Growing a Nation

Historical Timeline — 1840

Economic Cycles

1844-56
Recovery and business expansion

1857-60
Panic of 1857 and recovery

 

 

Farm Economy

1850-61
The South, with its primarily agricultural economy, is politically strong

Farmers & the Land

1840
Total population: 17,069,453; farm population; 9,012,000 (est.); farmers 69% of labor force

1841
Pre-emption Act gives squatters first rights to buy land

1845-55
Potato famine in Ireland and the German Revolution of 1848 greatly increase immigration

1845-53
Texas, Oregon, the Mexican cession, and the Gadsden Purchase added to the Union

1849
Gold Rush

1850
Total population: 23,191,786; farm population; 11,680,000 (est.); farmers 64% of labor force; Number of farms: 1,449,000; average acres: 203

1850s
Successful farming on the prairies begins; with the California gold rush, the frontier extends to the Pacific coast

1850-62
Free land is a vital rural issue

1854
Graduation Act reduces price of unsold public lands

Farm Machinery & Technology

1840s
Factory-made agricultural machinery increases farmers' need for cash and encourages commercial farming

1841
Practical grain drill patented

1842
First grain elevator, Buffalo, NY

1843
Sir John Lawes founded the commercial fertilizer industry by developing a process for making superphosphate

1844
Practical mowing machine patented

1847
Irrigation begun in Utah

1849
Mixed chemical fertilizers sold commercially

1850
About 75-90 labor-hours required to produce 100 bushels (2 ½ acres) of corn with walking plow, harrow, and hand planting

1850-70
Expanded market for agricultural products spurs adoption of improved technology resulting increases in farm production

1854
Self-governing windmill perfected

1856
Two-horse straddle-row cultivator patented

1858
Mason jars, used for home canning, were invented

Crops & Livestock

1840
Justus von Liebig's Organic Chemistry

1840-50
New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are the chief wheat States

1840-60
Hereford, Ayrshire, Galloway, Jersey, and Holstein cattle are imported and bred

1849
First poultry exhibition in the United States

1850s
Commercial corn and wheat belts begin to develop; wheat occupies the newer and cheaper land west of the corn areas, and is constantly forced westward by rising land values and the encroachment of corn; alfalfa grown on the west coast

1858
Grimm alfalfa introduced

Transportation

1840
3,000 miles of railroad track constructed

1845-57
Plank road movement

1850s
Major rail trunk lines from eastern cities cross the Appalachian Mountains; steam and clipper ships improve overseas transportation

Agricultural Trade & Development

1840-49
Agricultural exports: $90 million/year or 65% of total exports

1850-59
Agricultural exports: $189 million/year or 81% of total exports

1851-60
Cotton exports: $124 million per year or 54% of total exports

1854-57
Crimean War provides boom for U.S. agricultural exports, especially wheat

Life on the Farm

1840-60
Growth in manufacturing brings many labor-saving devices to the farm home; rural housing improves with balloon-frame construction

1844
Success of the telegraph revolutionizes communications

1845
Mail volume increases as postage rate is lowered

Farm Organizations & Movements

1840-60
Interest in agricultural societies revived

1850s
Farmers begin cooperative to make cheese and to market wool and tobacco

1850s
Farmers' clubs proliferate in Midwest

1852
United States Agricultural Society organized

Agricultural Education & Extension

1840
Agricultural journalism becomes permanently established, with about 30 farm journals and a total circulation of more than 100,000

1841
Union Agriculturist and Western Prairie Farmer start publication

1850
Jonathan Turner begins to campaign for industrial universities

1855
Michigan and Pennsylvania pass legislation providing for establishment of Michigan Agricultural College and the Farmers High School, later Pennsylvania State College

Government Programs & Policy

1849
The Patent Office is transferred from the State Department to the newly created Interior Department

1853
New York appoints first State entomologist

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