United States and American History: 1785

About United States history in 1785, including laws on bundling, the invention of bifocals, start of public schools.


--The New England custom of bundling began to disappear, due to severe criticism from bluenose reformers. However, this practice, which allowed courting couples to occupy the same bed--if fully clothed and separated by a "bundling board"--persisted in western Pennsylvania until the 1840s.

--A Federal land law put up for sale government holdings in lots of 640 acres. Although the price was only $1 per acre, this was too much for common people and the land was grabbed up by speculators who made huge profits by subdividing the land and reselling it.

May 20 By congressional authority, Section 16 in each township of the Western Reserve in the Great Lakes region was set aside to support public schools. This was the 1st Federal land grant that subsidized education.

May 23 Ben Franklin, annoyed at having to carry 2 sets of eyeglasses, invented bifocals. He made a pair of glasses whose lenses had separate areas to correct near and far vision. The idea did not impress the visually limited. An ordinary set of spectacles--with just the standard type of lens--cost $100, the equivalent of 15 months' pay for a soldier in Washington's army.

July 6 Thomas Jefferson proposed the monetary decimal system to Congress. Crediting the original idea to Gouverneur Morris, Jefferson suggested 4 coins: the $10 gold piece, the silver dollar, the silver dime, and the copper penny. Jefferson had also considered 3 other coins: a silver half-dollar, "one of the value of 2/10 . . . equal to the Spanish pistereen, and one of the value of 5 coppers . . . equal to the Spanish halfbit,"--which became the modern half-dollar, the quarter, and the nickel.

Oct. 1 John MacPherson published Philadelphia's 1st city directory. It contained the names and residences of 6,250 citizens, 686 of whom had ordered a copy.

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