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Kingwood College Library

American Cultural History

19th Century - 1810 - 1819

1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890


Presidents: James Madison, James Monroe | Population: 5,308,483 | Statehood: Louisiana, Indiana, Mississippi, Illinois, Alabama

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 the library.  ENJOY!

The 1810-1819s

During this decade we were once again at war with England, in the War of 1812 | Indians in America's west were warring for their own land | In 1811 Congress ordered a survey to establish accurate distances between towns | Postal rates were established | Trading posts were begun in the west | the first steamboat went on the Ohio River | Frances Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner. | Monroe announced 'The Era of Good Feeling' | People flocked to the exciting cities, creating a high demand for goods of all kinds | Boarding houses sprang up | Capitalism flourished and the working class grew | On the lighter side, a lottery was held in Schenectady with the winning ticket drawing $100,000 | The Connecticut Moral Society was organized to combat 'Sabbath breakers and tippling folks" | Instruction on "painting in velvet' was offered in New York City (not Memphis) | The cost of education at Harvard was $300 a year | In sports, soccer and boxing (bare fisted) became popular in the United States for the first time | Before decade's end, there was a boom and a panic.

Art & Architecture

Gilbert Stuart, artist, 1810 Portraiture, silhouettes, miniatures, engravings, silk embroidery and watercolor, quilts, and oil paintings of American Indians and art depicting historic events continued in importance during this decade. John Trumbull, the leading American artist of the day, was commissioned to execute four large paintings on the American Revolution for the rebuilt capitol (completed during the 1820s.)  John Vanderlyn's works drew on history and important people.  Additional noted artists included William Dunlap, Charles Willson Peale, Rembrandt Peale, and Gilbert Stuart.

Traveling the country SLOWLY, one could see the saltbox home built from colonial times on, the Rotunda at the University of Virginia (architect Thomas Jefferson), plantation houses, shaker style, and Spanish style churches and forts like San Francisco de Asis. Empire furniture, imported from France, was in fashion and featured marble, brass and claw feet.

Business and the Economy

First Bank of the United States http://www.ushistory.org/tour/tour_1bank.htm In 1810, at the age of 16, Cornelius Vanderbilt began operating a ferry service between Staten Island and Manhattan, initiating one of the largest family businesses of the nineteenth century. In April, Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin's report to Congress on manufacturing noted that two-thirds of rural America's clothing and linen was made at home. Cloth mills were becoming larger and more profitable. By May 1, Macon's Bill No.2 temporarily reopened trade with Great Britain and France after the failure of the Embargo of 1807. In June, John Jacob Astor and partners established the Pacific Fur Company to exploit the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest.  80 million pounds of cotton, a leading export in 1811, were produced primarily from the southeastern states. The Embargo of 1807 and the War of 1812 hurt cotton exports to Europe, but the growth of a domestic textile industry in New England began to make up the loss. In 1814, Francis Cabot Lowell and a group of  Boston associates opened a mill in Waltham, Massachusetts, that produced cotton cloth, doing both spinning and weaving in one place. The mill represented a major innovation in factory production and in labor relations, as it set a pattern by employing young women who boarded nearby. Imports from the far east into Western territories became more active. In 1812, A Boston trading firm run by William H. Davis, Nathan Winship, and Jonathan Winship, received a monopoly on Hawaiian sandalwood from King Kamehameha I.

There were 89 state chartered banks in 1811. Until then, the state banking system worked well.  The Bank of the United States functioned informally as a central bank at the heart of a network of state banks and was able to assert control over lending policies. Congress raised taxes on imported goods and issued $5 million in bonds to fund the War of 1812. But with the decision of Congress not to recharter the Bank of the United States in 1811, and the drain on government funds caused by the War of 1812, the American economy became destabilized. By1814, Congress had replaced the expired Non-Intercourse Act with a new system of protective tariffs. The Era of Good Feelings, so called due to the end of Federalism, began in 1815 and mirrored a growth in economic development of the country. An increase in regionalism occured as each region developed an economy based on a different industry. When Congress chartered the Second Bank of the United States in 1816, confusion ended over the federal government's finances. But the recall of paper money which had not been "guaranteed" by the government bank or the state banks caused the Panic of 1819.

Books and Literature

In England, Jane Austen was writing about women, Mary Shelley invented Frankenstein, Keats and Shelley were rhapsodizing, and Coleridge wrote Kubla Khan. These romantic writers influenced Americans and they, too, published romantic poetry and stories. These books were very popular with readers. Two of the most popular American authors of this decade were by Susanna Rowson (the first best-selling American writer), who published Sarah, or The Exemplary Wife and William Wirt, who published The Old Bachelor. William Cullen Bryant published poetry (including To a Waterfowl) and Ralph Waldo Emerson, who is noted for his essays and poetry, started the transcendentalist movement in America, challenging poets to express and transform American cultural beliefs through their poetry. John Howard Payne (a dramatist, who had a romantic friendship with Mary Shelley) published Juvenile Poems.

Historical, political, and writings documenting the new nation continued; Hugh Williamson wrote The History of North Carolina. Josiah Quincy III wrote against the admission of Louisiana or any new states, Isaiah Thomas wrote History of Printing in America, Daniel Webster wrote against conscription (the draft), James Madison wrote for separating the civil and religious functions of the government, many statesmen wrote articles for and against war with England, and David Hosack, M.D. wrote on the progress of medical education. The people of the period were great letter writers, too. Many letters of statesmen have been preserved. (Look at state archives to find them.) James Kirke Paulding, a friend and coworker with Washington Irving (1778-1860), published The Diverting History of John Bull and Brother Jonathan, a satiric account of the founding and rebellion of the American colonies. Washington Irving published Rip van Winkle at the end of the decade.

Migration & Immigration

Northwest Ordanace Two young people made separate journeys to northeastern Ohio in the year 1811. Both Henry Leavitt Ellsworth and Margaret Van Horn Dwight kept journals that recounted the adventures and difficulties on their travels along Forbes Road  from "civilized" Connecticut to the "wild frontier" of the Western Reserve.  Five years later, in a letter to her parents in Connecticut, another young woman, Mary Hosmer, described her new home in Ohio. She lamented that she had seen only one woman since her arrival and that her nearest neighbor was three miles away.  Yet, despite the hardships, pioneers continued toNorthwest territory, 1810 stream into vacant land and filled in much of the Appalachian highlands in this decade.  As the population in the territories increased, more areas were admitted to the Union.  After the Battle of the Thames eased the Indian threat and land offices for the sale of public domain increased to thirty-four by 1820, the old Northwest Territory rapidly filled with pioneers. And, while Indian land holdings still impeded expansion in Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi, the settlements in Tennessee managed to expand through these states to link up with the people in Louisiana.   The United States and Great Britain negotiated the Convention of 1818 that designated the 49th parallel from the Lake of the Woods to the Rocky Mountains as the northern boundary of the Louisiana Purchase and opened the Oregon country for settlement.

About thirty thousand immigrants entered the United States in 1818 alone.  There were some attempts in this decade to establish colonies of particular nationalities in unsettled parts of the country.  In 1817 Congress agreed to sell, on extended credit, four townships on the Tombigbee River in Alabama to the Vine and Olive Colony.  The Frenchmen who came to this still primitive area of the country found it unsuitable for the vineyards they were obligated to grow, and the colony was not successful. Congress looked askance on any more such projects presented to it to foster a separate settlement by a particular nationality. Then Secretary of State John Quincy Adams wrote a letter in 1818 which pretty well summed up the reaction to subsequent initiatives of this sort.  He stated that "the government invited none to come to America, and, while those who did would suffer no disabilities, they would also be offered no special advantages."  The young nation had a love/hate relationship with the new immigrants and was struggling to come up with a policy toward immigration, a struggle that continues into the twenty first century.  




 During the teen years of the nineteenth century the country inched forward in its march to universal public education.  In 1816, the new state of Indiana included in its constitution a directive for the legislature to establish a system of free education for its citizens.  In 1818 the Pennsylvania legislature provided for public schools.  That same year the Boston Town Meeting established primary schools for children under the age of seven.  The Baptist Churches in the city had previously run five schools for the purpose of teaching the city's poor children reading and Christian morality but found they were unable to keep up with the increasing demand for educating these children.  In 1812 the first wood pencils produced in  America were manufactured by a cabinet maker in Concord, Massachusetts.  However, it wasn't until 1900 that the more expensive paper and pencil completely replaced the old slate and chalk, especially in rural schools.

In 1810 the college student ratio to the general population was only one to 1500.  There were the beginnings of advanced education for women as Emma Hart Willard organized the Middleburg Female Seminary in Vermont.  Her essay, "A Plan For Improving Female Education" was influential in promoting the cause of learning for women.  In 1819 Thomas Jefferson was instrumental in the founding of the University of Virginia, an accomplishment of which he was so proud that he instructed that it be engraved on his tombstone.  Also in 1819 the influential Supreme Court decision written by John Marshall, Dartmouth College v. Woodward, ruled that states could not alter contracts, regardless of age, and prohibited the state of New Hampshire from seizing control of the private college of Dartmouth.  Private colleges were thereafter protected from state control.



News and Events

In the News

FLASH! In 1810 there were 7,036,491 people in the United States.  FLASH! People need goods from Europe. American ships sail across the Atlantic Ocean to trade with Europeans.  FLASH! U.S. Congress declares war against the British.   FLASH! British burn the U.S. Capitol and the White House. FLASH!  Francis Scott Key writes the words for the Star-Spangled Banner as he watched the British attack  Ft. McHenry in Baltimore Harbor.  FLASH! Members of the American Colonization Society oppose slavery and work to return freed slaves to Africa.  FLASH! There are now 20 states, and the flag has a star and stripe for each.  FLASH! The first Mardi Gras is celebrated in New Orleans. FLASH! John Lafitte, the pirate becomes an American folk hero because of his actions at the Battle of New Orleans.

Music and Theater

American music of this decade was, for the most part, a reflection of European music.  Popular theater included opera, with old standbys such as Beggars Opera, Love in a Village, and She Stoops to ConquerPiano built by A. Babcock, Boston, 1818.  Picture from memory.loc.gov Dances were an important social outlet, and to provide entertainment,  negro slaves were often taught to play the fiddle.  They would play minuets, reels and jigs for the masters.   In time, the fiddle became part of the negro musical image along with the banjo, tambourine and bones.  The piano was growing in popularity.  Musical societies, performing musical works and oratorios, continued to spring up here and there, including the Handel & Hayden Society of Boston and the Handel Society of Portland.  Musical culture grew slowly.  The Girl I Left Behind Me and Blow the Man Down come from this era.

Bands were formed mainly for military purposes.  These groups of approximately 20 musicians played marches during training to keep the troops marching in step. In battle, they were the primary means of communication.  Until this time, bands had generally been fife and drum corps, but during the War of 1812, buglers were added.  The defiance of Americans is expressed in the song, Ye Parliaments of England. Other wind instruments might also be included off the battlefield.  In 1814, while on a British ship negotiating for the release of a prisoner, Francis Scott Key wrote a poem, The Defense of Fort Henry, which was published in the Baltimore Patriot.  By November, it was put to the tune of an English drinking song, To Anacreon in Heaven, and renamed The Star Spangled Banner.  It wasn't until 1931 that it became our national anthem.  The first black-dialect song to be published in the United States was The Backside of Albany, or The Siege of Plattsburg, in 1815.

Music from 1800-1860

Chemise, muslin, low cut, cool Pastimes - Fads, Fashions, Food, Sports

Fashions in clothing changed considerably during this decade. Ladies had light, low cut muslin dresses, and shorter hair (not piled high). Clothing styles in the first decade of the 19th century were influenced by the fashions in England and Europe. In 1800, the empire style ladies would wear shawls for warmth, but the shawl could also be a fashion accessory.  Hats and caps, decorated with ribbons and feathers were also popular.   Women and children wore a 'promenade dress' for walking, and the lady carried a parasol. By the end of the decade, corsets were worn once again.   Men wore knee-length pantaloons with buckles, silk stockings, and low-cut shoes. They also wore wigs. Long pants became popular later in the decade.

Cup plates, small plates with a center cavity, became the rage. The drinker would perch his cup while sipping from his saucer. These stayed in vogue until the Civil War. American farmers ate huge breakfasts and worked long hours.

A lottery was held at Union College in Schenectady, N.Y. The winner could draw up to $100,000. The Berkshire Cattle Show in Pittsfield, Mass., was a forerunner of the county fair. Card playing (in salons and tea rooms) and craps were popular forms of entertainment. A new mile record in horse racing was set by Timoleon, time: 1:47. Rowing races were popular. The first boxing champion in America was Jacob Hyer. Gambling on bowling had become very popular and was banned from some states. Nine pins, played in Irving's Rip Van Winkle, illustrates its popularity. Families enjoyed vocal performances and double-feature theatrical performances.

Science and Technology

Most medical doctors up to this time learned their profession through apprenticeship.  In 1810, Yale Medical School opened its doors.  Benjamin Rush, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, was the medical guru of the day.  He advocated bloodletting with leeches and purging with calomel.  The stethoscope, a simple wooden tube, came into use in 1819.
Man with leeches, being bled.
The War of 1812 proved to be a munitions nightmare with badly manufactured arms that were hard to repair.  In 1816 Simeon North succeeded in making the firing mechanisms of pistols interchangeable.  When John C. Calhoun became Secretary of War, he revamped  West Point to produce soldier-technologists.  He also promoted the building of roads and canals to prevent "disunion," and West Point graduates were responsible for most of the road building, bridges, and canals for the first half of the century. 

The greatest earthquake in recorded history occurred in the Mississippi Valley in 1811.  Cities were changing. In 1816, Baltimore was the first city to have coal gas street lights.  In 1817, 118 years after it was first suggested by a French engineer, construction was begun on the Erie Canal.  By 1819, a 96 mile stretch from Utica to Rome was navigable.  The Conestoga wagon  moved people westward.  Stephen Long explored the Rocky Mountains, the Mississippi & the Missouri River valleys. The first oceangoing steamship, the Savannah, sailed to Europe in 1819.  When its billowing smokestacks appeared off the coast of Ireland, the British, assuming it was on fire, sent out a rescue boat!

Loom Worried that debased living conditions of factory workers in England would accompany industrialization in the United States, Thomas Jefferson had recommended that workshops remain in EuropeFrancis Cabot Lowell, however, had a new idea, the factory town.  He took the general workings of the cotton mill and improved on it with his chief engineer, Paul Moody.  The Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham, Massachusetts used water power, and all parts of the manufacturing process, cleaning, carding and spinning the cotton and weaving it on power looms, were completed under one roof.  His labor source was innovative for the times; he hired young, unmarried farm girls with the intent of employing them for a short time until they earned enough money for a dowry or to help out their families.  They lived in factory-provided boarding houses.

Social Movements

During the early national period, Americans of different regions, races, classes and genders were moving, traveling, settling and resettling under a government they had voluntarily chosen. They were forced to confront their differences and pool their similarities in ways they had never considered. Five new states were added to the union between 1810 and 1820Federalism gave way to Jeffersonian Republicanism.  New reform societies helped stand guard over a social order whose defenses had been weakened by the faltering federalism and a weakening of state churches. Missionary societies such as the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (1810) and the American Home Missionary Society, brought together, in a national movement, groups of state societies with similar aims.  Other national missionary movements were the American Bible Society (for distributing Bibles), and the American Education Society (for training ministers) in 1816.

At the end of the War of 1812, Britain and the United States agreed in the Treaty of Ghent to cooperate in suppressing the slave trade, but the trade actually expanded as U.S. clipper ships built at Baltimore and Rhode Island ports outsailed ponderous British men-of-war to deliver cargoes of slaves.   Expanding beyond specifically religious activities were groups such as the American Colonization Society, 1817, an early antislavery organization that sought to establish colonies of free blacks in Africa.  These national reform associations came to be known as the benevolent empire. Racial disharmony was not uncommon.  1n 1819, in Philadelphia, three white women stoned a black woman to death. But the abolition movement was growing. In 1819, Representative John W. Taylor of New York asked the Congress to provide that the further introduction of slavery be prohibited from the Arkansas Territory. His motion was defeated, and Arkansas was organized without any restriction on slavery. Controversy over the slave question continued.

Activism in some of the societies of the benevolent empire encouraged women to re-examine their roles in marriage and all of society. Martha Moore Ballard, a midwife in Maine, kept a remarkable diary of everyday life from 1785 to 1812. She documented a woman's perspective on events such as marriage, death, economics, and social customs. Hannah Webster Foster wrote "The Coquette." Judith Sargent Stevens Murray, Susanna Haswell Rowson and Mercy Otis Warren were authors. Mary Bosanquet Fletcher became a deconess in the Methodist church. Women began to be active in auxiliary female antislavery, temperance and suffrage societies. Conventional organizational structures remained; men took leadership roles, heading the state and national societies, while women were expected to raise money to support  lecturers and official newspapers.


MLA Style
Sutton, Bettye, et al. "19th Century: 1810-1819." American Cultural History. Lone Star College-
    Kingwood Library, 2003. Web. 1 May 2011.
Chicago Style

Sutton, Bettye, Sue Goodwin, Becky Bradley, Shielda Welling, and Peggy Whitley. "19th Century:
    1810-1819." American Cultural History
. Lone Star College-Kingwood Library. Last modified
    April 2011. http://wwwappskc.lonestar.edu/popculture/19thcentury1810.htm.
APA Style 
Sutton, B., Goodwin, S., Bradley, B., Welling, S., and Whitley, P. (2011). 19th Century: 1810-1819.
    American Cultural History
. Lone Star College-Kingwood Library, Kingwood, TX. Retrieved from

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