The year was 1827 and in Finland, the city of Abo (Turku in Finnish) was destroyed by fire. According to The Times (London, England) of 30 October 1827, “14 persons have perished on this melancholy occasion, and 789 houses have been reduced to ashes.” It goes on to say that,
“From this eminence the city now only presents to the view of the observer a vast field of ruins, an awful forest of [chimneys?] is all that remains of a city which not long since was [situated?] by the industry and activity of 14,000 inhabitants, of which 11,000 are now without an asylum.”
In Ireland, the population had grown from around 2.3 million in 1754 to 6.8 million as counted by the 1821 census, and the Penal Laws, which didn’t allow Catholics to buy land, and which restricted them in many other ways, encouraged this group in particular to emigrate. In 1827, legislation restricting emigration was lifted and in the ensuing ten years nearly 400,000 Irish emigrants left for foreign shores.Â
Across the ocean in America, the railroad industry was in its infancy. The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was incorporated to transport people and freight and would begin construction in 1828. The initial stretch would be completed in 1830 and a trip down the thirteen-mile stretch took fifty-seven minutes pulled by the first American-made locomotive, nicknamed the “Tom Thumb.”
Another railroad built in 1827 used gravity to transport coal from the mines of Summit Hill, Carbon County, Pennsylvania, to the Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania). The fast ride downhill quickly attracted thrill seekers and soon the area became a tourist destination. The Switch-back, as it became known, is credited with being the inspiration for the roller coaster industry and the tourist rides outlasted its use in hauling coal. (The image accompanying this article is of the Switch-back railroad, from the Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry.)
Americans were also moving westward, and in 1827, Cantonment Leavenworth (later, Fort Leavenworth) was established. Soldiers from the fort would help escort parties along the Santa Fe trail and monitor Native American activity in the area.
Back in New York, for the first time, African-Americans were making their voices heard through print as the first African-American owned and published newspaper came into existence. Freedom’s Journal, as it was called, was founded by John Russwurm, and in addition to news and current events, it included editorials, birth, marriage, and death listings for the African-American community in New York, and biographical sketches on prominent African-Americans.Â Â
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