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1853 was a common year starting on Saturday of the Gregorian calendar and a common year starting on Thursday of the Julian calendar, the 1853rd year of the Common Era (CE) and Anno Domini (AD) designations, the 853rd year of the 2nd millennium, the 53rd year of the 19th century, and the 4th year of the 1850s decade. As of the start of 1853, the Gregorian calendar was 12 days ahead of the Julian calendar, which remained in localized use until 1923.
- January 6 – Florida Governor Thomas Brown signs legislation that provides public support for the new East Florida Seminary, leading to the establishment of the University of Florida.
- January 8 – Taiping Rebellion: Zeng Guofan is ordered to assist the governor of Hunan, in organising a militia force to search for local bandits.
- January 12 – Taiping Rebellion: The Taiping army occupies Wuchang.
- January 19 – Giuseppe Verdi's opera Il Trovatore premieres, in performance at Teatro Apollo in Rome.
- February 10 – Taiping Rebellion: Taiping forces assemble at Hanyang, Hankou and Wuchang, for the march on Nanjing.
- February 12 – Puerto Montt is founded in the Reloncaví Sound, Chile.
- February 22 – Washington University in St. Louis is founded as Eliot Seminary.
- March – The clothing company Levi Strauss & Co. is founded in the United States.
- March 4 – Franklin Pierce is inaugurated, as the 14th President of the United States (his only child was killed in a train accident on January 6).
- March 20 – Taiping Rebellion: A rebel army of around 750,000 seizes Nanjing, killing 30,000 Imperial troops.
- October 1 – The Bechstein Piano Company is founded, one of three established in a "Golden year" in the history of the piano (Julius Blüthner and Steinway & Sons being the others).
- October 4–5 – Crimean War: The Ottoman Empire begins war with Russia.
- October 4 – On the east coast of the United States, Donald McKay launches the Great Republic, the world's biggest sailing ship, which at 4,500 tons is too large to be successful.
- October 28 – Crimean War: The Ottoman army crosses the Danube into Vidin/Calafat, Wallachia.
- October 30 – Taiping Rebellion: The Taiping Northern Expeditionary Force comes within three miles (5 km) of Tianjin.
- November 3 – Troops of William Walker capture La Paz in Baja California Territory, and declare the (short-lived) Republic of Lower California.
- November 4 – Crimean War – Battle of Oltenitza: Turkish forces defeat the Russians.
- November 15 – Maria II of Portugal is succeeded by her son Pedro.
- November 30 (November 18 O.S.) – Crimean War – Battle of Sinop: The Russian fleet destroys the Turkish fleet.
- December 6 – Taiping Rebellion: French minister de Bourboulon arrives at the Heavenly Capital, aboard the Cassini.
- December 30 – Gadsden Purchase: The United States buys approximately 77,000 km2 (29,600 sq mi) of land from Mexico, to facilitate railroad building in the Southwest.
- January 1 – Karl von Einem, German general (d. 1934)
- January 2 – Packy Dillon, American professional baseball player (d. 1902)
- January 10 – John Martin Schaeberle, German-American astronomer (d. 1924)
- January 16
- January 22 – Méry von Bruiningk, Estonian democrat (b. 1818)
- January 28
- January 29 – Kitasato Shibasaburō, Japanese physician, bacteriologist (d. 1931)
- February 3 – Hudson Maxim, American inventor, chemist (d. 1927)
- February 4 – Kaneko Kentarō, Japanese politician, diplomat (d. 1942)
- February 6 – Ignacij Klemenčič, Slovenian physicist (d. 1901)
- February 18 – Ernest Fenollosa, Catalan-American philosopher (d. 1908)
- March 5 – Howard Pyle, American artist, fiction writer (d. 1911)
- March 10 – Thomas Mackenzie, 18th Prime Minister of New Zealand (d. 1930)
- March 13 – Robert Felkin, British writer (d. 1926)
- March 14
- March 25 – Mozaffar ad-Din Shah Qajar, 5th Qajarid Shah of Persia (d. 1907)
- March 29 – Elihu Thomson, English-American engineer, inventor, co-founder of General Electric (d. 1937)
- March 30 – Vincent van Gogh, Dutch painter (d. 1890)
- April 1 – Marcello Amero D'Aste, Italian admiral, politician (d. 1931)
- April 6 – Emil Jellinek, German automobile entrepreneur (d. 1918)
- April 7 – Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany (d. 1884)
- April 8 – Laura Alberta Linton, American chemist (d. 1915)
- April 24 – Alphonse Bertillon, French police officer, forensic scientist (d. 1914)
- May 28 – Carl Larsson, Swedish painter (d. 1919)
- June 3 – William Flinders Petrie, English Egyptologist (d. 1942)
- June 12 – Chester Adgate Congdon, Minnesota mining magnate (d. 1916)
- July 4 – Ernst Otto Beckmann, German chemist (d. 1923)
- July 5 – Cecil Rhodes, English businessman (d. 1902)
- July 18 – Hendrik Lorentz, Dutch physicist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1928)
- July 24 – William Gillette, American actor, playwright and stage-manager (d. 1937)
- August 19 – Aleksei Brusilov, Russian general (d. 1926)
- August 28
- September 2 – Wilhelm Ostwald, German chemist, Nobel Prize laureate (d. 1932)
- September 10 – Gertrud Adelborg, Swedish women's rights activist (d. 1942)
- September 16 – Albrecht Kossel, German physician, recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (d. 1927)
- September 17 – Henry Churchill de Mille, American dramatist, playwright; father of film director Cecil B. DeMille (d. 1893)
- September 20 – Chulalongkorn, Rama V, King of Siam (d. 1910)
- September 21
- September 23 – Fritz von Below, German general (d. 1918)
- October 13 – Lillie Langtry, English stage actress (d. 1929)
- October 14 – John William Kendrick, American railroad executive (d. 1924)
- October 17 – Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia, wife of Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh (d. 1920)
- October 26 – Tokugawa Akitake, Japanese daimyō, the last lord of Mito Domain, younger brother of the last shōgun Tokugawa Yoshinobu (d. 1910)
- October 30 – Louise Abbéma French painter, sculptor, and designer of the Belle Époque (d. 1927)
- November 9 – Stanford White, American architect (d. 1906)
- November 13 – John Drew, Jr., American stage actor (d. 1927)
- November 20 – Oskar Potiorek, Austro-Hungarian general (d. 1933)
- December 6 – Haraprasad Shastri, Indian academic, Sanskrit scholar, archivist and historian of Bengali literature (d. 1931)
- December 14 – Errico Malatesta, Italian anarchist (d. 1932)
- December 17 – Émile Roux, French physician, bacteriologist and immunologist (d. 1933)
- December 22 – Teresa Carreño, Venezuelan pianist, singer, composer, and conductor (d. 1917)
- December 23 – William Henry Moody, 35th United States Secretary of the Navy, 45th United States Attorney General, and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States (d. 1917)
- December 31 – Tasker H. Bliss, American general (d. 1930)
- July 27 – Tokugawa Ieyoshi, 12th shōgun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan (b. 1793)
- August 9 – Józef Maria Hoene-Wroński, Polish philosopher (b. 1776)
- August 19 – George Cockburn, British naval commander (b. 1772)
- August 23 – Alexander Calder, first mayor of Beaumont, Texas (b. 1806)
- September 3 – Augustin Saint-Hilaire, French botanist, traveller (b. 1799)
- September 6 – George Bradshaw, English timetable publisher (b. 1800)
- October 2 – François Arago, French Catalan mathematician, physicist, astronomer and politician (b. 1786)
- October 3 – George Onslow, French composer (b. 1784)
- October 5 – Mahlon Dickerson, American judge, politician (b. 1770)
- October 13 – Jan Cock Blomhoff, Dutch director of Dejima, Japan (b. 1779)
- October 22 – Juan Antonio Lavalleja, Uruguayan military, political figure (b. 1784))
- November 15 – Queen Maria II of Portugal (b. 1819)
- December 15 – Georg Friedrich Grotefend, German epigraphist, philologist (b. 1775)
- December 23 – Juliette Bussière Laforest-Courtois, Haitian journalist (b. 1789)
- Maria Quitéria, Brazilian national heroine (b. 1792)
- Meta Forkel-Liebeskind, German writer and scholar (b. 1765)
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