American Cultural History
19th Century - 1830 - 1839
Presidents: John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson, Martin Van Buren | Population 12,860,702 | Statehood: Arkansas, Michigan.
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 books. That is what WE did. ENJOY!
The 1830 - 1839sLaws were passed giving married women the right to retain their own property | Joseph Smith published the Book of Mormon | Nat Turner's slave revolt failed | and Ralph Waldo Emerson published Nature, the bible of Transcendental philosophy | George Pullman designed the railroad car | Abner Doubleday laid out the first baseball field and the first ballgame was played in Cooperstown and Robin Carver wrote the first American book on baseball | The Whig party was established | Texas won its independance from Mexico | Late in the decade, the United States suffered an economic depression resulting in the closing of businesses and banks | AND, marathon walker E.P. Weston, 70 years old, walked from New York to San Francisco (3,895 miles).
Inspired by the European Romantic movement, the Hudson River school artists continued. These artists, shifting their focus from classical imitations of the 18th century, included Thomas Cole, George Innes, Thomas Doughty, and John Frederick Kensett. They concentrated on painting the natural beauty of the U.S., particularly the Hudson River Valley, the Catskill Mountains, and Niagra Falls. William Prior was one of the many itinerant (traveling) portrait painters. His highly stylized works are referred to today as 'naive' or 'primitive.' Folk paintings and other folk art, many of them anonymous, reveal the crudeness of color and flat surface of the primitive style. Portrait of a Woman and The Buffalo Hunter are examples of this style which continued for several decades. Nathaniel Currier went into the lithograph business with James Merritt Ives, calling the new business Currier and Ives. It was during this period that George Catlin painted the American Indian.
Approximately 8200 American makers created fancy chairs in the Robert Adam, Sheraton, Directoire, and Empire styles. The Washington Monument in Washington, D.C. was begun from plans by Robert Mills. Classic Revival style architecture continued to be built. Greek Revival architecture rose in popularity. Richard Upjohn submitted plans for the rebuilding of Trinity Church in New York. James Renwick (architect of the Smithsonian) began planning the beautiful Grace Church. Andrew Jackson Downing was a leading architect of country house and landscape gardening. His book, Treatise on the Theory and Practice of Landscape Gardening Adapted to North America, became the standard work in its field.
After President Jackson vetoed the recharter of the Second Bank of the United States in 1832 and withdrew federal funds from the Second bank of the United States in 1833, the Era of Free Banking began. From 1836 to 1860, individual "wildcat" banks issued currency not always supported by gold or silver. Land speculation grew as public lands were bought by speculators like John Jacob Astor and William Gilpin with wildcat currency. President Jackson issued the Specie Circular in 1836, demanding that public lands be bought with gold or silver. This decree by Jackson curbed land speculation with questionable bank notes, but also helped destabilize the Western economy. Wildcat banking and land speculation, a fall in the price of cotton and tightening of British credit halted an overheated economy and helped cause the Panic of 1837, a depression which lasted until the mid 1840's.
In 1830, Congress had passed the Indian Removal Act, forcing many tribes to relocate to the Indian Territory in the current state of Oklahoma. Native American tribes suffered economic setbacks as white settlers moved into territories where tribes had long lived, and began to compete for the same natural resources. Many tribal groups traded with white settlers, but as towns and cities grew, these tribal groups were displaced.
Machines such as Cyrus McCormick's mechanical reaper, John Deere's steel-blade plow, and the Pitts brothers' grain thresher, began to reshape American agricultural business. The first nationwide farm journal, The Cultivator, was published in 1834 by Jesse Buel. Cotton, the crop that dominated southern agriculture, relied heavily on slave labor. Southern society stratified around land and slave ownership and the wealth derived from cotton plantations.
In 1833, the New York General Trades Union, the first national labor federation, was organized. In 1834, Irish laborers on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal rioted in protest over terrible working conditions, causing President Jackson to send in Army troops to subdue the protest. In 1836, female workers in Lowell Massachusetts textile mills went on strike to protest their masters, who had been co-workers, becoming non-producing investors. Henry Carey published the first volume of Principles of Political Economy in 1837.
America continued to publish real American works, works with Southern humor, or those that depicted the Indian and the pioneer or described frontier life. We even had our own few tall tale characters. The Mike Fink Tall Tales came to life during this decade. Romantic novels were gaining popularity and we now had several poets of our own - ones who are read today. In the 1830s newspapers flourished and literary journals such as the Princeton Review and the Southern Literary Messenger were established. Writers from earlier in the century continued to write. It was during this decade that Ralph Waldo Emerson published Nature, the Transcendental philosophy 'bible.' Joseph Smith published The Book of Morman. Herman Melville visited the South Seas, which he wrote about in Typee and other books. Shoshone Valley, the last novel of Timothy Flint, was published. Flint had married a Chinese woman, and they lived among the Indians; his depictions of frontier settings, pioneer ways, and scenery are said to be realistic. Other books about Indians were published and one, Nick of the Woods by Robert Montgomery Bird, a melodrama depicting the backwoods of Kentucky, showed the Indian as 'varmint'. This book has gone through more than 25 printings in the U.S.
Wendell Holmes' poem Old
Ironsides (which saved the USS Constitution from being dismantled) was
published in the Boston Daily Advertiser and he continued to publish
light verse throughout his life. The collected poems of William
Cullen Bryant were published by the North
American Review, including favorites like Bee in the Tar Barrel , Catterskill Falls, and Hymn to the North Star. Nathaniel Hawthorne's second book,
Twice Told Tales, an allegory, was extremely popular. Henry
Wadsworth Longfellow published a collection of poems (although he wasn't
famous until 1847 when he published Evangeline.) James
Fenimore Cooper continued writing adventures. Another important romantic
adventure, set in Vermont, was The
Green Mountain Boys (don't miss the wonderful illustrations from the
book) by Daniel
Pierce Thompson. This popular book had 50 printings by 1860.
Godey's Lady's Book (1830-98) was published. Caroline Kirkland wrote
New Home, Who'll Follow? Glimpses of Western Life. Alexis de Tocqueville published Democracy
in America (1831-1835).
Greenleaf Whittier supported abolition and published poems on the topic,
Moral Warfare and The
Slave Ships. The
Liberator, an abolitionist paper was begun, and sensationalism in newspapers
was established firmly with the New
York Sun. The paper sold for 6 cents. The
New York Herald, a penny daily, was begun. Edgar
Allen Poe began his prolific writing career by winning $50 for Ms.
Found in a Bottle. Edward
Bulwer-Lytton published an historical novel, The
Last Days of Pompeii, which was an instant success. Bancroft published
the first volumes of his vast History
of the United States of America (1834 to 1874.)
James Kirke Paulding published his Collected Works, and two popular
romance novels, The Dutchman's Fireside and Westward, Ho! Catharine
Maria Sedgwick was the most popular woman author of the period, publishing
novels set in the northeast, local customs, and simple American life. She
was a pioneer for the domestic novel in America. Novels and books about women
were growing in interest, like Lydia
Maria Child's Appeal
in Favor of that Class of Americans called Africans. Spirit
of the Times published stories and sketches of the southwestern
humorists. Writers of the American South included Augustus
Longstreet who wrote Georgia
Scenes, humorous sketches of southern life. Another Southern favorite
of the Life of David Crockett of the State of Tennessee (1834) by David
Westward Ho! The cry rang out as covered wagons continued to rumble (and bounce) along the trails that led ever farther across the continent. At this time the "West" extended from the Appalachian Mountains to a little beyond the Mississippi River. More land became available in Mississippi as the federal government removed the Choctaw Indians into Indian Territory in 1831. The Ohio and Erie Canal opened in 1833. The National Road reached as far as Vandalia, Illinois before the government halted construction in 1838. All of these events spurred on the movement west before an economic depression brought on by falling cotton prices temporarily halted the expansion of roads and waterways. The first travelers on the Oregon Trail, Marcus and Narcissa Whitman, made their journey in 1836. However, it was in the next decade that most of the pioneers made the trek on this trail. Life for the new settler was not easy. First the land had to be cleared of trees in order to plant crops and build homes. The major crop for most was corn or, in the South, cotton. Isolation forced the settlers to be self-sufficient in their social, cultural, and culinary needs. Despite the hardships, many chose to seek a more independent lifestyle on the fertile land of the frontier.
The number of people coming to the United States in the 1830s was 599,000, four times as many as came in the 1820's, as Europeans were lured by the prospect of cheap and fertile land. The largest groups continued to be the Germans, the Irish, and the British, escaping the political and economic conditions in the Old World. Some religious groups came to America to evade either persecution or the "wicked ways" of their fellow citizens. The Stephanists, who set sail from Bremen, Germany for New Orleans in 1838, are an example. They ended up buying land in Perry County, Missouri. Though the immigrants soon expelled their leader, Martin Stephan, the colony prospered in their new country and stimulated others to follow them. The voyagers to America suffered difficulties and mistreatment and were sometimes the victims of scams and theft. Most traveled on sailing ships that were originally intended as cargo vessels. Their quarters were small and cramped, the food inadequate, and the sanitary conditions unsatisfactory. There were outbreaks of diseases such as cholera which took the lives of many passengers. Many of the immigrants were artisans and craftsmen seeking work in the cities rather than pioneers. They lacked the survival and agricultural skills necessary to tame uncultivated land. They took over already cleared farms from the original owners who had ventured further westward.
The course for "common" or public schools continued to be debated and the status quo defended during the 1830s. The schools of this time were mainly governed and supported by the local community with very little state-wide supervision. Reformers such as Horace Mann, the first Secretary of Education for Massachusetts, and Henry Barnard, first U.S. Commissioner of Education, agitated for more state control of funding and curriculum, better school facilities, and education of all children. McGuffey Readers introduced texts geared to different grade levels. Michigan became the first state to enter the Union that had, written in its constitution, the statement that the government would be responsible for promoting and supervising the public schools. The education of women and African-Americans made some progress. In 1831 the first public coeducational high school opened in Lowell, Massachusetts. In 1833 Oberlin Collegiate Institute in Ohio became the first coeducational college. Prudence Crandall began a two-year struggle in 1832 to run a seminary which included African-American girls among its students. In 1836 Wesleyan Female College in Macon, Georgia, was the institution to first grant college degrees to women. Massachusetts continued to set the pace for educational advancement. In 1837 the legislature required that children receive schooling before working in mills and factories. In 1839 the state established a minimum six-month school year.Institutions for higher education continued to increase. No less than eight new colleges and universities were founded between 1830 and 1839 - University of Alabama (1831); St. Louis University (1832); Wabash College; Tulane University and University of the Ozarks (1834); Illinois College (1835); Bacon College (University of Kentucky), St. Mary's College, and De Pauw University (1837); and the University of Missouri (1839). New York State established People's College, a technical and scientific school for craftsmen. In 1831 Ohio University began a program to prepare students to become school teachers, and in 1838 the first "normal" school, (a teacher's college) was founded in Lexington, Massachusetts. The need for colleges and universities to prepare young people for jobs and careers as well as provide for a classical education was being recognized.
IN THE NEWS!
FLASH! October, 1830. American business corporations come under attack. Referred to as the bastions of entrenched wealth and special privilege. FLASH! February, 1830. Workingmen's Party seeks free public schools for children. FLASH! 1831. Emma Hart Willard, educational innovator, writes 'Rocked in the Cradle of the Deep.' FLASH! August 21, 1831, Southampton County, Va. Insurrection kills 60 whites, 100 negroes. Led by Nat Turner. FLASH! 1836. Davy Crockett, American frontiersman and politician, killed at the Alamo. FLASH! February 25,1836. Samuel Colt patents the revolver he invented in 1833. First firearm that could be used effectively by a man on horseback. FLASH! 1834. Tomatoes, new to the American diet, are considered by many to be poisonous. FLASH! Josephine Amelia Perkins, finally convicted after four pardons due to her sex, has been sentenced to two years imprisonment for horse theft. FLASH! 1835. National debt paid off. FLASH! Slaves headed for Africa find themselves in New York after the Amistad mutiny.
the 1830s, European
musicians such as Henry Russell saw the United States as a market for their talents. Mary Ann Lee and Augusta
Maywood were among the first American ballet
dancers, making their debut together in Maid
in 1837. George
Washington Smith was the only male ballet star of the nineteenth century.
menageries and horse shows toured the country.
Religious music remained popular. The Negro spiritual was a cross between west African music and the religious music the slaves learned from white masters. Although the overseers feared music might lead to insurrection, they allowed work music. Singing was the means of communication for the field slaves. The spirituals sung in the fields, therefore, included double meanings. William Walker's book, The Southern Harmony, published in 1835, included folk hymns, such as "On Jordan's Stormy Banks I Stand" and "Rock of Ages" and used shape notes.
Lowell Mason established the first singing school for children. By 1838, he convinced the Boston school board to include vocal music in the curriculum. "My Faith Looks up to Thee" uses a melody by Mason. Music gradually spread through the country as transportation and communication improved. "America," or "My Country 'Tis of Thee" used new lyrics to the tune, "God Save the King." Woodman, Spare that Tree" was a popular song.
The fashionable magazine for women, Godey's Lady's Book,was first published in 1830. A magazine for men, Burton's Gentleman's Magazine, edited by Edgar Allen Poe, was published from 1837 through 1840. Men and women could learn about the current styles by subscribing to these magazines. Phrenology, a method of determining a person's intellect and personality through bumps in the skull, was considered a science, and reading a skull was a popular party game. Wealthy families began celebrating their children's birthdays with a party. Because water was often polluted and coffee and tea were too expensive, alcohol, especially whiskey, was the primary beverage for Americans of the time. It was considered a curative as well as a medium of trade. As scientists figured out how to trap carbon dioxide in mineral waters, soft drinks became available at pharmacies. Hawaii began growing coffee in 1830.
William Lloyd Garrison, founder of the New England Anti-Slavery Society, launched The Liberator, a weekly newspaper advocating abolitionists to take action. Nat Turner led a revolt in Southhampton County, Virginia, frightening slave holders and strengthening pro-slavery feelings. At the same time, anti-abolitionist groups organized to protest abolition and the integration of freed slaves into American society. Calling for a more immediate end to slavery, Theodore Dwight Weld, a student at the Lane Theological Seminary in Cincinnati in 1834, led a campaign against his seminary's president, Charles Finney, who advocated a less provocative abolitionist style. In 1837, the Philadelphia Female Anti-Slavery Society, devoted to Negro education, was formed by Grace Bustill Douglass. In 1839, Weld published an abolitionist piece, compiled from newspapers and court records, titled American Slavery As It Is. An even greater challenge to the social order came from abolitionists who included African American former slaves Frederick Douglass, Samuel Ringgold Ward, and Lunsford Lane. The American Colonization movement continued to help establish Liberia in western Africa.
Native Americans were pushed out of their historical tribal areas as white settlers moved westward. Cherokees from Georgia were forced into Oklahoma along the Trail of Tears. Gradually displaced and relocated to reservations or Indian territories, these tribes had to find new ways of life. Old ways of making their living were no longer available or practical.
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