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Kingwood College Library

American Cultural History

19th Century - 1820-1829

1800 1810 1820 1830 1840 1850 1860 1870 1880 1890

This page includes:

Presidents: James Monroe, John Quincy Adams, Andrew Jackson | Population: 9,638,453 | Statehood: Maine, Missouri,

About the 19th Century Decades Pages

Our objective, as with the twentieth century, is to help viewers understand the cultural history of each period of the 19th century - decade by decade. We encourage users to browse through these decades, then visit the suggested links for more information. As librarians who love the Internet, but still like to get our hands on books, we must remind users that the Internet has become a wonderful resource for researchers. Just don't forget that trip to the library where you can sit for hours viewing original documents and photographs. The smell of the old books alone make it worth the trip!

The 1820-1829

The 1820's was a decade of politics and growth as a country. Both the Democratic and the National Republican parties were formed during this decade. The first woman was nominated for the presidency | Boston streets were lit with gas | Americans adopted coffee as a popular drink. | A boat race in New York harbor had an estimated crowd of 50,000 people | Gambling was permitted in some areas | Public horse races were held on Long Island | In the evenings, Americans gathered around the piano and sang.


Horatio Greenough's statue of George WashingtonThe Federal style and American Greek revival style remained very popular from 1820 to 1860. Americans loved these grand styles. Grove Court  houses in Greenwich Village were good examples of nineteenth century architecture before the emergence of American Greek Revival. In 1821, an Italian named Antonio Canova, sculpted a statue of George Washington. It was placed in the capitol of North Carolina, Raleigh. Another sculpture, Horatio Greenough's colossal statue of George Washington remains in Washington. Isaac Damon, the most popular architect of New England, completed The Meeting House (now the White Church Community Center) in Deerfield, Mass. An important architectural feat was The First Church (Unitarian) at Quincy, Mass. Gilbert Stuart's George WashingtonBuilt by from local granite, it was called the Stone Temple.Philadelphia was the largest city, financial center, and major port of the country (until 1830 when NYC gained this honor).

John James Audubon American artists would have come to a sad end if it had not been for the commissions of the wealthy. There was widespread demand for portraiture. Gilbert Stuart was one of the most successful and prolific of artists. Thomas Sully was another artist who gained wealth as a portraitist, completing over 2000 portraits during his lifetime. The Hudson River School, a group of American painters who adopted a romantic attitude toward nature, became highly popular. This romantic art depicted images of America's wilderness, and was led by artists. Thomas Cole and Asher B. Durand. The National Academy of Design (first called The New York Drawing Association) was organized in NYC. Samuel F.B. Morse (who later invented the telegraph) was chosen as its first president. He was a portraitist during the early decades. John James Audubon published The Birds of America (WOW! Take time here.) in England. Scrimshaw, carving the teeth or jaw of a sperm whale, flourished during this period. Fishermen filled their lonely hours by creating these beautiful scenes on bone.



Missouri Compromise of 1820Ohio Governor Jeremiah Morrow helped pass the Federal Land Law of 1820 which spurred expansion into new territories by enabling settlers to purchase 80 acres of land for $1.25 per acre.  In 1821, William Becknell opened the Santa Fe Trail in order to trade with New Mexico.  President James Monroe vetoed the Cumberland Road Bill to repair and collect tolls on the National Road across the Appalachian Mountains.  His veto requested the passage of a constitutional ammendment giving the national government authority to finance and build roads. William Ashley organized gatherings called rendezvous in 1825 where trappers could trade furs for needed supplies.  In 1824, Jedediah Smith rediscovered the South Pass over the Rocky Mountains opening Oregon and California to settlers. Commerce between new territories and established communities grew as transportation on rail lines, such as the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, and river routes, like the Erie Canal, were completed. Gateway cities, such as New Orleans, Cincinnati, St. Louis and Chicago, grew quickly, providing urban markets which tied the new territories by trade to the Atlantic states. The United States remained an agricultural nationErie CanalThe Missouri Compromise of 1820 allowed slavery to exist in some of the new states which were created out of the Louisiana purchase, while others were designated free states.  The demand for American cotton in British factories in 1829 helped increase production in the American South.  Debate over the slavery question increased when larger plantations began using overseers to maximize production.  John Jacob Astor made a fortune in fur trading while other merchants grew rich by selling different commodities as Americans reoriented their businesses and farms in order to acquire manufactured goods of all kinds.  Native Americans also became more dependant on goods provided by trade, ultimately undermining older established tribal economies.  In 1828 John C. Calhoun led Southerners in a protest of the Tariff of Abominations, so called because it placed high tariffs on imported raw materials. As tariffs were used by the federal government as a source of funding, protests sprang up along sectional lines. Nicholas Biddle became the president of the Second Bank of the United States in 1823.  John Quincy Adams who had become president in 1824, believed in a national marketplace which sponsored trade and commerce between the North and the South. When Andrew Jackson became president in 1828, he began a campaign to abolish the Second Bank of the United States, claiming it had too much power.


A native literature began to appear. Several American authors were read in both the United States and abroad. Two literary giants were especially revered - Irving and Cooper. Rip Van Winkle was written by Washington Irving. Popular author James Fenimore Cooper wrote a romance of the American Revolution, The Spy. Rip Van Winkle  with Children He published his Leather-Stocking novels, including The Last of the Mohicans, to phenominal success. Cooper's popularity was partly due to the reader's growing pride in America and its primitive lands. Mohicans with its distinctive American hero is considered by most as the first and most representative novel, helping America establish itself as a country 'culturally' apart from England whose values included love of nature, individualism, and physical ability.

Another literary theme was the romantic treatment of the Indian. One of the most popular accounts of Indian captivity was A Narrative of the Life of Mrs. Mary Jemison by James E. Seaver. Works included Logan, an Indian Tale by Samuel Webber and The Land of Powhatan by "a Virginian." The first newspaper for Indians was published by the Cherokee Council in Echota, Ga. and was created using Cherokee language based on letter symbols. It is still being published. The first newspaper for and by Negroes of America was published in 1827, the Freedom's Journal.

In great vogue during this period were 'annuals' or 'gift books.' An annual was a publication bound in beautiful leather. These contained poetry and women, especially, enjoyed them. The American Tract Society, founded 1825, flooded the country with Christian literature. Tract titles included Beware of Bad Books, Novel Reading, and Poor Sarah. In NYC, the Knickerbocker Group was a school of writers which included Washington Irving, William Cullen Bryant, James Kirke Paulding, and others. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, one of the first American poets began publishing. A number of his early poems were published in the United States Literary Gazette, including "The Angler's Song" and "Autumnal Nightfall." Edgar Allan Poe's first book of poems, Tamerlane and Other Poems, was published. The American Quarterly Review, a scholarly journal, was founded in Philadelphia. Frances Trollope arrived in the U.S. on a visit from England (1827) and later wrote Domestic Manners of the Americans, one of the first of many books by English authors who criticized American intellectual life, tastes, and manners. Perhaps the major writing of the decade (or century) was the monumental American Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster, a labor of 20 years.


Stephen F. Austin as a young man. Hard times in the United States, brought on by the Panic of 1819, added impetus to the desire to find a new life in unsettled parts of the continent. 1823 saw the founding of the first Anglo-American settlement in what was then the province of  Tejas in Mexico.   Stephen F. Austin recruited people to settle land granted to his father by the Mexican government.  These original 300 pioneers set in motion circumstances that, in less than twenty-five years, culminated in Texas becoming the 28th state in the Union. Trails leading west encouraged commerce and migration.   The Santa Fe Trail was established by William Becknell, a trader from Franklin, Missouri, in 1821.  This trail helped open trade between the United States and  newly independent Mexico It was still another route in the constant press westward. By 1825, in a treaty with the Osage Indians, the United States had  negotiated the right-of-way for this major public highway.  Still only two states were admitted to the Union during this decade. They gained admission via the Missouri Compromise.  The people of Maine, which had previously been a part of Massachusetts, voted for separation in 1819, and Maine entered the Union in 1820 as a "free" state.  Missouri was admitted a little over a year later as a "slave" state.  This kept the number of "free" and "slave" states equal.

The federal government began collecting immigration figures in 1820 and these figures indicate that 151,000 new residents entered the country in this decade.  Most of these people were still from the British Isles, but the second largest group came from Germany.  The bitterly cold winters of 1825-26 and 1826-27  caused great hardship in that country and motivated many  Germans to leave their homeland.   There were a number of other  factors that spurred on this influx of people from Europe.  When the depression caused by the Panic of 1819 eased, there was a labor shortage in the United States.  Artisans thrown out of work by the industrial revolution felt their skills might be in demand in the new world.  Small farmers displaced by the change in agriculture brought on by large scale scientific farming were lured by the promise of new, cheap land.  Political and religious  upheavals in the old countries of Europe also enticed individuals to seek a new life in America. The emigration was further enhanced by the flood of  printed material about the United States being generated by the press and publishers in Europe. As knowledge about the new country across the seas was disseminated , more people decided to try their fate there.  The increase in foreign born residents began to effect American politics.  The Democratic Party was considered to be more friendly toward immigration and to those people not born in the United States.  The votes of the Irish in New York City and the Germans and Scotch Irish in Pennsylvania helped to put the first westerner in the White House as Andrew Jackson was elected in 1828.




Richard Malcomb Johnson  A short story by Richard Malcolm Johnson titled "The Goosepond School" told the tale of an often abusive school master in the late 1820s.  The events are based on the author's own experiences as a school boy and illustrate the harsh discipline and school conditions of the time.  A more enlightened method of teaching the young was tried in the utopian community of New Harmony, Indiana.  Here Robert Owen sought to implement the educational theories of Johann Pestalozzi.   In 1827 Samuel Griswold Goodrich began publishing the Peter Parley textbooks which, along with the previous textbooks of Noah Webster, made available American texts for American schools.  In 1820 the first Roman Catholic school in New England was founded in Boston.  A year later Boston's English Classical School became the first public high school in the country.  The early part of the decade saw the legislatures of Ohio (in 1821), Indiana (in 1824), and Illinois (in 1825) establish school districts, and, in 1825, New York established public schools.

In higher education there began to be a clamor for a more relevant college curriculum that taught  skills rather than the then current emphasis on a classical education.  The Yale Report of 1828 defended the classical curriculum as a way to stimulate thought and hone the mind for future knowledge and life-long education.  Even before the Yale Report, though, things were changing.  In 1825 Miami University in Ohio had instituted a parallel program that allowed students to substitute classical languages and mathematics for more modern subjects.  In 1826, Union College in Schenectady, New York, followed suit.  It was a trend that was to continue throughout the century.  In 1824 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute opened its doors as the first solely technical school in the United States.





FLASH! 1824. Boiler explodes on the steamship Maid of New Orleans, which had traveled safely between New Orleans and St. Louis for several years, killing six persons. FLASH! 1826. Country courting song, On Top of Old Smoky, written by the Scottish, Irish, and English immigrants in the southern hills of Appalachians, is a hit! FLASH! March 16, 1827. The first issue of Freedom's Journal, the first Negro newspaper, is published. FLASH! July 4, 1826. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson dead within hours of each other on the day commemorating the birth of our country. FLASH! June 21, 1829. The Georgia Courier urges southerners to diversity her economy by adding manufacturing, fearing the concentration on growing cotton. FLASH! 1825. In Pennysylvania, inclined plane railway seen as an alternative to the expensive canals connecting the Hudson Valley to the Great Lakes FLASH! April, 1825. Columbian Centinel reports criminal conspiracy as journeyman carpenters in Boston strike for higher wages. Claims stricking on the part of labor to improve working conditions is illegal. FLASH! April 30, 1829. New York Workingmen's Party demands a reduction of the work day to ten hours.




Originally bands had consisted of wind instruments such as flutes, oboes, bassoons and non-keyed French horns. During the 20s brass instruments began showing up in bands as the development of keys enabled them to achieve a wider range.  The trumpet and saxhorn were among the newer instruments.  The first pianofortes were a luxury, imported from Europe, but European pianos could not withstand the rigors of the climate in the northeast.  In 1823, Jonas Pickering began serious piano production in Boston. Jim CrowHe designed his pianos with a cast iron frame, enabling them to be shipped by rail, river and canal.  In 1825, Alpheus Babcock patented a piano that could stay in tune in the American climate.  Chivalrous love songs such as Gaily the Troubadour and songs of separation and yearning like Shenandoah were popular during this period.  They were generally written by men and sung by women as parlor songs.  Family and guests gathered around the piano and sang humorous and sentimental songs, like Turkey in the Straw, The Old Oaken Bucket, or The Last Rose of Summer.   Lowell Mason, a compiler of sacred music, would take secular melodies from Europe, selected for their harmonic correctness, and add religious words.  In theaters, performance revolved more and more around stars such as Maria Garcia Malibran.  Operas such as Mozart's Marriage of Figaro and Rossini's Barber of Seville attracted the more sophisticated crowds.  One popular melodrama, Clari, a Beauty-and-the-Beast libretto by John Howard Payne is best remembered for the song Home Sweet Home.  The circus appealed to the masses.  In 1828 Thomas D. Daddy Rice portrayed Jim Crow in between scenes of a play in which he was acting.  This was the beginning of minstrel shows.  A more urbane black, Zip Coon, was portrayed by George Washington Dixon.  Hunters of Kentucky by Samuel Woodworth was used by Andrew Jackson as a campaign song in 1828.



Families entertained at home. Games, dancing and conversation were important. Everyone participated. Children Old football (soccer)played games (jackstraws, hoops, snail) when chores were completed. The minuet was a popular dance during the early 1800's and a lady would carefully choose her dress for an evening that included dancing. Men, women and children enjoyed wearing stylish clothing. A hand-woven fashionable stole could be worn over a day dress in cool weather. One of the first American restaurants, Delmonicos, opened in New York City in 1827. The Boston Exchange Hotel served food and provided room for weary travelers in Boston. Frances Trollope and other Brits were amazed at the eating habits of Americans, Trollope noted: "They eat with the greatest possible rapidity and in total silence." Coffee gained popularity in America, but temperance movements claimed it was an aphrodisiac.

This was a decade of firsts for sporting people. Yale College banned football, fining offenders, not to exceed half a dollar. The first horse race had a purse of $20,000. Horse trotting and boat racing were great forms of entertainment. The first gymnasium was opened in Northampton, Mass. The first swimming school was opened in Boston. John Quincy Adams and John James Audubon were members. The first fancy dress ball on record in New York Society was held at Bowling Green in lower Manhattan.


Great Salt Lake, Bridger While government involvement in the sciences was considered unconstitutional, exploration came within the bounds of the constitution and the General Survey Act of 1824.  1825 the Erie Canal was completed but with it came controversy about federal oversight of interstate transportation.  Henry Schoolcraft located the source of the Mississippi River, the Hudson Bay Company explored Montana, Idaho, Oregon, Utah and California, andJim Bridger Jim Bridger reached the Great Salt Lake.  The explorers sent back specimens and drawings of previously unknown plants, animals and birds, overturning existing schemes for classification.  John James Audubon began publishing his Birds of America in 1827.  In 1829, an Englishman, James Smithson, who had never been to America, bequeathed $550,000 to the government of the United States to establish a scientific institution which became known as the Smithsonian. Learning herbal remedies from the American Indians resulted in a uniquely American pharmacology. Dengue Fever, a mosquito-borne disease with unbearable headache and pain in the bones and joints, broke out in Savannah and spread throughout the South. Although Congress rejected the metric system in 1821, mechanical knowledge was promoted with the Franklin Institute of the State of Pennsylvania for the Promotion of the Mechanical Arts and the Rensselaer School, established to promote the study of science and engineering.  Amasa Holcomb began manufacturing telescopes in 1826.  The first railroad, the B & O, was a horse drawn rail service charted in 1827. The typewriter, called a typographer, was patented in 1829.


Column header for the Black List column Charles Grandison Finney preached a new strain of revivalism which appealed to members of the society who were interested in challenging the power of the existing white, male dominated society, and promoted a creed of free will that made good works the test of a converted heart.  A new, dynamic middle class was busy executing a capitalist revolution in the political economy, naturally gravitating to evangelical religion with its emphasis on human agency and responsibility. The middle class and a more urban society also gave rise to the cult of true womanhood, a philosophy which divided activities by gender, giving women the responsibilities of child rearing and preservation of morals in the family, while men earned money to support the family and had societal obligations in areas of government, military and business. Missionary societies beginning in the 20's were the American Sunday School Union, 1824, the American Tract Society (for disseminating religious literature), 1825, Fugitive slaves - underground railroad the American Society for the Promotion of Temperance, 1826, and the American Peace Society, 1828.  The American Temperance Society originally desired to save people from the evils of liquor, but later endeavored to redeem drunkards as well.  The successful ATS adopted a system of itinerant lecturers to spread its message. The American Colonization Society was promoted by a Quaker, Benjamin Lundy, editor of a newspaper called The Genius of Universal Emancipation.  Linked to these national organizations were many locally run benevolent groups such as the Female Charitable Society of Rochester, New York, established in 1822 to aid the sick poor.

Abolitionism drew proponents from many of the missionary societies as well as other diverse groups.  Frances Wright, Richeson Whitby, James Richardson and George Flower helped establish a community at Nashoba, in 1826, where children of slaves could live and receive an education. The Underground Railroad, which had been in existence for some time, became a very actively used method for slaves to escape into free states in the north and into Spanish held territory in Florida and Mexico.


MLA Style
Sutton, Bettye, et al. "19th Century: 1820-1829." American Cultural History. Lone Star College-
    Kingwood Library, 2004. Web. 1 Mar. 2011.
Chicago Style

Sutton, Bettye, Sue Goodwin, Becky Bradley, Shielda Welling, and Peggy Whitley. "19th Century:
    1820-1829." American Cultural History
. Lone Star College-Kingwood Library. Last modified
    January 2010. http://wwwappskc.lonestar.edu/popculture/19thcentury1820.htm.
APA Style 
Sutton, B., Goodwin, S., Bradley, B., Welling, S., and Whitley, P. (2010). 19th Century: 1820-1829.
    American Cultural History
. Lone Star College-Kingwood Library, Kingwood, TX. Retrieved from

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