Ch. 10: Americas Economic Revolution I. The Changing American Population



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Ch. 10: Americas Economic Revolution
I. The Changing American Population

    1. The American Population, 1820-1840

  • By 1790, US population stood at 4 million, by 1820 it had reached 10 million, and 17 million by 1840

  • Population growth was due to improvements in public health, and high birth rates

  • Population of the 1820s & 30s distinguished my movement to towns and cities

  • Women gave birth to an average of 6.14 children

  • For the first three decades, immigration had little to do with the American population

  • Reduced transportation costs & increasing economic opportunity stimulated immigration boom

    1. Immigration and Urban Growth, 1840-1860

  • By 1860, 26% of population of the Free states was living in towns or cities

    • Up from 14 % in 1840

  • St. Louis, Pittsburg, Cincinnati, and Louisville became centers of trade that connected farmers of Midwest with New Orleans and, through it, the cities of NE

  • The number of foreigners arriving in US in 1840 was 84,000-highest for any one year in 19th century

  • US in 1840-1850 saw development in growth of cities in NE, ag boom in NW, ag decline in NE

    • Close economic ties between NE & NW

  • Immigrants came from many countries: England, France, Italy, Scandinavia, Poland, and Holland

    • Majority came from Ireland, and Germany.

  • Germans immigrated because of economic dislocations of the industrial revolution

    • Germans came over as family units

  • Irish migrated over to US because of oppressive English rule & disastrous failure of the potatoes crop

    • Nearly 1 million people Irish died of starvation and disease

  • Irish settled in eastern cities where they swelled the ranks of unskilled labor

  • Germans moved to the NW to become farmers or started business in the western towns

    • Big reason for the difference was wealth: Germans arrived with money; the Irish had nearly none

    1. The Rise Of Nativism

  • Industrialists, land speculators and political leaders saw immigration as a source of great opportunity

  • Americans viewed growing foreign-born population with alarm – fears led to rise of “nativism”

  • Nativism took many forms; racism, inherently inferior or same prejudice towards African Americans

  • Nativists argued that newcomers were socially unfit alongside people of older stock, that they did not bring with them sufficient standards of civilization

  • Others complained because foreigners worked for low wages (stealing jobs) & were politically corrupt

  • Native American Association began agitating against immigration in 1837; in 1845 nativists held a convention in Philadelphia and formed the Native American Party

  • Know-Nothings demands; banned Irish from holding public office, stricter naturalization laws and literacy tests for voting

- Laws passed discriminated against Irish Catholics

  • Know-Nothings cast a large vote in PA & NY and won control of the state govt. of MA

  • KNP most lasting impact was the collapse of the existing two-party system & creation of new national political alignments

  1. Transportation, Communications, and Technology

A. The Canal Age

  • From 1790-1820s, the “turnpike era,” Americans relied largely on roads for internal transportation

  • Rivers became more important by the 1820s, as steam boats grew in number and improved in design

  • By the 1830s, canals led to increased settlement in the Northwest

  • The Erie Canal was the greatest construction project the US had ever undertaken, it was a ditch 40 feet wide and 4 feet deep, with tow paths along the banks

- NY prospered due to the Erie Canal

  • In the end canals did not provide a satisfactory route to the west for New York’s rivals

B. The Early Railroads

  • Railroads became the primary transportation system for the US until the construction of the interstate highway system in the mid-twentieth century

  • Technological breakthroughs included tracks, steam-powered locomotives and railroad cars

  • Competition between canals & RR in 1820s & 30s, but RR still in infancy

  • Cities on Atlantic Coast not able to capitalize on canals, did w/ RR industry

C. The Triumph of Rails

  • After 1840, railroads supplanted canals and all other modes of transportation

  • Burst of railroad construction followed in the 1850s, tripling the amount of tracks in just ten years

- Most comprehensive and efficient system was in the NE

  • Important change was the trend towards consolidation

  • Capital to finance the RR boom came from many sources – private investors and local govts.

  • By 1860, Congress had allotted over 30 million acres to 11 states to assist railroad construction

  1. Innovations in Communications and Journalism

  • Railroads were an important innovation in communications, mainly the magnetic telegraph

  • Telegraph lines extended along the tracks, connecting one station w/ another

- Aided the scheduling and routing of trains

  • Telegraph permitted instant communication between distant cities, tying the nation together

  • Telegraph burst into American life in 1844, thanks to Samuel F. B. Morse

  • Morse telegraph system seemed the ideal answer to the problems of long-distance communications

  • By 1860, more than 50,000 miles of wire connected parts of the country

  • In the long run journalism would become a unifying factor in American life

- However, in the 1840s and 50s it helped feed sectional discord

- South was inferior to North in regards to telegraph lines, newspapers & RR lines



- Contributed to growing awareness w/in each section of deep differences between North and South

  1. Commerce and Industry

    1. The Expansion of Business, 1820-1840

  • Important change in retail distribution of goods, which was increasingly systematic and efficient

  • Individuals or limited partnership continued to operate most businesses

  • Corporations developed rapidly in the 1830’s (thanks to Marshall’s ruling in Dartmouth v. Woodward)

- Permitted system of limited liability which made possible much greater amounts of capital

  • Ambitious businesses relied heavily on credit and their borrowing created dangerous instability

  • Banks issued large quantities of bank notes-unofficial currency that was of much less stable value

  • Some banks issued so many notes that their own reserves could not even cover them

- As a result, bank failures were frequent, and bank deposits were often insecure

    1. The Emergence of the Factory

  • Most profound economic development in mid 19th century America was the rise of the factory

  • Biggest problem for early factories (1820s) was labor shortage

  • Labor systems: immigrant, family & child labor

  • Working conditions deteriorated from 1800-50 due to immigrant labor

  • First change came in NE textile industry bringing operations together under a single roof

  • For the first time, the value of manufactured goods was nearly equal to that of agricultural products

  • By 1860, the NE produced more than 2/3 of the nation’s manufactured goods

    1. Advances in Technology

  • Interchangeable parts, which Eli Whitney introduced into gun factories, revolutionized industry

  • Watch & clock making, locomotives & steam engines and farm tools

- Made possible new devices - bicycles, typewriters, cash registers, and eventually the automobile

  • Alternative forms of energy – wood, coal and (later) petroleum replaced water

  • US industry passed up Europe during the 1840s and 1850s due to technology

    1. Innovations in Corporate Organization

  • NY, Philadelphia, and Boston, influential mercantile groups operated shipping lines to southern ports

- Carried cotton, rice, and sugar to the ports of Europe and Asia

  • In middle of 19th century, British competitors were stealing Americans export trade

- Merchants discovered that were greater opportunities for profit in manufacturing than in trade

  • By 1840s, corporate organizations were spreading rapidly, particularly in the textile industry

  • Industrial capitalists soon became the new ruling class of the NE

  1. Men and Women at Work

    1. Recruiting a Native Work force

  • 90% of the American people in the 1820s still lived and worked on farms

  • Many urban residents were skilled artisans and they were not likely to flock to factory jobs

  • The opening of farmlands in the Midwest, improvement of transportation systems, development of new farm land machinery- all combined to increase food production dramatically

  • In the NE, rural people left their land to work in the factories

  • One recruitment system brought whole families from the farm to the mill

  • “Lowell System” relied heavily on young unmarried women

- In Europe, women’s conditions in the work place were horrifyingly bad

  • Lowell workers lived in clean boarding houses and dormitories, which the factory owners maintained

- They were well fed and carefully supervised

  • Many women suffered from severe loneliness or disorientation

  • Lowell System did not survive for long due to the competitive textile market in the 1830s and 1840s

  • Textile manufacturers turned to a less contentious labor supply: immigrants

    1. The Immigrant Work Force

  • Most workers had no marketable skills & faced native prejudice against them; they received low wages

- They generally did not earn enough to support their families in even minimal comfort

  • Irish workers accelerated deterioration of working conditions; miserable neighborhoods emerged in NE

  • Factories were becoming large, noisy, unsanitary, and often dangerous to work

  • Average work day went from 12 to 14 hours a day and wages were declining

- Even skilled male workers could hope to earn only $4 to $10 a day

    1. The Factory System and the Artisan Tradition

  • Mill workers suffered from the transition to modern factory system

  • Also, the skilled artisan whose trades the factories were displacing

  • With the widening of markets, economies of cities were interconnected, so workers soon realized the advantages in joining forces and established national unions or federations of local ones

  • During the 1820s-1830s, craft societies began to set up central organizations known as trade unions

  • The early craft union movement fared poorly

    1. Fighting for Control

  • NH and PA passed ten-hour laws, limiting the work day unless workers agreed to an “express contract”

  • Commonwealth v. Hunt declared unions lawful organizations and the strike was a lawful weapon

  • Women established their own protective unions (1850s); females had little power w/ employers

  • Ethnic divisions & tensions and the strength of industrial capitalists divided America’s working class

  1. Patterns of Industrial Society

    1. The Rich and the Poor

- Among the American people in 1860, 5% possessed more than 50% of the wealth

  • Merchants & industrialists accumulated fortunes and a distinctive culture of wealth emerged

  • The urban poor were often homeless, dependent on charity or crime for survival

- Substantial numbers of people actually starved to death or died of exposure

  • The worst victims were free blacks; life was not much better in the North than it had been in slavery

    1. Social Mobility

  • Opportunities for social mobility, working up the economic ladder, were relatively modest

  • Geographic mobility was considerable due to a huge expanse of uncultivated land in the West

  • Politics was another “safety valve” for white male workers; the ballot helped guide their society

    1. Middle-Class Life

  • Expansion of the middle class was a result of the growth of the industrial economy and the increasing commercial life that accompanied it

- Middle-class families lived in solid and substantial homes

  • New household inventions greatly improved the character of life in the middle-class homes

- Most important was the cast iron stove – used for cooking and an important source of heat

  • Homes were decorated and furnished, w/ goods available through factory production of household goods

- Some has separate bedrooms; some had indoor plumbing and indoor toilets by the 1850s

    1. The Changing Family

  • New industrializing society produced profound changes; movement of families from farms to urban areas and the shift from income-earning work from the home into the shop, mill or factory

  • In the NW, agricultural work became more commercialized; farm owners relied less on families

  • Sharp distinctions emerged between the public world of workplace and private world of the family

  • The changing economic function of the family led to a decline in birth rates: 1800 – 7 kids / 1860 – 5

    1. Women and the “Cult of Domesticity”

  • Women were encouraged to attend elementary school, but were discouraged to pursue higher education

- Oberlin College in Ohio was the first to accept female students

  • Occupying their own “separate sphere” women developed a distinctive female culture; they developed friendships, formed their own social networks and distinctive feminine literature emerged

  • “Cult of domesticity” allowed women to live in material comfort, placed high value on “female virtues” and on their roles as mothers and wives. Conversely, it left women detached w/ fewer outlets

    1. Leisure Activities

  • Men gravitated to taverns for drinking, talking and game playing; women gathered in homes for conversations, card games, or share work on household tasks as sewing

  • Educated people and women preferred reading: created a new genre, the “sentimental novel”

  • In cities, theaters and minstrel shows became increasingly popular; sporting events attracted crowds

  • P.T. Barnum opened the American Museum in New York in 1870s – a great freak show

  1. The Agricultural North

    1. Northeastern Agriculture

  • Agriculture in the region remained important part of economy, but it was becoming less important

- Due to agriculture of the NW and industrial growth of the NE; rural population of NE declined

    1. The Old Northwest

  • Flourishing industrial and commercial area along shores of Lake Erie, w/ Cleveland at its center

  • Industrialization, in the US and Europe, provided the greatest boost to agricultural prosperity

  • Strong economic relationship emerged between the NE and NW; increased the isolation of the South

  • New agricultural techniques – most important were improved tools and farm machines

  • Two new machines began the revolution in grain production, the automatic reaper & the thresher

- Both invented by Cyrus H. McCormick of Virginia

  • The thresher was used to separate the grain from the wheat, and the reaper was used to harvest it

  • Lincoln eloquently stated, “…When one starts poor, as most do in the race of life, free society is such that he knows he can better his condition…there is no fixed condition of labor for his whole life”

C. Rural Life

  • Religion drew farm communities together more than any other force

- Shared common ethnic and religious backgrounds

- Churches were popular for services and social events – mostly dominated by women



  • Rural people treasured their links to the outside world – letters, newspapers & magazines and catalogs

  • Many valued their separation from outside world and cherished relative autonomy of farm life


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