Chapter 14: Forging the National Economy 1790-1860

  • People from New England, Middle, and the South all pushed West, joined by European immigrants.
  • New, better forms of transportation
  • Pushed towards market economy

The Westward Movement:

  • The West was the most American part of America
  • By 1840, the demographic center had crossed the Alleghenies
  • Pioneer life was tough and lonely "rugged individualism"

Shaping the Western Landscape:

  • After burning cane off of Kentucky bottomlands, Kentucky bluegrass thrived.
  • Fur-trappers extincted beavers - bison - sea otters also went extinct - "ecological imperialism"
  • America's nature was beautiful - George Catlin proposed the idea of national park - Yellowstone 1872.

The March of Millions:

  • Urban growth - 1860 - New York (metropolis), New Orleans "Queen of the South," Chicago "hog butcher," Cincinnati "Queen City of the West" - many immigrants
  • Sewer system - Boston 1823, NY 1842.
  • Immigration! Irish and Germans. Why? Europe seemed to be running out of room. Letters from previous immigrants inspired new ones.

The Emerald Isle Moves West:

  • Mid-1840s: Irish potato famine - 2 million died
  • Poor Irish immigrants lived in big cities (NY, Boston)
  • Women: kitchen maids, men: built canals and railroads
  • They were discriminated against, conflict with blacks.
  • Some saved up to buy property, many became police officers, some found their place in politics.

The Irish:

  • Famine => Immigration => Big cities => domestic servants or construction laborers
  • Roman Catholics, they were distrusted.
  • Politics - many voted (Democratic party)
  • White-collar government jobs opened up: building inspectors, policemen

The German Forty-Eighters:

  • Uprooted farmers and liberal political refugees.
  • German liberals contributed to American political life.
  • Most had enough money to push west (Wisconsin) and establish farms.
  • Became enemies of slavery during Civil War
  • Drank lots (beer), inspired temperance advocates.

The Germans:

  • Their numbers surpassed those of any other immigrant group
  • Stayed to themselves, didn't settle in cities
  • "Forty-Eighters" - refugees from the democratic revolution of 1848.
  • Some came for religious freedom
  • Amish (Penn, Indiana, Ohio)

Flare-ups of Antiforeignism:

  • Roman Catholicism flooded into America with the immigrants, in 1850, became #1 religion in America.
  • American "nativists" formed "Order of the Star-Spangled Banner" - agitated for restrictions on immigration and naturalization and for laws on authorizing deportation of alien paupers [and not the ones that linger in District 9 ;)]
  • Mass violence - Chatholic convent burned
  • Immigrants need to industrialize economy.

The March of Mechanization:

  • Industrialism was slow to reach America because no one wanted to work in factories when they had the promise of owning land - until immigration in the 1840s
  • Domestic market wasn't large enough to make manufacturing profitable.
  • Britain monopolized machinery and mechanics.

Whitney Ends the Fiber Famine:

  • Samuel Slater "Father of the Factory System" - memorized plans for machinery in Britain and came to the US - 1791 put into operation the first American machinery for spinning cotton into thread
  • Cotton was rare because the handpicking process was labor-intensive
  • Eli Whitney: built cotton gin - crude machine to separate cotton seed from fiber - 50x more effective than by hand
  • Revived need for slaves
  • cotton in the South -> textile factories in the North - both flourished
  • New England industrial center: stony soil discouraged farming, dense population -> labor, seaports -> shipping
  • 1845 Elias Howe invented sewing machine - improved it in Europe w/ Isaac M. Singer

Marvels in Manufacturing:

  • Treaty of Ghent in 1815 hurt American manufacturing - British goods became cheap
  • Tariff of 1816 passed for protection industries
  • Eli Whiteny invented muskets made with interchangable parts in 1798 - basis of assembly lines inf the 1850s.
  • Invention of sewing machine in 1846 boosted northern industralization (redi-made clothing industry) =>inspired more inventions.
  • 1848 - Laws of "free incorporation" - businessmen could create corporations without applying for individual charters from the legislature.
  • Samuel Morse - telegraph. Communication!

Workers and "Wage Slaves":

  • Hours long, wages low, meals skimpy - forbidden to form labor unions
  • 1/2 the workers are children
  • Allowed to vote - Jacksonian Democrats
  • Martin van Buren brought it down to 10-hour days -1840
  • 1842 Commonwealth vs. Hunt - labor unions were not illegal conspiracies if their methods were "honorable and peaceful"

Women and the Economy:

  • Women could work in factories => more independence
  • Opportunities for women to economically slef-supporting scarce: nursing, domestic service, teaching!
  • Working women mostly single.
  • Women chose to have fewer children "domestic feminism" - growing power and independence of women
  • New "rod-sparing" forms of discipline

Western Farmers Reap a Revolution in the Fields:

  • Ohio - Indiana - Illinois - nation's breadbasket
  • John Deere -1837 produced a steele plow - could be pulled by horses
  • Cyrus McCormick - 1830s - mechanical mower-reaper, single men could do the work of 5.
  • "Cash crop" agriculture came to dominate the West

Highways and Steamboats:

  • Transportation was slow and inefficient
  • Lancaster Turnpike successful - many more built
  • 1811 - Federal government begin to construct National Cumberland Road, Maryland -> Illinois
  • Robert Fulton - steam engine => all streams became 2-way, opened up West and South

"Clinton's Big Ditch" in New York:

  • 1817-1825: Eerie Canal constructed. Linked the Great Lakes with the Hudson River (under leadership of Governer DeWitt clinton)
  • =>Price of potato cut in half, NE farmers left

The Iron Horse:

  • Railroads: fast, reliable, cheaper to construct than canals, didn't freeze in the winter. 1st built in 1828.
  • Dangerous -> sparks could combust haystacks and stuff.

Cables, Clippers, and Pony Riders:

  • 1858 - Cyrus Field stretched cable underwater from Newfoundland to Ireland
  • Clipper ships: long, narrow, sleek - speed! HAuled high-value cargos in record time.
  • Far west: horse-drawn stagecoaches
  • 1860 - The Pony Express - mail from Missouri->California carried by speeding horsemen

The Transport Web Binds the Union:

  • North and south connected economically through trade: canals, steamboats, railroads

The Market Revolution:

  • Subsistence economy -> national network of industry and commerce
  • Home: place of refuge from world of work
  • Prosperity increased, rich-poor gap increased
  • Not much "social mobility"
  • America was the land of opportunity in comparison to the Old World.


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