Christ's Lutheran Church in 1859

[ Christ's Church on the Sawkill ]

Pastor Thomas Lape, 58 (who had been pastor earlier in the decade), conducting services in the third church building, which, like the second one, was known as the "Church on the Rocks," because it sat on a rocky ledge overlooking the Sawkill (about ¾ mile east of our present location--that is, north of present-day Route 212, across from the country club).

Pastor Lape had earned a reputation as a

clear, methodical preacher … instructive … gentle, amiable, cheerful and faithful pastor; … a humble Christian, and a sincere friend. He stood well among the Lutheran clergy of the State.(1) Anderson, Mark J., For All the Saints: Christ's Lutheran Church, Woodstock, New York, 1806-2006 [Bloomington, IN: AuthorHouse, 2006], draft, quoting the 1879 tribute presented by Rev. P. A. Strobel, of the Hartwick Synod obituary committee. (Close)
Many years later, several congregants would remember the Sunday School under pastorate of Reverend Lape
and the beautiful songs the "Dear Old Pastor" taught them. He was very fond of music. And it was after remarked "He is always singing." I remember of hearing that his favorite songs were "Happy Land" and "I want to be an angel and with the angels stand." Then too he was a very strong advocate of temperance and would often address the school on that subject. And he would have them sing that good old temperance song, "Crambamuby."(2) Here Anderson, p. 102, is quoting Kiersted, Helen Herrick (Mrs. C. W. Kiersted), "A Few Thoughts on the History of the Sunday School" [paper delived at the 1906 centennial of Christ's Church]. (Close)
We have no description of what it was like in the first or second church building, but here is a reminiscence(3) Quoted from Moseman, Magda, and Anderson, Mark, eds., Perspectives and Patterns: Christ's Lutheran Church, 1806-1976 [Woodstock, NY: self-published monograph, 1976], itself citing Nathaniel M. Nash in 1906. (Close) about what the third was like in the 1850s:
[ The stove in the church ] My memory dates back fifty years, and that old church standing upon the rocks is the same in outward appearance now as it was then. The door in the center of the south end opened directly into the church, there being no vestibule or hall. The stove stood between the door and the first row of seats.… The stove was a solid cast iron stove … it took long wood and when it got hot it was awful hot. The pipe suspended by wire ran the whole length of the church to the chimney at the north end.… The seats were planed pine boards with backs and ends, and I think the hard side of the boards was up. I could not sit still on them. …

The church was lighted with candles, a candlestick on each end post of the pulpit and tin candle holders hanging upon the wall--just enough of them to make darkness visible. Every little while the sexton would go around with the snuffers and snuff the candles and sometimes he would snuff too low when out would go the light.

There was no carpet on the floor.… There was no bell, so when it was time to commence service, someone would come out and tell those outside to come in.…

[ Farm wagon ] It would be a sight worth seeing today to see the vehicle on a Sunday morning that stood about the church grounds with the teams tied to the pine trees.… [F]arm wagons with long boxes on them and boards laid across for seats, and bed quilts for lap coverings in cold weather, the same kind of wagon with wooden springs with seats attached which they put inside the box (which simply emphasized the jolts); the Gondola pleasure wagon which turned up slightly at both ends with no door but with springs under it; and others of various styles. And in the winter the long sleigh, the farm bobs and … you could see any Sunday that there was sleighing … in some neighborhoods one farmer would take his team and long box wagon and gather up all that wanted to go to church and the next Sunday another would take his team and bring them. In this way those not having teams could get to church. How they all enjoyed the ride! Neither do I think they were proud, for many if not all wore the garments spun, woven, dyed and fashioned by their own mother's hands.

The church owned no parsonage. The pastor
lived in rented rooms wherever they could be procured, sometimes several miles away.… [Reverend Lape] lived part of the time in West Camp on [his own place], coming up on Saturday and going back on Sunday afternoon or Monday.…

The Woodstock Region in 1859

One of Woodstock's only resident doctors was Dr. Stephen L. Heath, whose house still stands just to the east of the old brick post office building on Tinker Street. Dr. Heath was active in politics and was commissioner of schools. He would ride his horse all the way to the end of Mink Hollow to deliver a baby--for a fee of $5.00 ($108.60 in 2006 dollars). A doctor in those days could pull teeth, bleed a sufferer, and lance a boil, as well as other medical duties. There was no hospital available to Woodstockers, but many women were skilled in nursing and midwifery. There were no drug stores, but the remedies most in demand were available at the general store, including opodeldoc, a soap-based liniment; camphor; spirits of hartshorn; castor oil; gum guaicum; syrup of squills; and opium and its derivatives, such as laudanum.

Betsy Booth MacDaniel was a local herb doctor, nurse, and midwife, who had learned her craft from an "Indian doctor" on Tinker Street. She is said to have been able to cure consumption by herbal means.

The United States in 1859

[ James Buchanan ]

James Buchanan, 68 (Democrat), was President. The newly elected 36th Congress was in session. A dollar in that year would be worth $21.72 in 2006 for most consumable products.


The U.S. was only slowly recovering from the dire effects of the Panic of 1857. Factories had closed their doors, steamboats on rivers and lakes weren't running nearly to capacity, canal boat traffic was moribund as well, and railroad traffic had been cut in half. Nearly 5,000 business firms had failed, and only now were some of them starting up again. There were still thousands of unemployed in the North and West, and there the Buchanan Administration and the party in power--the Democrats--were blamed for the crash; many disaffected voters turned to the Republicans. The South, so invested in the cotton that Europe still demanded, was relatively unaffected by the Panic, and many Southerners, overconfidently touting their region as the "stabilizer" of national finances, became much less tolerant of the North.

Industrialists in the North, many of them Republicans, blamed their misfortunes on the lowered duties from the Southern-inspired Tariff of 1857. In spite of the economic difficulties, however, the Northeastern manufacturers were doing tolerably well by this year: The Northeastern states alone were producing $1.27 billion ($27.6 billion in 2006 dollars) of the U.S. total of almost $1.8 billion ($39 billion).

Financial distress in Northern agriculture stimulated the growing demand for free 160-acre homestead farms carved out of the public domain in the West, a demand resisted by industrialists who didn't want their underpaid labor force to strike out for the West and by Southern slaveowners who needed more than 160 acres for their slave gang labor and who didn't want the land in the territories gobbled up by Free-Soilers.

Cotton growing had been migrating westward; now 1.3 million bales of the total U.S. crop of 4.3 bales came from west of the Mississippi River. Nonetheless, flour and meal products, grossing $250 million ($5.4 billion in 2006 dollars)--based on U.S. grain crops worth $208 million ($4.5 billion)--realized more than double the business of the cotton textile industry, the second-ranking business in the U.S.

Virginia was still an important producer of tobacco, although states west of the Appalachians raised more than half of the total U.S. crop--especially the Bright Yellow variety, which grew best on poor soil. The tobacco-growing states of Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina were concentrating more and more on diversified farming--corn, wheat, vegetables, fruits, and livestock.

In the cotton fields of the Deep South, slaves brought several hundred dollars per head more than in the Upper South; the urge to sell slaves "down the river," therefore, remained strong. Slave trading was a thriving business. There were some 50 dealers in Charleston, 200 in New Orleans, most of them very prosperous and thus now considered quite respectable in high society. John Armfield and Isaac Franklin were the most successful dealers, collecting slaves at their "model jail" in Alexandria, VA, and shipping them either by sea or land to their huge depot in Natchez, MS.

Churches were divided on the slavery question. Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist denominations separated into two independent bodies, North and South.

The 1850 Fugitive Slave Act was "tested" by many incidents: The Underground Railroad, which for years had smuggled slaves over the border into Canada, increased its activities. Black prisoners were delivered from jails by white mobs. Many slaves were recaptured, and some free Negroes were carried off into slavery. Pulpits and newspapers denounced the law, there were meetings of protest, and many of the Northern states in effect set about to nullify the law by simply refusing to comply with it--which increased the South's feeling of injury and aggravation.

Northern antipathy toward not only slavery but toward the South itself and toward all Southern white people was further inflamed by the continued popularity of Harriet Beecher Stowe's 1851 sentimental slavery-indicting novel Uncle Tom's Cabin, or Life Among the Lowly, which was going through scores of editions and selling hundreds of thousands of copies. In Europe too, especially in England and France, the novel was immensely popular, creating a feeling of "Tom-mania" and a hostility toward American slaveholders that was to prevent the governments of London and Paris from intervening in behalf of the South.

Five years earlier Wisconsin abolitionist editor and leader Sherman Miller Booth, now 47, had helped to rescue black fugitive slave Joshua Glover in Milwaukee and had therefore been arrested for violating the Fugitive Slave Law. Booth had appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court for a writ of habeas corpus, stating that he had been restrained of his liberty by U.S. marshal Stephen V. R. Ableman and that his imprisonment had been illegal because the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law was unconstitutional and void. A justice had initially ruled that Booth be freed, but Ableman had applied for a certiorari; in the resulting case Ableman v. Booth, the court had ultimately ruled the Fugitive Slave Law unconstitutional, freeing Booth, and assessing costs against Ableman. But Marshal Ableman took the suit to federal court: In January of the preceding year, the U.S. District Court in Wisconsin in a grand jury proceeding had indicted Booth on the original charge. Convicted by a jury, Booth had been sentenced for 1 month and had been fined $1,000 ($20,920 in 2006 dollars) plus costs. Booth had again appealed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court on the grounds that the Fugitive Slave Law was unconstitutional and that the federal court had no jurisdiction to try or punish him. Again the state court had freed Booth. A few months later, however, the U.S. Attorney General had petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court (the emaciated Chief Justice Roger Brooke Taney, 82, from the slave state of Maryland, presiding), arguing that the state court had no jurisdiction. The case had already dragged on for years. Not surprisingly, Taney's Southerner-stacked court ruled against Booth, based on the constitutional supremacy of federal courts over state courts. Here is a snippet of Taney's summary:

[The] act of Congress commonly called the fugitive slave law is, in all of its provisions, fully authorized by the Constitution of the United States, that the commissioner had lawful authority to issue the warrant and commit the party, and that his proceedings were regular and conformable to law. We have already stated the opinion and judgment of the court as to the exclusive jurisdiction of the District Court and the appellate powers which this court is authorized and required to exercise.… The judgment of the Supreme Court of Wisconsin must therefore be reversed in each of the cases now before the court.
The federal government rearrested and reimprisoned Booth, but Southerners realized that the slavery issue had transcended constitutional theory, and each side would be justified to turn to states' rights as best suited its supposed interest.

Meanwhile, the Wisconsin legislature, citing the Kentucky resolutions of 1798 (which Southerners considered almost a part of the U.S. Constitution), declared(4):

Quoted in Morison, Samuel Eliot, The Oxford History of the American People, New York: Oxford University Press, 1965, p. 601. (Close)
That this assumption of jurisdiction by the federal judiciary… is an act of undelegated power, void, and of no force.
That declaration did nothing for Booth, however; he was still imprisoned.

A convention in Vicksburg, MS, urged the repeal of all state and federal laws outlawing the importation of slaves. In a message to Congress, however, President Buchanan asserted the U.S. enforcement of slave importation laws.

Though laws of the United States and almost every Western nation declared the African slave trade to be piracy, a capital offense, the laws against it had not been enforced over the preceding several decades, at least not by the United States. British war ships attempting to suppress the trade had been forbidden to search vessels, American or otherwise, that raised the U.S. flag, that "proud banner of freedom." Conversely, any American slaver had had only to raise a foreign flag to evade search by the U.S. Navy, whose four vessels in the "Africa squadron," designated for "suppressing the slave trade," were in any event far slower than most of the slavers.

Finally, just since the preceding year, President Buchanan and Navy Secretary Isaac Toucey, 67, ashamed of the monstrous proportions of the traffic, were making serious efforts to suppress it. Four steam war ships joined the Africa squadron, with a supply base nearer to the coast. Nonetheless, tens of thousands of fresh Africans, "black ivory," were still imported each year by Brazil, Cuba, and even the United States; in fact, the number was now greater than it had been half a century earlier, when the trade had been legal. Many of the slave ships had been fitted out in New York City and other Northern states, where the profits from the trade ended up. Every Northern seaport (as well as New Orleans, Mobile, and Charleston) took part, but during the 18 months extending into the following year, New York City alone fitted out 85 slavers.

Several Southern commercial conventions contained speeches and resolutions urging a repeal of the 1807 law against the slave trade. These urgings were reactions to pressure from members of the Southern middle class, who could not afford to buy slaves at the prevailing price (more than $2,000 for a prime field hand [$43,440 in 2006 dollars]). If there were more fresh slaves available, the price per slave would go down. An "African Labor Supply Association" was founded in Vicksburg, MS, with J. D. B. De Bow elected president.

Georgia prohibited the post-mortem manumission of slaves by last will and testament. The state legislature also voted to force free blacks into slavery if they had been indicted as vagrants.

John Brown's raid

[ John Brown ] In mid-October Kansas abolitionist John Brown, 59, pictured here, with several thousand dollars from Northern abolitionists to secure firearms, led 13 whites and 5 blacks into Harper's Ferry, in hilly western Virginia, and, overpowering a few night watchmen, seized the federal arsenal and a nearby rifle factory there as a signal for a general slave insurrection to establish a new republic as a refuge for blacks. Brown's men holed up with several hostages in the arsenal for a couple of days and held back a state militia activated by Virginia Governor Henry Alexander Wise, 53. They killed a couple of citizens of the town (including the mayor), and they lost several of their own to citizen and militia gunfire. According to one of the hostages, Lewis Washington,
Brown was the coolest and firmest man I ever saw in defying danger and death. With one son dead by his side, and another shot through, he felt the pulse of his dying son with one hand and held his rifle with the other, and commanded his men with the utmost composure, encouraging them to be firm and to sell their lives as dearly as they could.(5) Quoted in ibid, pp. 601-2. (Close)
Finally, with only 5 of them left alive and unwounded, Brown's men were overwhelmed by federal troops from Washington, DC, under Lieutenant Colonel Robert Edward Lee, 52, of the 2nd Cavalry, and his aide, Lieutenant James Ewell Brown Stuart, 26, supported by a contingent of U.S. Marines. Lee prevented the citizens of Harper's Ferry from lynching the surviving raiders.

Brown was tried first in Charlestown.(6)

Much of the material on the Brown's trial and execution, as well as the reaction to it in both the South and the North, is from ibid., p. 602; Bailey, Thomas A., Kennedy, David M., and Cohen, Lizabeth, The American Pageant: A History of the Republic, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1998, pp. 432-33; and from Garraty, John A., The American Nation: A History of the United States, New York: Harper and Row, 1966, p. 395. (Close) Affidavits from 17 of his friends and relatives supported his presumed insanity--actually 13 of his near relatives were indeed regarded as insane, including his mother and grandmother--but to no avail. He was charged with treason, conspiracy, and murder. His trial was covered with all its details by all the major Northern papers. The New York Herald quoted Brown as saying after his capture:
I claim to be here in carrying out a measure I believe perfectly justifiable, and not to act the part of an incendiary or ruffian, but to aid those suffering great wrong. I wish to say, furthermore, that you had better--all you people of the South--prepare yourselves for a settlement of that question that must come up for settlement sooner than you are prepared for it.
After his conviction for treason and sentence to be hanged, Brown was asked why sentence should not be passed upon him, he rose and denied everything but what he had previously admitted--his design to free the slaves--and he asserted that he never intended murder or treason, or even to incite slaves to rebellion or to foment insurrection. He asserted that if he had "so interfered" on behalf of the rich and powerful rather than lowly slaves,
every man in this court would have deemed it an act worthy of reward rather than punishment.… If it is deemed necessary that I should forfeit my life for the furtherance of the ends of justice, and mingle my blood further with the blood of my children, and with the millions in this slave country whose rights are disregarded by wicked, cruel, and unjust enactments--I submit: so let it be done.
Waiting for execution, he wrote to his brother:
I am quite cheerful in view of my approaching end, being fully persuaded that I am worth more to hang than for any other purpose.… I count it all joy. "I have fought the good fight," and have, as I trust, "finished my course."
He wrote to his children that he was content
to die for God's eternal truth on the scaffold as in any other way.
Just before he was hanged, Brown left the following note in his jail:
I John Brown am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood.
Over the next few months, six of Brown's surviving companions were tried, convicted, sentenced, and hanged.

[ Jefferson Davis ] John Brown became a symbol in both the South and the North. In the South, Mississippi Senator Jefferson "Ten Cent Jimmy" Davis, 51, pictured here, Georgia Senator Robert Augustus Toombs, 49, Richard Barnwell Rhett, 59, of South Carolina, and William Lowndes Yancey, 45, of Alabama denounced the "abolitionist attack" on Virginia. There was tremendous fear that what Brown had attempted--a massive slave insurrection--might actually take place. Plantation homes were barricaded, slave patrols doubled, and Southern militias drilled in order to prevent a "murderous gang of abolitionists" determined to "Brown" them.

[ Ralph Waldo Emerson ] In the North, Brown was a hero and an inspiration to the abolition cause. Transcendentalist philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, 56, pictured here, proclaimed:

That new saint, than whom nothing purer and more brave was ever led by love of men into conflict and death… will make the gallows glorious like the cross.
On the day of his execution, Free-Soil centers in the North tolled bells, fired guns, lowered flags, and held rallies for "Saint John" Brown. Wendell Phillips, 49, gave an impassioned eulogy when Brown was buried in North Elba, NY. The poet E. C. Stedman penned:
And Old Brown,
Osawatomie Brown,
May trouble you more than ever,
when you've nailed his coffin down!

[ Harriet Tubman ] Maryland ex-slave Harriet Tubman, 39, who had 10 years earlier escaped to the North and begun her career as "conductor" on the Underground Railroad, and who had been able in 19 dangerous trips in the intervening years to escort upward of 300 slaves to freedom, paid Brown this high tribute for his self-sacrifice:

I've been studying, and studying upon it, and it's clar to me. It wasn't John Brown that died on that gallows. When I think how he gave up his life for our people, and how he never flinched, but was so brave to the end; it's clar to me it wasn't mortal man, it was God in him.

[ William Henry Seward ] [ Stephen Douglas ] [ Abraham Lincoln ]

Some Northern voices were raised in moderation, however. William Henry Seward, 58, pictured left, of New York denounced Brown's raid as an "act of sedition and treason." Edward Everett, 69, and Caleb Cushing, 59, spoke of Brown's "blood guilt." Illinois Senator Stephen Arnold "Little Giant" Douglas, 46, pictured center, referred to Brown as

a notorious man who has recently suffered death for his crimes.
The 6-foot-4-inch-tall, 180-pound, narrow-chested, stoop-shouldered melancholic Abraham Lincoln, 50, pictured right, on a speaking tour in Kansas, said:
[The Brown] affair, in its philosophy, corresponds with the many attempts related in history, at the assassination of kings and emperors. An enthusiast broods over the oppression of a people till he fancies himself commissioned by Heaven to liberate them. He ventures the attempt, which ends in little else than his own execution.… We cannot object, even though he agreed with us in thinking slavery wrong. That cannot excuse violence, bloodshed, and treason.

The 1857 bestseller The Impending Crisis of the South, and How to Meet It, by North Carolina farmer Hinton Rowan Helper, 30, which had demonstrated that slavery was not only economically unprofitable but that it was ruinous to small farmers in the South who did not own slaves, and which had been banned in the South but enthusiastically acclaimed in the North, was reissued, this time with a Compendium of its contents. It was widely circulated as a Republican campaign document. Helper was hailed as a hero in the North, but he was denounced by his fellow Southerners, who were also very upset with the acclaim the book received in the North. One Southerner commented:

I have always been a fervid Union man, but I confess the [Northern] endorsement of the Harper's Ferry outrage and Helper's infernal doctrine has shaken my fidelity.(7) Quoted in Garraty, op. cit., p. 395. (Close)
Harper's book, with its "dirty allusions" and "wicked lies," was banned in the South, and several book-burning parties were held; some people were even arrested for buying or owning a copy of the book.

Americans foresaw a bitter fight when Kansas should again seek to be admitted to the Union. In both houses of the 36th Congress, debates was growing ever noisier and angrier. Southerners openly charged that the John Brown raid had been instigated by the Republican Party, which indignantly denied the charge. Some lawmakers took to carrying weapons into the chambers of government.

The Democratic Party was now hopelessly divided into Southern Democrats, who spoke of running Senator Davis for President in 1860, and Northern Democrats, who spoke of running Senator Douglas.

Thousands of German immigrants came to the United States, at an annual rate of 95,000. The bulk of them were uprooted farmers, displaced by crop failures and other hardships. Some were liberal political refugees, fleeing after the collapse of the democratic revolutions of 1848. Many of the Germans possessed a modest amount of material goods. Most of them pushed out to the lush lands of the Midwest, notably Wisconsin, where they settled and established model farms.

The ship Royal Charter sank in the Irish Sea; some 450 people perished.

Thousands of Irish immigrants also came to the United States, at an annual rate of 92,000. The luckless immigrants received no red-carpet treatment on their arrival in America.(8)

This description of the Irish immigrant experience liberally quoted from Bailey et al., op. cit., pp. 302-05. (Close) With the new transoceanic steamships, the immigrants--Irish, German, and others--could come across speedily, in a matter of 10 or 12 days rather than 10 or 12 weeks. On board they were jammed into unsanitary quarters, thus suffering an appalling death rate from infectious diseases, but the nightmare was more endurable because it was shorter. Liverpool, Le Havre, and Hamburg were the principal points of embarkation; most arrived in the seaports between Boston and Baltimore, and remained in the North. Many arrived penniless, after exhausting their savings on the journey.

Forced to live in squalor, the Irish immigrants were rudely crammed into the already-vile slums. They were scorned by the older American stock, especially "proper" Protestant Bostonians, who regarded the scruffy Catholic arrivals as a social menace. Barely literate "Biddies" (Bridgets) took jobs as kitchen maids. Broad-shouldered "Paddies" (Patricks) were pushed into pick-and-shovel drudgery on canals and railroads, where thousands left their bones as victims of disease and accidental explosions. It was said that an Irishman lay buried under every railroad tie. Large numbers of these unskilled laborers, eager for work of any kind, were absorbed into the factories of the Northeast. They depressed wages and discouraged union organization; destitute, they accepted whatever an employer offered them.

The invasion of the immigrant "rabble" created religious, economic, political, and social problems, which inflamed the prejudices of American nativists and often provoked mob action.(9)

Information in this paragraph has been quoted in Wellman, Paul I., The House Divides: The Age of Jackson and Lincoln, from the War of 1812 to the Civil War, Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, 1966, pp. 201-202; and from Bailey et al., op. cit., pp. 305-06. (Close) The nativists feared that these foreign hordes would outbreed, outvote, and overwhelm the old "native" stock. Not only did the newcomers take jobs from "native" Americans, but the bulk of the displaced Irish were Roman Catholics, as were a substantial minority of the Germans. The Church of Rome was still widely regarded by many old-line Americans as a "foreign" church; convents were commonly referred to as "popish brothels." Nativists professed to believe that in due time the "alien riffraff" would "establish" the Catholic Church at the expense of Protestantism and would introduce "popish idols." Irish Catholics were a special target for violence, although Germans were sometimes involved. In some places Catholic churches were burned and priests beaten. For a time it seemed that the forces of law and order could not cope with these adjustments.

The Public Garden was established on 108 acres of Commonwealth of Massachusetts land filled in the Back Bay of Boston.

Harvard defeated Yale and Brown in an intercollegiate regatta at Worcester, MA.

Amherst College defeated Williams College 73 to 32 in a 26-inning intercollegiate baseball game on the grounds of Maplewood Female Institute in Pittsfield, MA.

Henry Baldwin Hyde, 25, founded the Equitable Life Assurance Society in New York City.

The year-old R. H. Macy company of Massachusetts entrepreneur Rowland Hussey Macy, 37, on 14th Street in New York City, using flamboyant advertising and selling at fixed prices only for cash, grossed $90,000 ($2 million in 2006 dollars) during this year. Heralding the dawning era of consumerism, his cavernous department store attracted urban middle-class shoppers and provided urban working-class jobs, most of them for women.

The Fifth Avenue Hotel in New York City installed a passenger elevator, but many guests preferred to use the stairs.

Merchant George Huntington Hartford, 26, in partnership with his former hide and leather business employer, George P. Gilman, opened the Great American Tea Company store (later to grow into the A&P retail food chain) at 31 Vesey Street in New York City, directly buying entire clipper-ship cargoes of Chinese and Japanese tea and then selling to consumers at less than a third what their competitors were charging.

German immigrant pianomaker Henry Engelhard Steinweg, 62, and his sons improved the grand piano, giving it a fuller tone, by installing a single cast-metal plate strong enough to withstand the pull of strings on his overstrung scale, at his 6-year-old factory Steinweg & Sons in New York City.

Industrialist and inventor Peter Cooper, 68, founded the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art at Astor Place and Fourth Avenue in New York City, to complement his 2-year-old Cooper Institute for adult education in arts and sciences.

The New York State legislature authorized the acquisition of land for Prospect Park in Brooklyn, NY.

The Oneida "Perfectionist Community" of farmers and mechanics in central New York State, founded in 1848 by New England clergyman John Humphrey Noyes, 48, sawmill owner Jonathan Burt, and farmer Joseph Ackley, continued to thrive, with hundreds of converts living in communal buildings made of timber from the community's farms. The community practiced free love ("complex marriage"), birth control (through "male continence," or coitus reservatus), and the eugenic selection of parents to produce superior offspring. Men and women were treated equally, and all classes of work were viewed as equally honorable. Noyes called his system "Bible Communism." Children were reared in the "children's house," operated by men and women considered best qualified. Community members developed dishwashing machines as well as machines for paring apples and washing vegetables. One member, Samuel Newhouse, invented a trap that already was considered the best trap available.

French stuntman Charles Blondin (Jean François Gravelet), 35, crossed Niagara Falls on a tightrope.

Unemployed New Haven & Hartford Railroad conductor "Colonel" Edwin Laurentine Drake, 40, under commission from New York banker James Townsend (associate of "rock oil" pioneer George Henry Bissell, 38), at his Seneca Oil Company project in Titusville, in Pennsylvania's Venange County, used the salt-well drilling equipment of William A. "Uncle Billy" Smith to dig a 70-foot well into petroleum-bearing strata and struck a gusher. A contemporary reported:

At the depth of about 70 feet a large opening, filled with coal oil, somewhat mixed with water [was struck]. A small pump on hand brought up from 400 to 500 gallons of oil a day. An explosion blew it [the pump] up. One of three times its size was put in its place and during the first four days threw up 5000 gallons of oil--1250 gallons per day, or one gallon per minute for twenty hours, fifty minutes, per day.(10) Quoted from Wellman, op. cit., p. 395. (Close)
His well produced 2,000 barrels per year. Mechanization of agriculture in the U.S. would be spurred by this development.

The Baseball Club of Washington, DC, was organized.

The horse-and-wagon operation Brink's Express was started in Chicago, to move bank funds and payroll money.

The University of Chicago was founded by Baptists (with the help of Senator Stephen A. Douglas).

Chicago shoe salesman Dwight Lyman Moody, 22, continued his own Sunday School in an old vacant saloon on Michigan Street. A modern urban circuit rider, he proclaimed a gospel of kindness and forgiveness. His school became so large that the former mayor of Chicago gave him the hall over the city's North Market for his meetings, rent free. Offering prizes, free pony rides, and picnics as well as a genuine love for children made Moody's the largest Sunday School in Chicago, reaching some 1,500 weekly.

The Amana community in Iowa, founded 4 years earlier by Prussian immigrant Christian Metz, now 65. was incorporated as the Amana Society.

The 2-year-old Mutual Life Insurance Company of Wisconsin moved from Janesville, WI, to Milwaukee.

Many of the full-blood Cherokees in Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma) belonged to a secret society known as Kee-too-wah (the "Pins"), so named because each member wore two common pins in the form of a cross on the coat or hunting shirt. Its purpose was to encourage the retention of the old tribal customs and to prevent their taking up the ways of the whites. Few of the full-bloods owned slaves, and the Kee-too-wah was usually opposed to slavery. Nonetheless, many Cherokees did own slaves.

Kansas-Missouri border war

This was a savage, merciless little war: Men would be shot from ambush, or called to their doors and shot down, or hanged without benefit of trial. There were murderous skirmishes at many places in both Kansas and Missouri as raiders from each side invaded the other's territory. William Clarke Quantrill, 22, invaded from Kansas into Missouri, until he changed sides. Charles Jennison invaded from Missouri into Kansas. Other reprehensible characters sneaked and looted and murdered on both sides.

Kansas ratified its anti-slavery constitution at Wyandotte.

Colorado Gold Rush

[ Horace Greeley ] The claims originally promoted by William Greeneberry Russell, 39, with his party of Cherokee prospectors, continued to produce gold. Some 10,000 gold seekers continued to rush to Colorado with the slogan "Pike's Peak or bust!"--experienced California prospectors ("yonder siders") mixing with "greenhorns" from every part of the globe. Lusty mining towns of Tarryall, Hamilton, Fairplay, Golden, Gold Hill, Boulder, and Colorado City sprang up. Denver began to grow. More and more fields were opened. Silver and other minerals were discovered as well.

Historian John Garraty has summarized the miners' point of view(11):

Quoted in Garraty, op. cit., p. 485. (Close)
The miners enthusiastically adopted the get-rich-quick philosophy, willingly enduring privations and laboring hard, but always with the object of striking it rich. Anything that stood in the way of their ambitions they struck down. They trespassed on Indian lands without the slightest qualm and "claimed" public land with no thought of paying for it. The idea of reserving any part of the West for future generations never entered their heads. The sudden prosperity of the mining towns attracted every kind of shady character, all bent on extracting wealth from the pockets of the miners rather than from the unyielding earth. Gambling houses, dance halls, saloons, and brothels mushroomed wherever precious metal was found [or was rumored to have been found]. Around these tawdry palaces of pleasure and forgetfulness gathered thieves, confidence men, degenerates, and desperados. Crime and violence were commonplace, law enforcement was a constant problem.
Eventually the "better element" in these boom towns formed "vigilante committees," which drove the outlaws out of town after a few summary hangings. Meanwhile, storekeepers in the towns charged outrageous prices, and claim holders were "salting" their worthless properties with nuggets in order to swindle gullible investors.

New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, 48, pictured here, visited Denver and observed that the residents subsisted almost entirely on beans, bacon, and sourdough bread. The only hotel there was a tent.

Comstock Lode and other claims

Prospectors Peter O'Reilly and Patrick McLaughlin discovered silver and gold pay dirt on the property on Mt. Davidson (in present-day Washoe, Nevada), claimed by prospector Henry Tompkins Paige "Pancake" Comstock, 39--dirt that would prove to be worth $4,700 per ton ($102,100 per ton in 2006 dollars). The "Comstock Lode" would begin to yield an average $13 million annually ($282 million) over the next 11 years, and a further $21 million annually ($456 million annually) for the 12 years after that. Comstock had sold his claim for almost nothing ($40 [$869] for one valuable mine and $10,000 for his share of what would soon prove to be the richest concentration of gold and silver ever found, Ophir [$217,200]). Meanwhile, George Hearst, 39, paid $450 ($9,774) for a half-interest in a mine believed by its owner Alvah Gould to be worthless, paid a few hundred dollars more for a one-sixth interest in the Ophir mine and in the Gould and Curry mine, which would be the second richest. A millionaire overnight, Hearst joined with a partner to buy the Ontario mine in Utah Territory, and went on to acquire other partners and properties--including the Homestake mine in Dakota Territory, the Anaconda copper mine in Montana Territory, and additional properties in Chile, Peru, and Mexico.

Federal surveyor William Newton Byers, 28, began publishing the Rocky Mountain News in present-day Montana.

German immigrant brewer William Menger opened his 3-story Menger Hotel in San Antonio, TX.

President Buchanan ordered the survey of a reservation in New Mexico Territory for the confederated bands of Pima and Maricopa tribes near the Gila River; the reservation was not to exceed 100 square miles, and $10,000 ($217,200 in 2006 dollars) were to be given to the tribes for tools and to cover the surveying expenses.

Hundreds of Chinese immigrants were fleeing the disintegrating Chinese Empire, risking the penalty of beheading to do so, almost all from the southern district of Toishan, and coming to the United States, at an annual rate during this decade of 4,140, many of them gold seekers sailing into San Francisco, which they named "golden mountain." Some came with money pooled by their families back home, but most were desperately poor and in debt to Chinese middlemen. Most were men (the ratio was 19 males for each female).

Oregon was admitted to the Union as the 33rd state. It was a free state; that is, slavery was prohibited there.

[ George Edward Pickett ] [ Winfield "Old Fuss and Feathers" Scott ]

The U.S. and the United Kingdom disputed the ownership of the San Juan Islands, especially San Juan Island itself, in the straits between Vancouver Island (in Canada) and the mainland of Washington Territory. Diplomatic negotiations were fruitless. Finally, U.S. troops under General George Edward Pickett, 34, pictured left, occupied San Juan Island, and British war vessels promptly appeared. General Winfield "Old Fuss and Feathers" Scott, 73, pictured right, commander in chief of American armies, went to the scene and arranged with the British for joint occupation of San Juan.

Science and technology in America: Specifics

Samuel Finley Breeze Morse, 68, agreed to the establishment of the monopoly North American Telegraph Association; Salem, MA, inventor Moses Gerrish Farmer, 39, developed a platinum strip filament powered by a wet-cell voltaic battery capable of brief incandescent lighting; Pennsylvania physician Samuel Gross published System of Surgery; and Swiss-born naturalist Jean Louis Rodolphe Agassiz, 52, established the Museum of Comparative Zoology at Harvard.

Arts and culture in America: Specifics

Author Washington Irving, 76, completed his 5-volume biography George Washington and died that year; poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 53, published "The Children's Hour"; Anglo-Irish immigrant dramatist Dion Boucicault (né Dionysius Lardner Boursquot), 38, produced The Octoroon, or Life in Louisiana at the Winter Garden Theater in New York City; novelist Harriet Beecher Stowe, 48, published the romantic The Minister's Wooing; and the very popular Spanish soprano Adelina Patti made her operatic debut in New York City. Historian William Hickling Prescott died at the age of 63.

There were more than 2,000 booksellers in the United States.

Popular periodicals included the Niles' Weekly Register, the American Journal of Science, American Farmer, Christian Watchman, Saturday Evening Post, National Preacher, Godey's Lady's Book, Ladies' Repository, Peterson's Ladies' National Magazine, Home Journal, Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper, Harper's Weekly, Yale Literary Magazine, Knickerbocker Magazine, Spirit of the Times, Phunny Fellow, National Police Gazette, and Scientific American.

The song "I Wish I Was in Dixie's Land" ("Dixie") by Daniel Decatur Emmett, 36, of the Virginia Minstrels was performed at Mechanics Hall in New York City and immediately became popular in the South. Other popular songs included "The Old Grey Mare (Get Out of the Wilderness)," "The Yellow Rose of Texas," "Listen to the Mockingbird," "Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair," "Camptown Races," "Oh! Susanna," "Jim Crack Corn" (also known as "Blue Tail Fly"), "Buffalo Gals," "One-Horse Open Sleigh" ("Jingle Bells"), "Old Dan Tucker," "Turkey in the Straw," and "Amazing Grace." Boston musician Lowell Mason, 67, composed the hymn "Nearer My God to Thee" (with 18-year-old lyrics by the late Sarah Adams).

The World at Large in 1859

In Mexico Benito Pablo Juárez García, 53, a liberale (liberal) Zapotec Indian, was battling the conservadores (conservatives), led by General Félix Zuloaga, in the Mexican War of the Reform. During this year, Juárez took the radical step of declaring the confiscation of church properties. The conservadores controlled areas bordering the Rio Grande, and U.S. President Buchanan, who had recognized the Juárez government, was asking for Congressional authorization to establish military posts in Sonora and Chihuahua to "restore order." Buchanan attempted to extort from Mexico, in return for paying several million dollars, the State of Baja California (as a sop to Southern expansionists still complaining of Alta California becoming a free state 9 years earlier). Juárez refused but his foreign minister did sign a draft treaty granting the United States a perpetual right of transit from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific across the northern tier of Mexican states.

An insurrection overthrew the Emperor of Haiti.

British shipbuilders launched the clipper Falcon, made of wooden planking on iron frames, much smaller and more economical than the American version of the clipper.

London cigarette maker Robert Gloag introduced Gloag's Sweet Threes cigarettes, Turkish Latakia tobacco dust wrapped in yellow tissue.

Civilized America was published in London, ridiculing Americans for calling a cock a rooster and for employing similar euphemisms in their prudery.

The Conservative (Tory) Prime Minister Lord Derby resigned his ministry after only a year and was succeeded by the Liberal Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, 75.

A Jew, Lionel Rothschild, 41, won a Parliamentary election and became an M.P. in the British House of Commons.

Scots reformer Samuel Smiles, 47, published the manual Self-Help, with instructions on how to succeed in life.

Horizontal bars and swings were installed in Queen's Park and Phillips Park in Manchester, England--the world's first children's playgrounds.

The Anthropological Society, Paris, was founded.

Jules Léotard, 21, performed the world's first trapeze circus act, without a safety net (still 12 years in the future) but with a pile of mattresses to cushion any fall, at the Cirque Napoleon in Paris.

The German National Association was formed, with the goal of uniting Germany under Prussian leadership.

Albert von Roon became the new War Minister in Prussia and began reforming the Prussian Army. Otto Eduard Leopold von Bismarck, 44, became the Prussian ambassador to Russia.

Struggle for Italian independence and unification

French Emperor Napoleon III, 51, warned the Austrian ambassador in January, thereby leaking the secret deal he had made the preceding year with the Premier of Sardinia (and Piedmont), Count Camillo Benso di Cavour, 49, to help if war erupted between Piedmont and Austria. Piedmontese reserves were called up in March, and Austrian forces were mobilized in April. Austria issued an ultimatum to Piedmont to demobilize, which was rejected. Austrian forces under General Franz Gyulai then invaded Piedmont at the end of April, but they moved so slowly that France had time to mobilize.

France declared war on Austria in May. Peaceful revolutions drove out the rulers of Parma, Modena, and Tuscany. The Piedmontese defeated the Austrians in the Battle of Palestro at the end of May. Piedmontese and French forces crossed the Ticino into Lombardy and defeated the Austrians in the Battle of Magenta in June. Austrian forces then withdrew from Lombardy.

The reactionary King Ferdinand II ("King Bomba") of the Two Sicilies (Naples and Sicily), Bourbon dynasty, died in late May at the age of 49 and was succeeded by his son Francesco, 13. An uprising began stirring against the Bourbon dynasty.

The Battle of Sofferino in late June was indecisive but brought huge losses for both sides. Austrian Emperor Franz Josef was running out of money, and Napoleon III was alarmed by the popular revolutions (not only in Parma, Modena, and Tuscany, but also now in the papal legations of Bologna, Ferrara, and Ravenna) as was worried about the unpopularity of the war among his people, and so the two met in July at Villafranca di Verona. (Former Austrian reactionary Foreign Minister Prince Klemens Wenzel Lothar von Metternich-Winneburg had just died at the age of 86.) As the two emperors signed an armistice, hostilities ceased in the Peace of Villafranca, formalized by the Treaty of Zurich. Napoleon III made sure that Italian princes were returned to their thrones.

German political activist Ferdinand Lassalle, 34, published The Italian War and the Mission of Prussia.

There were only 1,759 kilometers of railroad track in Italy.

King Oskar I of Sweden died at the age of 60 and was succeeded by his son Charles XV, 33.

Work began on the Suez Canal, with some 30,000 Egyptian forced laborers at good wages under the direction of French promoter (engineer and diplomat) Ferdinand de Lesseps, 54, who had financed the project by selling stock mostly to French investors. He did, however, sell 44 percent of the shares to the Khedive of Egypt, Muhammad Said, for nearly $20 million ($434 million in 2006 dollars).

Port Said was founded on the canal.

British expansion into India

The United Kingdom began administrative reforms in its government of India.

T'ai P'ing Rebellion

Kwangsi Province mystic Hung Hsiu-ch'uan, 47, proclaiming himself the younger brother of Jesus Christ as well as the T'in-wang ("Heavenly Prince," effectively the Emperor of China) of the so-called T'ai P'ing ("Great Peace") dynasty, continued his rebellion, 9 years old so far, against the government of China's Manchu dynasty. Because imperial troops had withdrawn from Anhuei, North Kiangsu, and Shantung provinces in order to cope with the T'ai P'ing rebels, bandits there under the name Nien Fei continued their campaign of plunder, now 6 years old.

China refused to admit foreign diplomats to Peking.

Queensland was separated from New South Wales in Australia and became a distinct British colony, with its capital at Brisbane.

To provide shooting sport, Australian landowner Thomas Austin introduced two dozen English rabbits there.

World science and technology

English naturalist Charles Robert Darwin, 50, published On The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favored Species in the Struggle for Life, containing his theories of evolution and natural selection and causing a furor among fundamentalist Christians.

Austrian explorer Karl von Scherzer isolated cocaine from Peruvian coca leaves.

London physician Alfred Baring Garrod, 40, published Treatise on Gout and Rheumatic Gout, disproving the 17-century-old notions of Galen that gout was caused by overindulgence but that it was caused rather by an excess of uric acid in the blood that could be countered by proper diet.

French chemist Louis Pasteur, 34, disproved the chemical theory of fermentation advanced by German chemist Baron Justus von Liebig, now 56, disproved the theory of spontaneous generation by showing the existence of anaerobic microorganisms, and grieved over the loss of his daughter Jan to typhoid fever.

French physicist Gaston Planté, 25, invented a practical electric storage battery.

German astronomer and explorer Alexander von Humboldt died at the age of 90 while working on the fifth volume of his cosmological account Kosmos; English physicist James Clerk Maxwell, 28, proposed that Saturn's rings were composed of tiny particles; German physicist Gustav Robert Kirchhoff, 35, and German chemist Robert Wilhelm Bunsen, 48, began their experiments with spectrum analysis (which would last another 2 years) and suggested that each element emits its own identifiable wavelength of light.

Irish mathematician Henry John Stephen Smith, 33, began drafting Report on the Theory of Numbers, which would take another 6 years to complete.

World philosophy and religion

German economist and philosopher Karl Marx, 41, published Critique of Political Economy. English philosopher John Stuart Mill, 53, published Essay on Liberty.

French religious scholar and historian Ernest Renan, 36, published Essais de morale et de critique.

Arts and culture in the British Isles

American ex-pat painter-etcher James Abbot McNeill Whistler, 25, unveiled At the Piano; English novelist Goergee Meredith, 31, published The Ordeal of Richard Feverel; novelist and poet Mary Ann (Marian) Evens, 40, generally calling herself "Mrs. Lewes" (because she had been living openly for the preceding 5 years with the philosopher-critic George Henry Lewes, 42, who was married to another woman), published Adam Bede under the pseudonym George Eliot; poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, 50, published the first four of his Idylls of the King; English author Edward FitzGerald, 50, anonymously published a poetic version of the Ruháiyát of Omar Khayyám of Naishapur; and novelist Charles (John Huffman) Dickens, 44, published A Tale of Two Cities. Author Thomas de Quincey died at the age of 74, historian Thomas Babington Macaulay died at the age of 59, and author Leigh Hunt died at the age of 73.

World arts and culture

French painter Jean-Babtiste-Camille Corot, 63, unveiled Macbeth; French painter Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, 79, unveiled Le Bain Turc; French painter Édouard Manet, 27, unveiled The Absinthe Drinker; and French painter Jean François Millet, 45, unveiled The Angelus.

Spanish author Pedro Antonio de Alarcón y Ariza, 26, published Diary of a Witness of the War in Africa; French novelist and playwright Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, Baronne Dudevant (George Sand), 55, published Elle et lui; German historian Leopold von Ranke, 64, began publishing his History of England in the 16th and 17th Centuries, which would take 9 more years to complete; French poet Victor Marie Hugo, 57, published La Légende des siècles; French Provençal poet Frédéric Mistral, 29, published Mireio; and Russian novelist Ivan Aleksandrovich Goncharov, 47, published Oblomov.

German composer Johannes Brahms, 26, produced Serenade for Orchestra No. 1 in D major at Hamburg and Concerto No. 1 for Pianoforte and Orchestra at Hannover; German Romantic composer Richard Wagner, 46, completed his musical drama Tristan und Isolde; French composer Charles François Gounod, 41, produced the hymn "Ave Maria" and the opera Faust at the Théâtre Lyrique in Paris; and Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi, 46, produced the opera Un Ballo in Maschera ("A Masked Ball"), at the Teatro Apollo in Rome and saw it severely censored because of its references to the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden. Spanish songwriter Sebastian Yradier, 50, composed "La Paloma." German composer Louis Spohr died at the age of 75.


The copyrighted material cited on this page comes under the definition of "Fair Use."

See also the general sources.