Life in the 1850s
In 1850, Scandinavian gold miners in California formed the first ski clubs in the On June 2nd, a series of fires destroyed several million dollars worth of

property in San Francisco. In 1851, Cornelius Vanderbilt established a steam ship route

from New York to California. In 1852, Congress established the Oregon territory. A

year later, a San Francisco club introduced the Irish sport of hurling into the United

States. That same year a yellow fever epidemic killed 5,000 people in New Orleans. In

1854, the Kansas Nebraska Act opened the Kansas and Nebraska territories to popular

sovereignty on the issue of slavery. In 1855, violence erupted over the expansion of

slavery in “Bleeding Kansas.” In 1856, Mormon leaders furnished handcarts to

immigrants who intended to cross the plains. On May 24, John Brown and his son killed

5 proslavery men at Pottamatomie Creek in Kansas. In 1857, U.S. troops were sent to

Utah to put down a Mormon rebellion. An expedition led by Albert Sidney Johnston and

guided by James Bridger explored the Yellowstone river valley. In 1858, John

Butterfield opened an overland stage route. On May 2nd, marathon horse riding became

the craze in California. John Powers rode 150 miles on a racetrack in 6 hours, 43

minutes, and 31 seconds; he used 25 mustangs and won $5,000. On May 11th,

Minnesota entered the United States as the 32nd state. In 1859, mining operations

increased in Nevada and Colorado. That same year painter Albert Bierstadt traveled

through the Rocky Mountains. On February 14th, Oregon entered the Union as the 33rd

state. During the 1850’s the Western movement was still strong. During the trip women

didn’t want to wear their traditional dresses so they wore their bloomers instead. In the

late 1850’s, dogfights were growing in the south, in New Orleans and Kentucky.

(Chronicle of America; American Eras; Encarta Encyclopedia; Encyclopedia.com)

In 1850, the gunfighter Benjamin F. Thompson established a reputation for

himself by participating in at least 14 shootouts over the next three decades. California

passed the Foreign Miners Tax. As a result of the population explosion after the Gold

Rush, a wave of violence hit California. In one fifteen-month span in Los Angeles 44

homicides occurred. As a part of the Compromise of 1850, Congress passed the Fugitive

Slave Act in September. On July 23, 1851, members of the Sioux nation signed the

Treaty of Traverse des Sioux, ceding to the U.S. government much of their land in Iowa

and Minnesota. In 1853, the U.S. and Mexico negotiated the Gadsden Purchase, whereby

the former received 29,644 square miles of territory (the southernmost areas of present-

day Arizona and New Mexico) for $15 million. The purchase established the final

boundaries of the continental U.S. and provided the needed land for a railroad route. The

U.S. Senate approved the purchase in June 1854. In People v. Hall, the California

Supreme Court held that no Chinese witnesses would be allowed to give testimony

against a white man. In Clarke County, Missouri, David McKee organized the Anti-

Horse Thief Association. In 1855, California counted 370 homicides in the first eight

months of the year. In 1856, the Committee of Vigilance held sway in San Francisco.

Led by the wealthy and powerful William Tell Coleman, its objective was to attack Irish

Catholics, Chinese, and Mexican Americans as well as “punishing criminals.” The

Apache killed the U.S. Indian agent Henry Dodge. Because of the efforts of Dodge,

Navajo-U.S. relations had been fairly peaceful for the last six-year. In 1857, the decision

of the Supreme Court in the Dred Scott case in effect ruled that slaves were property and

could not be considered citizens under the Constitution. In 1858, Kansas repealed its

antimiscegenation law. (Chronicle of America; American Eras)

In 1853, John Sweet became principal of Rincon Grammar School in San

Francisco. The Ohio legislature established free public education. Congregationalists

found the Pacific University in Oregon. In 1855, the Illinois legislature established free

public education. Michigan State University was found in East Lansing. The Jesuits

found Santa Clara College in California and that same year Auburn University was found

in Alabama. In 1857, Illinois State Normal University was established in Normal,

Illinois. The Ohio Reform School for boys was found. Margarethe Meyer Schurz

opened the first private kindergarten in Watertown, Wisconsin. The Children’s Aid

Society sent city boys to Western states. The Minnesota constitution established free

Public education. In 1858, Episcopalians found the University of the South in Tennessee.

Also, Iowa State University was found in Ames and Catholics found St. Ignatius College

in San Francisco. (Chronicle of America; American Eras)

In 1850, opera debuted in San Francisco with an aria from Verdi’s Ernani.

David G. Robinson published “Seeing the Elephant.” Josiah Gregg, explorer and author

of “Commerce of the Prairies,” died. James Wilkins created intense excitement when he

exhibited his “Moving Mirror of the Overland Trail” in Peoria, Illinois. Frederic Church

painted “Twilight, Short Arbiter Twixt Day and Night,” an epic landscape that suggested

the grandeur of the American West. In 1851, Dame Shirley (Louise Amelia Knapp Smith

Clappe) began publishing “The Shirley Letters,” vivid accounts of life amongst the

miners. Mayne Reid published the novel “The Scalp Hunters.” Stephen Foster

composed “Old Folks at Home.” Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, ethnographer and geologist,

published the first volume of his “History, Condition and Prospects of the Indian Tribes

of the United States.” Schoolcraft’s work became a resource for writers such as Henry

Wadsworth Longfellow. George Caleb Bingham depicted Daniel Boone as a Moses-like

figurative in “The Emigration of Daniel Boone into Kentucky.” With the “Country

Election” Bingham begins his “Election” series, the paintings depicted the democratic

process in the West. James Fenimore Cooper, author of the Leatherstocking novels, died

in his home in Cooperstown, New York, the basis for the fictional settlement in

Cooper’s “The Pioneers.” George Copway briefly published a newspaper devoted to

Native Americans, “Copway’s American Indian.” John James Audubon, naturalist,

painter, and author of “Birds of America,” died. In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe

published “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” San Francisco’s “Golden Era,” a literary journal,

begins publication. In 1853, Augustus Baldwin Longstreet published his novel, “Flush

Times.” Old Block (Alonzo Delano) collected his “Pacific News” articles, which were

humorous sketches about life in Gold Rush San Francisco. For the first time San

Francisco had its own resident opera company, “The Pacific Musical Troupe.” Asher B.

Durand painted “Progress (The Advance of Civilization),” commissioned by railroad

baron Charles Gould. In 1854, Margaret Jewell Bailey published “The Grains,” and

John Rollin Ridge published a ninety-page novel, “The Life and Adventures of Joaquin

Murieta, the Celebrated California Bandit.” Ridge was a Cherokee Indian from Arkansas

who went West during the Gold Rush. Finding little gold, he became a California

journalist and the first Native American novelists. Henry David Thoreau published

“Walden, Or Life in the Woods,” a work that would end up having an enormous impact

on the way American Writers viewed nature. In 1855, Augusta J. Evans published the

novel “Inez, A Tale of The Alamo.” Henry Wadsworth Longfellow published the poem

“Song of Hiawatha.” Walt Whitman anonymously published a collection of poems titled

“Leaves of Grass.” John Phoenix (George Horatio Derby), one of the first Far Western

humorists, published a collection of his sketches, “Phoenixiana.” Maria Ward published

“Female Life Among the Mormons.” In 1857, Alonzo Delano presented his play, “A

Live Woman in the Mines,” one of the earliest dramas written in the West. (Chronicle of

America; American Eras; Encarta Encyclopedia)

In the 1850’s, the Mormons of Utah had vast discrepancies with President James

Buchanon about their liberty and his governing. In 1852, the first Plenary Council of the

Roman Catholic Church in the United States was held. The record revealed 1.6 million

Catholics but only 1,800 priests to serve its 1,600 churches and mission stations. Brigham

Young publicly announced that plural marriage is a holy practice incumbent on Saints

deemed worthy of the privilege. In 1857, fearing the invasion of a Federal Army,

the Mormons and their allies attacked a wagon train and killed 120 California bound

settlers. A year later, President James Buchanan ordered an expedition of 2,500 soldiers

to Utah in order to assert Federal authority over the Mormons. The force camps outside

Salt Lake City recalled at the outbreak of the Civil War. Meanwhile, Buchanan pardoned

the Mormons. By 1850, the Protestant establishment became absorbed with California as

the bellwether for the evangelical impulse; that preoccupation now displaced the earlier

enthusiasm for the conversion of Native Americans. In the early 1850’s, Chinese

laborers began making their way to California. In the 1850’s, the corporate life of

American Jews in the West took shape with the gold rush immigrations. The community

of “True Inspiration,” a movement that originated in Germany, moved westward from

New York in 1855 and established the Amana colonies in east-central Iowa, it practiced a

form of communal theocracy. Between 1852-1855, 10,000 migrants received their

assistance. Of the 22,000 converts traveling to the Salt Lake Valley through 1855, 19,500

were from Great Britain, 2,000 were Scandinavians, and the rest were French, Italian, and

German. (Chronicle of America; American Eras; Encarta Encyclopedia)

In 1851, Lewis Henry Morgan’s study of the Iroquois was published. Audubon

begins publishing “The Vivaparous Quadrapeds of North America.” The Pacific

Railroad and the U.S. Army Corps of Topographical Engineers conducted a series of

expeditionary surveys in the Northwest until 1855. In 1854, G.K. Warren compiled all

known geographic information into a map of the United States from the Mississippi River

to the Pacific Ocean. John Boardman Trask’s geological report on the agricultural and

mineral resources of the coastal mountains is presented to the state legislature of

California. In 1857, J.S. Newsberry, a geologist for the Pacific Railroad, investigated

shell beds and alluvial plains on the West coast and inferred that the Oregon Cascades

once had been covered by an ice cap; this led to the study into the geologic origins of

North America. (Chronicle of America; American Eras)

In1850, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) began

writing their first newspaper, “The Deseret News,” in Salt Lake City. Frederick Douglass

renamed his paper “Frederick Douglass’ Paper” and it won’t be published until 1860.

The phrase, “Go West, Young Man. Go West!,” originally written by John Soule of the

“Terre Haute Express,” is popularized by New York Time editor Horace Greeley, one of

the most enthusiastic promoters of the nineteenth century. The Columbian newspaper is

founded in Olympia, Washington. In 1854, the “Kansas Weekly Herald,” the first

newspaper in Kansas, began production under an elm tree on the townsite of

Leavenworth. The paper continued under two other names until 1861. In 1855, “Frank

Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper” began publication in New York and “Harper’s Weekly”

both end up becoming pioneers of visual communication. Joseph Medill and Charles

Ray purchased the “Chicago Tribune” and transform it into one of the most important

newspapers in the United States. In 1857, Congress authorized the postmaster general to

secure bids for an overland stage service to carry mail and passengers from Missouri to

San Francisco. The Brigham Young Carrying and Express Company, known as the XY

Company, won the contract. The first mail delivery from Independence, Missouri, to Salt

Lake City took twenty-six days. The federal government canceled the contract after only

six months. A rail line between St. Louis and New York City is completed, inspiring

dreams of a transcontinental railroad. England and America were connected for the first

time by the Atlantic telegraph cable; it breaks within a few weeks. In 1859, William N.

Byers launches “The Rocky Mountain News,” a modest newspaper that he used to boost

the fortunes of Denver. Horace Greeley began a trip across the country, sending

dispatches about his journey to the “New York Tribune.” Greeley attested to the rich

land and resources in the West and scouted the best route for the transcontinental

railroad. He is less impressed with the Indians he encountered along the way, calling

them children. Arizona’s first newspaper, the “Weekly Arizonian,” was printed in

Tumac. The paper’s press was shipped around Cape Horn to California and then by

wagon to the town. (Chronicle of America; American Eras; Encyclopedia.com)

In 1850, John Heath invented a binder to tie grains, further mechanizing U.S.

agriculture. Approximately 2,133,000 bales of cotton were picked in the United States;

nearly three times the amount from twenty years earlier. On September 9th, only two

years after gold is discovered, California becomes the 31st state in the Union. On

September 20th, Congress granted the first federal land to states for the construction

between Chicago, Illinois, and Mobile, Alabama. In 1852, two railroad lines connected

Chicago, Illinois, with eastern ports. In this year alone, $81 million worth of gold was

mined in California. On December 30, 1853, the United States bought the Gadsden

Purchase from Mexico. This stretch of land in southern Arizona and New Mexico

completed the boundaries of the continental United States. By 1854, three hundred

thousand people had arrived in California for the Gold Rush. The nation’s first

commercial flour mill opened in Minneapolis, Minnesota, a city that would end up

becoming become a major wheat-processing center. The Kansas-Nebraska Act

commenced the white settlements of Kansas and Nebraska. It also helped push the

country toward civil war over the issue of slavery in the territories, including Kansas.

On August 3rd, the Graduation Act was passed to reduce the price of federal land. The

price per acre varied from 12.5 cents to $1.25, depending on the length of time it had

been on the market. On December 30th, George Bissell and Jonathan Eveleth created the

nation’s first oil corporation, called the “Pennsylvania Rock Oil Company.” In 1855,

Chicago, Illinois, surpassed St. Louis, Missouri, as the center for the Western grain trade.

David Christy published his book “Cotton is King,” coining the phrase “Cotton is King”

for the South. In 1856, the Illinois Central Railroad between Chicago and Cairo, Illinois,

was completed; it received more than 2.5 million acres of federal land to help finance its

construction. On April 21st, the first railroad bridge across the Mississippi River was

constructed between Rock Island, Illinois, and Davenport, Iowa. On August 24, a drop

in grain prices and the over-production of U.S. manufactured goods in an atmosphere of

renewed land speculation set off another panic. The resulting depression lasted two

years. In 1858, the Butterfield Overland Mail began service to California. On March

30th, Hyman Lipman patented the first pencil with an eraser. In July, gold was

discovered near present-day Denver, Colorado, which initiated the Pikes Peak Gold Rush

and the white settlement of Colorado. (Chronicle of America; American Eras)


 
Bibliography:
BIBLIOGRAPHY Daniel, Clifton. “Chronicle of America,” 1997 Mancall, Peter. “American Eras,” 1999 Corporation, Microsoft. “Encarta Encyclopedia,” 1997-2000 Corporation, Infonautics. “Encyclopedia.com,” 2000
 
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