1815-1850: Life Styles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Chronology

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1815-1850: Life Styles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Chronology




  • The James cookstove, the first widely available stove, is patented in Troy, New York, but stoves remain rare in American households.
  • Reversing a trend toward lighter and simpler womens dress, fashion returns to tight corsets, leg-of-mutton sleeves, and full skirts that later expand into hoop skirts.




  • A financial crisis and rising unemployment create the first wave of nativist (anti-immigration) sentiment in America.
  • 4 Apr. Congress decides on an American flag consisting of thirteen stripes, with the number of stars to increase with each state added to the Union.


  • In Philadelphia racial violence erupts as three white women stone a black woman to death.
  • The countrys first food-canning business is founded in New York City by Eza Daggett and Thomas Kensett.


  • The fourth census of the United States lists the population at 9, 638, 453 (including 1.5 million slaves). The geographical center of the countrys population is sixteen miles east of Moorefield, Virginia (now West Virginia).
  • Ten thousand immigrants, most from England, arrive each year in the 1820s.
  • Cookstoves begin to appear in wealthy households, replacing the hard-to-use open hearth for cooking.
  • The first football games, similar to modern soccer, are played at American colleges.
  • The Underground Railroad is in operation. Free blacks and white abolitionists act as conductors, guiding slaves along a network of secret hiding places to freedom in the North.


  • A colony of former American slaves is founded in Africa. The colony becomes the independent nation of Liberia in 1847.
  • Gas lighting, supplied by coal-distillation plants, is provided for homes in Baltimore. Within ten years homes in New York City, Boston, and Philadelphia will also have gas lights.


  • The publication of songbooks makes popular and classical music more available to the average American, while the pianoforte, forerunner to todays piano, begins to come within the buying power of an emerging middle class.
  • In a land of tea drinkers coffee becomes a popular drink although some fear its effects and consider it an aphrodisiac.
  • June Denmark Vesey attempts to organize a slave insurrection in Charleston, South Carolina, designed to take control of the city. As many as nine thousand slaves are believed to be involved. The plot fails, and thirty-five (including Vesey) are executed.


  • Plans for Lowell, Massachusetts, one of Americas first prosperous mill towns, are laid; within twenty years it grows to a bustling city of twenty thousand.
  • 27 May The first national horse race is held in America at the Union Course on Long Island. One hundred thousand spectators see the competition between American Eclipse, a Northern horse, and Sir Henry, a Southern horse, the former taking home the twenty-thousand-dollar purse.


  • Female employees are recorded as participating in a strike for the first time when weavers in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, fight a proposed decrease in wages and increase in hours.


  • Thomas Kensett obtains a U.S. patent for tin-plated cans, used for canning food.
  • A Norwegian community, the first settlement of Scandinavians in America in the nineteenth century, is established at Kendall, New York.
  • 3 Jan Robert Owen establishes the nations first secular utopian community at New Harmony, Indiana.


  • Frances Wright founds Nashoba Colony near Memphis, Tennessee, an experiment in interracial utopianism, with the goal of educating slaves and allowing them to earn money to purchase their freedom.
  • The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance, the first national temperance organization, is founded in Boston.


  • Ice becomes available in New York City as wagons travel through the streets selling it to households with iceboxes.


  • The utopian community of New Harmony, Indiana, disbands.
  • Noah Websters American Dictionary of the English Language is published.
  • As part of the Cherokee effort to adapt to mainstream American culture, the Cherokee Phoenix newspaper begins publication.


  • Ohio passes a law mandating that all free black people must post a $500 bond promising peaceful behavior or leave the state.
  • David Walkers Appeal to the Colored Citizens of the World is published.
  • 16 Oct. Bostons Tremont Hotel opens with many luxuries available for the first time, most notably indoor plumbing (eight bathtubs and eight toilets).


  • The census records the population at 12, 866, 020 (including two million slaves); the geographical center of the population has moved thirty-five miles west since 1820.
  • Immigration rises to 60, 000 annually; many arrivals are from Ireland.
  • There are 10.5 farmers for every city dweller in the United States.


  • Delmonicos Restaurant, the gathering place of wealthy, discriminating diners for the rest of the century, opens in New York City.
  • 1 Jan. The first issue of the radical abolitionist magazine The Liberator is published in Boston under the editorship of William Lloyd Garrison.
  • 21 Aug. Nat Turners Rebellion, the bloodiest slave insurrection in Americas history, begins in Southampton County, Virginia, sparking panic throughout the South. It is suppressed within two days, but leaves hundreds dead.


  • A proposal to abolish slavery in Virginia is defeated by the state legislature.
  • Oranges and lemons, previously delicacies for the wealthy, are introduced to the American public with the first large shipment from Sicily.
  • A cholera epidemic spreads from Montreal to New Orleans, killing tens of thousands in its wake, primarily in urban areas.


  • One of the first local public libraries in America is founded in Peterborough, New Hampshire. Public libraries offer access to reading material for middleand lower-class Americans, increasing the popularity of reading as a leisure activity.
  • 3 Sept. The heyday of the penny papers begins with the publication of the New York Sun. These sensationalist newspapers become the most popular reading material in America.
  • 4 Dec. The American Anti-Slavery Society, the first abolitionist organization in America, is formed in Philadelphia. Its first president is Arthur Tappan.


  • Tomatoes are introduced to the American diet, but they would not become popular for decades. Many Americans believe they are poisonous.
  • The American Society for the Promotion of Temperance boasts five thousand local chapters and a membership of one million.
  • July In New York a mob breaks up an integrated antislavery meeting and ransacks the home of abolitionist leader Arthur Tappan.


  • The American Anti-Slavery Society begins a massive campaign to inundate the South with abolitionist literature.
  • A mob drags abolitionist leader William Lloyd Garrison through the streets of Boston; he is nearly hanged before authorities step in to rescue him.
  • Southern legislatures try Northern abolitionists in absentia and offer bounties on them, dead or alive.
  • P. T. Barnum begins his illustrious career with the exhibition of Joice Heth, a slave he claims is 161 years old and George Washingtons former nurse.


  • Nativist anti-Catholicism heightens with the publication of Awful Disclosures of Maria Monk, as Exhibited in a Narrative of Her Suffering During a Residence of Five Years as a Novice, and Two Years as a Black Nun, in the Hotel Dieu Nunnery at Montreal, later proven to be a hoax.
  • Cold-water societies are organized in Sunday schools by the Reverend Thomas P. Hunt. These temperance societies enlist children to collect pledges from people to abstain from drinking.
  • The American Temperance Society is founded.


  • The Panic of 1837, the worst economic depression America had yet known, causes cities such as New York to restrict immigration. Nativist sentiment reaches new heights.
  • Sarah Josepha Hale becomes editor of Godeys Ladys Book, the most influential womens magazine of the century. She would hold the post until 1877.
  • 7 Nov. In Alton, Illinois, a proslavery mob kills Elijah P. Lovejoy, whose printing press had been destroyed three times previously for publishing antislavery materials. Lovejoy becomes a martyr for the abolitionist cause.


  • Massachusetts prohibits the sale of hard liquor in quantities of less than fifteen gallons, but repeals the law two years later.
  • Sarah Grimké publishes one of the first written arguments for womens rights, Letters on the Equality of the Sexes and the Condition of Women.
  • A utopian community near Putney, Vermont, is founded by John Humphrey Noyes.
  • May A mob gathers outside the Pennsylvania Hall in Philadelphia while William Lloyd Garrison addresses a womens antislavery convention. Windows are broken, and the next day a mob breaks into the building and burns it.


  • Theodore Weld publishes his collection of atrocities committed in the slave South, Slavery as It Is.
  • A U.S. Navy ship captures a Spanish vessel, the Amistad, off the coast of Long Island. Slaves aboard had seized the ship, hoping to return to Africa. Abolitionists and proslavery politicians tangle over whether to hand the slaves over to Spain.


  • The census enumerates 17, 069, 453 Americans. Five cities (New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Baltimore, and New Orleans) have populations of 90, 000 or more; New York alone has 312, 000 inhabitants.
  • There are 5.5 farmers for every city dweller in the United States.
  • The American Anti-Slavery Society names eight female delegates to a World Anti-Slavery Convention to be held in London. When they are barred from the proceedings, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton devise the idea of the womens rights movement.
  • The American Anti-Slavery Society splits when New York delegates leave after William Lloyd Garrison and his followers elect a woman to head the business office.
  • The Washington Temperance Society is formed. Over the next three years it claims to reform half a million heavy drinkers and one hundred thousand alcoholics.
  • Tableaux vivants, in which people pose in sometimes elaborate costumes to approximate scenes in classical literature and art, become a popular form of parlor entertainment in the 1840s.


  • Brook Farm, a transcendentalist utopian community, is founded near Boston, under the leadership of George Ripley.
  • Godeys Ladys Book announces a new fashion trend: tight sleeves on ladies dresses.
  • Bowling is banned in Connecticut because of its association with gambling.
  • Mar. The U.S. Supreme Court decides in favor of the Africans captured on the Amistad in 1839, arguing that they had been illegally kidnapped by the Spanish. The Africans, defended by former president John Quincy Adams, return home.


  • The most popular spectator sport, horse racing, draws tens of thousands to view a match race between entries from the North and South at the Union Course on Long Island. The Southern horse wins.
  • P. T. Barnum opens his American Museum in New York City, exhibiting oddities and exotics to millions of curious Americans. The museum burns down twice during its existence, the last time in 1868 when Barnum decides to close it for good.
  • The Knickerbocker Base Ball Club, the first organized baseball team in America, is formed in New York City.


  • The North American Phalanx, a utopian community based on the ideas of Charles Fourier, is founded at Red Bank, New Jersey. The community has twelve hundred members and lasts until a fire destroys the mill in 1854.
  • The transcendentalist community of Fruitlands, started by Bronson Alcott and Charles Lane, is founded near Harvard, Massachusetts.
  • Scandinavian immigration to Wisconsin and Minnesota grows; an average of twenty-one hundred arrive each year from 1843 to 1860.
  • The tobacco tycoon Pierre Lorillard becomes the first man to be called a millionaire.
  • Harvard organizes a rowing team, and Yale students adopt the sport the following year. In 1852 the two schools begin to compete in the first American organized intercollegiate sporting events.


  • The New York Hotel installs the first private bath in an American hotel.
  • Maine grants women property rights equal to those of men.
  • One hundred fifty million pounds of coffee are imported into the United states, up from twelve million pounds in 1821.


  • The Irish potato famine begins, initiating the mass migration of the Irish to America.
  • A Southern horse wins the North-South battle at the Union Course on Long Island. Fifty thousand fans tie up the roads leading to the track so that some spectators are not able to reach the event.
  • As Texas is annexed, the phrase manifest destiny comes into popular usage as an expression of the nations desire to expand across the continent.
  • Alexander Cartwright, owner of the Knickerbocker Base Ball Club of New York, is the first to write down and codify the rules of the game.


  • Maine passes the first statewide prohibition act banning the sale of liquor.
  • Sarah Josepha Hale begins her campaign for a national holiday called Thanksgiving Day. By 1858 all but six states adopt the holiday.
  • Irish women comprise approximately seven to eight thousand of the ten thousand American domestic servants.
  • 19 June In an event traditionally described as the first modern baseball game, the New York Club defeats the Knickerbockers at the Elysian Fields in Hoboken, New Jersey, by a score of 23-1.


  • Vermont passes a law granting women full ownership of property they held before marriage or received as a gift after marriage.
  • A fire destroys the buildings at Brook Farm and ends the utopian experiment.


  • New York adopts a law granting women property rights equal to those of men.
  • John Humphrey Noyes moves his utopian community to Oneida, New York, after local opposition to the communitys practice of complex marriage.
  • Revolutions in Europe have a profound impact on American immigration as European refugees, especially from Germany, flee starvation and violence.
  • July The first womens rights convention, organized by Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, convenes at Seneca Falls, New York, demanding that women be granted the rights guaranteed to all U.S. citizens.


  • The illegal sport of prizefighting remains popular; huge crowds go to Peel Island, Maryland, where a fight between Tom Hyer and Yankee Sullivan is stopped by the militia.
  • Amelia Bloomer begins publication of her temperance and womens rights magazine Lily.


  • The U.S. Census records Americas population as 23, 191, 876, centered at a point twenty-three miles southeast of Parkersburg, Virginia (now West Virginia). Towns of eight thousand or more inhabitants have doubled in size since 1830, and the combined population of Americas three largest cities (New York, Philadelphia, and Boston) has tripled since 1820.
  • Spurred by the potato famine in Ireland and revolutions on the European continent, 369, 980 people immigrate to America.
  • Amelia Bloomer gains notoriety for wearing loose-fitting trousers under her skirt. The garment, soon to be called bloomers, was designed in the mid 1840s.
  • The American Vegetarian Society is founded.
  • 11 Sept. Jenny Lind, dubbed the Swedish Nightingale, appears in her American debut at Castle Garden Theater in New York City. Her American tour, arranged by P. T. Barnum, is a national sensation.
  • 18 Sept. The Fugitive Slave Law, passed by Congress as part of the Compromise of 1850, dictates that all citizens must assist in the capture of runaway slaves. The law galvanizes the North against slavery.
  • Oct. The first national womens rights convention is held in Worcester, Massachusetts; delegates from nine states attend.

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1815-1850: Life Styles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Chronology

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1815-1850: Life Styles, Social Trends, and Fashion: Chronology