A Market Society
The Market Revolution of the early nineteenth century saw advances in technology, transportation, communication, and manufacturing.
Summarize the key social and economic transformations that accompanied the nation’s movement away from small-scale subsistence farming toward agriculture and manufacturing aimed at the market
- Along with the technological innovations of the Industrial Revolution, traditional modes of production and labor were transformed in the first half of the nineteenth century.
- Tremendous growth in the manufacturing sector in the North and commercial agriculture in the South and West allowed for unprecedented domestic trade and international export.
- The development of new transportation networks played a vital role in commerce and the development of new markets.
- The market revolution resulted in broader participation in domestic markets in the United States.
- Though exports increased, aided by the cotton boom in the South, domestic manufacturing reduced U.S. dependency on European imports.
- As production moved outside of the home and subsistence agriculture declined, Americans began to purchase more goods.
- Industrial Revolution: The major technological, socioeconomic, and cultural change in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century resulting from the replacement of an economy based on manual labor with one dominated by industry and machine manufacture.
- cotton gin: A machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds, a job that otherwise must be performed painstakingly by hand.
- Market Revolution: (1793–1909) A drastic change in the manual labor system originating in the South of the United States (and soon moving to the North) and later spreading to the entire world.
The Market Revolution
During the Market Revolution in the first half of the nineteenth century, traditional modes of commerce were made obsolete by improvements in transportation, communication, and industry. The new technologies and tools that arrived with the Industrial Revolution strengthened large-scale domestic manufacturing in the United States. During this era, Americans began to experience the forces of supply and demand on a broader scale.
New Forms of Labor
Drastic changes in the manual labor system altered the schedules, wages, and working conditions for laborers. Artisanal trades began to give way to more efficient systems of production that did not require skilled labor. Wage labor became an increasingly common experience. Manufacturing came to depend on conveyor belts, interchangeable parts, and industrial tools. The textile industry in New England particularly benefited from these innovations.
Eli Whitney ‘s invention, the cotton gin, helped to establish the new significance of the market to American society, as it enabled southern planters to reap tremendous profits from cotton exports. The large-scale production of cash crops began to replace subsistence farming in the South and West. Simultaneously, port cities such as Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, and Boston developed powerful economies that began to challenge those of contemporary midsize European cities. Americans now could quickly produce larger amounts of goods for a nationwide, and sometimes an international, market and rely less on foreign imports than in colonial times.
As American dependency on imports from Europe decreased, the importance of internal commerce increased dramatically. Construction of the Erie Canal connected western agricultural markets to the manufacturing centers of the Northeast, and the development of steamboats and railroads allowed for much greater mobility between markets.
New technologies rapidly transformed and commercialized the agricultural sector in the American South and West.
Describe the movement from subsistence farming to commercial agriculture
- During the Market Revolution, agriculture in the United States began to shift from subsistence farming to larger commercial operations.
- This shift in agriculture catered to emerging domestic and international markets, mirroring a movement away from local markets.
- Commercialized agriculture transformed the South and West: Cotton produced on Southern plantations became the largest U.S. export, and wheat production in the West became a major industry following the invention of the mechanical reaper in the 1830s.
- Despite tensions between the North and South, the rise of urban and industrial centers in the North created an important market for agricultural producers in the South and West.
- steel plow: A tool (or machine) used in farming for initial cultivation of soil in preparation for sowing seed or planting.
- cotton gin: A machine that quickly and easily separates cotton fibers from their seeds, a job that otherwise must be performed painstakingly by hand.
- Subsistence farming: A type of agricultural practice based on self-sufficiency, which focuses on growing enough food to feed the growers and their families.
From Subsistence Farming to Commercial Agriculture
Prior to the Revolutionary War, agriculture created the livelihood for 90 percent of the population. The majority of farms were geared toward subsistence production for family use. Small landowning family farmers, the yeomen ideal of Jeffersonian democracy, were prevalent at the turn of the nineteenth century in both the North and South. Landowning yeomen were typically subsistence farmers, but some also grew crops for market.
Farming in the South and West
During the early half of the nineteenth century, new technologies and expanding markets transformed the landscape of farming and gave rise to commercial agriculture. Cotton, for example, was one of the first and most extensively commercialized crops. Following the invention of the cotton gin in the late 1790s, cotton came to dominate southern plantations and became the quintessential example of a commercialized crop. The rapid growth of the textile industry in Britain created a major demand for cotton fiber, and by 1840, this plantation crop represented two-thirds of all American exports. After 1810, the emerging textile mills in New England also produced a heavy demand for the crop. Cotton prices continued to increase as the South remained the primary supplier in the world. Cotton was generally produced on plantations ranging from South Carolina westward, and production relied upon slave labor, thus greatly strengthening the institution of slavery in the South.
Agriculture in the West also became increasingly commercial after the 1830s, when Cyrus McCormick invented a mechanical mower-reaper that drastically increased the efficiency of wheat farming. John Deere’s horse-drawn steel plow also led to more efficient farming practices, replacing the difficult oxen-driven wooden plows that farmers had employed for centuries. These developments rapidly increased agricultural production in the West and made commercial farming viable.
International and Domestic Markets
International markets were important for commercial agriculture, especially for cotton. This global trade was facilitated by improvements in shipping and transportation. At the same time, U.S. industrialization and urbanization in the North opened up lucrative domestic markets for American farmers. For example, the textile mills of New England created a new market for Southern cotton planters. Farmers in the West were producing more wheat than the West could consume, and crop surpluses were sold to the manufacturing Northeast.
Effects on Agriculture
The commercialization of agriculture changed the economic base for the South and West. Though the country remained regionally specialized, with the North and South divided by sectional ideology, the growth in commercial agriculture pushed farmers in the South and West away from subsistence agriculture and production for local markets toward a nationally integrated market.
The Growth of Cities
In the early 1800s, the ports of Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and New York were sites of rapid urban development.
Describe the political, cultural, and economic landscape of the four key urban centers of nineteenth-century America
- The cities of Philadelphia, New York, Baltimore, and Boston were popular destinations because of the cultural and economic opportunities they offered.
- Philadelphia served as the cultural and financial center of the United States prior to the War of 1812, after which New York came to dominate the East Coast.
- Though each of these cities served as a crucial trade hub during this era, New York’s easy access to the agricultural markets of the West via the Erie Canal gave it an important advantage over other cities.
- Urbanization greatly increased with the expansion of the railroad in the latter half of the nineteenth century, particularly in the West.
- New urban problems included the outbreak of major epidemics due to lack of sanitation, deadly fires due to overcrowding, and rampant poverty.
- Free African Americans established strong communities and abolitionist networks in cities such as Baltimore and Philadelphia.
- Baltimore and Ohio Railroad: One of the oldest rail lines in the United States and the first common carrier rail line.
- Erie Canal: The 363 mile-long canal from the Great Lake of the same name to the Hudson River in New York.
- Panic of 1837: A financial crisis or market correction in the United States built on a speculative fever.
The eastern port cities of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Baltimore transformed the demographic landscape of the United States in the early 1800s. In 1790, only 12 cities in the United States had a population greater than 5,000. By 1860, 16 percent of Americans lived in cities with 2,500 or more people, and manufacturing in these cities was responsible for one-third of the nation’s income.
Four Key Urban Centers
In 1800, Philadelphia was one of the busiest U.S. ports and the country’s largest city, with more than 60,000 people living in the city and surrounding area. Philadelphia reigned as the cultural and financial center of the country during this period. Its large free black community aided fugitive slaves and founded the first independent black denomination in the nation, the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
Philadelphia became one of the first U.S. industrial centers. Major industrial projects included the Waterworks, iron water pipes, a gasworks, and the U.S. Naval Yard. Along with its industrial power, Philadelphia was the financial center of the country. The city was the home of the First and Second Banks of the United States and the first U.S. Mint. Cultural institutions, such as the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and the Franklin Institute also flourished in Philadelphia.
Philadelphia’s maritime trade was interrupted by the Embargo Act of 1807 and the War of 1812. After the war, Philadelphia’s shipping industry never returned to its pre-embargo status, and New York City succeeded it as the busiest port and largest city.
New York City
Even in the early nineteenthcentury, New York City was a cosmopolitan enclave with a transitory population made up largely by immigrants. In 1811, New York adopted a grid system of numbered streets and avenues to efficiently develop and sell property in Manhattan.
Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in New York City contributed to an increase in disease, and cholera and yellow fever ravaged the city. A polluted aquifer, overcrowded housing, a lack of sewers and basic sanitation, and the existence of polluting industries near wells and residential areas contributed to an unprecedented mortality rate. In addition, the rapid expansion of densely packed wooden buildings led to many fires, culminating in the Great Fire of New York in 1835, which devastated the city.
With the development of steamboats and canal routes, waterborne shipments quickly became more popular than shipment over land. The opening of the Erie Canal greatly increased New York City’s importance, connecting the city to the vast agricultural markets of the North American interior. Though New York City’s rapid development was temporarily suspended by the Panic of 1837, which resulted in high rates of unemployment and bankruptcy for many businesses, the city gradually recovered. By 1850, New York City had reestablished itself as the financial and mercantile capital of the western hemisphere.
Baltimore grew rapidly in the early nineteenth century, becoming the largest city in the American South. Thanks to the milling technology of Oliver Evans, Baltimore dominated the American flour trade after 1800. Other Baltimore businessmen also contributed to the city’s development. Alexander Brown (1764–1834), an Irish immigrant, built the leading foreign exchange house in the United States in the 1830s and the nation’s first investment bank. George Peabody (1795–1869) developed an extensive network of financial and mercantile institutions while endowing libraries and museums and aiding the poor. In 1827, Baltimore’s merchants and bankers developed the tremendously successful Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.
In the late nineteenth century, Baltimore was known as a “city of transients,” a fast-growing boomtown attracting thousands of ex-slaves from the surrounding countryside. Slavery in Maryland declined steadily after the 1810s as the state’s economy shifted away from plantation agriculture, and a liberal manumission law encouraged slave freedom. Despite the displacement of the black labor force with the arrival of German and Irish immigrants, and increasing poverty in the black community, Baltimore had the largest number of free blacks in the nation on the eve of the Civil War.
By 1800, Boston was transformed from a relatively small and economically stagnant town to a bustling seaport and cosmopolitan center with a large and highly mobile population. Boston benefited greatly from being an international trading port, exporting rum, fish, salt, and tobacco, among other products. The population approached 25,000 by 1800.
A network of small rivers bordering the city and connecting it to the surrounding region made for easy shipment of goods and allowed for a proliferation of mills and factories. Road networks were constructed to aid transportation, especially of cattle and sheep to markets. By the mid-nineteenth century, an even denser network of railroads facilitated the region’s industry and commerce. Boston became one of the largest manufacturing centers in the nation, noted for its garment production, leather goods, and machinery industries.
Effects of the Rise of Urban Centers
Thomas Jefferson and his party of the Democratic- Republicans took issue with what they perceived as favoritism given to commercial classes in the principal American cities. Jefferson thought urban life widened the gap between the wealthy few and an underclass of landless poor workers who, because of their oppressed condition, could never be good republican property owners. Rural areas, in contrast, offered far more opportunities for what Jefferson viewed as property ownership and virtue. Over the course of his two terms as president—from 1800 to 1808—Jefferson reversed the policies of the Federalist Party by turning away from urban commercial development. This shift would not last, however, and future administrations prioritized the growth of urban industry.
The membership of political parties in the Second Party System was reflective of urbanization and wealth. Whigs tended to be wealthier; they were prominent planters in the South and wealthy urban northerners—in other words, the beneficiaries of the market revolution. Democrats presented themselves as defenders of the common people against the elite.
Class and Gender
Members of the emerging business elite in these northern cities forged close ties with one another to protect and expand their economic interests. Marriages between leading families formed a crucial strategy to advance economic advantage, and the homes of the northern elite became important venues for solidifying social bonds. Exclusive neighborhoods started to develop as the wealthy distanced themselves from the poorer urban residents, and cities soon became segregated by class.
The profound economic changes sweeping the United States led to equally important social and cultural transformations. The formation of distinct classes, especially in the rapidly industrializing North, was one of the most striking developments. The unequal distribution of newly created wealth spurred new divisions along class lines.
Urban centers became characterized by working-class families and high rates of poverty. Although most working-class men sought to emulate the middle class by keeping their wives and children out of the work force, their economic situation often necessitated that women and children contribute to the support of the family. Working-class women in urban centers made up a high percentage of the work force, and many working-class children went to work in factories. Many women were wage laborers themselves, and others took in laundry or did piecework at home to supplement the family’s income.
The Beginnings of the Labor Movement
Union activity and striking, spearheaded by women factory workers in the 1800s, were important means by which workers could address harsh manufacturing conditions.
Identify key moments and groups in the early history of the labor movement
- Workplaces in the early nineteenth century were notoriously crowded and dangerous, offering low pay and no job security.
- Workers’ organizations and trade unions fought for reforms to improve these conditions; however, unions were not recognized as legal organizations until Commonwealth v. Hunt in 1842.
- Women were among the primary leaders of the early labor movement, forming such groups as the Lowell Factory Girls Association and the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association.
- In 1827, The Mechanics’ Union of Trade Associations formed as a proxy of the united crafts in Philadelphia, with the primary goal of reducing the 12-hour work day.
- Many workers united to form political parties, such as the Working Men’s Party, which lodged a radical protest against the exploitation of workers that accompanied industrialization.
- Worker activism decreased somewhat in the late 1840s and 1850s as the business elite exploited German and Irish immigrants who often were willing to work longer hours for less pay.
- trade union: An organization whose members have the same job or skill that acts collectively to address common issues.
- Panic of 1837: A financial crisis or market correction in the United States built on a speculative fever.
- Mechanics’ Union of Trade Associations: A now-defunct American trade union founded in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1827.
Labor Conditions in the Early Nineteenth Century
Workplaces in the industrialized North in the early nineteenth century were notoriously crowded and dangerous, offering low pay and no job security. Factory work was extremely difficult, requiring 12-hour shifts in unsanitary and unsafe conditions. Between 1830 and 1850, the notion of the “sweatshop” emerged as a specific type of workshop in which a middleman, the “sweater,” directed others in garment production under arduous conditions. The workplaces created for the sweating system comprised anywhere from a few to more than one hundred workers. To improve these conditions, workers’ organizations and trade unions fought for reforms during the early days of the labor movement in the United States.
Early Labor Reform Movements
The first local trade unions in the United States formed in the late eighteenth century. In 1794, Philadelphia shoemakers organized the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers (a reference to cordovan leather) in an effort to secure stable wages. After striking for higher wages, in 1806, eight union leaders were brought to trial and accused of conspiring to increase their pay rates. The defendants were found guilty in a Philadelphia court, a decision that established labor unions as illegal conspiracies. However, the ruling was overturned in a landmark legal decision issued by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court in March, 1842. In Commonwealth v. Hunt, a case concerning a strike organized by the Boston Journeymen Bootmakers’ Society, Chief Justice Lemuel Shaw ruled that unions were legal organizations.
In 1821, the young women employed by the Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham went on strike for two days when their wages were cut. In 1824, workers in Pawtucket struck to protest reduced pay rates and longer hours (which were a result of employers’ cutting back the amount of time allowed for meals). In 1825, female textile workers formed the United Tailoresses of New York to protest the long hours and harsh conditions in garment factories in New York City. Similar strikes occurred at Lowell and in other mill towns such as Dover, New Hampshire, where the women employed by the Cocheco Manufacturing Company ceased working in December 1828 after their wages were reduced.
In the 1830s, female mill operatives in Lowell formed the Lowell Factory Girls Association to organize strike activities in the face of wage cuts, and later established the Lowell Female Labor Reform Association to protest the 12-hour workday. Even though strikes were rarely successful and workers usually were forced to accept reduced wages and increased hours, work stoppages as a form of labor protest represented the beginnings of the labor movement in the United States.
While women spearheaded much of the early labor movement in the United States, children were actively involved as well. In 1835, children employed in the silk mills in Paterson, New Jersey, initiated an unsuccessful strike for an 11-hour day.
The Mechanics’ Union
In 1827, The Mechanics’ Union of Trade Associations formed as a proxy of the united crafts in Philadelphia, with the primary goal of reducing the 12-hour work day. Carpenters, representing the union, led a strike for the 10-hour day in June 1827. Union members ran numerous candidates for local offices while forging coalitions with other organizations that supported educational reforms and economic regulations favorable to Philadelphia’s workers.
In 1837, dozens of industries achieved a victory when the City of Philadelphia passed legislation prohibiting businesses from employing workers for more than 10 hours a day. Unfortunately, soon after the 10-hour workday legislation, the nation experienced the Panic of 1837, and the subsequent rise in unemployment crippled the Mechanics’ Union.
The Working Men’s Party
In Philadelphia, New York, and Boston—all cities that experienced dizzying industrial growth during the nineteenth century—workers united to form political parties. Thomas Skidmore from Connecticut was the outspoken organizer of the Working Men’s Party, which lodged a radical protest against the exploitation of workers that accompanied industrialization. Skidmore argued that inequality originated in the unequal distribution of property through inheritance laws. In his 1829 treatise, “The Rights of Man to Property,” Skidmore called for the abolition of inheritance and the redistribution of property. The Working Men’s Party also advocated the end of imprisonment for debt. Skidmore’s vision of radical equality extended to all; women and men, no matter their race, should be allowed to vote and receive property, he believed. Skidmore died in 1832 when a cholera epidemic swept New York City, but the state of New York did away with imprisonment for debt in the same year.
Worker activism became less common in the late 1840s and 1850s. As German and Irish immigrants poured into the United States in the decades preceding the Civil War, native-born laborers found themselves competing for jobs with new arrivals who were exploited into working longer hours for less pay. In Lowell, Massachusetts, for example, the daughters of New England farmers encountered competition from the daughters of Irish farmers suffering the effects of the potato famine; these immigrant women were willing to work for far less and to endure worse conditions than native-born women were, and American manufacturers took advantage of this to keep wages low. American men and women with families to support grudgingly accepted low wages in order to keep their jobs. As work became increasingly deskilled, no worker was irreplaceable, and no one’s job was safe.
The Development of Holidays
In 1870, Congress enacted the first four federal holidays: New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day.
Discuss the rise of holidays and their role in the development of American culture
- The original holidays in the United States typically were observed on days that had significance for various sectors of American society and were acknowledged by all levels of society, including by the government and the private sector.
- The history of federal holidays in the United States dates back to June 28, 1870, when Congress created federal holidays to correspond with holidays already celebrated and observed by the States.
- The original four holidays included New Year’s Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. George Washington ‘s birthday became a federal holiday in 1880.
- The establishment of official federal holidays acted as a cultural signifier that both mirrored other areas of the world and distinguished the United States as its own country.
- Thanksgiving is perhaps the most controversial of the original federal holidays, believed by many to reflect a simplified narrative that whitewashes and minimizes the genocide of American Indians.
- The Eighth: A former U.S. holiday, in place from 1828 to 1861, that celebrated the U.S. victory in the Battle of New Orleans.
Holidays in the United States
Public holidays in the United States originated from established federal holidays, which were enacted by Congress in the 1870s. They were typically observed on days that had significance for various sectors of American society and were acknowledged at all levels of society, including government and the private sector. Holidays are derived from the history, religion, and cultures of the U.S. demographics and have changed over time.
Holidays are most commonly observed with paid time off; however, many holiday celebrations are honored without time off. Some are observed with community work, depending on the meaning of the holiday. They are not mandated, however, by any federal, state, or local government or agency. There are no national holidays on which all businesses are closed by law. Federal holidays are only established for certain federally chartered and regulated businesses (such as federal banks) and for Washington, D.C. All other public holidays are created by the States, and most states also allow local jurisdictions (cities, villages, etc.) to establish their own local holidays. As a result, holidays have not historically been governed at the federal level, and federal law does not govern business activities. Some states, however, restrict some business activities on some holidays.
The Declaration of Federal Holidays
The history of federal holidays in the United States dates back to June 28, 1870, when Congress created federal holidays to correspond with holidays already celebrated and observed by the States. Although federal holidays were at first applicable only to federal employees in the District of Columbia, Congress extended coverage in 1885 to all federal employees.
The original four holidays included:
- New Year’s Day
- Independence Day
- Thanksgiving Day
- Christmas Day
George Washington’s birthday became a federal holiday in 1880. In 1888 and 1894, respectively, Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) and Labor Day were created. In 1938, Armistice Day (now Veterans Day) was created to mark the end of World War I. The scope and the name of the holiday were expanded in 1954 to honor Americans who fought in World War II and the Korean conflict.
Over the course of U.S. history, federal holidays were created and then abolished over time as their significance waned. Between 1828 and 1861, a holiday known as ” The Eighth ” marked the U.S. victory in the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815 (led by Tennessee’s Andrew Jackson ). Following Jackson’s election as president, the day earned official national recognition. The Eighth continued as an official national holiday from 1828 until the Civil War.
The Role of Holidays in American Culture
The establishment of official federal holidays acted as a cultural signifier that both mirrored other areas of the world and distinguished the United States as its own country. For example, New Year’s Day and Christmas Day, celebrated in other countries around the world, brought Americans together under a common celebration. Christmas Day is the most widely celebrated holiday of the Christian year, observed as a commemoration of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. New Year’s Day celebrates the beginning of the Gregorian calendar year and marks the traditional end of Christmas and the holiday season.
The advent of American-specific holidays, however, such as Washington’s birthday, Independence Day, Thanksgiving, and the Eighth, reflected the formation of a national American identity during the nineteenth century. By marking an official day to celebrate people (such as the first president of the United States) and events (such as the day Americans gained independence from Britain and formed the new nation, and the day Andrew Jackson was victorious over the British army in New Orleans), these holidays fostered a sense of patriotism in the American public.
Thanksgiving is perhaps the most complicated and controversial of the original federal holidays. It originated as a harvest festival and has been celebrated nationally on and off since 1789, after a proclamation by George Washington. According to stories, the event Americans commonly call the “First Thanksgiving” was celebrated by the Pilgrims after their first harvest in the New World in 1621. This feast lasted three days and is believed to have been attended by both American Indians and Pilgrims. The New England colonists were accustomed to regularly celebrating “thanksgivings”—days of prayer thanking God for blessings such as military victory or the end of a drought.
The story of the original Thanksgiving, however, tells a simplified narrative of peace and gratitude between American Indians and European settlers, when in truth, the relationship was characterized by the widespread bloodshed of American Indians and invasion into their land. Much like Columbus Day, Thanksgiving is seen by many as a celebration of the genocide and conquest of American Indians by European colonists. Since 1970, the United American Indians of New England organization has accused the United States and European settlers of fabricating the Thanksgiving story and of whitewashing the genocide of and injustice against American Indians. The organization has led a National Day of Mourning protest on Thanksgiving at Plymouth Rock in Plymouth, Massachusetts, in the name of social equality and in honor of political prisoners.