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Lone Star College-Kingwood Library

American Cultural History

1800 - 1810




  • Art & Architecture
  • Business and the Economy 
  • Books and Literature 
  • Migration & Immigration 
  • Education 
  • News and Events 
  • Music and Theater 
  • Pastimes 
  • Science and Technology
  • Social Movements 
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  • Presidents: Thomas Jefferson, James Madison | Population: 5,308,483 | Statehood: Ohio

    About the 19th Century Decades Pages

     In 1800, everyday life had changed little since the year 1000. By 1900, the Industrial Revolution had transformed the world's economy. To see the whole picture, we encourage users to browse all the way through these decades. Then visit the suggested links for more information.   As librarians, we must point out that the best way to immerse oneself in a topic is to use both Internet and library. ENJOY!

    The 1800-1810s 

    It's difficult to imagine that in 1800 American independence was only 25 years old | The capital moved from Philadelphia to Washington | Aaron Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in the famous duel | West Point established  |  Louisiana purchased  |  Money from many countries circulated throughout America  |  80% of Americans worked on a farm  |  Boarding houses and tenements were popular in the cities, and one room log cabins in the country |  Travel from Charleston to Philadelphia took 15 days by stage | The importation of slaves to the United States was banned | Johnny Appleseed arrived in the Ohio Valley with seeds from Philadelphia | Robert Fulton's paddle steamer navigated the Hudson River.


    Charles Bulfinch (1763-1844), American architect, worked in the Federal style. Born in Boston and educated at Harvard University, Bulfinch was influenced by British architect Christopher Wren. Bulfinch's most important design was The Massachusetts State House. Benjamin Latrobe, a British architect who migrated to the US, designed the Bank of Pennsylvania, the first in Greek revival style in America. This style became very important from 1820 to 1860. Pierre Charles L'Enfant worked with Thomas Jefferson in the planning of the city of Washington, D.C. Neoclassical and Federal styles dominated the early republic. Architects of this period were generally amateurs.

    Early 19th century American furniture  included Sheraton and Directoire styles, classical yet simple. Duncan Phyfe of NYC turned out fine examples of furniture. The broad name for American furniture of these styles was Federal.   This furniture is extremely valuable today. During this decade Paul Revere continued to create silver and, in 1804, he created a coppermill - and crafted his beautiful church bells!

    American artists would have come to a sad end if it had not been for the commissions of the wealthy. There was widespread demand for portraiture. Gilbert Stuart was one of the most successful and prolific of the portrait artists. Stuart studied under another important period artist, Benjamin West, who also painted historical and religious subjects. Generally considered the finest painter of colonial America, John Singleton Copley painted portraits and historical subjects. Joshua Johnson was the first known African American portrait painter in the United States. The American Academy of the Fine Arts in New York was the first major American art academy, established in 1802. Charles Willson Peale (the patriarch of a large family of artists) founded the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia in 1805.


    At the beginning of the century, America was overwhelmingly rural, importing many needed items from Europe. After the American Revolution, American merchants went from exporting 75 percent of goods to England and her colonies to exporting only 10 percent of American goods to those same markets. Congress had initially not been given power to impose taxes.  In 1787, a Congressional meeting in Philadelphia gave Congress the sole power to tax imports, regulate international trade and trade between the states, and forbade the states from repudiating debts, voiding contracts, coining money or issuing paper money, giving the federal government power to make commercial policy for the entire country. When the British and French continued to threaten American commerce, President Jefferson and Secretary of State Madison responded with the Embargo of 1807 banning American trade with foreign nations.  This embargo was a failure, but it did have one important result. Americans were forced to begin manufacturing goods they could not import. Woonsocket, Rhode Island and Lowell, Massachusetts were early John Jacob Astor settings for factories and the resulting industrialization was the start of major U.S. economic development.

    In 1800 a movement to reduce the influence of the Bank of the United States (which had opened in 1791) resulted in the creation of state banks throughout the country.  There were 29 of these state chartered banks at the beginning of the century. In April of 1801, Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin submitted a report to Congress, calling for the federal government to build better roads and canals. Gallatin succeeded in establishing a standing committee on finance for the federal government.  This eventually became the House Ways and Means Committee. In1802, Eluethère Irénée du Pont started a powder mill on Brandywine Creek in southern Pennsylvania; within ten years it became the largest industrial business in the nation. The Intercourse Act of 1802 was established to try to regulate the trade of whiskey for furs and land from Native Americans. The government instituted trading posts which were supposed to fairly regulate the trade and act as outposts for civilization but failed to meet these goals.

    In 1803 the Louisiana Territory was purchased from France for $15 million dollars. The price works out to three cents per acre for the 512 million acres.  American growers supplied 45 percent of exported cotton sent to England. Congress passed legislation ending the importation of slaves in 1807. By the time of the Civil War, most slaves were native-born. The law took effect in 1808.  In 1808 John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company created the first American monopoly on fur trade in the U.S. territories. In March of 1809, The Non-Intercourse Act replaced the Embargo Act and opened American shipping to all nations except France and England.


    John McRae, Father, I Can Not Tell a Lie; I Cut the Cherry Tree. Art by G.G. White.  At Library of Congress was established in 1800 with a $50,000 appropriation to purchase 900 books and maps that arrived from London in eleven trunks. The novel was just beginning to be popular. William Hill Brown (The Powers of Sympathy) published the first American novel in 1789 and between that time and 1800, there were 350 novels published. Women particularly loved reading. This process improved women's literacy and encouraged them to think for themselves. The Coquette by Hannah Webster Foster, had become the first best-selling novel - just before 1800. Historical writing became popular during this period as well. David Ramsay published The History of the American Revolution and a biography of George Washington. Another biography by Mason Locke Weems which included the famous cherry tree "I can not tell a lie" story glorifying Washington was so popular that it went through 40 editions in 25 years. Many periodicals were published during this period. Authors included William Emerson, father of poet and essayist Ralph Waldo Emerson, born 1803 and Washington Irving. What did children read during this time? Well, Noah Webster published the American Spelling Book around 1800.

    It is surely not high literature, but this poem was dropped on the doorstep of Aaron Burr on the morning of July 11, 1804, after he killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel:

    Oh Burr, oh Burr, what has thou done,
    Thou hast shooted dead great Hamilton!
    You hid behind a bunch of thistle,
    You shooted him dead with a great boss pistol!

    Great Collection of 19th Century Literature

    Migration & Immigration

    Scotch Irish PioneersIn 1800 the young nation's population still clung mainly to the eastern seaboard.  In that year Congress created the Indiana Territory from the western half of the Northwest Territory.  The population of the United States had increased more than 30% since the 1790 census, and these people were pushing into new areas in search of land.  In order to accommodate the new settlers,  the Harrison Land Act established for the first time land offices near the sale lands  in the Northwest Territory.  The Louisiana Purchase of 1803 added nearly a million square miles to the United States, and the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery traversed this new acquisition from 1804 to 1806.  Farmers continued to move into the area between the settled coast and the Mississippi River, displacing the native peoples living there.  For example, the state of Georgia distributed land inhabited by the Creek and Cherokee Indians in seven different land lotteries. In the north Tecumseh and his younger brother, Tenskwatawa, tried to unify the different Indian tribes in the region in order to stop the expansion of the white settlers into western Ohio and Indiana.  The number of immigrants arriving in U. S. ports prior to 1819 is not recorded, but the historian, William J. Bromwell, estimated that from the early 1780's until 1819 250,000 immigrants came to the United States.  The largest group of people to arrive were the Scotch Irish.  A lot of them came as indentured servants, but this method of paying for passage was brought to a halt by the British Passenger Vessels Act of 1803.   Hard times in Europe, however, continued to lure people to the new country.  In the years 1801 and 1802 there may have been as many as 20,000 Irish and Germans who came to the U.S.  The Naturalization Act of 1802 set the requirements for citizenship that are essentially still in effect today.  The Napoleonic Wars in Europe slowed the influx of immigrants after 1803 as the disruption of trade made it extremely difficult to attempt the transatlantic voyage to America.





    In this first decade of the new century, American schools changed little from the schools in the late eighteenth century.  Education was still considered mainly a family or local responsibility, not an obligation of the state.  In the Land Ordinance of 1785, Congress decreed that a section of every township surveyed in the public lands in the western territories be set aside for the maintenance of public schools.  The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 provided land for education in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley regions.  However, neither ordinance was fully implemented.  Some leaders were already calling out for educating the citizenry of the new nation. Thomas Jefferson proclaimed that "If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, it expects what never was and never will be."  He tried three times between 1779 and 1817 to gain approval from the Virginia legislature for his "Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge".  Benjamin Rush and Noah Webster were two more voices of the time advocating an educated populace for the republic.  It would be quite awhile before their ideas would be put into action.  Schooling was conducted in the home or in small, one-room school houses. In more urban areas, Lancasterian methods of teaching might be used, where the more advanced students taught those who were less advanced. The curriculum centered on the "3 r's" along with moral and religious training.  The purpose of learning to read was to be able to read the Bible for oneself.  Dame schools, provided for a fee by women in their homes, taught the alphabet on a "hornbook" .  Sometimes citizens of a local community would band together to hire a teacher to instruct their children.  The teacher, usually a man, would be paid little, often have only a rudimentary education himself, and be boarded at a home in the community.  Washington Irving's Ichabod Crane of headless horseman fame is an example of such a school teacher.  On the isolated farms of the frontier, no formal education was available and the children were taught by their parents, if at all.  Teaching the skills of farming for the boys and homemaking for the girls was considered the main priorityWealthy families hired tutors for their young children and sent the older ones to private schools and then on to college.  Massachusetts led the way in public financing for education.  In 1800 its legislature gave local school districts the power to levy taxes.  In 1805 the New York Free School Society was founded by Mayor DeWitt Clinton for the purpose of establishing "a free school for the education of poor children who do not belong to, or are not provided for, by any religious society." The society had the novel idea of training its teachers and instituted a six to eight week training program for them. Within this decade the first state university, the University of Georgia in Athens, Georgia opened in 1801.  In the same decade Ohio University, the University of Tennessee,  and Miami University of Ohio were founded.



    Education in the 1800's (Massachusetts)


    IN the NEWS

    FLASH! The 1800 presidential election is unique! Thomas Jefferson elected  president on 36th ballot. FLASH! On July 4, 1802,  the United States Military Academy at West Point began training young men to be military officers. FLASH!   Jefferson announces the Louisiana Purchase US doubles in size. FLASH! Meriwether Lewis and William Clark begin exploration of the northwest areas of the Louisiana Purchase. FLASH! Zebulon Pike led another expedition to explore the southwest  region of the Louisiana Purchase (present day New Mexico and Colorado).  FLASH! July 11,1804, Aaron  Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel. FLASH! Thomas Jefferson elected to a second term as president. FLASH! During a war between France and Britain, the Embargo Act  of 1807 stopped ships from entering or leaving American ports.  FLASH! James Madison, the fourth president of the United States, was elected in 1808. FLASH! A man named John Chapman, became important distributing apple seeds throughout the country.  


    In this country founded on freedom of religion, most printed music in the early 1800s was religious in nature, including Amazing Grace and Coronation. Episcopalian Harmony Evangelical Harmony, and Plain Psalmody were typical of the first books printed.  Americans also enjoyed singing old English ballads like Greensleeves and Scottisk folk tunes such as Froggy Went A-Courtin'.  Most country folk used tuneless word books and sang the words to known tunes.  In 1801, in an attempt to make hymn singing easier for Americans, Little & Smith wrote The Easy Instructor, using shape notation  Musical groups such as the Dartmouth Handel Society were formed to sing sacred music. The Harvard College Orchestra, the first orchestra in the United States, began in 1808.  People in the cities and towns could also find amusement in the theater.  Such European classics as Shakespeare and the more popular  Francis Asbury, Circuit Rider melodramas and pantomimes would be performed in cities October through June.  In the summers, the theater companies would tour from town to town.  The first hit was "The Stranger" by Kotzebue, in the John Street Theater in New York City.  Country people, 95% of the population, enjoyed visiting, dancing, music, walking, checkers, chess, horse racing, cock fighting, barn raisings and husking bees.  Settlers, black and white, from up to 100 miles away would gather together for camp meetings, non-denominational religious revivals, for group singing and prayer.  At Cane Ridge, KY in 1801, over 10,000 people gathered to sing hymns and pray from Thursday to Tuesday.  Francis Asbury, the first Methodist circuit rider, stated, "The music was beautiful at 100 yards.  At a mile, it was magnificent."  Pierre Cruzatte, a boatman and translator for the Lewis & Clark Expedition, was an esteemed fiddle player, providing entertainment for the explorers and the Indians they met along the way.  Native Americans considered music magical.  Because their music was not written down until the late 19th century, most of it  is lost.  The slaves brought west African music to America.  Their percussion come from drums, a xylophone called balafo, or often as not, from slapping, clapping or stomping. A stringed instrument called a banza, later known as a banjo, was formed from a calabash or gourd.  Singing included shout songs and call and response, often with the words fabricated on the spot.


    In the first decade of the 19th century, Americans dressed, prepared their food and furnished their homes much like they had in the late 18th century.  Women usually wore long flowing skirts, a blouse with a low neckline and a separate half-blouse with a modest high neckline (worn under the low neckline blouse).  Hats and shawls were stylish accessories that were necessary  in cold weather. Shoes were not made for comfort--a shoe could fit either foot!.   Women  prepared food for their families, using simple cooking utensils, from  food they grew in gardens.   Many American homes had furniture that was painted and decorated with French and English designs.


    In 1800 to 1809, Napolean commissioned Robert Fulton, an American artist who was then living in France, to build a submarine.  Using Bushnell's design, Fulton built and successfully tested the submarine, but interest waned as the French decided that such a sneaky attack was ungentlemanly.  Fulton's interest turned to steamboats.   Others had developed steamboats but they moved at barely 4 miles per hour.  The first commercially successful model was Robert Fulton's Clermont.  On August 17-18, 1807, it ran from New York City through Clermont to Albany, New York, a distance of 150 miles, in just 32 hours.  No other form of transportation was as fast at the time.

    In June of 1803, one month after the Louisiana Purchase (use keywords), President Thomas Jefferson commissioned Meriwether Lewis to explore the Missouri River and onward, to find a navigable route to the Pacific Ocean.  Lewis selected his friend, William Clark, to share the command.  On May 14, 1804 the US Corps of Discovery, now known as the Lewis & Clark Expedition, set out from St. Louis with 42 men in a keelboat and two pirogues.  While Clark managed routing and was a skilled mapmaker, Lewis saw to the medical needs of the group and described flora and fauna, including prickly pear cactus and previously unknown animals such as coyotes, rattlesnakes and grizzly bears.  He brought with him smallpox vaccine to innoculate the Indians, but it soon lost it's potency.  At the time, smallpox vaccine consisted of pus from cowpox, saved on cotton string.  They returned on September 23, 1806 with a wealth of information and chests full of biological samples.  One of their men, John Colter, remained and explored Bighorn Basin and Yellowstone Plateau.

    Meanwhile, in July 1806, Zebulon Pike started exploration of northern New Spain and the Great Plains.  He described the Great Plains as a desert unsuitable for agriculture, slowing development of that region.  Many of his observations were made as a prisoner of the Spanish.


    Library of Comgress, LC-USZ62-132466. Engraving by J.C. Buttre Late in the eighteenth century and early in the nineteeth century, the Second Great Awakening began. The first great awakening consisted of religious revivals that had occured during colonial settlements. Similar camp meetings helped promote the Second Great Awakening. The first of these camp meetings took place in July, 1800 at Gasper River Church in Southwestern Kentucky.  More than 10,000 people gathered at the Cane Ridge Camp meeting in Kentucky, 1801, making it the largest and one of the most remarkable of these meetings. These meetings of the second revival movement helped spread the idea of personal salvation.   From saving oneself, it was only a short step to the belief that one could and must save one's neighbors.

    Religious freedom helped create denominations other than the well-established Presbytarian Church.   Congregationalist and Presbytarian churches, which were very strong in New England, met competition from Lutherans, Methodists, Methodist Episcopalians and Baptists. In 1801, Presbytarians and Congregationalists planned to jointly minister as a strategy for evangelizing the West, under a "Plan of Union."

    Nathaniel Taylor and Lyman Beecher, two evangelical Calvinists, believed in a Christian's free will to choose salvation.  Beecher organized revivals with other Protestant leaders, and together they helped organize voluntary associations to promote Christian behavior. In 1798 and 1799, Connecticut and Massachusetts began missionary societies devoted to sending orthodox pastors to frontier areas.  Beecher and other leaders soon found that many of his recruits were women and teachers.  This interesting development allowed wives and daughters to take leadership roles previously denied them.  This began a shift in gender relations.  "Women's participation in the 'benevolent empire' suggested that the legacy of the Revolution applied to them, too" (see the Encyclopedia of American Social History REF HN57.E58).


    E174 .D52   Dictionary of Americn History
    E173 .A793   Annals of America. Vol. 4, 1797-1820
    E169.1 .A47194   American Eras
    E169.1 .E626   Encyclopedia of the United States in the Nineteenth Century


    MLA Style
    Sutton, Bettye, et al. "19th Century: 1800-1809." American Cultural History. Lone Star College-
        Kingwood Library, 2003. Web. 1 Mar. 2011.
    Chicago Style

    Sutton, Bettye, Sue Goodwin, Becky Bradley, Shielda Welling, and Peggy Whitley. "19th Century:
        1800-1809." American Cultural History
    . Lone Star College-Kingwood Library. Last modified
        June 2008.
    APA Style 
    Sutton, B., Goodwin, S., Bradley, B., Welling, S., and Whitley, P. (2008). 19th Century: 1800-1809.
        American Cultural History
    . Lone Star College-Kingwood Library, Kingwood, TX. Retrieved from

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