United States and American History: 1852

About the history of the United States in 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes Uncle Tom's Cabin a novel against slavery, Emma Snodgrass wears pants.


--Massachusetts workers struggled for a 10-hour day. The workday in the 1850s ran from 8 hours in some few places to as much as 14 and 15 hours. By 1853 many employers had made a concession to the 11-hour day.

Mar. 20 Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe was published in Boston in 2 volumes with a 1st printing of 5,000 copies which sold out within a week. In 8 weeks, 50,000 copies had been sold, and in 20 weeks, 100,000. In a year sales reached 300,000 and in 16 months, one million. The novel provoked a wave of hatred against slavery, as well as the publication of 30 books defending slavery.

Mrs. Stowe, daughter of a Congregational pastor in Connecticut, the 6th of 11 children, was the wife of an erudite clergyman and the mother of 7 children. Her husband had interested her in the slavery question, and once she had visited slaves on a Kentucky plantation. She got her idea for Uncle Tom's Cabin after reading a 76-page autobiographical pamphlet by a real-life Maryland slave named Josiah Henson, who had escaped to Canada. After her novel's success, Mrs. Stowe gave another version of its inspiration. When a visitor asked to shake hands with the woman who'd written the immortal book, Mrs. Stowe stated she hadn't written it. "God wrote it," she said. "I merely wrote his dictation." The book contributed to the bloody conflict between the North and South. When Mrs. Stowe called on President Lincoln at the White House a decade later, he greeted her with the question, "Is this the little woman whose book made such a great war?"

Nov. 21 The 1st of 32 earthquake shocks in California was felt. They continued into the spring of 1853. Little attention was paid to these shocks, as they occurred in the southern part of the State, but they were blamed for the disappearance of the waters of New River and Big Lagoon, which were replaced by "volumes of sulfurous and effervescent sulfur."

Dec. 23 The 1st train west of the Mississippi traveled its route from St. Louis to Cheltenham Mo.--a distance of 5 mi. It was no big deal, but it got people excited that maybe someday the country could be crossed by train.

Dec. 29 Emma Snodgrass, referred to by East Coast newspapers as "the girl who has recently been visiting parts of New England in pants" was "again" arrested in Boston on a charge of vagrancy. Since Emma was regularly employed as a clerk, and paid her bills, the vagrancy charge didn't hold. She was released after the judge had given her some "wholesome advice about her eccentricities," to which she "responded with becoming grace and promised reformation." The next day, however, Emma was back on the street in her "male attire."

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