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1815-1850: Business and the Economy: Chronology

1815-1850: Business and the Economy: Chronology




  • Over the next five years imports rise to an annual average of $100 million and exports climb to $70 million.
  • 3 July Great Britian stops imposing duties discriminatory to the United States and allows American merchants to trade with the East Indies.


  • 14 Mar. The nations financial difficulties during the War of 1812 convince Congress to pass a bill chartering the Second Bank of the United States.
  • 27 Apr. The Traiffc Bill of 1816 is enacted to protect American industry.



  • Jan. The Black Ball Line begins regular monthly transatlantic ship crossings between the United States and Britain.


  • Jethro Wood develops a three-piece cast-iron plow with interchangeable parts, making iron plows more efficient to use.
  • A collapse of the nations credit system starts a financial panic and a business depression which lasts until 1822.


  • 24 Apr. The Land Act of 1820 ends credit purchases for federal land but also reduces the minimum price and acreage restrictions in order to promote land sales to small farmers.


  • Passage of the Relief Act allows farmers to return unpaid-for land to the government, relieving some financial discontent in the West.


  • Mathew Carey, a Philadelphia bookseller, publishes Essays on Political Economy, which supports tariffs and internal improvements at the federal governments expense.
  • C. M. Graham receives the first patent for making false teeth.



  • Deming Jarves establishes a glassworks at Sandwich, Massachusetts, utilizing the new mechanical method of pressing glass.
  • 26 Oct. The Erie Canal officially opens at a building cost of $7 million.


  • In Philadelphia the Mechanics Union of Trade Associations becomes the first of many trade councils in the nation.
  • 30 July3 Aug. Protective tariff supporters meet in a convention at Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, and call for an increase in duties in order to protect domestic manufactures, especially textiles and iron. Southern opposition in Congress remains firm.


  • 13 May Congress passes what Southerners call the Tariff of Abominations, a bill placing extremely high duties on imported raw materials.
  • 19 Dec. The South Carolina legislature protests the Tariff of Abominations and claims the right to nullify federal laws in the state.


  • 17 Oct. The Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, linking the Chesapeake Bay and Delaware River, officially opens at a building cost of $2.25 millions. The national government; state governments of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and Maryland; and private citizens contribute money to its construction.


  • 29 May Congress passes the Preemption Act, which grants settlers the right to claim (preempt) and purchase within one year (up to 160 acres at a minimum of $1.25 an acre) federal land they already occupy.


  • Cyrus Hall McCormick successfully demonstrates his grain reaper, which will transform American agriculture starting in the late 1840s.
  • 14 July The Tariff of 1828 results in embarrassing federal surpluses. Congress passes a reduced tariff bill, which does not, however, mollify South Carolina.


  • Aug. The first national labor federation is organized by the New York General Trades Union. Other national trade unions organize over the next three years, until the Panic of 1837 ruins many of them.


  • 29 Jan. Irish laborers on the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal riot in protest over terrible working conditions. Federal soldiers, under orders from Andrew Jackson, suppress the riots, marking the first use of army troops to subdue labor protest in the United States.


  • Samuel Colt comes up with his design for a revolving cylinder sidearm.
  • Canal and railroad projects are started by several Midwestern states; most will fail with the onset of the 1837 panic.


  • John and Hiram Pitts of Maine invent the grain thresher.
  • 11 July Rising inflation prompts Andrew Jackson to issue the Specie Circular, making gold and silver the only acceptable mediums for the purchase of federal lands.


  • Illinois blacksmith John Deere constructs the first self-scouring steel moldboard plow; the device makes prairie farming practicable.
  • Mar. British credit contraction precipitates an avalanche of economic problems in the United States, starting a national business depression that lasts until 1843.


  • The New York Free Banking Act allows banks to obtain charters without special application to the state legislature.
  • Several Western and Southern states repudiate their debts, making Europeans cautious about investing in future American projects.


  • The failure of Nicolas Biddles state-chartered Second Bank of the United States in Pennsylvania deepens the ongoing economic depression.
  • In Bank of Augusta v. Earle the Supreme Court rules that corporations dido not have every legal right granted to individuals but can operate in more than one state.


  • The Independent Treasury system is enacted by Congress, creating a fiscal systems that will last until the Federal Reserve Act of 1913.
  • 31 Mar. By executive order, a ten-hour workday is established for all federal employees engaged on public works.


  • The nations first commercial credit-rating agency, forerunner of Dun and Bradstreet, is organized in New York City.
  • Sept. Bills to establish a new national bank are vetoed by President John Tyler, prompting the resignation of the entire cabinet, with the exception of Daniel Webster.
  • 4 Sept. The Distribution Preemption Act supports squatters rights on Western lands.


  • In Commonwealth v. Hunt the Massachusetts Supreme Court rules that labor unions are not by definition criminal conspiracies.


  • 15 June Charles Goodyear receives a patent for vulcanizing rubber.
  • 19 Sept. A group of government surveyors headed by William A. Burt accidentally discovers the Marquette iron-ore range in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan near Lake Superior.





  • The Chicago Board of Trade opens, specializing in farm-commodity trading.
  • 5 Dec. In his annual message President James K. Polk announces that gold has been discovered in California, which confirms public rumors and starts the Gold Rush.


  • Walter Hunt of New York invents the safety pin.


  • The textile industry is one of the largest industries in the country. There are 564 New England plants, capitalized at more than $58 million and employing 61, 893 operators. The South has 166 factories, capitalized at $7.25 million, and using 10, 043 workers.

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