The Year Was 1843

Wagon tracks on Old Oregon Trail. Scottsbluff, Nebraska, 1941The year was 1843 and in Edinburgh, more than 400 ministers broke away from the National Church of Scotland in what is known as the “Disruption of the Church of Scotland.” Protesting government interference in the church, these ministers gave up their livelihoods to create the Free Church of Scotland.

England was at last joined to the Continent through the first tunnel under the English Channel. The first tunnel under the Thames River was made possible by the invention of a “tunnel shield” by Marc Brunel. Begun in 1825, Brunel’s tunnel opened in 1843 and was used by more than a million people in the first four months. (Thanks to everyone who caught my error! A good reminder to read more carefully. j.s.)

Travel was also improving in the United States. The Republican Compiler (Gettysburg, Pennsylvania) for 24 July 1843  reported the following:

Speed in Travelling [sic]—A party left New Orleans on the 30th of June, at quarter past six, and arrived at New York on the 15th of July, at a little after four, having stopped a day at Niagara. They went by the way of St. Louis, Illinois, and the upper lakes, performing a journey of upwards of three thousand miles in fourteen days, without making any extraordinary haste or enduring any particular fatigue.

Overland travel was also booming and 875 pioneers left Elm Grove near Independence, Missouri, for Oregon via the Oregon Trail. In 120 wagons, and with more than 1,000 head of livestock, they traveled through the summer and into the fall. More than 700 of the pioneers survived the journey to begin their new lives in Oregon Territory. More than 500,000 people would follow over the course of the next twenty-five years. For information on pioneers from this historic first trek, see The Wagon Train of 1843: The Great Migration. And for a really interesting look at the subject, see The Oregon Trail. This site includes diaries and memoirs, as well as some really interesting facts.

Further east, Delaware County in Pennsylvania was the scene of devastating floods which killed nineteen people and washed away homes, businesses, and bridges along creeks in the area that overflowed their banks in a particularly violent storm and tornado. 

In August, “The Great Hailstorm” swept across parts of southern England, from Oxford to Norfolk. The hail and tornadoes destroyed crops and property. “25 cm hailstones were recorded, and in places the stones lay 1.5 m deep.”  
The enemy in Glasgow was fever and “Between May and December 1843, over 32,000 fever cases were recorded throughout Glasgow and the suburbs and at least 1,300 people died.” Robert Perry, in his publication “Facts and Observations on the Sanitory [sic] State of Glasgow” (1844) drew a correlation between the prevalence of the fever and poverty levels and reported “. . . those places most densely inhabited, by the poorest of the people, have suffered most severely. The epidemic, having once got into a densely crowded land or close, never ceased until it had visited every house, and in many of the houses every inmate.” Perry used detailed maps in his publication to show districts where the disease was most prevalent.

In the world of literature, 1843 saw the release of the classic “A Christmas Carol,” by Charles Dickens, and Edgar Allen Poe published The Tell-Tale Heart.

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6 thoughts on “The Year Was 1843

  1. “In 1825 operations began for building the Brunel-designed tunnel under the Thames River between Rotherhithe and Wapping. Brunel’s Tunnel Shield covered the area to be excavated and consisted of 12 seperate frames, comprising altogether 36 cells in which a workman was engaged working independantly of the others. Propulsion for the device was a screw which drove the device forward in 114mm/4.5in steps(the width of a brick).

    This scheme, which had no precedent, was halted a number of times but, fortunately the shield held. The stoppages did, however, place the scheme’s finances under severe strain. At one point the operation was halted for seven years and the tunnel bricked up.
    When it was again started a much larger shield was used to cover the 120m/400ft of tunnel already constructed. At its lowest point construction took place only 4m/14ft below the river bed.

    The Thames tunnel was eventually opened in 1843. It was of an horseshoe construction with a height of 7m/23ft and width of 11m/37ft. It had a total length of406m/1,506ft.”

    The Channel Tunnel was only opened in 1994. See the following URL

  2. Concur with Samuel’s comment… your link to Brunel worked so well, I immediately found out your article erred in describing the Thames tunnel as “linking with the continent”. Otherwise, interesting article.

  3. Woops! I think the scribner who wrote the brief about the first tunnel under the English Channel in 1843 meant to say under the Thames.


  4. I truly enjoy the articles that speak to the events of a given year.

    Please keep up the good work.


  5. Brunel’s tunnel was under the River Thames, not the English Channel.

  6. Regardless of what your spell check indicates re “Speed in Travelling [sic]” travelling is a correct spelling. Thanks for a wonderful series of pictures into our pasts. We appreciate your efforts.


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