)
January 4 – Joseph Hubert Reinkens, German Old Catholic bishop (b. 1821)
January 6 – Thomas W. Knox, American author and journalist (b. 1835)
January 8 – Paul Verlaine, French lyric poet (b. 1844)
January 15 – Mathew Brady, American photographer (b. 1822)
January 20 – Prince Henry of Battenberg, British royal, married to Princess Beatrice of the United Kingdom (b. 1858)
February 25 – Joseph P. Fyffe, American admiral (b. 1832)
April 9 – Gustav Koerner, German-American statesman (b. 1809)
May 1 – Naser al-Din Shah Qajar, Shah of Persia, King of Herat (b. 1831)
May 7 – Herman Webster Mudgett, alias H. H. Holmes, American serial killer (executed) (b. 1861)
May 10 – Antti Ahlström, Finnish industrialist and founder of Ahlstrom (b. 1827)
May 17 – Muhammad Al-Sabah, emir of Kuwait (b. 1831)
May 19 – Archduke Karl Ludwig of Austria, father of Archduke Ferdinand (b. 1833)
May 20 – Clara Schumann, German composer and pianist (b. 1819)
May 24 – Luigi Federico Menabrea, Italian soldier and statesman (b. 1809)
June 12 – Thomas P. Leathers, American steamboat captain (b. 1816)
July 1 – Harriet Beecher Stowe, American author (b. 1811)
July 4 – Marcelo H. del Pilar, Filipino writer and journalist (b. 1850)
July 7 – Charles Thomas Wooldridge, hanged at Reading Gaol and commemorated by Oscar Wilde (b. 1866)
July 13 – August Kekulé, German chemist (b. 1829)
July 16 – Edmond de Goncourt, French writer and co-founder of the Académie Goncourt (b. 1822)
July 19 – Abraham H. Cannon, American Mormon apostle (b. 1859)
August 10 – Otto Lilienthal, German aviation pioneer (b. 1848)
August 13 – John Everett Millais, British Pre-Raphaelite painter (b. 1829)
August 17 – Bridget Driscoll, early British automobile fatality (b. c. 1852)
August 25 – Sultan Hamad bin Thuwaini of Zanzibar (b. 1857)
September 18 – Hippolyte Fizeau, French physicist (b. 1819)
September 22 – Pavlos Kalligas, Greek jurist and politician (b. 1814)
October 8 – George du Maurier, French-born British cartoonist and writer (b. 1834)
Anton Bruckner, Austrian composer (b. 1824)
Edward White Benson, Archbishop of Canterbury (b. 1829)
October 21 – James Henry Greathead, British engineer and inventor (b. 1844)
October 23 – Columbus Delano, American statesman (b. 1809)
October 30 – Carol Benesch, Silesian and Romanian architect (b. 1822)
November 12 – Joseph James Cheeseman, Liberian politician, 12th President of Liberia (b. 1843)
November 16 – Josip Šokčević, Croatian viceroy (b. 1811)
November 22 – George Washington Gale Ferris Jr., inventor of the Ferris wheel (b. 1859)
December 10 – Alfred Nobel, Swedish inventor of dynamite and creator of the Nobel Prize (b. 1833)
December 29 – Jacob ben Moses Bachrach, noted apologist of Rabbinic Judaism (b. 1824)
December 30 – José Rizal, national hero of the Philippines (b. 1861)
1896 (MDCCCXCVI) was a leap year starting on Wednesday (dominical letter ED) of the Gregorian calendar and a leap year starting on Monday (dominical letter GF) of the Julian calendar, the 1896th year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 896th year of the 2nd millennium, the 96th year of the 19th century, and the 7th year of the 1890s decade. As of the start of 1896, the Gregorian calendar was 12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.