1851 was a common year starting on Wednesday (see link for calendar).
- January 23 - The flip of a coin determines whether a new city in Oregon is named after Boston, Massachusetts, or Portland, Maine, with Portland winning.
- March 1 - Victor Hugo gives speech at the French national assembly and uses the phrase United States of Europe several times
- March 27 - First reported case of white men seeing Yosemite Valley.
- March 30 - A population census was taken of all people living in the United Kingdom.
- May 1 - The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations in the Crystal Palace, Hyde Park, London is opened by Queen Victoria. It runs until October 18.
- May 15 - Rama IV is crowed King of Thailand.
- July - The immortal game, a famous chess game, is played.
- July 1 - Colony of Victoria separates from New South Wales.
- July 29 - Annibale de Gasparis, in Naples, Italy discovers asteroid 15 Eunomia.
- August 22 - The yacht America wins the first America's Cup race (see Yachting).
- October 18 - The Great Exhibition in London is closed.
- November 13 - The Denny Party lands at Alki Point, the first settlers of what will become Seattle, Washington.
- December 2 - Louis Napoleon, president of France, dissolves French National Assembly and declares a new constitution to extend his term. Later he declares himself as an emperor Napoleon III. End of the Second Republic.
- December 24 - The Library of Congress burns.
- December 29 - The first YMCA opens, in Boston, Massachusetts.
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