United States and American History: 1838

About the history of the United States in 1838, the underground railroad fighting slavery, rolling hoops fad, quack medicine flourishes.


This people have much idle time on their hands, which we feel anxious to have employed to some valuable end. It is a most difficult task to teach industry to an idle people. But it is necessary to the promotion of their Christianity.

--A. Bishop, missionary in Hawaii

--The "Underground Railroad" was in full swing. The Railroad provided escape routes for Southern slaves to the Northern States and then on to Canada. Fourteen Northern States set up operations. It was most active in the Western Reserve of northern Ohio, starting there as early as 1790. Contrary to general opinion, the Railroad actually had little effect, since only 500 to 1,000 slaves fled North each year. One slave, Henry Brown, escaped from Richmond to Philadelphia in a box labeled, "This side up with care." If discovered, any alleged runaway could be seized and shackled, denied a trial by jury, prevented from testifying or summoning witnesses, and shipped South to his master regardless of when he had escaped. James Hamlet, a free black living in New York, was apprehended where he worked by a Federal officer and was returned to Baltimore in chains.

--Artist Thomas Cole complained of American anticultural attitudes: "I am out of place . . . there are few persons of real taste; and no opportunity for the true artist to develop his powers. The tide of utility sets against the fine arts."

--Rolling hoops became a new fad among the young ladies on the Washington Parade Ground in New York City.

--Quack medicines became popular. In the New York Herald's advertising columns, which ran 130", 54" were devoted to quack remedies.

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