United States and American History: 1840

About the history of the United States in 1840, the population, expansion of the railroads, immigration grows, House rejects abolition bills.


--U.S. population--17,069,453. So said the 6th national census.

--The expansion of the railroads (there were 2,818 mi. of rails by 1840), the production of farm machinery, pistols, stoves, clocks, sewing machines, and the development of the iron industry evoked this remark from Henry David Thoreau: "How little do the most wonderful inventions of modern times detain us. They insult nature. Every machine or particular application seems a slight outrage against universal laws. How many fine inventions are there which do not clutter the ground. . . ."

--Immigration figures soared to 1,750,000 by 1840, and would reach 2,500,000 by the end of the decade. "Runners," themselves immigrants at one time, took advantage of the new arrivals by steering them to 2nd-rate boarding-houses and hotels, and conning them into trips West that promised 1st class passage when actually the worst possible accommodations were provided. Eventually, knowledge of this treatment made immigrants reluctant to leave their port of immigration, thus overcrowding these port cities.

--Methods of travel diversified and developed. Besides wagon trains on land, rafts, pirogues (40' canoes costing $10 to $20), keelboats, and bateaus were in use on the waterways but the increased traffic of the steamboat, with its more comfortable passage, saw the decline of the smaller boats.

--The American Society of Dental Surgeons was established and the College of Dental Surgery was founded in Baltimore.

--Potawatomie Indians in Indiana were moved west.

--Pennsylvania boasted 608 mi. of canals. A trip on the Pennsylvania Canal covering a distance of 394 mi. required "only" 4 days.

--John W. Draper, physicist and astronomer, took the 1st photograph of the moon. Draper was also the 1st to produce a photograph of a person with eyes open.

--Two Years before the Mast was published. Its author, Richard Henry Dana, was admitted to the Massachusetts bar the same year. Dana's book was based on his experiences as a common sailor during a voyage to California.

Jan. 8 The House passed a resolution refusing to accept resolutions or petitions concerning the abolishment of slavery.

Mar. 31 Ten-hour day established for Federal employees.

July Samuel Cunard, a Canadian, aided by the British Government, established the 1st transatlantic steamship line. Its 1st ship left Liverpool on July 4 and arrived in Boston on July 19.

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