“The hallmark of the United States has been growth…

Never has this been more true than in the first half

of the nineteenth century, when an unparalleled rate

of growth took place in three dimensions:

population, territory, and economy.”

Battle Cry of Freedom, James McPherson

Consider the following:

Territorial Growth:

In 1790, the United States owned roughly 828,000 square miles of the North American continent.


By 1860, the country had quadrupled in size by settling, claiming,
annexing, or purchasing territory from Native Americans, France,
Spain, Britain and Mexico. It now stretched from the Atlantic to
the Pacific cost taking up more than 3,300,000 square miles.(1)



In 1790, only 24 places in the United States had more than 2,500 people living there.
Only 6% of the total population lived in one of these cities or towns.

By 1860, there were 392 places had a population of 2,500 people or more.
Roughly 20% of the total population lived in these urban areas.(2)

New York City in 1850

Population Growth:

Total Population:

In terms of population, the United States had doubled in size, and then doubled again.
From 1800 until 1850 the American population grew four times faster than Europe's
and six times faster than the world average.(1)

US Population in 1790: 3,929,214

US Population in 1860: 31,443,321

Slave and Freed Black Population:

By 1860 roughly four million of those were black slaves.


Black Americans in 1790: 740,000

Slave: 680,000

Free: 60,000

Black Americans in 1860: 4,441,830

Slave: 3,953,760

Free: 488,070

Immigration Statistics

By 1860 over five million immigrants had settled in the U.S.- roughly 19 percent of the total population.


Irish Immigrants

There were two large movements of immigration during this time period:

From 1820 until 1840, 700,000 immigrants moved to America.
Over 60 % of them were Irish or German. (2)

From 1840 until 1860, over 4 million immigrants came to the United States:
One million of them were Irish - roughly one fourth of Ireland's total population. (1)

Economic Growth:

During the same time period, the Gross National Product - a measure of the total economic output of
the United States - had grown seven times bigger. The country was getting wealthier.

So were individual people: the average income of the U.S. rose 102 percent, with real wages for workers
increasing by somewhere between 40 and 65 percent. (1)


At the same time, new machinery, specialization of labor, and improved efficiency had vastly changed
American industry: An industrial revolution was taking place in the United States.


In 1790, roughly 79% of the American population made their living in agriculture.

By 1860, that number had dropped to 65%. Many Americans began working in factories and mills
instead of on farms. (1)


The rise of industry also prompted a large number of inventions in the U.S.
A patent is a license to make, use, or sell a new invention.

In 1800, there were 309 patents registered in the United States.

By 1860, there were 28,000 new patents.(2)



Before 1815 it cost roughly the same amount to ship cargo thirty miles inland as it did to ship it across the Atlantic.(1)
Most American roads were dirt paths, impossible to travel on in bad weather.

A "Corduroy" Road made from logs and dirt

To travel from Cincinnati to New York took a minimum of three weeks.

The only way to ship goods from these two cities was down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers
to New Orleans and then by salt water along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts—a trip of nearly seven weeks.

Because of this, American traded more across the Atlantic Ocean than internally, most manufactured goods
purchased in the United States came from Britain, and farmers living more than a short distance from the coast
consumed most of what they grew instead of selling it. (1)

But with the rise of industry, the United States needed better transportation to ship goods from place to place.

An Early Steam Powered Locomotive

By 1860 there were 30,000 miles of train rail and 3,700 miles of canals in the United States.
Innovations in transportation cut travel time between New York to Chicago from three weeks to two days.
It reduced the time it took to ship something between Cincinnati to New York from fifty days to five. (1)

A Later Version of the Steam Powered Locomotive

Because of transportation costs, in 1790 a barrel of pork cost $9.53 more in Cincinnati than in New York.
By 1860, the difference had dropped to $1.18.

A sack of flour cost $2.48 more in Cincinnati than in New York in 1790.
By 1860, the difference had dropped to 28 cents.(1)


1. Battle Cry of Freedom, McPherson, James, 1988, Oxford University Press
2. America Is , Drewry, Henry; O'Conner, Thomas, 1995, Glencoe, Macmillian/Mc-Graw-Hill
3. United States- Race and Hispanic Origin: 1790 to 1990, U.S. Census Bureau, Internet Release Date: September 13, 2002