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1783-1815: Business and the Economy: Chronology

1783-1815: Business and the Economy: Chronology





  • New York City ship carpenters form a guild.
  • Oliver Evans begins constructing an automated flour mill near Philadelphia.
  • Simon Willard acquires the exclusive privilege of manufacturing clock-jacks in Massachusetts.
  • 22 Feb. Empress of China leaves New York for China.
  • 17 Mar. Recognizing the importance of codfish to the states economy, the Massachusetts House of Representatives hangs a wooden cod from the ceiling of their chamber.
  • 15 June Elias Derbys ship Light Horse sails from Salem to Russia, the first ship to sail under an American flag into the Baltic Sea.
  • July Spain closes the lower half of the Mississippi River to American traffic.
  • Aug. Empress of China is the first American vessel to arrive in Canton, China; it earns a $37, 000 profit trading American ginseng root, liquor, tar, and turpentine for Chinese tea, silk, nankeens, and porcelain.
  • 30 Aug. France opens its West Indian ports to American shipments of salted fish and meats.
  • Nov. Elias Derbys ship Grand Turk sails for the Cape of Good Hope.
  • Nov. Robert Morris resigns as superintendent of finance, frustrated by Congresss inability to raise money under the terms of the Articles of Confederation.


  • 20 May Congress passes the Land Ordinance of 1785, providing for the surveying of western lands into six-mile-square tracts, each with 36 sections of 640 acres.
  • 23 June Massachusetts forbids exports in British vessels.


  • Sept. The Grand Turk reaches Canton.
  • 11-14 Sept. An interstate commercial convention is held at Annapolis, Maryland, and calls for a revised constitution.


  • The first coin authorized by Congress, the Fugio cent, is minted with Mind Your Business as the motto.
  • Massachusetts grants a fifteen-year monopoly to Boston Glass House to manufacture window and plate glass.
  • A British whaler with a crew from Nantucket, Massachusetts, makes the first voyage to the Pacific Ocean to hunt sperm whales.
  • 22 May The Grand Turk returns to Salem.
  • 13 July Congress passes the Northwest Ordinance of 1787, creating one large territory and providing for the development of three to five states from it; slavery is not allowed in the area.
  • Sept. The first American expedition to the Pacific Northwest begins when Columbia and Lady Washington sail from Boston.


  • A wool-manufacturing plant is established in Hartford, Connecticut, but it closes because of the high price of wool, lack of capital, and British competition.
  • Mar. Massachusetts bars the export of green calf-skins to keep the tanning industry in the state.
  • Aug. Columbia and Lady Washington reach Nootka Sound, trading an assortment of goods for otter skins.


  • Congress adopts a coinage system based on the Spanish dollar rather than the British pound.
  • 8 Apr. James Madison introduces a tariff bill into Congress.
  • 4 July Congress grants cod fishermen a bounty on exports of dried or pickled fish.
  • 4 July President George Washington signs the first national tariff, enacted to raise money and protect American manufacturing; it imposes a 5 percent tax on all imports.
  • 31 July Congress establishes the value of foreign coins circulating in the United States.
  • 2 Sept. Congress creates the Treasury Department and confirms Alexander Hamilton as the first secretary.
  • 21 Sept. Congress requests Treasury Secretary Hamilton to report on the state of public credit.


  • Columbia returns from its voyage to Canton, China, the first American ship to circle the globe.
  • 9 Jan. Alexander Hamilton issues the Report on Public Credit, calling for federal assumption of state Revolutionary War debts.
  • 10 Apr. Congress passes the first patent law, and the first patent is granted to Samuel Hopkins for a process for making potash.
  • 12 Apr. The House of Representatives defeats Hamiltons proposal for assumption of state debts.
  • 31 May President George Washington signs the first copyright act to protect written materials and maps.
  • 22 July The first Trade and Intercourse Act provides for the regulation of Indian trade by the federal government.
  • 24 July Congress agrees to build a capital city on the Potomac River, part of a compromise measure to ensure Virginias support for assumption of state debts.
  • 4 Aug. Congress passes the Funding Act, consolidating federal and state Revolutionary War debts and providing for the payment of interest.


  • Philadelphia carpenters unsuccessfully strike for a ten-hour workday and over-time pay.
  • Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton issues the Report on a National Bank, supporting the formation of a large government bank to bolster economic development.
  • 1 Feb. Thomas Jefferson issues the Report on Fisheries.
  • 25 Feb. George Washington signs a bill creating the Bank of the United States.
  • 3 Mar. Congress approves an excise tax on whiskey.
  • Aug. Alexander Hamilton and Tenche Coxe issue a prospectus for the Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures.
  • Oct. Twenty-five directors are chosen for the Bank of the United States.
  • 5 Dec. Hamilton issues the Report on Manufactures, an assessment of the American economy.
  • 12 Dec. The Bank of the United States opens in Philadelphia.


  • The New York Stock Exchange is founded.
  • Feb. Congress grants a subsidy to whale and cod fisheries.
  • Mar. A new tariff law enacts some of Alexander Hamiltons recommendations for the economy.
  • Mar. Overspeculation in Bank of the United States stock causes a financial panic.
  • 2 Apr. Congress passes the Coinage Act, establishing a federal mint to coin gold and silver money.
  • 8 May Congress authorizes the minting of copper coins.
  • 12 May Capt. Robert Gray of the Columbia discovers the Columbia River.


  • Salem, Massachusetts, merchants open the pepper trade in Sumatra; by 1805 Americans will handle seven-eighths of Sumatras pepper crop, 7.5 million pounds each year.
  • Eli Whitney perfects the cotton gin.
  • The Lehigh Coal Mine Company is founded to extract anthracite coal in Pennsylvania.
  • William Foster brings three prized Merino sheep from Spain to the United States, one of many improvements in agriculture and animal breeding in this era.


  • The Massachusetts legislature refuses to grant a charter to Boston mechanics who want to regulate apprentices.
  • 22 Mar. The federal government bans the slave trade to all foreign ports.
  • July-Aug. The Whiskey Rebellion breaks out in western Pennsylvania in opposition to the federal tax on liquor.


  • The Connecticut Land Company buys a large tract of land in Ohio along Lake Erie.
  • North Carolina is the first state to adopt a general incorporation law, making it easier for business associations to form.


  • Newburyport, Massachusetts, investors open a canal connecting their town with Chelmsford and Dracut, further inland on the Merrimac River; their corporation ultimately will form the industrial city of Lowell.
  • The Massachusetts Turnpike Corporation is chartered to improve roads in western Massachusetts.
  • Apr. Congress establishes the factory system for trading with Native Americans.


  • The ship Eliza of New York makes the first American trading voyage to Japan.
  • The ship Recovery from Salem, Massachusetts, opens the American coffee trade in Mocha, Arabia.


  • The Russian American Company is chartered to gather furs in Alaska.


  • 4 Apr. Congress passes the first federal Bankruptcy Act, applying only to merchants and traders.
  • 10 May Congress passes the Land Law of 1800, reforming the procedures for selling public land in the Northwest Territory.


  • The Margaret of Salem, Massachusetts, is the last American ship to visit Japan before the 1850s.
  • The Boston bark Lydia is chartered by the Spanish government to carry the new governor of the Mariana Islands to Guam.


  • Eleuthère Irénée du Pont starts a powder mill on Brandywine Creek in southern Pennsylvania; within ten years it becomes the largest industrial business in the nation.


  • A New York sawmill is the first American business to use steam power.


  • The governor of Australia forbids American whalers to build and refit vessels on the Tasmanian coast.


  • 22 Dec. The Embargo Act is in force, forbidding American vessels to sail for foreign ports.


  • 1 Jan. End of the transalantic slave trade.
  • 4 Apr. Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin submits a report to Congress, calling for the federal government to build better roads and canals.
  • 6 Apr. New York State charters John Jacob Astors American Fur Company.


  • 1 Mar. The Non-Intercourse Act replaces the Embargo Act and opens American shipping to all nations except France and England.


  • Cornelius Vanderbilt begins operating a ferry service between Staten Island and Manhattan, initiating one of the largest family businesses of the nineteenth century.
  • Apr. Treasury Secretary Albert Gallatin presents a report on manufactures to Congress, noting that two-thirds of rural Americas clothing and linen is made at home.
  • 1 May Macons Bill No. 2 temporarily reopens trade with Great Britain and France.
  • June John Jacob Astor and partners establish the Pacific Fur Company to exploit the fur trade in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Sept. Astor sends the Tonquin from New York to establish a trading post on the Columbia River.


  • 20 Feb. Congress fails to renew the charter of the Bank of the United States.


  • A Boston trading firm receives a monopoly on Hawaiian sandalwood from King Kamehameha I.
  • 19 June Congress raises taxes on imported goods and issues $5 million in bonds to fund the War of 1812.


  • Dec. To prevent trade with English territories, Congress passes a new embargo law.


  • Boston Associates, headed by Francis Cabot Lowell, open a mill in Waltham, Massachusetts, that produces cotton cloth, doing both spinning and weaving in one place. The mill represents a major innovation in factory production and in labor relations, as it sets a pattern by employing young women who board nearby.
  • 14 Apr. Congress repeals the Non-Intercourse Act, replacing it with a new system of protective tariffs.

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