United States and American History: 1832

About the history of the United States in 1832, the invention of phrenology, biography of Robert the Hermit, a cholera epidemic, and Calhoun resigns as vice-president.


--Johann Kaspar Spurzheim of Vienna introduced phrenology in Boston. Phrenology, which swept the country, determined a man's intellect and character from the shape of his cranium and the "bumps on his head." Many notables, such as Daniel Webster and Andrew Jackson, actively endorsed the new "science."

--Atkinson's Casket recommended calisthenics for young city women, to prevent physical deterioration. Muscular development of the back was especially stressed, through use of swinging-type exercises. This was typical of the fears-of-the-time about big-city unhealthiness as opposed to farm-life wholesomeness.

Apr. 1 Robert the Hermit died near Seekonk, Mass. A black slave born at Princeton, N. J., he became one of the most famous hermits in the U.S. He had obtained his freedom early, but later was cheated out of it. Shipped to a foreign slave market, he escaped and returned to America. His 1st wife was torn from him, while his 2nd rejected him. Embittered, he withdrew from society to his lonely hermitage.

Apr. 6 The Black Hawk War began when Sac chief Black Hawk recrossed the Mississippi River to plant corn in the tribe's old fields in Illinois. White settlers panicked, killing a Sac holding a truce flag, whereupon the enraged Black Hawk killed the settlers. The war ended in August with the massacre of the tribe by Illinois militia under General Atkinson. Old men, women, children were all slaughtered despite a truce flag and pleas for mercy. Two future Civil War opponents took part in this shameful affair--Capt. Abraham Lincoln and Lieut. Jefferson Davis.

June 28 The 1st cholera epidemic in the U.S. broke out in New York City and spread throughout the country: 2,251 died in New York; 6,000 in New Orleans, where corpses weighted down with stones were thrown into the river. The epidemic swept through the Plains Indians in the 1840s reducing their numbers until they could not defend themselves against encroaching whites. Historians cite this as one reason the major Indian wars did not start until the 1860s.

July Andrew Jackson vetoed the bill to re-charter the Bank of the U.S., stating:

It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. . . . When the laws undertake . . . to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society, the farmers, mechanics, and laborers, who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their government.

Nov. 14 First horse-drawn streetcar made its appearance in New York on lower 4th Avenue. Designed and constructed by John Stephenson, it was called the "John Mason" and accommodated 30 passengers,. The fare was 12 1/2cent.

Dec. 28 First Vice-President to resign. John C. Calhoun did so after being elected a senator from South Carolina, in order to carry on the fight for slavery and States' rights. Calhoun never did get along very well with his superior, President Jackson, a strong Union man.

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