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Great Awakenings: Protestant Revivalism

In contrast, as Paul E. Johnson emphasizes in A Shopkeeper's Millennium, Rochester was in the early 19th century a country village growing rapidly into a sizable town, especially after the opening of the Erie Canal. Between 1821 and 1839 its population grew from 1,500 to some 30,000 (pp. 17-18). It retained close links to the surrounding rural countryside -- in contrast to earlier American cities, which were all seaports -- but it was growing into a city, and specifically a manufacturing city, with industries driven by the ready access to water power from the Genesee River.

The explosive growth of Rochester, by coincidence, took place just as the nature of urban life was itself changing. Previously even manufacturing was conducted largely as a form of household economy. A master shoemaker, say, lived adjacent to his shop. His workers, journeymen and apprentices, lived there as well, and were regarded as part of the household, with the master exercising a paternal authority over them.

All this was changing about 1830, toward an arrangement more familiar to us. Proprietors and workers increasingly did not live where they worked, but "went to work" in the morning and back home at the end of work hours. Working conditions on the job came to be much more regimented in the new system, but the other side of the coin was that workers' lives were no longer exposed to the owner's supervision outside of work hours (pp. 43-48). Rich and poor began to live in different neighborhoods. It is notable that the modern word, "boss," was just coming into use for an employer, supplanting the older "master" with its overtones of personal rank subordination (p. 42).

This breakdown of traditional hierarchy relationships seems closely bound to the abrupt emergence of "temperance" as a public-morality issue in the late 1820s, with liquor blamed for all the social ills linked in modern times with drugs. As Johnson notes, "These sentimen...

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