Chapter 9

Chapter 9
The Transformation of American
Society, 1815-1840
• Economic and social changes that took place in the
United States between 1815 and 1840
• 1.) What caused the upsurge of westward migration
after the War of 1812?
• 2.) How did the rise of the market economy affect
where Americans lived and how they made their
• 3.) What caused the rise of industrialization?
• 4.) What caused urban poverty in this period?
Western Expansion
• The Sweep West
– By 1821 the following states were added
• VT, KY, TN, OH, LA, IN, MS, IL, AL, ME, MO
– Between 1790 and 1820
• Pioneer families clustered near the navigable rivers
– 1820’s and 1830’s
• With the development of canals and railroads, families could
afford to fan out
– Tended to settle near others who had come from the same
region back east
– Settled mostly between the Appalachian Mountains and
the Mississippi River
Western Society and Customs
• Before 1830, life was crude and difficult
• Easterners often looked down on westerners’
lack of refinement
• Westerners in turn resented eastern
pretensions to gentility
The Far West
• Adventurous pioneers traveled across the
• Fur-trading and animal trapping
• “mountain men”
The Federal Government and the
• Midwestern settlement was encourage by:
Ordinance of 1785
Northwest Ordinance
Louisiana Purchase
Transcontinental Treaty of 1819
Land warrants given to War of 1812 veterans
Extension of the National Road into IL by 1838
Removal and declining strength of the Native Americans
(by 1820 were no longer receiving Spanish and British aid)
The Removal of the Indians
• By the 1820’s, the Cherokees, Creeks, Choctaws, and
Seminoles of the South were under heavy pressure
to cede their lands to whites
• The Indian Removal Act
– 1830
– Andrew Jackson
– Granted the president the power to move all Native
American west of the Mississippi River
– Could use force if necessary
The Removal of the Indians (cont.)
• The Creeks in GA and AL had already started
to migrate by that point
– In 1836, the remainder were forced out
• The Choctaws and Chickasaws suffered a
similar fate
• After losing a war of resistance that lasted
from 1835 to 1842, most Seminoles also were
expelled from FL
The Removal of the Indians (cont.)
• The Cherokees (the most assimilated of the Indians)
appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for protection
• Chief Justice John Marshall ruled in their favor
• President Jackson ignored the court
• Compelled the tribe to cede its land
• Travel the “Trail of Tears” westward
– 4,000 Cherokees died on the trip
– 1838-1839
Trail of Tears
The Removal of the Indians (cont.)
• Black Hawk War
– 1832
– The Sac and Fox attempted to keep their lands
– Native Americans lost
• Sac, Fox and other Midwest and Northeast
Indians also had to move west of the
The Agricultural Boom
• Growth of the population in the old Northwest
– The removal of the Indians
– the high prices and escalating demand for wheat and corn
• Growth of the population in the old Southwest
– 1793=Eli Whitney’s cotton gin
– Boundless need of the British textile industry for raw
The Agricultural Boom (cont.)
• After the War of 1812
– Southeasterners poured into AL and MS
– Drove up land prices
– Tripled the nation’s cotton production
• By 1836, cotton accounted for 2/3’s of
America’s foreign exports
The Growth of the Market
• Introduction
– High crop prices after the War of 1812 tempted more
farmers than ever before to switch from subsistence to
commercial agriculture.
– Commercial agriculture opened new opportunities for
western farmers
– It also exposed them to greater risks
• Many had to borrow $$$$ to buy land and to survive until they
could sell their first crops
• Once in debt, the commercial farmers were particularly vulnerable
because they had no control over fluctuations in price, supply, and
demand in world markets
Federal Land Policy
• Jeffersonian Republicans introduced land policies
aimed at a speedy transfer of the public domain to
small farmers
• Between 1800 and 1820
– The govt. cut the minimum price per acre and the
minimum # of acres that could be purchased
– Most govt. land was sold at auction
– Speculators often bid the price up far above the minimum
• Speculators believed that the price of land would soon shoot up in
– The easy availability of credit encouraged this speculation
The Speculator and the Squatter
• Many poor settlers who did not have the money to
buy at auction simply squatted on govt. land
• They exerted mounting pressure on Congress to
grant them preemption rights over speculators
• They won their demand in 1841
• Squatters quickly turned to commercial agriculture
• They wanted to accumulate the cash to buy their
• Many western farmers, after exhausting the soil’s
fertility growing cash crops, simply moved on to new
The Panic of 1819
• The land boom soon collapsed and crop and
western land prices plummeted
• Many speculators were ruined in the panic
and depression of 1819
• National Bank tightened credit and called in
the notes of the overextended western banks
(many of which failed)
The Panic of 1819 (cont.)
• The hard times experienced by agriculture and
industry had long-term effects
– Many westerners hated the National Bank
• Blamed it for the crisis
– Western farmers intensified their search for
internal improvements that would cut
transportation expenses for shipping their product
to market
The Transportation Revolution:
Steamboats, Canals, and Railroads
• Before 1820, available transportation facilities were
• Existing roads were adequate for transporting
people, but moving bulky loads over them by horsedrawn wagons was slow and costly
• Robert Fulton’s steamboat
– Allowed the great rivers west of the Appalachian
Mountains that flowed north to south became two-way
streets for commerce
– By 1855, 727 steamboats were providing regular ferry
service on all the western rivers
Steamboats, Canals, and Railroads
• Rivers did NOT always exist where they were most
needed for trade
• Americans began to build canals in 1820’s
• Erie Canal
– 1817 to 1825 it was built
– State of New York constructed it
– Connected Albany on the Hudson River with Buffalo on
Lake Erie
– Lowered freight rates to a fraction of what they had been
– Made NYC a leading outlet for Midwestern production
Erie Canal
Steamboats, Canals, and Railroads
• The Erie Canal’s success encouraged dozens of
other state-supported projects
• The canal-building boom deflated with the
depression of the late 1830’s
• Railroads
– By 1840 some 3,000 miles of railroad track had
been laid
– trains were beginning to supplement and compete
with canal shipping
The Growth of Cities
• This transportation revolution stimulated the
development of towns and cities
• River port cities (steamboat)
– Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Louisville, St. Louis, New Orleans
• Lake port cities (canals)
– Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee
• The period from 1820 to 1860 saw the most rapid
urbanization in American history
Industrial Beginnings
• Introduction
– Early industrialization stimulated urbanization
– The first cotton mill in the U.S.A. opened in
Pawtucket, RI
• Skilled mechanic Samuel Slater managed to sneak out
of Britain and arrived in America with his ability to
reproduce Richard Arkwright’s spinning frame
• Slater’s 1st mill opened in 1790
– Soon joined by many other manufacturing textiles
and shoes
Introduction (cont.)
• The rapidity of industrialization varied from
region to region
– New England leading the way
– The South lagged far behind
• Planters preferred to put their capital in land and slaves
Introduction (cont.)
• Industrialization began to change people’s
– Forced workers to regulate their labor by the clock
and pace of the machine
– Downgraded the position of skilled artisans
– Cheaper machine-made products were available
in greater profusion to working-class Americans
Causes of Industrialization
• Embargo Act of 1807
– Induced merchants barred from foreign trade to
divert their capital to founding factories
• After the War of 1812=fledgling industries
received protection from high tariffs
– Especially in the 1820’s
• Transportation improvements opened distant
markets to manufactures
Causes of Industrialization (cont.)
• Relatively high wages paid to American
– Made employers eager to adopt laborsaving
– Eli Whitney’s interchangeable parts
– Other new technology
Textile Towns in New England
• New England was the 1st region to industrialize
– Its merchants were particularly hard hit by foreign trade
– It had swift-flowing rivers for waterpower
– It had excess female farm population for labor
• Textile manufacturing became its leading industry
• The Waltham and Lowell mills in MA were the first to
concentrate on total cloth production within the
Textile Towns in New England
Textile Towns in New England
Textile Towns in New England
• Originally 80% of the mill operatives were
unmarried young women
– Lived in company housing under the strict
supervision of management
– During the 1830’s, these Lowell women staged 2
of the largest strikes in American history to that
date. (1834 and 1836)
Artisans and Workers in MidAtlantic Cities
Lowell “girls”
Artisans and Workers in MidAtlantic Cities
New York City and Philadelphia
Shoes, saddles, clothing
Done in small shops as well as factories
Much of the work was still done by hand rather than
by machine
• But increasingly production was subdivided into
small specialized tasks
– Done by low-paid, semiskilled or unskilled laborers (often
Artisans and Workers in MidAtlantic Cities (cont.)
• This resulted in a declining importance for
skilled artisans
– in protest in the late 1820’s, formed trade unions
and “workingmen’s” political parties
Equality and Inequality
• Urban Inequality: The Rich and the Poor
– The gap between the rich and the poor grew during the 1st
half of the 19th century
– The extremes were especially obvious in the cities
• Mansions of the wealthy line the fashionable avenues
• The poor crowded into noxious slums like New York’s Five Points
– 1833 in Boston=the richest 4% of the population owned
almost 60% of the land
Urban Inequality: The Rich and the
Poor (cont.)
• Contrary to the self-made man, rages-toriches myth, 90% of the very wealthy had
started out with considerable means
• At the other end of the scale, cities were
developing a pauperized class consisting of
aged and infirm; widows; and destitute Irish
immigrants, whose labor built the Erie and
other canals in the North
Urban Inequality: The Rich and the
Poor (cont.)
• Americans blamed the poor for being poor
• treated most with contempt
– particularly the Irish, for being poor and Catholic
– Free blacks for being poor and black
Free Blacks in the North
• Overwhelming discrimination kept most free blacks
in poverty
• They were generally denied the vote
• Educated in inferior segregated schools (if at all)
• Forced to use separate and unequal facilities
• Kept out of all but the lowest-paying, least skilled
New York’s Five Points District
New York’s Five Points District
Free Blacks in the North (cont.)
• In response to this pervasive discrimination,
northern blacks founded their own churches
– Richard Allen started the first of these
• African Methodist Episcopal Church
• In Philadelphia
• 1816
• By 1822, there were AME congregations all over the
• The black churches engaged in antislavery activities
and ran schools and mutual-aid societies
Free Blacks in the North (cont.)
The “Middling Classes”
• The majority of white Americans were neither rich
nor poor
• Belonged to what was then called the middling
• For most people in that group the standard of living
rose between 1800 and 1860
• Members of the middle class experienced a lot of
• They also exhibited a high degree of transience,
moving from neighborhood to neighborhood, city to
city, and region to region
The Revolution in Social
• The Attack on the Professions
– One sign that economic changes were disrupting
traditional relationships and forms of authority
could be seen in the intense criticism of
professionals (doctors, lawyers, ministers)
between 1820 and 1850
– The denial that professionals had any special
expertise was particularly prevalent on the
The Challenge to Family Authority
• Children became more inclined to question
parental authority
• Young men left home at an earlier age and
struck out on their own
• Young women increasingly made their own
choice of whom to marry or even whether to
Wives and Husbands
• Relations between spouses also were evolving
• Wives continued to be legally subordinate to their
• But under the doctrine of separate spheres, middleclass women were demanding and winning greater
voice in those areas where they were deemed to be
– Exerting moral influence on the family
– Creating within the home a calm refuge from the harsh,
competitive world outside
Wives and Husbands (cont.)
• Middle-class women gained more control over
the frequency of their pregnancies
– The size of white middle-class families declined
• The birthrate remained high among black and
immigrant women
Horizontal Allegiances & the Rise
of Voluntary Associations
• Authority of fathers, husbands, professionals, and
other social “superiors” waned
• New relationships among persons in similar positions
were forged through the proliferation of voluntary
– Temperance and moral-reform societies of white middleclass women, union, and workingmen’s parties and black
fraternal, and other clubs encouraged sociability among
– Also these were attempts to enhance their influence on
outside groups
• After 1815, white Americans’ westward movement
speeded up due to a heightened European demand
for agricultural products
– especially cotton
• Federal govt. policies also hastened western
– Removal of eastern Indians to west of the Mississippi River
– The sale of land on more generous terms
Conclusion (cont.)
• Improved transportation facilitated the
shipment of western farmers’ produce to
eastern and European markets
– Steamboat, canals, railroads
• This transportation revolution encouraged the
growth of cities, commerce, manufacturing,
and industrialization
Conclusion (cont.)
• The economic transformations made some
American wealthy and impoverished others
• Affected social relations within the family and

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