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Discovering the Unforgettable Culture of the 1800s in America

American history articles 19th Century

Explore the unique culture of 1800s America with this collection of articles! Learn about daily life and events of the time period.

The 1800s was a time of immense change and growth in the United States. During this period, America saw rapid industrialization and technological advancements, social reforms, and growth in population both within the country’s borders and through immigration. In these articles, we will explore the lives of Americans during this period, as well as some of the major events that occurred throughout the century.

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A Brief History of Children Sent Through the Mail

In the early days of the parcel post, some parents took advantage of the mail in unexpected ways

Danny Lewis, smithsonian.com June 14, 2016 | Updated: December 21, 2016

Library Research Guide (LibGuide) – Internet Sites with Primary Sources for U.S. History

This research guide from the librarians at Bowling Green State University has links to websites with substantial collections of online primary sources for U.S. history.

A Graceful Exit

In one momentous decision, Robert E. Lee spared the United States years of divisive violence

Jay Winik, American Heritage 2009

A journey to Ohio in 1810

As recorded in the journal of Margaret Van Horn Dwight

A journey to Ohio in 1810, as recorded in the journal of Margaret Van Horn Dwight

A Moose for the Misinformed: Jefferson and Natural History

Incensed that many leading European scientists had belittled North America’s climate and fauna, Thomas Jefferson shipped them evidence and published a long reply in Notes on the State of Virginia.

Mark Coburn, American Heritage 2017

A Texas Cattleman & His Comanche Concubine

Richard Selcer, HistoryNet 2017

See our free books on Native American history

Andrew Johnson: Path to Impeachment

Pieces of History, National Archives 2018

Bible view of slavery

Authored at the time of the Civil War

Schoenberg Center

Crime as Entertainment in the 19th century

Anna Mazzola, The History Girls 2016

First Trip by Steam to Lake Superior

1st Person account

Michigan Historical Collections 1876

Fort Sumter Falls

Account by the Deputy Commander at Fort Sumter of the first battle of the Civil War.

Abner Doubleday, Journal of American Heritage 2011

List of Automobile Manufacturers in the U.S. in 1899

Horseless vehicles; automobiles, motor cycles operated by steam, hydro-carbon, electric and pneumatic motors 1900

Old French Traditions

French-Canadian residents of Detroit, observed in the early 19th century.

MichiganHistorical Collections 1876

Slavery a Positive Good

1854 article by a radical Missouri advocate of slavery.

American history told by contemporaries 1898-1929

See our Vintage Postcard Collections

The Brief Period, 200 Years Ago, When American Politics Was Full of ‘Good Feelings’

James Monroe’s 1817 goodwill tour kicked off a decade of party-less government – but he couldn’t stop the nation from dividing again

Erick Trickey, smithsonian.com July 17, 2017

The Know Nothing platform 1855

Schoenberg Center

American Populism 1876-1896: Origins & Agendas

Dr. Charles Postel, Northern Illinois University Library Digital Initiatives 2009

Building the Erie Canal

Janice Fontanella, Ben Franklin’s World, Episode 28

The Oregon Trail

Rinker Buck, Ben Franklin’s World, Episode 077:

How Salt Helped Win the Civil War

Southern salt-making operations became prime military targets.

Anne Ewbank, Atlas Obscura 2018

John Kelly is wrong: Slavery, not lack of compromise, caused the Civil War

The United States tried compromise for 70 years. It didn’t work.

Frank Cirillo, Washington Post 2017

The Women Who Fought in the Civil War

Hundreds of women concealed their identities so they could battle alongside their Union and Confederate counterparts.

Jess Righthand, Smithsonian Magazine 2011

Ordinances of Secession and Other Documents 1860-1861

The reasons the southern states gave for leaving the Union, in the original documents.

Women Spies of the Civil War

Hundreds of women served as spies during the Civil War. Here’s a look at six who risked their lives in daring and unexpected ways.

Smithsonian Magazine 2011

Mangled by a Shell: A tattered photograph tells a grim story

A year after his regiment’s ill-fated charge at Fredericksburg on December 13, 1862, Oliver Dart Jr. faced another great trial, sitting for a photograph at a studio on Main Street in Hartford, Conn. A mangled lower jaw, mouth, and nose—the awful effects of a shrapnel wound suffered during the attack on Marye’s Heights—are obvious. How Dart summoned the fortitude to sit for the CDV, undoubtedly evidence for his pension claim, is remarkable.

John Banks, History Net 2018

The North tried compromise. The South chose war.

The South’s insistence upon protecting and spreading slavery caused the Civil War.

Carole Emberton, Washington Post 2017

What It Was Like To Be an African-American during the Civil War

What was it like to be one of the 186,017 African Americans who served in the Union Army during the Civil War?

Matthew Wills, JSTOR Daily 2016

Why The Civil War Still Matters

One hundred and fifty years after the guns began shelling Fort Sumter this April, Americans remain fascinated with the Civil War. Why do we care about a war that ended so long ago?

James M. McPherson, American Heritage 2011

Abraham Lincoln Meets Frederick Douglass

Today it seems unthinkable but in August 1863—the summer of Gettysburg and Vicksburg and the bloody New York draft riots—anybody could walk into the White House and ask to meet the president. On the sweltering morning of August 10, one of Lincoln’s uninvited visitors was Frederick Douglass, a tall, burly black man dressed in a dark suit and a high-collared white shirt. He had no appointment.

Peter Carlson, HistoryNet 2011

In the Early 19th Century, Firefighters Fought Fires … and Each Other

Fighting fires in early America was about community, property and rivalry

Jackson Landers, Smithsonian Magazine 2016

Five myths about Reconstruction

“As W.E.B. Du Bois put it in “Black Reconstruction” 80 years ago, that “one cannot study Reconstruction without first frankly facing the facts of universal lying.” Here are five common fallacies that Americans still tell themselves about this formative period.”

James Loewen, Washington Post 2016

A big day in history: A speck of glitter triggers the California Gold Rush

Dominic Sandbrook explores the events of 24 January 1848.

Dominic Sandbrook, History Extra 2913

How American ‘Dollar Princesses’ Invaded British High Society

During the Gilded Age, marrying British aristocrats was seen as a way for American heiresses to raise their social status.

Erin Blakemore, History.com 2019

How Abraham Lincoln solved his ‘deep state’ problem

Numerous U.S. presidents were frustrated and sometimes bamboozled by members of their own staff — few more so than Abraham Lincoln, who found effective ways of confronting dissent.

Dillon Carroll, Washington Post 2018

On this day in history, outlaw Jesse James took a bullet to the brain

If there is anything to be learned from the death of Jesse James on April 3, 1882, it is this: If you see a picture hanging crooked on a wall, and there is a bounty on your head, leave the picture alone.

Michael S. Rosenwald, Washington Post 2017

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