Lone Star College-Kingwood Library
American Cultural History
19th Century - 1870 - 1879
Presidents: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes | Population: 39,818,449| Statehood: Colorado
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!
Big business moves Americans into the second industrial revolution | American society led by Mrs. J.J. Astor, grand dame of New York social scene | Philanthropy grows | The great fire of Chicago | P.T. Barnum's The Greatest Show on Earth | first public telephones | John D. Rockefeller founds Standard Oil Company | U.S. General Amnesty Act pardons ex-Confederates | First American zoo is established in Philadelphia | Tennis introduced to Americans | Football uniforms introduced.
Painters like John La Farge, William Morris Hunt, and James Abbott McNeill Whistler were influenced by the prominent French schools. George Innes' Home of the Heron, sentimental, romantic, is a good example of the romantic landscapes that lasted through the end of the century. Mary Cassatt is unique in that she was the only American painter to show work in the famed Impressionist exhibitions. John Singer Sargeant, portraitist, also painted in this 'new' style. Realist paintings were also subjects, including Thomas Eakins' Gross Clinic. Winslow Homer, a genre artist, produced a series of paintings of the sea during this decade. Homer also completed his famous The Cotton Pickers. Water color became an honored medium in American art.
The Corcoran Art Gallery was incorporated by an act of Congress. The Society of American Artists was founded to exhibit works of artists not shown by the Academy of Design. John Ruskin (British) influenced architecture with his defence of medieval architecture, his style known as Ruskinian Gothic or Victorian Gothic. (Read Seven Lamps of Architecture.) What is referred to as American glass began with experimentation by John La Farge, a creator of murals (Trinity Church, Boston) and stained glass windows. (Battle Window at Harvard, church windows in Buffalo, Worcester, and Columbia U in New York.) Enjoy the Art Timeline by the New Britain Museum on American Art.
Famous sculptures completed during the period:
Age was in full flourish. Although industrialization was strong, the Grange
organizations helped agriculture retain its place as the largest area of
production in America. In the South, a strong cotton export
economy remained. As factories grew in urban areas, cities grew.
growth. Congress, fearful of government by monied corporations, passed laws like the Railroad
Act, which was passed in Illinois in 1871. This law set maximum shipping
rates and prohibited
railroads from favoring large corporations with low rates. Child labor had
grown partly in response to the Civil War, when adults were away from home.
Child advocates like Charles Loring
Brace began to agitate against the horrible
working conditions of these children, some as young as 4. Wage slavery did
not just affect children. In 1874, Massachusetts
passed a law establishing a 10 hour work day for women. In 1875, 14 members
of the Molly Maguires were
tried for murdering mine owners. New industrial capitalists,
sometimes known as robber
barons, like Andrew
Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller and
controlled much of the nation's wealth and power.
Ideas like Laissez-faire espoused by William Graham Sumner, a prominent social-Darwinist, grew. The Panic of 1873, set off by the collapse of Jay Cooke's Northern Pacific Railroad, set up a depression which lasted for 5 years in America but longer worldwide. New companies such as Remington Typewriters did emerge as businesses changed to fit new industrial methods. In 1870, John D. Rockefeller and associates incorporated the Standard Oil Company, establishing what quickly became the world's largest oil refinery complex. In 1872, Andrew Carnegie built a steel-rail rolling mill named the Edgar Thomson Works. Mail order company Montgomery Ward made the catalog ordering business big in rural areas. Cornelius Vanderbilt built the New York Union Depot in 1873. In 1873, the Colgate Company began marketing dental cream. Joseph F. Glidden patented barbed wire in 1874, transforming western ranching forever. John Dryden founded the Widows and Orphans Friendly Society in 1873, reorganized in 1875 as the Prudential Friendly Society, which provided the first U. S. Industrial insurance. Also in 1875, R. J. Reynolds started a chewing tobacco farm in Winston-Salem, N. Carolina. Henry J. Heinz (tomato ketcup), Albert G. Spalding, (baseballs for major league use) and John Wanamaker (the largest department store - the Grand Depot) all introduced new products which grew into American icons. 1877 Gustavus Swift (meats), and in 1879 Frank W. Woolworth (Great Five Cent store) initiated businesses which still operate today. In 1879, James Gamble developed Ivory Soap, named by Harley Procter.
Animals, coming of age novels, travelogues, and realistic novels depicting life and nature in America continued to find readers. During the 1870s, the first anti-cruelty to animals law was passed. During this decade Anna Sewell (British) wrote Black Beauty, referred to as the most influential anti-cruelty novel of all time. This book had the same impact for animal lovers as Uncle Tom's Cabin had for despisers of slavery. It has been loved by generations of young people. Thomas Bailey Aldrich published The Story of a Bad Boy (see illustration), accounting the story of boyhood without the moralization children's books usually had. Another best seller was Edward Eggleston's The Hoosier Schoolmaster. William Holmes McGuffey published The First Eclectic Reader. Bret Harte documented the westward movement with his tales of gold mines, western life, Indians, and differences in cultures. His poem Plain Language from Truthful James earned him a national reputation. His short stories, including The Luck of Roaring Camp, are studies on what it means to be civilized. The Silent Partner by Elizabeth Stuart Phelps described the horrific factory conditions. This book is a first in "boundary crossing", describing the differences in male and female management styles. William Dean Howell's first novel, Their Wedding Journey, was a combination travelogue and book of manners. Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Henry James' The American and Daisy Miller were popular. Edward Payson Roe wrote a novel based on the Chicago fire, Barrier's Burned Away. Mark Twain continued his 'travelogue fictions.'
An important reference annual, Dictionary of American Biography, was introduced in 1870. Poets John Burroughs (Catskill archive), Ralph Waldo Emerson, Oliver Wendell Holmes. New journals this decade included Scribner's Monthly, which gave preference to American authors.
The 1870's saw increasing belligerence by Native Americans as more and more of their land was taken away by white migration. Now settlers were coming not only from the east but from the populated areas of the west and southwest. When gold was discovered in 1874 in the Black Hills of South Dakota, federal efforts to keep miners off the sacred Indian land failed. The Indian's main source of livelihood, the buffalo, was being hunted to extinction. The buffalo which had numbered four million in 1870 were reduced to only a half million in 1874. The Native American way of life was disappearing and their efforts to protect and preserve their lands failed. There were victories for them such as the Battle of Little Big Horn, but the outcome was inevitable. The Indian Wars were essentially over with the surrender of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce on October 5, 1877. The coming of the railroads had only hastened the demise. The federal government was making some attempt to preserve the disappearing wilderness with the establishment of the first national park - Yellowstone.
IN THE NEWS
FLASH! Standard Oil Company founded by John D. Rockefeller. FLASH! Oct 8, 1871. Mrs. O'Leary's cow kicks over lantern. Chicago nearly burned to the ground. FLASH! 1873. Yellow fever, cholera, and smallpox sweep through many southern cities. FLASH! Bellevue Hospital in NYC starts nursing education institution, based on the teaching theories of Florence Nightingale. FLASH! Three ring circus begun by Phineas T. Barnum. FLASH! Nov. 23, 1875. First National Railroad Convention held in St. Louis. FLASH! Custer and 265 men slaughtered by Sitting Bull's Sioux Indians at Little Big Horn. FLASH! Dewey Decimal System originated by Melvil Dewey.
The art of figure skating (a combination of ice skating
and dance) was developed by Jackson Haines. A duplex wedding
was a ceremony for two couples who were being married during one ceremony.
People attending the wedding would wear their most fashionable clothing. Food
preparation was going through changes. Margarine was
developed to be used in place of butter. To add spice, Tabasco Pepper Sauce
could be added to foods. P. T. Barnum opened his “Greatest
Show on Earth” in 1871 in Brooklyn. The circus became
a popular family show. Central Park became a place for rides and other conssessions. Women formed social groups to do china painting. Bicycle riding became more popular with the ordinary or highwheeler cycle and later the safety cycle. Rowing or sculling, a sport brought over from England was popular at universities like Yale, Harvard and Brown. Families travelled to resorts, just to enjoy new found leisure time. In 1876, James Gordon Bennett, a noted American publisher, introduced the sport of polo to New York City.
The new field of bacteriology allowed scientists to attack diseases once thought to be unconquerable.
The Marine Hospital
Service, forerunner of the Public Health Service, was directed to prevent
the spread of infectious diseases in 1878. The American Public Health
Association presumed that diseases such as cholera were caused by miasma
or filth and persuaded cities to clean
up garbage, horse droppings and human waste. While they may have misjudged
the cause of diseases, their efforts paid off by removing the breeding grounds
for infectious organisms. A yellow fever epidemic began
in New Orleans and worked its way up the Mississippi on the Emily B Souder, a steamboat. Memphis was one of the hardest
Patent medicines abounded, sold through medicine shows and in newspaper ads. One of the most popular was Mrs. Pinkhams, an amalgamation of vegetable extracts and alcohol. Others might be created of lead, lard, or lime, often dissolved in alcohol. The first nursing school, Bellevue, was established in 1873, and in 1875, Andrew T. Still established the new medical field of osteopathy.
In 1870, Foot and Mouth Disease was first reported in the United States. A grasshopper plague of 1874-1866 lead to the establishment of the United States Entomological Commission. But the development that had the most long-lasting affect on ranching was the invention of barbed wire in 1873 by J. F. Glidden. No longer were all cattle free-ranging. The Lincoln County War was begun when cattlemen joined forces against each other to supply beef to the army. Sheep could compete with cattle for grassland. The first American zoo was established in Philadelphia. Using the telegraph for communication and the observation that storm systems moved in a certain pattern, the first US Weather Service began its predictions.
In 1879 Thomas Edison, with the help of a mathematical physicist, Francis R. Upton, designed the first practical lamp. Although others were working on lighting in the 1870's, Edison's brilliance was to work on a lighting system. He went on to develop an electric power system, the Edison Electric Light Company. Americans remained practical scientists, emphasizing inventions over theory. The decade saw the invention of the telephone, phonograph, cable car and cash register. James B. Eads developed the 3-arch Eads Bridge in St. Louis as a means of getting the railroads over the Mississippi River. This bridge, built to a height of 50 feet above the river, required steamboats to lower their smokestacks, a symbol of their lowering importance in transportation of goods. The Centennial Exhibition of Philadelphia in 1876 introduced George Corliss's engine that powered Machinery Hall and John Roebling's stone bridge tower that illustrated the Brooklyn Bridge, a work of art as well as a great step forward in structural integrity.
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