POPULATION. - In the twenty years which had elapsed since 1840 the population of our country had risen to over 31,000,000. In New York alone there were, in 1860, about as many people as lived in the whole United States in 1789.

Not a little of this increase of population was due to the stream of immigrants which had been pouring into the country. From a few thousand in 1820, the number who came each year rose gradually to about 100,000 in the year 1842, and then went down again. But famine in Ireland and hard times in Germany started another great wave of immigration, which rose higher and higher till (1854) more than 400,000 people arrived in one year. Then once more the wave subsided, and in 1861 less than 90,000 came.

NEW STATES AND TERRITORIES. - Though population was still moving westward, few of our countrymen, before the gold craze of 1849, had crossed the Missouri. Those who did, went generally to Oregon, which was organized as a territory in 1848 and admitted into the Union as a state in 1859. By that time California (1850) and Minnesota (1858) had also been admitted, so that the Union in 1860 consisted of thirty-three states and five territories. Eighteen states were free, and fifteen slave-holding. The five territories were New Mexico, Utah, Washington (1853), Kansas, and Nebraska (small map, p. 394).

CITY LIFE. - About one sixth of the population in 1860 lived in cities, of which there were about 140 of 8000 or more people each. Most of them were ugly, dirty, badly built, and poorly governed. The older ones, however, were much improved. The street pump had given way to water works; gas and plumbing were in general use; many cities had uniformed police; [1] but the work of fighting fires was done by volunteer fire departments. Street cars (drawn by horses) now ran in all the chief cities, omnibuses were in general use, and in New York city the great Central Park, the first of its kind in the country, had been laid out. Illustrated magazines, and weekly papers, Sunday newspapers, and trade journals had been established, and in some cities graded schools had been introduced. [2]

SCHOOLS AND COLLEGES. - In the country the district school for boys and girls was gradually being improved. The larger cities of the North now had high schools as well as common schools, and in a few instances separate high schools for girls. Between 1840 and 1860 eighty-two sectarian and twenty non-sectarian colleges were founded, and the Naval Academy at Annapolis was opened. Not even the largest college in 1860 had 800 students, and in but one (University of Iowa, 1856) were women admitted to all departments.

LITERATURE. - Public libraries were now to be found not only in the great cities, but in most of the large towns, and in such libraries were collections of poetry, essays, novels, and histories written by American authors. Longfellow, Holmes, Lowell, Poe, Bryant, and Whittier among poets; Hawthorne, Irving, Cooper, Simms, and Poe among writers of fiction; Emerson and Lowell among essayists, were read and admired abroad as well as at home. Prescott, who had lately (1859) died, had left behind him histories of Spain in the Old World and in the New; Parkman was just beginning his story of the French in America; Motley had published his Rise of the Dutch Republic, and part of his History of the United Netherlands; Hildreth had completed one History of the United States, and Bancroft was still at work on another.

Near these men of the first rank stood many writers popular in their day. The novels of Kennedy, and the poetry of Drake, Halleck, and Willis are not yet forgotten.

OCCUPATIONS. - In the Eastern states the people were engaged chiefly in fishing, commerce, and manufacturing; in the Middle states in farming, commerce, manufacturing, and mining. To the great coal and iron mines of Pennsylvania were (1859) added the oil fields. That petroleum existed in that state had long been known; but it was not till Drake drilled a well near Titusville (in northwestern Pennsylvania) and struck oil that enough was obtained to make it marketable. Down the Ohio there was a great trade in bituminous coal, and the union of the coal, iron, and oil trades was already making Pittsburg a great city. In the South little change had taken place. Cotton, tobacco, sugar, and the products of the pine forests were still the chief sources of wealth; mills and factories hardly existed. The West had not only its immense farms, but also the iron mines of upper Michigan, the lead mines of the upper Mississippi and in Missouri, the copper mines of the Lake Superior country, and the lumber industry of Michigan and Wisconsin. Through the lakes passed a great commerce. California was the great gold-mining state; but gold and silver had just been discovered near Pikes Peak, and in what is now Nevada.

THE MORMONS. - Utah territory in 1860 contained forty thousand white people, nearly all Mormons. These people, as we have seen, when driven from Missouri, built the city called Nauvoo in Illinois. Their leaders now introduced the practice of polygamy, and in various ways opposed the state authorities. In 1844 they came to blows with the state; the leaders were arrested, and while in jail Joseph Smith and his brother were murdered by a mob. Brigham Young then became head of the church, and in the winter of 1846 the Mormons, driven from Nauvoo, crossed the Mississippi and began a long march westward over the plains to Great Salt Lake, then in Mexico. There they settled down, and when the war with Mexico ended, they were again in the United States. When Utah was made a territory in 1850, Brigham Young was appointed its first governor. [3]

THE FAR WEST. - Before 1850 each new state added to the Union had bordered an some older state; but now California and Oregon were separated from the other states by wide stretches of wilderness. The Rocky Mountain highland and the Great Plains, however, were not entirely uninhabited. Over them wandered bands of Indians mounted on fleet ponies; white hunters and trappers, some trapping for themselves, some for the great fur companies; and immense herds of buffalo, [4] and in the south herds of wild horses. The streams still abounded with beaver. Game was everywhere, deer, elk, antelope, bears, wild turkeys, prairie chickens, and on the streams wild ducks and geese. Here and there were villages of savage and merciless Indians, and the forts or trading posts of the trappers. Every year bands of emigrants crossed the plains and the mountains, bound to Utah, California, or Oregon.

PROPOSED RAILROAD TO THE PACIFIC. - In 1842 John C. Fremont, with Kit Carson as guide, began a series of explorations which finally extended from the Columbia to the Colorado, and from the Missouri to California and Oregon (map, p. 314). [5] Men then began to urge seriously the plan of a railroad across the continent to some point on the Pacific. In 1845 Asa Whitney [6] applied to Congress for a grant of a strip of land from some point on Lake Michigan to Puget Sound, and came again with like appeals in 1846 and 1848. By that time the Mexican cession had been acquired, and this with the discovery of gold in California gave the idea such importance that (in 1853) money was finally voted by Congress for the survey of several routes. Jefferson Davis, as Secretary of War, ordered five routes to be surveyed and (in 1855) recommended the most southerly; and the Senate passed a bill to charter three roads. [7] Jealousy among the states prevented the passage of the bill by the House. In 1860 the platforms of the Democratic and Republican parties declared for such a railroad.

MECHANICAL IMPROVEMENT. - During the period 1840-60 mechanical improvement was more remarkable than in earlier periods. The first iron-front building was erected, the first steam fire engine used, wire rope manufactured, a grain drill invented, Hoe's printing press with revolving type cylinders introduced, and six inventions or discoveries of universal benefit to mankind were given to the world. They were the electric telegraph, the sewing machine, the improved harvester, vulcanized rubber, the photograph, and anaesthesia.

THE TELEGRAPH. - Seven years of struggle enabled Samuel F. B. Morse, helped by Alfred Vail, to make the electric telegraph a success, [8] and in 1844, with the aid of a small appropriation by Congress, Morse built a telegraph line from Baltimore to Washington. [9] Further aid was asked from Congress and refused. [10] The Magnetic Telegraph Company was then started. New York and Baltimore were connected in 1846, and in ten years some forty companies were in operation in the most populous states.

THE SEWING MACHINE; THE HARVESTER. - A man named Hunt invented the lockstitch sewing machine in 1834; but it was not successful, and some time elapsed before his idea was taken up by Elias Howe, who after several years of experiment (1846) made a practical machine. People were slow to use it, but by 1850 he had so aroused the interest of inventors that seven rivals were in the field, and to their joint labors we owe one of the most useful inventions of the century. From the household the sewing machine passed into use in factories (1862), and to-day gives employment to hundreds of thousands of people.

What the sewing machine is to the home and the factory, that is the reaper to the farm. After many years of experiment Cyrus McCormick invented a practical reaper and (1840) sought to put it on the market, but several more years passed before success was assured. To-day, greatly improved and perfected, it is in use the world over, and has made possible the great grain fields, not only of our own middle West and Northwest, but of Argentina, Australia, and Russia.

VULCANIZED RUBBER; PHOTOGRAPHY; ANAESTHESIA. - The early attempts to use India rubber for shoes, coats, caps, and wagon covers failed because in warm weather the rubber softened and emitted an offensive smell. To overcome this Goodyear labored year after year to discover a method of hardening or, as it is called, vulcanizing rubber. Even when the discovery was made and patented, several years passed before he was sure of the process. In 1844 he succeeded and gave to the world a most useful invention.

In 1839 a Frenchman named Daguerre patented a method of taking pictures by exposing to sunlight a copper plate treated with certain chemicals. The exposure for each picture was some twenty minutes. An American, Dr. John W. Draper, so improved the method that pictures were taken of persons in a much shorter time, and photography was fairly started.

Greater yet was the discovery that by breathing sulphuric ether a person can become insensible to pain and then recover consciousness. The glory of the discovery has been claimed for Dr. Morton and Dr. Jackson, who used it in 1846. Laughing gas (nitrous oxide) was used as an ansesthetic before this time by Dr. Wells of Hartford.

TRANSPORTATION IMPROVED. - In the country east of the Mississippi some thirty thousand miles of railroad had been built, and direct communication opened from the North and East to Chicago (1853) and New Orleans (1859). For the growth of railroads between 1850 and 1861 study the maps on pp. 331, 353. [11] At first the lines between distant cities were composed of many connecting but independent roads. Thus between Albany and Buffalo there were ten such little roads; but in 1853 they were consolidated and became the New York Central, and the era of the great trunk lines was fairly opened.

On the ocean, steamship service between the Old World and the New was so improved that steamships passed from Liverpool to New York in less than twelve days.

Better means of transportation were of benefit, not merely to the traveler and the merchant, but to the people generally. Letters could be carried faster and more cheaply, so the rate of postage on a single letter was reduced (1851) from five or ten cents to three cents, [12] and before 1860 express service covered every important line of transportation.

THE ATLANTIC CABLE. - The success of the telegraph on land suggested a bold attempt to lay wires across the bed of the ocean, and in 1854 Cyrus W. Field of New York was asked to aid in the laying of a cable from St. Johns to Cape Ray, Newfoundland. But Field went further and formed a company to join Newfoundland and Ireland by cable, and after two failures succeeded (1858). During three weeks all went well and some four hundred messages were sent; then the cable ceased to work, and eight years passed before another was laid. Since then many telegraph cables have been laid across the Atlantic; but it was not till 1903 that the first was laid across the Pacific.

FOREIGN RELATIONS. - We have seen how during this period our country was expanded by the annexation of Texas (1845) and by two cessions of territory from Mexico (1848 and 1853). But this was not enough to satisfy the South, and attempts were made to buy Cuba. Polk (1848) offered Spain $100,000,000 for it. Filibusters tried to capture it (in 1851), and Pierce (1853) urged its annexation. With this end in view our ministers to Great Britain, France, and Spain met at Ostend in Belgium in 1854 and issued what was called the Ostend Manifesto. This set forth that Cuba must be annexed to protect slavery, and if Spain would not sell for a fair price, "then by every law, human and divine, we shall be justified in wresting it from Spain if we possess the power." Buchanan also (1858) urged the purchase of Cuba; but in vain.

CHINA AND JAPAN. - More pleasing to recall are our relations with China and Japan. Our flag was first seen in China in 1784, when the trading vessel Empress of China reached Canton. Washington (1790) appointed a consul to reside in that city, the only one in China, then open to foreign trade; but no minister from the United States was sent to China till Caleb Gushing went in 1844. By him our first treaty was negotiated with China, under which five ports were opened to American trade and two very important concessions secured: (1) American citizens charged with any criminal act were to be tried and punished only by the American consul. (2) All privileges which China might give to any other nation were likewise to be given to the United States.

At that time Japan was a "hermit nation." In 1853, however, Commodore M. C. Perry went to that country with a fleet, and sent to the emperor a message expressing the wish of the United States to enter into trade relations with Japan. Then he sailed away; but returned in 1854 and made a treaty (the first entered into by Japan) which resulted in opening that country to the United States. Other nations followed, and Japan was thus opened to trade with the civilized world.


1. Between 1840 and 1860 the population increased from 17,000,000 to 31,000,000.

2. During this period millions of immigrants had come.

3. As population continued to move westward new states and territories were formed.

4. In one of these new territories, Utah, were the Mormons who had been driven from Illinois.

5. The rise of a new state on the Pacific coast revived the old demand for a railroad across the plains, and surveys were ordered.

6. East of the Mississippi thousands of miles of railroads were built, and the East, the West, and the far South were connected.

7. This period is marked by many great inventions and discoveries, including the telegraph, the sewing machine, and the reaper.

8. It was in this period that trade relations were begun with China and Japan.


[1] All the large cities were so poorly governed, however, that they were often the scenes of serious riots, political, labor, race, and even religious.

[2] An unfriendly picture of the United States in 1842 is Dickens's American Notes, a book well worth reading.

[3] Several non-Mormon officials were sent to Utah, but they were not allowed to exercise any authority, and were driven out. The Mormons formed the state of Deseret and applied for admission into the Union. Congress paid no attention to the appeal, and (1857) Buchanan appointed a new governor and sent troops to Utah to uphold the Federal authority. Young forbade them to enter the territory, and dispatched an armed force that captured some of their supplies. In the spring of 1858 the President offered pardon "to all who will submit themselves to the just authority of the Federal Government," and Young and his followers did so.

[4] An interesting account of the buffalo is given in A. C. Laut's The Story of the Trapper, pp. 65-80. Herds of a hundred thousand were common. As many as a million buffalo robes were sent east each year in the thirties and forties.

[5] John C. Fremont was born in Savannah, Georgia, in 1813, and in 1842 was Lieutenant of Engineers, United States Army. In 1842 he went up the Platte River and through the South Pass. The next year he passed southward to Great Salt Lake, then northwestward to the Columbia, then southward through Oregon to California, and back by Great Salt Lake to South Pass in 1844. In 1845 he crossed what is now Nebraska and Utah, and reached the vicinity of Monterey in California. The Mexican authorities ordered him away; but he remained in California and helped to win the country during the war with Mexico. Later, he was senator from California, Republican candidate for President in 1856, and an army general during the Civil War.

[6] Whitney asked for a strip sixty miles wide. So much of the land as was not needed for railroad purposes was to be sold and the money used to build the road. During 1847-49 his plan was approved by the legislatures of seventeen states, and by mass meetings of citizens or Boards of Trade in seventeen cities.

[7] One from the west border of Texas to California; another from the west border of Missouri to California; and a third from the west border of Wisconsin to the Pacific in Oregon or Washington.

[8] In 1842 Morse laid the first submarine telegraph in the world, from Governors Island in New York harbor to New York city. It consisted of a wire wound with string and coated with tar, pitch, and india rubber, to prevent the electric current running off into the water. It was laid on October 18, and the next morning, while messages were being received, the anchor of a vessel caught and destroyed the wire.

[9] The wire was at first put in a lead tube and laid in a furrow plowed in the earth. This failed; so the wire was strung on poles. One end was in the Pratt St. Depot, Baltimore, and the other in the Supreme Court Chamber at Washington. The first words sent, after the completion of the line, were "What hath God wrought." Two days later the Democratic convention (which nominated Polk for President) met at Baltimore, and its proceedings were reported hourly to Washington by telegraph.

[10] Morse offered to sell his patent to the government, but the Postmaster General reported that the telegraph was merely an interesting experiment and could never have a practical value, so the offer was not accepted.

[11] The use of vast sums of money in building so many railroads, together with overtrading and reckless speculation, brought on a business panic in 1857. Factories were closed, banks failed, thousands of men and women were thrown out of employment, and for two years the country suffered from hard times.

[12] It was not till 1883 that the rate was reduced to two cents. Before the introduction of the postage stamp, letters were sent to the post offices, and when the postage had been paid, they were marked "Paid" by the officials. When the mails increased in volume in the large cities, this way of doing business consumed so much time that the postmasters at St. Louis and New York sold stamps to be affixed to letters as evidence that the postage had been paid. The convenience was so great that public opinion forced Congress to authorize the post office department to furnish stamps and require the people to use them (1847).