Technology, Culture and Everyday Life 1840-1860

Technology, Culture and
Everyday Life 1840-1860
John Deere & the Steel Plow
Cyrus McCormick
& the Mechanical Reaper
Eli Whitney’s Gun Factory
Interchangeable Parts Rifle
Samuel F. B. Morse
1840 – Telegraph
Typical 18th Century row houses in Philadelphia. Because transportation was
mostly limited to walking, houses and other buildings were close together to
minimize travel time
A more modern row house from the late 1800s. The styles haven’t changed
much, nor have the distance between buildings. Pushing out the living rooms
in the front, however, captures more light.
The front parlor featuring Rococo
Revival seating furniture.
Phrenology is a hypothesis stating that the personality traits of a
person can be derived from the shape of the skull.
In the Victorian age, phrenology as a psychology was taken
seriously and permeated the literature and novels of the day
• The American brothers Lorenzo Niles Fowler and Orson Squire
Fowler were leading phrenologists of their time.
• Thousands of people consulted phrenologists for advice in
various matters, such as hiring personnel or finding suitable
marriage partners.
• Beginning during the 1840s, phrenology in North America
became part of a counter-culture movement evident in the
appearance of new dress styles, communes, mesmerism, and
a revival of herbal remedies.
• Phrenology was rejected by mainstream academia
The development of quicker, more efficient printing methods led to a rapid growth of newspapers
in the U.S. during the 19th century. As the country expanded and new metropolitan centers
sprang up, so did newspapers that served the interests of the region. A growing literacy rate
among the populace also helped make such printed matter more popular and profitable.
The New York Family Story Paper was
established in 1870 and like other penny
papers (such as the New York Detective Library,
at right) ran adventure stories, sensational
romances and racy detective stories. It did not
have a good reputation; the Eagle called it "a
loose publication."
The newsboy occupation existed from the late 1800s, through the early twentieth
century and even into the 1940s (the time period for The Printer). The job of hawking
newspapers to passer-bys was not an easy job, and many poor, homeless children
competed for the meager money that could be gained from the position.
When the immigrants arrived, adults and children alike searched for jobs and living
quarters. Around this time, the American newspaper industry began to boom, and
newspapers required cheap workers to distribute daily editions. A New York paper, The
New York Sun, was the first newspaper to hire newsboys to sells papers on the streets
of the busy city. Soon, other papers followed suit and the newsboy career path
The life of a newsboy was tough: in many cases, these boys and girls (yes, girls sold
papers too!) needed to sell papers in order to buy food and survive. Some newsboys
were as young as six years old, while others were teenaged at fourteen or fifteen.
Because many of them had to sell papers from the early morning until late evening in
order to earn money for food, most newsboys did not attend school. Many were
orphans, living on the street, and fellow newsboys formed their families.
• Like newspapers, theaters increasingly appealed to a mass audience.
Antebellum theaters were large and crowded by all classes. Prostitutes
usually sat in the top gallery called the third tier. Theatrical audiences
were rowdy. They showed their feeling by stamping feet, whistling and
throwing garbage at the stage when they did not like the character.
• Actors developed huge followings. Melodramas in which virtue was
rewarded were performed the most. The most popular dramatist was
Minstrel Shows
• It originated in the 1820s, when white actors began creating
black-faced comic types and darkened their skin with burnt
cork. These characters, including one named Jim Crow, often
replaced white rural types as popular comic subjects. And the
minstrel style spread throughout Europe as well as the United
States. By the 1830s, black-faced white performers were
highly popular attractions on the American stage, especially in
the North, where whites' contact with blacks was more
limited than in the South. Portrayals were often freakish.
P. T. Barnum
P.T. Barnum bought the American Museum in
New York City in 1841 and turned it into an
exhibition hall for the presentation of "freaks"
such as ventriloquists, magicians, albinos and
the ultra-small General Tom Thumb . A
brilliant and shameless promoter, Barnum
weathered accusations of fraud with the
attitude that there was no such thing as bad
press, and he became one of the richest men
in America. In 1871 Barnum opened a circus,
billed as "The Greatest Show On Earth." In
1881 he merged with competitor James Bailey,
forming Barnum & Bailey's Circus (eventually it
became today's Ringling Bros. and Barnum &
Bailey Circus).
American Renaissance
• After 1820, the United States experienced a flowering of
literature. The leading figures of this Renaissance included
James Fenimore Cooper, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David
Thoreau, Walt Whitman, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel
Hawthorne, Herman Melville, and Edgar Allen Poe.
• The transportation revolution created a national market for
• The American Renaissance reflected the rise of a
philosophical movement known as romanticism (revealing the
longings of an individual authors soul), which challenged
classicism (that standards of beauty was universal).
American Landscape Painting
The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement
embodied by a group of landscape painters whose aesthetic vision was influenced
by romanticism. Their paintings depict the Hudson River Valley and the
surrounding area, including the Catskill, Adirondack, and the White Mountains.
While the elements of the paintings are rendered very realistically, many of the
actual scenes are the synthesized compositions of multiple scenes or natural
images observed by the artists. In gathering the visual data for their paintings, the
artists would travel to rather extraordinary and extreme environments, the likes of
which would not permit the act of painting. During these expeditions, sketches
and memories would be recorded and the paintings would be rendered later, upon
the artists' safe return home.
The artist Thomas Cole is generally acknowledged as the founder of the Hudson
River School.
Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a
Mount Washington, by John Frederick
Thomas Cole
American, 1801-1848
Distant View of Niagara Falls, 1830