Duel: Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr>Teacher
United States in 1804
United States in 1804
This information is from the National Park Service website,
The Lewis and Clark Journey of Discovery:
| Diseases | The Arts
| Crime & Punishment | Alcohol
1804 the United States was growing rapidly in population as
well as territory. The 1800 census indicated that the nation
was composed of about 5.3 million people. The 17 states in the
Union in 1804 were Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina,
Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Delaware,
New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut,
Vermont, New Hampshire and newly-admitted Ohio. The flag had
15 stars and 15 stripes, and wasn't changed until 1818, despite
the fact that several more states entered the Union. After 1818
the flag went back to having just thirteen stripes, representing
the thirteen original states.
U.S. was then a predominantly rural nation, with only 1 in 20
of its citizens living in towns of over 2,500 people; four of
every five were farmers. All were used to hard work, with long
days (14-16 hours in the summer) and seasonal changes in labor
and diet. Work began for children at an early age, with little
time for schooling. The average household was composed of six
people, but many families were very large, exceeding ten children.
Most lived in small, one story houses, many with just one or
average age of Americans at the time of Lewis and Clark was
young, probably about 16 years of age in 1800; today it is about
34. The average height of Americans was about 5'8" tall,
belying the old maxim of historic site docents who delighted
in telling the public how "people were shorter in those
days." The average height of Americans in the early 21st
century is about 5'9". However, in 1800 Americans were
taller than their European counterparts by about 2 to 3 inches.
Heights in the army in 1804 ranged between 5'5" and 6'4½".
the average age at death was lower than today, that did not
mean that people died younger. The statistics of the average
age at death were younger because of a great deal of infant
mortality, caused by contageous diseases like measles, whooping
cough, scarlet fever, pneumonia, polio, smallpox, yellow fever,
malaria, typhiod fever, tuberculosis and other maladies which
have since been controlled by vaccines and inoculations. If
a person lived to their 20s they were just about as likely to
reach 70 or even 80 as today's population.
and medical knowledge was primitive, with no internal surgery
being performed. Operations consisted of amputations of limbs
or trephanning, a procedure by which a hole was cut in the skull
to relieve pressure on the brain. Many doctors had no medical
training at all, and even the ones who had gone to a medical
school knew relatively little about what made a person sick
or well. Doctors in 1804 diagnosed by evaluating the individual
symptoms displayed by a patient rather than what those symptoms
might mean in combination. Doctors still felt that all disease
was caused by an imbalance of "bodily humors." The
four "humors" were blood, saliva, urine and feces.
If a person was sick, it was likely (according to this theory)
that their body had produced too much of one of the bodily humors.
This is why doctors resorted to bleeding their patients - that
is, actually opening up a vein on a person's arm with a razor-sharp
instrument and taking a measured amount of blood before bandaging
the wound. Doctors at the time believed there was more blood
in the human body than there really is - in fact, they believed
that there was twice as much blood in each person. Needless
to say, taking blood from a person fighting an infection is
not helpful; taking copious amounts of blood will eventually
kill the patient. Often people who had simple maladies were
killed by doctors who drained them of too much blood.
addition to professional men like merchants, ship owners, teachers,
professors, clergymen, lawyers and doctors, the majority of
United States citizens were laboring men and women. The era's
jobs included farmer, tailor, shoemaker, coppersmith, hatter,
blacksmith, carpenter, cooper, tobacconist, gardener, miller,
printer, clothier, musician, distiller, harnessmaker, cordwainer,
sadler, barber, weaver, tanner, currier, chairmaker, cabinetmaker,
hosier, baker and laborer.
were very few people in the United States involved in the arts
in 1804. There were a few theaters in the largest cities. A
small number of famous painters, like Gilbert Stuart, Charles
Willson Peale and John Vanderlyn had emerged, and itinerant
artists roamed the countryside, ready to paint portraits and
tavern signs in a primitive style. No authors or poets of any
note had yet appeared, save Thomas Paine, Thomas Jefferson and
other writers on American liberties, and a young African American
poet from Boston named Phillis Wheatley. However, true artistry
was being produced in the beautiful furniture and silver work
of the period in such cities as Boston, New York, Philadelphia,
Baltimore and Charleston.
in the early 19th century could be brutal. This was underscored
by the public's fascination with hangings, bear-baitings, cockfights,
and gouging contests - in which men purposely grew their fingernails
long so that they could gouge out their opponent's eyes. It
is certain that the Marquis of Queensbury's rules were not observed
in popular bare-knuckle fistfights held throughout the country.
For the upper classes, a verbal slight or insult could end in
a duel and death. Being arrested or convicted of a crime could
land one in a prison, many of which were set up in old mines
and decrepit buildings. Damp conditions, vermin and contagious
inmates created shocking conditions and often led to death.
Many were imprisoned and endured such conditions merely because
they were in debt or mentally impaired. At the turn of the 19th
century people were ordinarily executed only for murder, but
minor crimes such as forgery resulted in having one's ears cropped.
Branding on the forehead with letters (such as "M"
for manslaughter) was practiced in New England, along with public
whippings for petty theft. It was at the time of Lewis and Clark,
in fact, that statute law was changing throughout America to
eliminate such "cruel and unusual punishments," replacing
public tortures with incarceration. Pennsylvania abolished flogging
in 1790, Massachusetts outlawed mutilation in 1805, and Connecticut's
last public whipping was in 1828.
hard liquor was part of the way of ordinary life during the
period of Lewis and Clark. The yearly consumption of liquor
at the time of the American Revolution, reported Jack Larkin,
Chief Historian of Old Sturbridge Village, "has been estimated
at the equivalent of three and one-half gallons of pure two-hundred-proof
alcohol for each person. After 1790 American men began to drink
even more. By the late 1820s their imbibing had risen to an
all-time high of almost four gallons per capita."
entire strength of the U.S. Army in 1804 totaled just 3,220
officers and men - in a nation of over 5.3 million people. In
case of imminent danger, the responsibility for the defense
of the nation was placed upon militia organizations rather than
the regular army.