The year was 1840 and it was a big year for the mail. On January 10, the “Penny Black,” the world’s first postage stamp was introduced in the UK. This shifted the cost of mailing from the recipient to the sender of posts. This pre-paid system allowed for a lower rate and the number of letters jumped from 76 million in 1839 to 168 million in 1840, and further to 347 million ten years later.
In Canada, the Union Act of 1840 unites the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada and establishes the Province of Canada with one centralized government.
The United States was growing and in 1840 there were more than 4 million more people counted in the census than in 1830–an increase of 32.7 percent. There were 131 cities and towns that had more than 2,500 residents or more and only 10.8 percent of the population lived in these “urban” areas. The remaining 89.2 percent still lived in rural areas.Â Only four states claimed a population of more than one million: New York being the most populous with 2,428,921; Pennsylvania next with 1,724,033; then Ohio with 1,519,487; and Virginia rounding out the top four with 1,239,797.Â
William Henry Harrison defeated Martin Van Buren in the U.S. presidential election with his slogan of “Tippecanoe and Tyler too!” referring to Harrison’s hero status from the Battle of Tippecanoe and his running mate, John Tyler. He won the electoral vote by a large margin, but only earned 145,000 more of the popular vote.Â
1840 saw one of the greatest tornado disasters in U.S. history with the Great Natchez Tornado. Shortly after noon, a mile-wide twister that followed the path of the Mississippi River struck the towns of Natchez and Vidalia. Across the river, Concordia Parish in Louisiana also suffered severe damage. The death toll is estimated at 317, with another 109 people injured, ranking it as the second deadliest tornado (behind the Tri-State Tornado of 1925).Â
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