- from Lincoln
Abraham Lincoln grew up in a fast-changing America. When Abe was born in 1809, more than 90 percent of the population worked on the land.
Most of them lived near the Atlantic coast. However, a transportation and communication revolution would soon open new lands to settlement and changes, both in terms of where people lived and how they made their living. By 1848, the nation was five times larger than it had been in 1800, and half the population lived outside of the 13 original states.
The nation’s first commercial railroad, the Baltimore and Ohio, began operating in 1830. By 1860, more than 30,000 miles of railroad track had been laid. The railroad opened up the interior of America by making it easier for people to settle new lands. It also lowered transportation costs, which helped industry expand. The invention of the steamship improved transportation on the Mississippi, Ohio, and other major rivers, as well as across the Great Lakes. Cross-country communication was improved by the Pony Express and by the invention of the telegraph.
Westward expansion and advances in transportation increased differences between the North and South. While the South became more deeply embedded in its slavery-based agricultural economy, a new manufacturing economy sprouted in the North. Factories produced items that people had made at home. Merchants, bankers, master craftsmen, and others contributed to the growth of commerce.
The face of America certainly was changing—and it was changing faster than it ever had before.
Check It Out!
Can you name the 13 original states?
Bonus: What year did each of them enter the Union?
Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey were the first three states to enter the Union when they joined in 1787. Georgia, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland, South Carolina, New Hampshire, Virginia, and New York were the next states to enter the Union, and they joined in 1788. North Carolina followed them by entering the Union in 1789, and Rhode Island was the last of the 13 original states to enter the Union when it joined in 1790.
Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin, which removes the seeds from cotton. It’s able to produce 50 pounds of cleaned cotton a day.
Robert Fulton makes the first commercial steamboat trip. He carries passengers on a 130-mile journey from New York City to Albany, New York.
Traveling from Georgia to England, the SS Savannah is the first steamship to cross the Atlantic.
The importation of enslaved persons is banned in U.S.
Michael Faraday discovers the principle that allows the development of the electric motor.
• The Erie Canal is opened, creating a water route between Albany and Buffalo in New York.
• John Stevens builds and operates the first experimental steam locomotive.
Joseph Niépce, a French inventor, takes the world’s first photograph of a real-world scene.
The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad begins operating between Baltimore, Maryland, and the Ohio River.
Settlers win the Black Hawk War, in which Lincoln played a minor role. It is the final act of domination of the Great Lakes region.
Samuel Morse perfects the telegraph and begins the first telegraph line in the U.S. The line provides a link between the cities of Washington, D.C., and Baltimore, Maryland.
French inventor Louis Daguerre perfects the photographic (daguerreotype) process.
Elias Howe patents a sewing machine that uses a lockstitch method.
Gold is discovered at Sutter Creek near Coloma in California.
Harriet Beecher Stowe publishes the antislavery book Uncle Tom’s Cabin.
Isaac Singer perfects the sewing machine, making it practical for home use.
In Pennsylvania, Edwin Drake drills the first commercial American oil well.
Sir Henry Bessemer develops a process for producing steel economically.
• The first transcontinental telegraph line is completed, and the Pony Express service comes to an end.
• Abraham Lincoln assumes the presidency.
• Only 39 days after Lincoln takes office, the Civil War breaks out.
• South Carolina is the first state to secede from the Union.
• The Pony Express service begins, carrying mail between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California.
Check It Out!
When inventor Samuel Morse sent the first telegraph message on May 24, 1844, what did it say?
“What hath God wrought?”