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A plantation scene, Georgia.  New York Public Library Collection
A plantation scene, Georgia. New York Public Library Collection

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  • See History I.29 for material on the development of the Southern state economies and the expansion of slavery before the Civil War.

  • See History I.28 for material on economic and technological changes in Northern industrial systems.

  • See History I.35 for material on different economies and cultures of the North and the South

Slavery monument beside St. Augustine Church, New Orleans
Slavery monument beside St. Augustine Church, New Orleans

Antebellum America (1835-1860):
Antebellum (latin for 'pre war') era was a time of great economic, social and political growth and/or change.
  • Prior to the Civil War great technological advancements were made, social and political groups worked for anti-slavery legislation as well as women's equality and the economic foundation of the country changed.

A. The Transportation Revolution and Creation of a National Market Economy

Railroads, canals, turnpikes and steam boats made the transportation of goods much more efficient. It provided jobs, made travel much easier by connecting the east coast to the west coast.

See United States History I.27 for more on the transportation revolution.

Multimedia.pngWatch a video about the Erie Canal
Crossing of the Alleghany, Pennsylvania Railroad, 1853
Crossing of the Alleghany, Pennsylvania Railroad, 1853

Creation of a National Market Economy:
  • Characteristics of a National Market Economy:
    1. Specialization in agriculture
    2. National and international market system
    3. Use of money and credit
    4. Domestic manufacturing
    5. Rapid economic growth
    6. Potential growth of domestic investment capital
  • Factors that Influenced the Creation of the National Market Economy:
    1. High profits from the Napoleonic Wars/War of 1812
    2. Internal expansion to the Mississippi River
    3. Development of commercial agriculture
    4. Revolution in transportation
    5. Public policy at state and national levels to promote enterprise
    6. Nationalism of the Republican Party (aka Jefferson Party)
    7. Judicial nationalism, creation of legal requirements for a national market
  • Effects of the Creation of the National Market Economy:
    1. Boom-Bust cycles
    2. Increased sectionalism
    3. Psychological dislocations
    4. Economic expansion
    5. Growth of a two party system
    6. Creation of conditions that would allow for the Industrial Revolution
Information taken from the Historical Text Archive

B. Beginnings of Industrialization and Changes in Social and Class Structures

external image 200px-Hebrew_timeline.svg.pngCheck out this Timeline for important dates and advancements during this time period
Drawing of first patented lockstitch sewing machine, invented by Elias Howe, 1845
Drawing of first patented lockstitch sewing machine, invented by Elias Howe, 1845

  1. Beginnings of Industrialization:
    • Mass Production
      • Daily News Papers(1835): the penny press was an affordable and economically savvy way to spread information, political views and agendas. The first Daily Newspaper was the New York Herald, which quickly became a metropolitan stronghold.
      • Manufacturing: Textile manufacturing was extremely popular during this time in the Northeast, particularly in Massachusetts. The south was still based economically on agricultural advancements because of the free labor and fertile soil. Other forms of manufacturing also became booming industries during this period: iron, textiles, flour mills in the Mid-Atlantic States.
      • Sewing Machine: 1848 the sewing machine was invented improving the labor of women in the household
  2. Changes in Social and Class Structures
    • Social and Class Structures
      • The middle-class were the fastest growing group in the Antebellum period.
      • Women in harsh and dangerous conditions with low wages.
      • Immigrants also worked in horrible conditions for ridiculously low wages
      • Social mobility was possible to a small extent
    • Immigration
      • Huge influx of immigrants in the Antebellum Period
      • Majority of them were German and Irish
      • They were seen as a great opportunity for cheap labor by some Americans
      • Nativists were hostile towards them because they:
        • Took jobs from the Americans
        • Their religions were gaining some influence in politics

See Influential Biography Page on Lowell Mill Girls

C. Immigration and Nativist Reaction

  1. Immigration: Mostly European immigrants: Irish, Italian, and German. Because of cheaper transportation costs, high famines in Europe, and the rumors of better opportunities in the United States, there was an influx of immigrants.
  2. Nativist Reaction: Worried about the cultures of immigrants. Nativists believed that immigrants were too different and did not fit in with American values and morals. The creation of the Know-Nothing Party was part of the Nativist Reaction to immigration.

D. Planters, Yeoman Farmers, and Slaves in the Cotton South

game_icon.svg.pngSee The Geography of Slavery in Virginia from the University of Virginia.

By 1830 slavery was primarily located in the South, where it existed in many different forms. African Americans were enslaved on small farms, large plantations, in cities and towns, inside homes, out in the fields, and in industry and transportation.
  • Though slavery had such a wide variety of faces, the underlying concepts were always the same. Slaves were considered property, and they were property because they were black. Their status as property was enforced by violence -- actual or threatened. People, black and white, lived together within these parameters, and their lives together took many forms.
  • Enslaved African Americans could never forget their status as property, no matter how well their owners treated them. But it would be too simplistic to say that all masters and slaves hated each other. Human beings who live and work together are bound to form relationships of some kind, and some masters and slaves genuinely cared for each other. But the caring was tempered and limited by the power imbalance under which it grew. Within the narrow confines of slavery, human relationships ran the gamut from compassionate to contemptuous. But the masters and slaves never approached equality.
  • The standard image of Southern slavery is that of a large plantation with hundreds of slaves. In fact, such situations were rare. Fully 3/4 of Southern whites did not even own slaves; of those who did, 88% owned twenty or fewer. Whites who did not own slaves were primarily yeoman farmers.
  • Practically speaking, the institution of slavery did not help these people. And yet most non-slaveholding white Southerners identified with and defended the institution of slavery. Though many resented the wealth and power of the large slaveholders, they aspired to own slaves themselves and to join the priviledged ranks.
  • In addition, slavery gave the farmers a group of people to feel superior to. They may have been poor, but they were not slaves, and they were not black. They gained a sense of power simply by being white.

Information taken from pbs.org. Click here to read the rest of the article.


The mural on the page depicts a 1917 suffrage parade in New York. Anna Howard Shaw, in cap and gown, leads the parade in New York, and at the right is Carrie Chapman Catt, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association. Left: Jeanette Rankin of Montana, the first woman elected to the House of Representatives. Right: Joseph H. Rainey of South Carolina, the first African American elected to the House of Representatives.

external image Flickr_-_USCapitol_-_Women%27s_Suffrage_Parade%2C_1917.jpg
  1. Seneca Falls Convention:
    • primary_sources.PNGConsidered the jumpstart to the women's rights movement. It was the Declaration of Sentiments, that requested equal rights for women and the end of discrimination based on gender
    • Elizabeth Cady Stanton/Suzan B. Anthony: Both very influential in the abolitionist movement and the women's rights movement dedicated to making a change. But it is also important to note, that the women's rights movement was for white women, while the abolition movement was for women of color. Both were not fought as a cohesive movement, but as separate entities. Stanton, after fighting passionately to free the slaves relinquished her fight and dedicated her time to the Women's Rights Movement. She created the Women's Bible and was extremely influential for achieving the vote in 1920.
  2. Harriet Beacher Stowe
    • 1852: wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin, which arguably became the jumpstart to the Civil War by introducing controversial issues and carefully crafting the experience of a slave.
  3. Cotton Mills:
    • Women began to shift from housework, to economically accountable work in the manufacturing industry. While men held the management positions, women and children were responsible for working on the floor in the factories. Men require a hire pay rate than women, so not only were women paid less than the average man, but they were also expected to work unreasonable hours with only a few breaks a day. The working conditions were detrimental to their health and extremely dangerous. While the work was dangerous, conditions awful and the pay unrewarding, the manufacturing industry served as a gateway to independence for women. They become economically self sufficient and moved out of the house. It started to change the framework of the United States and planted the seeds for the second feminist wave.

Test_hq3x.pngA major difference between Northern and Southern societies prior to the Civil War is illustrated by the role women played in the
A. establishment of educational institutions in the South.
B. growth of the Northern factory system.
C. emergence of a Southern literary tradition.
D. explosion of religious revivalism in the North.

Answer: B
"In the half-century before the Civil War, women formed a significant part of the labor force in many northeastern factories. This was especially so in the early textile mills, where they tended spindles, operated looms, and performed a variety of finishing tasks. A factory system employing a comparable number of women did not emerge in the South until after the Civil War (Oklahoma Subject Area U.S. History Study Guide).

Frederick Douglass, 1855
Frederick Douglass, 1855

Rotating_globe-small.gifPeople of Color:

Frederick Douglass: Escaped from slavery as a teenager and eventually moved North for freedom. He created a publication called The North Star and worked for the abolition movement.

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