tv Lectures in History Politics and Culture in Early America CSPAN February 25, 2022 4:35pm-5:36pm EST
a instance in which truman helped straighton out the boys during lively conversation about the ball ton gang, a group of outlaws that robbed in 1890 and 1992. the boys were argued about which brother started the group and how many were killed. of course truman had the answers. henry recalled, they wanted to call him -- but they didn't do it because they had a lot of respect for him. the boys did not call him a sissy but later in life truman called himself a sissy when he recalled those years. looking back truman said reading history to me was more than a romantic adventure, it was solid instruction and wise teaching which i somehow felt i wanted and needed. i could see that history had extremely valuable lessons to teach. i learned from it that a leader
is a man who has the ability to get people to do what they don't want to do and like it. >> the watch the rest of this program visit c-span.org/history. type harry truman this the search box at the top of the page for a list of the programs related to the 33rd president. welcome to our lecture today on the growth of cities in the early american republic. a period of american history that i am fascinated by and i am really excited to share with all of you today.
as we have already discussed in this class, we know that the early american republic, which we're roughly defining as the period between the twooen the end of the american revolution and the election of andrew jackson, was a period of possibilities and of problems. it was a time in american history when many of the big questions about what the nation would look like, who would hold power, and what kind of spaces and values would define the country remained very much in question. and so last class we talked about america's transition to capitalism. and we talked about how this economic transformation was linked to changes in the labor market, in banking systems, in the rise of corporations. and we looked at how these transformations were particularly affecting for young women like mary paul, the worker in the mills in the 1840s. so today we're going to continue our conversation about how economic changes affected america's urban centers, its cities. we'll examine how questions about the national environment and access to material resources like goods, land and money came to a head in america's growing urban landscapes. both along the east coast in places that are familiar to us, but also in growing midwestern cities between the 1790s and
into the 1830s. with these themes in mind, i thought we could start off today with a little bit of a comparative story that i will illuminates some of the ideas that we will talk about in more detail today. particularly how americans in the early national period encountered, commented on and experienced urban infrastructural growth and change. in 1810 a young woman by the name of margaret van horn dwight set out on a 500-mile journey from connecticut to the ohio territory. she's going with a few travel companions and friends. margaret was born in 1790. she was the descendant of a prominent line of connecticut theologians and yale college presidents and she grew up in an age defined by the uncertainties and the possibilities of the new nation. yet, margaret's six-week journey west left a lot to be desired.
the group stayed in dirty taverns. they encountered scores of other wagons making the journey west, and they struggled to navigate their route, especially in the allegheny mountains. and if any of you have ever written a grumpy dramatic journal spree while on a long trip or been frustrated with the people you are traveling with, maybe you will empathize with margaret's words. she wrote, we crossed the longest hills, and the worst road i ever saw. two or three times after riding a little distance on the turn pike we found it fenced across and were obliged to turn into a wood where it was almost impossible to proceed. it appeared to me that we had come to an end of the habitable part of the globe. she commented on infrastructure, or i guess i should say for the purposes of this class, the lack of infrastructure.
roads, turnpikes, poor way finding, margaret's journey west was not great. and she concluded by mentioning the reasons so few people are willing to return from the western country is not that the country is so good, but because the the journey is so bad. now, if we flash forward almost 20 years later we encounter yet another woman making the same journey west. frances troll up, an english novelist and writer. she moved to the united states to join a utopian community and later traveled around the country in the 1820s and wrote about what she experienced. she returned back to england and published the book domestic manners of the americans in 1832. and frances, on her journey west, followed the same route that margaret did. but this time instead of a bumpy unpaved road, she traveled along the national road, the first
federally funded road in america, connecting east and midwestern cities. and frances wrote, the whole of this mountain region through 90 miles of which the road passes is a garden. i really can hardly conceive of a higher enjoyment than a tour among the allegheny mountains. as our noble terrace road, the simple of america rose higher and higher, all that is noblest in nature was joined to all that was sweetest. and here she uses an illusion to the road and mountain scenic road through the alps. now what do you notice about the differences between margaret and frances' journeys? particularly frances' journey. what's different here? >> [ inaudible ]. >> yeah, absolutely. other observations? >> because of the national road, she was allowed to enjoy the beauties of nature rather than
being frustrated by it. >> absolutely, yes. here we see how much had changed for these two women commenting on the same stretch of country. just 20 years apart. by the mid-1820s, the population had nearly tripled to 12 million people from what it had been in 1784. the nation's land area had more than doubled, more states had been added to the union. there were new roads, steam boat routes, canals and more. all of which helped to bring economic development to the west and spur the growth of cities. but what exactly was causing this dramatic transformation in american life? this week we're going to explore the roots of these changes and how they took place in america's cities. we'll do that through the lens of three questions. first, why was the early national period such a transformative moment in american urban growth? next, how do historians know
what cities looked like in this period and what physical evidence do they have to understand urban change over time? and lastly, how did infrastructural change affect the socioeconomic dynamics of the urban experience. we'll begin with our first question. to understand how america's early national cities changed, we first need some grounding in what these places were like in the colonial period. in the 17th and 18th centuries, europe powers, as we know, including the english, spanish, french, dutch, established cities along the atlantic coast of north america. these were places intended to primarily serve the merchant and imperial interests of european empires. these early cities served as important cross roads for the movement of people and goods. and the colonial economy flowed first and foremost through its urban centers including things
like the slave trade. and as a historian reminds us, europe powers were certainly not the first people to create large-scale urban settlements in the americas. native americans had also created monumental towns and cities long before the europeans showed up. the native american urban frontier was a space of cultural contact and exchange. and colin callaway writes, while christians were erecting gothic cathedrals in the 12th and 13th century europe, indian people in the mississippi river basin were constructing temple mounds, creating ritual spaces and demonstrating their power through building. and we know that indians continue to visit cities in america and in europe well into the 18th and 19th centuries. they went as diplomats, invited
guests, and curious travelers. but -- but with the rise of british imperial power in the 18th century, we see a series of cities emerging to the forefront of the north american landscape. by 1775, boston, new port, new york, philadelphia, and charleston were the largest urban centers in british north america. they had populations anywhere from 12,000 to 20,000 people. and you're probably starting to see this by looking at these statistics that those cities are forming an important part of the colonial economic experience. they are certainly not the norm for ordinary folks. only about 1 in 20 people actually lived in cities in the colonial period. so these were small places compared to the large scale metropolises that will emerge in
the 19th century and of course compared to what we think of as big cities today. a number of factors shaped the growth of cities in the early national period. there are far too many to explore, so we're going to focus in on a few key points. we'll talk about the market revolution, we'll look at westward migration and we'll examine changes to the labor market. and then we'll shift gears and we'll zoom in on the physical evidence of cities to talk about their impact on people's everyday lives. in the early national period, american cities were shaped in large part by what historians have come to call the market revolution. we talked about this a little bit last class. and this revolution was not something drawn out by bloodshed or by war, but rather by innovations and transportation and technology and factories, changes to the labor market. and of course, accompanying economic and infrastructural growth.
and though historians disagree a about when the market revolution officially started, some argue that we should be talking about this much earlier in the 18th century. they all agree that the market revolution fundamentally reoriented americans' relationship to the broader economy. especially the act of buying and selling goods and earning a living. and cities are the places where these changes are felt and seen most clearly. so what was the market revolution trying to address? one of the biggest pieces that the market revolution is trying to address is the terrible inefficiency of the colonial market. in the 1700s, so in the colonial period, it was incredibly inefficient to transport goods from city ports to rural markets. it costs the same amount of money to ship a good just 30 miles inland that it did to bring that good from europe in the first place.
so as you can imagine, this economic inefficiency would have frustrated many americans, particularly people with interests in the economic sector in business. and many people began to funnel that frustration into innovative action. so by the 1830s, a number of innovations arrived to make the movement of people, goods and money much more efficient, specifically the rise of turnpikes and canals. in the early 1800s, congress authorized the construction of the national road. this paved road from maryland to the old northwest that they extended a few times in the 1820s and 1830s eventually terminating in illinois. this was the same road that frances travelled on in her journey west that we saw earlier today. and in 1825 cities like new york celebrated the opening of the 363-mile long erie canal, the
system of canals and hudson river transport that connected new york city to growing up state new york cities and towns like syracuse and buffalo. and this also ushers in a major migration of new englanders into upstate new york and into ohio as they are able to reap the benefits of these economic transformations in deeper western areas. and you can see on this map behind me here the roads and canals crisscrossing across the country. what is jumping out to you here about the number of transportation networks by the 1840s? what do you see? >> i would say in contradiction to what we previously learned, now they are able to travel to the # rural parts even towards alabama and mississippi, rather than
being tied to the coastline allowing greater transportation of access to people of all backgrounds and demographics. >> excellent. what else do you see? >> it goes a lot further west that be previously. it's all the way through green bay and iowa territory. where not that long ago, people any city names jumping out to you? what do you notice? >> a lot of the core cities like boston and new york are all connected by the highways, but also new cities like chicago and new orleans are also connected. >> excellent. so we have these colonial cities being connected to one another in a more concrete way through road and rail trt. we also have the emergence of new western cities. >> going off that point also now, there's ab ability for cities to pop up in the middle of the country, no longer just along sea port because they are able to travel easier than just through the water. >> excellent. so the economic transformations
in the early national period, as we have seen, drastically all theed people's relationship to western lands. and spurred growth. and americans were lured westby improvements by transportation and communication. and between 1790 and 1840, a period of just 50 years, about 4.5 million people crossed over the appalachian mountains to settle in new western areas. and people's migratory routes followed one of three pathways. with this movement came the creation of new territories and states. they would move from the southeastern states to the new kingdom of alabama, mississippi, louisiana, and arkansas. they would go to ohio and indiana and illinois. and from new england into new york and the upper north and
midwest places like ohio, indiana, illinois, michigan and wisconsin. and at the heart of all of these migrations sit midwestern cities places like cincinnati, st. louis, chicago, that form the center of these growing trade and exchange networks. but you also see growth happening on the east coast. these trade and transportation networks connecting east and west spurred the growth of some other cities like baltimore on coast that. that really comes into its own in the early national period. ab urban populations in the united states skyrocket between 1820 and 1850. in 1820, just 12 cities with populations of more than 5,000 people. but by 1850, there are almost 150 cities with populations of that size. and as western settlers are
traveling, they are going with their families and bringing their belongings and taking things with them that you'd expect. your typical household belongings. things like furniture and farming equipment. but also in many cases, they are traveling with enslaved men and women. and i'll just say this briefly because we're going to return to this in future lectures when we talk about the material culture of the southern urban experience of slavery in the 19th century. that though urban growth brought with it economic opportunity, it was linked to the backs of enslaved labor. and that's essential to this story as well. that the market revolution and westward expansion happened in tandem. and the choices and decisions that are authorizing the construction of new roads, canals, transportation networks are ultimately motivated by other choices and decisions that heightened america's reliance on slave labor.
so when we're talking about people spinning thread into cloth in northern factories, we have to talk about the ties to the southern economy. when we're talking about the growth of railroads and canals, not just in the northeast, but especially in the deep south and into the new western territories, we have to think and acknowledge the role of enslaved labor in building that infrastructure. so we have seen how the market revolution offered greater efficiency for the movement of people and goods. but how did it shape the growth of cities and the people who lived in them? now is time for a quick refresher from last class. we discussed the decline of the household system of labor. anybody want to are mind us what that was about? >> it resolved around an apprentice staying with a master. they would learn the craft for many years.
so they could perfect every aspect of the trade, but that wasn't very efficient, and so it lead to them wanting a factory tile of work where one person would specialize in a particular part of an object so they wouldn't have to be trained as long and things could go quicker rather than knowing every part of the trade and expeer tees. >> excellent. yeah, that was nice. that was really nice. so we have this household labor system, the system of a master craftsman working in a trade. his apprentices living with his family under one roof, and this is a fairly inefficient sl. and as we see the rise of factories and more and more folks depending on piece work, the descaling of the labor force, people becomes to rely more and more on wage labor. and we see jobs popping up and things like factories and mills. and the earliest mills happened in new england, rhode island,
massachusetts. these are places where you can build along a river or a fall line where water power from waterfalls or the movement of a river will be harnessed to power water power machinery. and by the 1840s, we have factories springing up in places like philadelphia and chicago as folks are turning towards more steam powered technologies. then by the 1850s, american factories have expanded well beyond text tile mills, specializing in the production of goods like tools, agricultural machinery, shoes, clocks, you name it. and this economic expansion fuels a demand for more labor. which was met in part by an increased arrival of immigrants from abroad. in cities along the east coast and into the midwest, an increase willing labor force arrive to fill these jobs. it gives you a sense of the growth of immigrants in the 19th century.
we see that 90% of the immigrants are arriving in and heading for midwestern cities. where job opportunities are abundant and not going to have to compete with enslaved labor. by 1860, one-third of wisconsin's population was foreign born. and you see this growth happening in the chart behind me here. in the 1840s you see the arrival of just over 400,000 immigrants. in 1846 to 1850 that number has jumped to over 1.2 million and by 1850 it's in the 1en.7 million. so that number is really starting to grow. immigrants from england were easily absorbed into the american population. particularly, the long standing connections to the british empire and that history made that assimilation quite easy for some folks. but folks from arrest land and other nations were often encountering a lot of hostility. and the influx of irish immigrants in the 1840s and 50s
really alarmed many native-born americans. and historians call those people who feared the impact of immigration on the american political and social life, they call them nativists. and nativists blamed immigrants for a whole host of urban problems. crime, political corruption, bad behavior, the list goes on. and they accused immigrants of a wide variety of vices. everything from undercutting job opportunities for american-born workers to being willing to work for such low pay no one can get a job. sometimes the reactions could like they did in the 1840s in both new york and philadelphia. where antiimmigration riots like the one depicted on the screen behind me here sprang up in response to the influx of new arrivals and increased job competition.
and nativists blamed immigrants for a whole host of urban problems. crime, political corruption, bad behavior, the list goes on. and they accused immigrants of a wide variety of vices. everything from undercutting job opportunities for american-born workers to being willing to work for such low pay no one can get a job. sometimes the reactions could turn violent. like they did in the 1840s in both new york and philadelphia. where antiimmigration riots like the one depicted on the screen behind me here sprang up in response to the influx of new arrivals and increased job competition. so let's try to put all of this in some kind of context. so a little tricky to see, but who has seen this painting before? a lot of you have. so we're looking at a pretty familiar site from the 19th century. this is a painting of american progress. you probably saw this in your textbook high school. this was a print that was in the
1800s. americans would have been really familiar with this image, but it was also a pretty loaded image. so let's take a minute and try to tease out what we can glean from the picture that you see behind me here. what's going on in this image? what do you see? >> it's almost like the angelic figure is bringing light to the land that hasn't yet been settled by americans coming west. and that as they move towards the western region, it's almost like an enlightenment and a period of knowledge coming to the westby these people moving back. >> yeah, what else can we say about this picture? >> absolutely. other things we notice in this image? >> building off the transportation point, you see boats in the far ground. it goes with the notion that instead of just being on the east coast, now you're able to move towards the west and midwest as a whole.
>> there's one way to read this image as sort of this forward motion of progress. the westward movement of progress. indeed in the 19th century, many people did read it as such. the figure of columbia dressed in her classical outfit, carrying a school book in her arm is pulling progress across the country towards the west. pushing indigenous people out of the way as she goes. but there's another way to lock at this picture. it's one of urban growth and change. anybody notice where the cities are in this picture? can you see it? in the top corner up here, they are on the east. we have new york in the background. we have the growing metropolis in the background and there's a sense all this progress is emanating from this urban place. so we have this image in our minds of a nation in motion. a society in motion. and from the 1830s to the 1850s,
the market revolution and the resulting urban changes had produced an american landscape that people described as enjettic, materialistic and seemingly constantly on the move. and these transformations were apparent to outsiders and visitors. folks like alexis, who commented on the manners of americans. he said, each member of the community severs from the mass of his follows to trau apart from his family and friends, leaving society at large to itself. so we have seen that economic and social transformations happening in urban areas are pushing people across the spectrum to reconsider their relationships to cities, but also to each other. and this brings us to the second part of our class today. how historians actually study what these polices look like and what we can learn from studying these landscapes today. 50ergs so one of the most interesting things is the on the ground
research that goes into exploring the environment and architecture and what these places would have looked like in the past. and it teaches us to really think carefully and really see and understand that change over time that's happening at the human level through things like physical evidence. stuff like the city streets, buildings, and even archaeological remains. and these are all remnants of how people lived, worked and came into contact with one another throughout the early 19th century and we call the experts that examine this lived experience through physical evidence vernacular architectural historians. and these are the folks that help us understand what cities look like, how they worked at a physical level, and they use evidence like archaeology, city views, architecture and building plans to reconstruct these landscapes somewhat
metaphorically speaking. for us to understand them today. so i want to take a few minutes today and actually work from the bottom upstarting beneath the ground and ending with the buildings themselves to think about how these urban spaces worked and functioned. one of the ways a that we can understand urban change over time is through a school of thought and practice known as historical archaeology. put not this kind of archaeology. we're going to be talking more about this kind of archaeology, fieldwork happening on the city streets around us. and urban archaeologists who studied urban growth and city development are often looking feet beneath the ground for evidence of human habitation and change. and their discoveries of built landscapes in the early national period help us see what once existed, how people adapted their surroundings to new needs
and priorities and how these places changed over time. so here's ab early example from new york city. so you're looking at a google satellite view of lower manhattan at the intersection of water street and old flip near the east river. not too far from the entrance to the brocklin bridge. you're probably looking at this and thinking, gosh, this doesn't mean anything to me. and their discoveries of built landscapes in the early national period help us see what once existed, how people adapted their surroundings to new needs
and priorities and how these places changed over time. so here's ab early example from new york city. so you're looking at a google satellite view of lower manhattan at the intersection of water street and old flip near the east river. not too far from the entrance to the brooklyn bridge. you're probably looking at this and thinking, gosh, this doesn't mean anything to me. i promise it will in a second. what you're looking at here is the approximate location of what was once a wharf owned by a new york merchant, who has one of the coolest old timy names i have ever heard. and he and his wharf were a prominent feature of new york's early 19th century landscape. and the remains of this wharf still exist. they rest feet beneath the ground in lower manhattan. and in the 1980s, archaeologists went and they uncovered the remains of the wharf. and what they found looks something like this. they dug up this site and
unearthed huge wooden item betters sitting feet beneath the ground. if you look a at this image, there's the archaeologist right here. up on top of that timber, just to give you a sense of scale. this is huge. these huge timber frame structures beneath the ground. they dug this up to try to find traces of new york's early national water front. and looking at archaeological remains like this one, we can better understand how wealthy new yorkers were able to take advantage of the economic opportunities afforded by the growth of cities in this period. while ordinary and poorer people often struggled to make ends meet. he was a very wealthy new yorker he was a merchant, and he purchased a type of property called a water lot in 1775. and he did this to expand his business empire. now a water lot is a term for a plot of land that sits beneath
the water that merchants would buy in the 18th and early 19th century with the intention to frame out with wood and fill in with dirt and sand and all sorts of stuff to create wharves, new city streets and plots of land for blilding upon. all with the goal of expanding the city's footprint out into the water. and we see this happening here in boston and philadelphia. it happens in cities across the united states in this period. it's a very common way of building. and we know from property records, real estate documents, city directories that he is building in not only one of the hottest real estate regions in the city at this time, but also one of the most crowded. so i just want to show you what you're looking at here is the property map, a plat map created centuries later. this is from the early 1900s showing you the names of the
property owners who bought water lot property around the same time. so there's the water lot. so this region is also incredibly dense. over 5,600 people lived on roughly 53 acres of land surrounding the wharf. if you're trying to get a sense for what that means and you like to think in terms of sports, we're thinking about approximately 55-ish football fields worth of space. and it's important that we consider this density in relative terms. so manhattan had a much smaller geographic footprint at the time that he was building. it was only about a mile north to south, and half mile east to west. and it had a population of about 32,000 people in 1789. and when he's building and wharfing out this water lot, 5,600 people live in the immediate vicinity. so there's a higher consecration of people relative to the size of the city. and this suggests that as merchants are buying up valuable
water front real estate and reaping all these benefits, there are also scores of poor and working class men and women who find themselves increasingly crowded into the nooks and crannies of these newly built spaces. and many of the public health issues that plagued early national cities were often traced to these exact neighborhoods. especially things like yellow fever. so we know today that yellow fever is a disease caused by what? anybody know? what causes yellow fever. nobody knows? any guesses? not rat, but another kind of pest. common to us in the summertime
here in new england. it's mosquitos. so we know today that yellow fever is caused by mosquitos. but people didn't know this fact. so they often blamed a whole bunch of possible causes for the recurrent and very common yellow fever epidemics that would show up in cities. they blamed breathing unhealthy air, smelling spoiled cargo, they blamed people's personal hygiene and living conditions. and so in the 1790s and early 1800s, the cities are visited over and over and over again by yellow fever outbreaks. we see that they tended to affect the poor more than they did the wealthy. any thoughts about why the wealthy might have been spared the worst effects of yellow
fever? >> their clothing was a lot like more covering of their bodies and it was just like more coverage so they wouldn't get by the bit. >> that's an interesting theory. perhaps there's something to be said for the clothing you're wearing. >> they could spend time indoors and not working outside. >> they could go inside. what else? >> more personal space. one of the things they can do is they can do today and we saw during the covid pandemic is they can pack up and leave. if people are getting sick and don't want to stay there, they can flee. they can head up to their cousin's house out of town. whereas the the poor and the working class, they don't have these same options. and so when we see these yellow
fever outbreaks happening, we know the poor are not always stuck, but they are also the ones getting sick. so when we consider the relationship between construction of things like the wharf and the crowding of lower class people, we see that things like archaeological evidence can help us understand how city growth could create greater disparity between the haves and have notes. here's another example of urban archaeology from brooklyn, new york. this is the empire store's warehouse in brocklin bridge park right underneath the brooklyn bridge. in the late 19 0s and 80s, archaeologists etc. ka vated the ground, which was originally in 1860s coffee storage warehouse. that had been home to centuries of new york's urban industry and commercial growth. and when they went to dig out in front of this space, they found remnants of timber frame cribs,
those structures used to expand the city's shoreline to create more land. and when they excavated the interior of these cribs, they found thousands of objects. stuff like shoe leather, metal pieces, glass bottles and ceramic plates. what do you think all of this stuff was doing inside of a landfill grid? a structure that's meant to sit beneath the ground. >> trash that people used to weigh down the cribs. >> exactly. this was all of their garbage. these items were there because 19th century new yorkers threw them away. these items ended up in the trash heap of history and they got uncovered by archaeologists centuries later. they comprised the landfill that
would have helped build out the shoreline of places like new york and brooklyn. so in short, what can we learn from all this? the objects that we pull up from the ground teach us about how people built, but also about what kind of stuff they spent their money on. and we see them engaging in the world of the market revolution through what was essentially their trash. another way that historians study and interpret how early national cities grew and developed is through things like city views. drawings, paintings, works on paper, things that depict cities in a particular historical context. and you have probably seen some instagram shots like these ones behind me. you have maybe taken a couple yourself. so we have our beloved beacon hill and over here we have the manhattan bridge in brooklyn. supposedly one of the most
iconic instagram places to take a photo in the country. i don't know if that's true. but what do we see here? we see people doing what? what are they doing in the urban experience here? >> walking. >> but what's the point of an instagram shot like this? >> sure. what else? why would you take a picture like this? >> to capture a moment in time when you were once there. >> yes, absolutely. they are trying to capture cities at a particular moment in time to say i was here. i saw this place. they are trying to preserve for future generations what these spaces were like and who they were when they were in them. and 19th century americans definitely didn't have instagram, but they did have paper and pen and paint.
and so we can lock at artistic depictions of cities to see how folks in the 19th century were also thinking about urban growth and change. one of my favorite places to look a is at the artwork by william chapel, whoen painted a series of new york city city skaps in the 1870s. now at this point, chapel was an older man. he had lived throughout the duration of the 19th century. and what he was painting was the new york that he remembered from his childhood. he's painting things like city streets and landscapes. what are some of the things that you notice about chapel's paintings? we can start with this one over here. >> it's not like a particular moment in time or like a famous event, but it's actually just kind of a mundane picture of what that city would have looked like on any other day.
>> yeah, he's capturing very ordinary work spaces. what else do you noets about what he's capturing here? >> it doesn't look like the new york that we think of. it looks very much like a small town. there's no really tall buildings or anything like that. >> yeah. this is new york in a totally different scale than the new york we would think of today. what about structures like this? it's a little hard to see. what are you noticing there? >> those are the landfills? >> that's some timber front cribbing. absolutely. how about over here? this one is called the tea water pump. what does that suggest to you about what's going on here? what's this guy doing? can you see? >> is that just like fresh water in a barrel a the end of his cart that he's giving to people? >> yeah. so all the a moment in time where access to the infrastructure for fresh running water like we understand today
was not as easy to come by. you'd walk around the city and this is where you can go and make tea. absolutely. so we see these work a day spaces an effort to capture these cities in a moment in time. and finally, we can study the buildings themselves. like those that still stand around us today like these former warehouse spaces right here in boston on broad street, designed by charles. this building you can still go visit this one. it's just up the street. this warehouse would have been one of 40 identical warehouses lining broad and india streets in downtown boston in the early 1800s.
and it was built and financed as part of this much larger water front development project that included the creation of warehouses, shops like this one, and a monumental wharf building called india wharf. the whole project was built, bought and sold in phases from approximately 1803 into the 1810s. we talked about the rise of corporations. what were some of the reasons why merchants and businessmen were kind of keen on establishing corporations in this period? what were they jazzed about? >> corporations could outlive the members of business, so if they just had a business between two people, it would die out. but corporations could live on through other people and keep the financial success growing. >> absolutely. other reasons why it was popular to start to incorporate? >> liability. so basically even if the corporation has a problem or
approaching bankruptcy, theyen couldn't go after your own personal assets. it was just limited to the corporation. >> what else? other things? we like these things today when we invest in corporations. >> it allowed business people to return dividends to shareholders so it was worth investing in the business. >> yeah, totally. so these are things that we're familiar with today. so the same thinking is happening in the early 1800s. so here in boston, we have a group of merchants who the to get in on this kind of business. and they form a corporation with sanctions from the state that allows them to build the real estate that you see behind me here. they called themselves the broad street associates and then they approached architect to have him design them some really
monumental structures for the city of boston. so both designs are replacing outdated buildings with two streets lined with brick stores like the one you see behind me here. and the broad street associates do all this work and purchase a whole street called battery march street. they rename it broad street. and then they landfill additional space and they builden india street on it. if you walk in down ton boston, you're walking on those same streets today. they start building stores on top of them, which i'll share a similar architectural vocabulary. they have a marble course separating the ground floor from the upper stories. you'd have a shop on the ground floor. storage space above. and all of the warehouses would have looked essentially the same. and one of those stores still hands on the corner of broad and customs streets here in downtown
boston. 68 broad street. historians know quite a few about this particular building because theyen went out and drew it. they documented it. the historic american building survey went out and created these elevation drawings of this warehouse in the 20th century capturing the building on a particular moment in time. we also know about these buildings because of their own records, drawings like this one. a building plan like the one you see behind me. you can almost imagine him crowding over his drafting table thinking about the tokes that will finance these buildings and how they will be oriented. and how these buildings are going to fit together in the landscape. and if we look closely at this document, we see that many of the corporate members, the men who are financing this project have their names listed inside
different warehouses. so names for all of the men investing in this project. and we notice that all of these names are male. this is a feature indicative of a lot of corporate change happening in the early republic. the merchants who funded the broad street warehouses wanted these buildings to serve a very particular corporate function. these buildings would be used for storage, they would be used for business and shopping and office space all under one roof. and this intentionality is a departure from what folks would have been familiar with in the colonial period when home and worken often happened under the same exact roof. so now you see this differenceuation between home space and work space. and as a result of this, one of the biggest impacts that boston's early corporate development had was on women. because these prescribed uses
and types of control over how urban space would function, particularly around property ownership, were very illusive for women because of things like marriage and customs, stuff that we have talked about in this class. many women found themselves locked out of the different kinds of financial opportunities that these types of real estate endeavors would have afforded. yet, if we look at city directory documentary evidence, we can see that women may have found some ways to resist the real estate development trends happening around them. especially once the buildings were completed and occupied. so these are two pages from a city directory. does anybody know what a city directory is? it's an odd document that's not totally familiar to us today. what do you think this is? >> it kind of shows all the business owners in the city and
wherer they are located and what they do. >> yeah, not just business own oers, but basically anybody who wanted to have their name, their residence, their place of occupation listed in a city directory so we can think of this as a book akin to a phonebook before phones. this is where you can go to look up who lived where and what they did. so we can look at these books published on a yearly basis in cities and find evidence of a variety of folks doing a variety of jobs living in a variety of places. everything from merchants, hair dressers, sailors, and laborers. and one of the things that we can also find is the existence of women. for example, we see a woman named lydia operating a boarding house at 115 broad street in 1810. boarding houses were a very particular and popular form of employment opportunity for women in this period because they
could run a domestic lodging space for sailors and laborers. so we can think of this as a book, akin to a phone book before phones. this is where you can go to look up who they were and what they did. we can look at these books published on a yearly basis in cities and we can find a variety of folks doing a variety of jobs living in a variety of places. everything from merchants and laborers. one of the things we can also find is the existence of women. for example, we see a woman named lydia operating a boardinghouse at 115 broad street in 1810. boardinghouses were popular. we also know that widow, abigail stone operated a lady's boardinghouse with two documented female tenants, a woman named sears. abigail moved her boardinghouse from broad street to purchase street. what do we make of all this evidence? what does this suggest to you
when you see the presence of women in spaces designed by this corporate entity? what do you think is happening here? what can we surmise from what we see here? >> i feel like more often it might be married, and it would also be they couldn't have property. >> yeah, she's widowed, and she has more flexibility in society because she's not covered. >> if you are a corporate business owner, and you are constructing these buildings you want to turn a profit, so they will allow women to use them they have to produce some sort of money to make things meet. >> another thing we can surmise is there's a possibility women were finding opportunity in a growing rental market. they may not be able to buy one of these houses out right, they can rent it, and they need to support their tenants and things like that. renting, in this case, may have
given women a little more economic flexibility. they could move from place to place, seek a new landlord and find a cheaper rent, all in an effort to grow their own businesses and support themselves in the city. we see tucked behind and within these new monumental buildings are the city's ordinary women, like the ones you see here, who are seeking some sort of access to the newly waterfront through these new properties. what are we to make of this physical evidence? how does it affect the socioeconomic dynamics? how can this teach us about real life? how are you thinking differently about the relationship between human lives and urban life? >> a lot of urban life comes out of that type of experience, and those types of buildings were created because people decided
that would be a good thing to create, and it was shown by the women that set up their own spaces. >> absolutely. other things we are thinking about now as we see a connection between people and buildings? how will you think differently about this period of history now? well, i will offer up some ideas from the historians that do this work for a living. one of the big takeaways from research like this is it gives us tangible proof of the way urban development and change can
not only lead to economic opportunity for some folks, but can also make things a lot more complicated for everybody else. this is a theme that has been coming up in our last few classes together, this sort of crunchiness between the haves and have nots, and opportunity for some but struggle and questions for many others. we saw this last when we talked about how the impact of urban growth allowed young women to enter into the workforce for the first time, when we talked about mary paul and the mill, and we saw it today when we talked about how urban property developments and consolidation allowed some wealthy merchants to prosper, while others found themselves crowded and squeezed. we can place the history that we have seen here today in a long arc of historical scholarship that looks at these questions
from a lot of different angles. architectural historians, social historians, you name it. they remind us that the city itself is a historical artifact. architectural historian writes, the distraction of ideology and personal identities were tested and absorbed. the city shapes and annotated the urban experience and was shaped by it. so there's no one way to understand the growth of cities in the early republic. their significance comes in many different forms, from the stories of men and women who found ways to make a living in the new streets and new buildings of the early national period to the architectural and archeological evidence that tells us about how these places grew and functioned. so we know that cities were places of social, economic and architectural change. i hope as we talk more about this in future semesters and
classes that we understand that the intersection of people, places and things we can find a way to tell this story. thanks, guys. american history tv, saturdays on c-span 2 exploring events that tell the american story. a former speechwriter for ronald reagan commemorates his birthday doing an event at the library in simi valley, california. world war ii admiral chester nimitz. >> most of you know the story. the hartford was halfway into the bay when there was a muffled thump and the ship immediately to his right, the tecumsah reared up out of the water,
stern rose up, propeller still spinning and shot down like an arrow taking most of its crew with it, sunk by a confederate torpedo, perhaps designed by hunter davidson. when that happened, the ship directly farrah gut stopped and began to back down. the ships are in a line ahead formation. when the lead ships begin backing down, you can imagine the chaos likely to ensue. this is when farrah gut took matters in hand in order to have it steam past the brooklyn directly into the marked mine field. her captain called across to tell him there were torpedos
dead ahead, to which fair gut replied -- >> damn the torpedos, full steam ahead! [ laughter ] >> give me a minute. here's the thing to remember about that moment. this was not an act of unthinking bluster, a kind of forlorn charge. it was a practical response to a swiftly evolving circumstance. it was absolutely the right decision. any other decision would have led to chaos, stop, try to turn around, back down, collide, collide, crash crash, under the guns of those 42 pounders. disaster. >> watch the rest of this program at any time at
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