The following deals with events, conflicts, and people during 1790-1860.
DISCLAIMER: This does NOT serve as a replacement for reading Chapter 14.
America was quickly changing to say the least. People began to move west in search of cheap land and immigrants filled their places. An industrial revolution came to our shores with new machines, factories, roads, and steamboats.
The rate of immigration shot up in the 1830s and 40s and as a result, there was loads of resentment against the new-comers from the nativists. They hated the Catholics most, who had set up a separate school system in the 1840s to get away from Protestant brainwashing. The Know-Nothing party formed in 1849, the name coming from their secretive nature. They and other nativists wanted harsh regulation on immigration and the immediate deportation of aliens. Books like Maria Monk’s garbage falsely portrayed Catholic life.
A huge ‘Bible Riot’ occurred in Philly in 1844 when nativists marched into the Catholic neighborhood and burned down two churches. But thankfully, clashes like these were rare. The reason why springs from the ever-growing economy, which made the immigrants want to come here in the first place. Without the immigrants, we would have fallen behind industrious Europe and wouldn’t have become as diverse as we are today.
The industrial revolution first sprang up in England in the 1750s, but it took a while for America to get going. No, England wasn’t, and still isn’t, better than us. Instead, our land was cheap in America and few people wanted to risk their lives in a large, dangerous factory when they could instead be farming land. Once the immigrants arrived, the capitalists had their workforce and were able to capitalize on it. Coal mining would also become huge– we sat on the largest untapped reserve of it in the world.
Europe had always been first with their manufactured goods. They were high quality and cheap; American manufacturers couldn’t compete. Britain also held a monopoly on the textile industry, but not for long…
Sammy Slater, a skilled mechanic who had to lie to leave Britain, took with him a plan for America’s first textile mill in Rhode Island in 1791. Eli Whitney’s cotton gin would provide the cotton fiber for the mill. The cotton gin went on to revolutionize America by raising the price of cotton (as it was now higher quality) and the necessity of slave labor, which was beginning to wane before Whitney’s invention. New England flourished as a hot bed for factories mainly because it was hard to farm, it had great ports, and a huge workforce/ consumerforce.
Factories were first built because of the embargo during the War of 1812. We could no longer get our goods from England, so we looked inward. People went crazy for American-made clothing– President Madison even wore some! Once peace was secured in 1815 at Ghent, British suppliers unloaded their war-time surpluses at crazy low prices and all but stopped American manufacturing. The Tariff of 1816 was the first move to control the economy by the government.
The American production of firearms, previously with non-interchangeable parts, also gave rise in 1798 with who else but Eli Whitney? Interchangeable parts became the standard in the 1850s and gave way to the conveyor-belt/ assembly-line production. These parts made the North flourish even more, while the South could only rely on cotton. This would give the North a huge advantage during the Civil War.
In 1846, Singer’s stolen sewing machine became all the rage and completely ended the age of clothing artisans and put them to work in factories. The rise of patents for inventions absolutely exploded in the 19th century. The principle of limited liability also came about and stated that an investor can only risk his own stake in a corporation’s stock in legal claims. Corporations also came onto the scene with free incorporation laws, which meant that businessmen could completely bypass a state legislature for a charter. Yea big business!
Spindle cities, essentially factory towns, became filled with so-called wage slaves, who were forced to work long, hard hours for little pay. Labor unions were still outlawed and half of all children worked. Many laborers wanted a fixed ten-hour day, higher wages, better working conditions, and public education for their kids and because of the Jacksonian Democracy, they mostly supported the Democrats. In 1840, President Van Buren put into place the 10-hour workday for federal employees, which was eventually matched by most employers. This was later changed to an 8-hour workday in Chapter 24.
The only weapon the union-less laborers had was the strike, though they were always at risk of being replaced by strike-breakers, deemed ‘scabs’, who came right off the ship. The Panic of 1837 had stopped what little progress unions were making, though in 1840, they earned a huge victory when the Massachusetts Supreme Court ruled the unions legal in Commonwealth v. Hunt.
Women, like men and children, could also be found in factories. They usually made soap or candles or had something to do with textiles. These jobs gave economic independence to many women and produced a whole new class of consumers. Not many women worked in factories, though, and those that did were single. Once married, they would leave their jobs to become motherly figures. As a mother, a woman had complete moral power and with a lowering fertility rate, families became more child-centered. Since men couldn’t run down to the drug store to buy a pack of magnums, it was up to the women to control how many babies she birthed. These children would grow up not fearing authority, but instead being independent and able to make their own decisions.
While New Englanders were toiling away in factories, the residents of Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois were supplying them with agriculture. Originally, most of the produce produced would be sent down to the Cotton Kingdom on the Mississippi River, but now, with more mouths to feed, more crops would have to be produced. John Deere’s invention of the steel plow in 1807 helped farmers do just that. It was lightweight and killed subsistence farming (in which a family only produced goods for themselves) in favor of huge, sprawling farms that eventually gave way to agricorporations. Yea big business!
If the manufacturing, cotton, and farming industries were going to grow and really do well, they would need a reliable transportation system. The old canals and shitty backroads weren’t cutting it. The Lancaster Turnpike was the first step in the right direction. Travelers had to pay a toll to cross on the awesomely paved road. States’ righters, who resisted any government aid in building roads, and the War of 1812 slowed down the construction of an interstate highway. Steamboats, invented by Robert Fulton, were also popular and tamed the Mississippi. The boats would led to the further settlement of the South and the West.
In New York, Governor Clinton (not related to Bill) built the Erie Canal, which connected the Hudson River and the Great Lakes. It made shipping cheaper and land surrounding the Canal more expensive. With the Canal in place, farming in the West became even more profitable and loads of people went there in order to try their luck on a farm.
Early railroad trains were a disaster. The brakes were horrid and any sparse spark could ignite a town. By the time Pullman introduced his awesome ‘sleeping palace’ in 1859, all the kinks had been worked out.
After Morse’s telegraph started a revolution in 1844, Cyrus Field took it a step further and strung a telegraph cord from Newfoundland to Ireland in 1858, irrevocably linking the two continents. With the War of 1812 and the Panics of 1819 and 1837 behind us, it was time for American shipping to really take off. Newly-invented clippers greatly reduced the time it took to sail the seven seas. By the time of the Civil War, the Brits had one-up’d us with their speedy, albeit massive, steamers called teakettles.
Finally, with the West becoming more wild, stagecoaches became commonplace. The pony express was also pretty popular, though it would give way as the telegraph, accompanied by Morse’s code, began to Manifest Destiny.