The year was 1819 and the United States experienced its first major financial crisis in the Panic of 1819. Following a period of economic development after the War of 1812, property values collapsed, and unemployment was on the rise. Thousands of people found themselves in debtorsâ€™ prisons, and soup kitchens and charitable institutions were in demand.
The Ohio Repository from 1 October 1819Â cites a report from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on the industries of cotton spinning, hosiery, thread, silver plating, smithing, coach making, chemicals, hatting, carving and gilding, potteries, tobacco pipes, printing ink, book printing, type foundry, brass foundry, wire factory and floor cloth manufacturing. The report states that,
It appears that in these the average weekly wages, in 1814 and 1816 was $6.51 and the average number of persons employed 4906…While in 1819, weekly wages averaged $4.95 [and] the number of persons employed was reduced to 900…
“Unless some early change takes place in the affairs of the community, your committee regret to say, that, in their opinion, the sufferings of the poor during the approaching winter will far exceed anything that America has heretofore witnessed.–Already are there many reputable manufacturers & mechanicks [sic] offering to work for their bare food, whilst others unhesitatingly declare, that they have no prospect before them, but to be entered with their families upon the pauper list.”
Formerly part of the Mississippi Territory), Alabama became a state in 1819.Â Missouri had petitioned for statehood several times, beginning in 1817, and in 1819, House member James Tallmadge proposed an amendment that would restrict slavery in Missouri by stopping the introduction of new slaves and emancipating younger slaves at the age of twenty-five. The amendment passed in the House, but did not make it through the Senate.Â This would set the stage for the Missouri Compromise of 1820, wherein Missouri would be admitted as a slave state and Maine, which separated from Massachusetts, would be admitted as a free state.
Arkansas Territory was organized in 1819 from Missouri Territory and at the time was home to around 14,000 settlers.Â
In July, the resort town of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, was slammed with an estimated category three or four hurricane. Casualties from the storm are estimated at between 100 and 175 people, with thirty-nine of them coming from the U.S. Man-of-War ship, Firebrand, which capsized during the storm. Devastation spread across the Mississippi Delta region, with dangerous snakes, alligators, and snapping turtles washed into the flooded streets of Mobile, Alabama, adding to the death toll.
In May of 1819, the S.S. Savannah took to the sea, the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. Although fitted with a steam engine, the majority of the trip was powered by sail. It took just over twenty-nine days to reach Liverpool from Savannah, Georgia (slower than expected because of weather delays) but it drew much interest.
Image: American methodists proceeding to their camp meeting / J. Milbert del.; M. Dubourg sculp., ca. 1819
(From the LOC Photo Collection at Ancestry.com)