- Samuel Sterling Sherman became the first president of Howard College.
- September 5: Merchant Charles Linn married Emelie Antoinette Forss in Koskis, Finland.
- January 4: Jesse Huey, namesake of Hueytown
- January 8: James Going, real estate executive
- May 3: Willis Milner, Elyton Land Company officer
- June 12: Louise Wooster, madam
- September 6: Charles Drennen, physician
- September 13: John H. Bankhead, U. S. Senator
- September 16: John F. McLaughlin, Jefferson County tax assessor
- September 29: John C. Henley, merchant and banker
- November 22: John Phelan, attorney and manager of the Cotton and Produce Exchange
- Mattie Sloss, second wife of Colonel James Sloss
In 1842, Commonwealth v. Hunt served as a legitimizer for trade unions. Giuseppe Verdi's third opera, Nabucco, premiered. The Webster-Ashburton Treaty was signed, establishing the United States–Canada border east of the Rocky Mountains. The Second Seminole War ended. The Treaty of Nanking ended the First Opium War and established Hong Kong as a British colony. The University of Notre Dame was founded.
Notable births in 1842 included psychologist William James, writer Sidney Lanier, composer Arthur Sullivan, writer Ambrose Bierce, baseball player Joe Start, orator Anna Elizabeth Dickinson, and physicist John William Strutt, 3rd Baron Rayleigh. Notable deaths included inventor Henry Shrapnel, explorer Jules Dumont d'Urville, heroine Grace Darling, and Chilean head of state Bernardo O'Higgins.
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