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John Deere’s Steel-Tipped Plow and Cyrus McCormicks’s Mechanical Reaper – Deere invented a steel-tipped plow that halved the labor to clear acres to till. Timber for housing and fencing was available in nearby woods, and settlements spread rapidly. McCormick developed the mechanical reaper which harvested grain seven times faster than traditional methods with half the work force and guaranteed that wheat would dominate the Midwestern prairies.
American System of Manufacturing, or Interchangeable Parts – Europeans had started to refer to manufacture by interchangeable parts as the “American System of Manufacturing. The system had many advantages. Traditionally, damage to any part of something ruined the whole thing and no new part would fit. With interchangeable parts, however, replacement parts could be obtained and mass production also occurred. Samuel F. B. Morse – Morse was an American inventor. He contributed to the invention of a single-wire telegraph system bases on European telegraphs. He was also co-inventor of the Morse code, and also an accomplished painter.
Catharine Beecher, A Treatise on Domestic Economy – In her widely popular Treatise on Domestic Economy, Beecher told women that technological advances made it their duty to make every house a “glorious temple” by utilizing space more efficiently. Contagion Theory versus Miasma Theory – The inability of physicians to explain the diseases led to these theories. No one understood that bacteria cause cholera and yellow fever. The contagion theory was that epidemic diseases were spread by touch, whereas the miasmas theory was it resulted from air carried gases from rotten vegetation or dead animals.
But neither theory worked. Crawford Long and William T. G. Morton – Long employed sulfuric ether during a surgical operation. Long failed to follow up on his discovery, but four years later, Morton, a dentist, successfully employed sulfuric ether during an operation at MA General Hospital in Boston. Within a few years, ether came into wide use in American surgery. Hydropathy – Hydropathy was known as the “water cure,” which filtered into the United States from Europe. By the mid-1850s the United States had twenty-seven hydropathic sanatoriums, which used cold baths and wet packs.
It helped relieve the pain associated with childbirth and menstruation. Sylvester Graham – Graham propounded a health system that anyone could adopt. Alarmed by the cholera epidemic, Graham counseled changes in dies and regimen as well as total abstinence from alcohol. Soon, he added sexual “excess” to his list of forbidden indulgences. Phrenology – The belief that each person was master of his or her own destiny underlay not only evangelical religion and popular health movements but also the most popular of the antebellum scientific fads: phrenology.
It rested on the idea that the human mind comprised thirty-seven distinct organs, each located in the different part of the brain. James Gordon Bennett, the New York Herald, and the Penny Press – Bennett applied new technology to introduce the penny press. Newspapers could now rely on vast circulations rather than on political subsidies to turn a profit. The New York Sun became America’s first penny newspaper, and Bennett’s New York Herald followed in 1835. Horace Greeley and the New York Tribune – Greeley’s New York Tribune pioneered modern financial and political reporting.
The relentless snooping of the Tribune’s Washington reporters outrages politicians. In 1848, Tribune correspondents were temporarily barred from the House floor for reporting about Representative Sawyer of Ohio. Astor Place Riot – In 1849, a long-running feud between the leading American actor, Edwin Forrest, and popular British actor William Macready ended with the Astor Place riot in New York City, which left twenty-two people dead. This riot demonstrated the broad popularity of the theater.
Minstrel Shows – These shows arose in northern cities when white men in blackface took to the stage to present and evening of songs, dances, and humorous sketches. Minstrelsy borrowed some authentic elements of African-American culture, especially dances. P. T. Barnum and the American Museum – Barnum purchased a run-down museum in NYC, rechristened it the American Museum, and opened a new chapter in the history of popular entertainment. The founders of earlier museums had educational purposes. Barnum, in contrast, made pricking public curiosity the main goal.
Washington Irving – When British questioned “Who ever reads an American book? ,” Americans responded by pointing to Irving, whose Sketch Book contained two famous stories, “Rip Van Winkle” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. ” Naming hotels and steamboats after Irving, Americans soaked him in applause, but they had to concede that Irving had done much of his best writing while living in England. James Fenimore Cooper – Cooper was the first important figure in this literary upsurge. His most significant innovation was to introduce a distinctively American fictional character, the frontiersman Natty Bumppo.
Edgar Allan Poe – Poe wrote both fictional and poetry and was a major contributor to the American Renaissance. He set several of his short stories in Europe; as one critic has noted, “His art could have been produced as easily had he been born in Europe. ” American Renaissance – The Renaissance was a flowering of literature. In 1800, American authors accounted for a negligible proportion of the output of American publishers. By 1830, 40 percent of the books published in the United States were written by Americans; by 1850 this had increased to 75 percent.
Not only were Americans writing more books; increasingly, they sought to depict the features of their nation in literature and art. Henry David Thoreau – Thoreau was representative of the younger Emersonians. He was more of a doer and was adventurous in action. At one point, he went to jail rather than to pay his poll tax. This revenue, he knew, would support the war in Mexico, which he viewed as part of a southern conspiracy to extend slavery. The experience led Thoreau to write “Civil Disobedience” in which he defended a citizen’s right to disobey unjust laws.
Ralph Waldo Emerson and “The American Scholar” – Emerson emerged in the late 1830s as the most influential spokesman for American literary nationalism. He announced his address “The American Scholar. ” The time had come for Americans to trust themselves. Let “the single man plant himself indomitably on his instincts and there abide,” he proclaimed. Transcendentalism – It’s a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the Eastern region of the United States as a protest to the general state of culture and society.
Among their core beliefs was the inherent goodness of both man and nature. They believed that society and its institutions ultimately corrupted the purity of the individual. Margaret Fuller – Her status as an intellectual woman distanced her from conventional society. Disappointed that his first child was not a boy, her Harvard educated father determined to give Margaret the sort of education young men would have acquired at Harvard. Fuller turned transcendentalism into an occupation of sorts. Nathaniel Hawthorne – Hawthorne was a major contributor to the American Renaissance.
He wrote the famous novel, The Scarlett Letter along with The House of the Seven Gables and The Marble Faun in Rome. He ignored Emerson’s call to write about everyday experiences of their fellow Americans. Ironically, their conviction that the lives of ordinary Americans provided inadequate materials for fiction led them to create a uniquely American fiction marked less by the description of the complex social relationships of ordinary life than by the analysis or moral dilemmas and psychological states.
Walt Whitman – Self-taught and in love with virtually everything about America except slavery, Whitman left school at eleven and became a printer’s apprentice and later a journalist and editor for various newspapers in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and New Orleans. A familiar figure at Democratic Party functions, he marched in party parades and put his pen to the service of its antislavery wing. Herman Melville – Melville was another key contributor to the American Renaissance who primarily wrote fiction.
He did draw materials and themes from his own experiences as a sailor and from the lore of the New England whaling industry, but for his novels, be picked the exotic setting of islands in the South Seas. He wrote the famous Moby-Dick. Thomas Cole, Asher Durand, Frederic Church, and the Hudson River School – The Hudson River School flourished from the 1820s to the 1870s. Cole, Durand, and Church best represented more than fifty painters. They painted scenes of the region around the Hudson River, a waterway that Americans compared in majesty to the Rhine.
Lyceums – This is a category of educational institution defined within the education system of many countries, mainly in Europe. The definition varies between countries; usually it is a type of secondary school. Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux – In 1858, New York City chose a plan drawn by Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux for its proposed Central Park. Olmstead eventually became the park’s chief architect. They both wanted the park to look as much like the countryside as possible, showing nothing of the surrounding city.