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Antebellum Period

Antebellum Period

Antebellum Period Trivia

Brain Snacks: Tasty Tidbits of Knowledge

In 1838, Los Angeles passed an ordinance that made it necessary to get a license before serenading a woman.11

Eliza Jumel sued her 80-year-old husband Aaron Burr for divorce on the grounds of adultery in 1834. Burr had famously shot and mortally wounded Alexander Hamilton in an 1804 duel. Jumel was granted a legal divorce on the same day that Burr died, 14 September 1836.12

Alexander Hamilton's own death was presaged by the 1801 death of his nineteen-year-old son Phillip in a duel on the same site in Weehawken, New Jersey, where his father would die three years later. Philip was shot in a pistols duel by a twenty-seven-year-old lawyer, Captain George I. Eacker, who had given a speech in which he suggested that Alexander Hamilton might be willing to mount a coup to overthrow President Thomas Jefferson, whom Eacker supported.13

Between 1798 and the Civil War, the number of Naval officers killed because of dueling was two-thirds as high as the number of officers killed in more than 60 years of combat at sea.14

The United States in 1860 was virtually the first society in history in which as many girls as boys went to school, and in which literacy rates for the two sexes were about equal. Higher education was still overwhelmingly a male domain, but a few women's seminaries and colleges got started during this period.15

Antebellum American women had on average three times the number of children that they do today. In the half century before the Civil War, the American population more than quadrupled. The population doubled every 23 years. If it had kept increasing at the same rate from 1860 until the present, today there would be about 2 billion people in the United States, and that's not counting immigration!16

The ten years after 1845 witnessed the highest rate of immigration in American history (as a percentage of population). A grand total of 2.4 million people came to America; that was 14.5% of the population in 1845.17

Louisiana was the first state to make Christmas a holiday, in 1837. By the eve of the Civil War, Christmas was officially recognized in only eighteen states. It was not declared a federal holiday until 1870, by President Grant.18

By 1858, the cost of an abortion ranged from $25 to over $100, an exorbitant price for any working woman earning $3-4 a week. In addition, abortions could be dangerous when performed by a quack, the medical science was still in its infancy, and the procedure was increasingly frowned upon by traditionally-minded physicians, not to mention religious and conservative figures. States began to make the practice of abortion a crime following an 1858 campaign by the American Medical Association; it was successful and abortion was outlawed in most states by 1890. Physicians also opposed contraception methods on the grounds that they violated the natural purpose of sexuality and a woman's role as child-bearer and mother. They said that any sexual intercourse in which conception was prevented was tantamount to prostitution.19

From the election of Andrew Jackson in 1828 until the election of Abraham Lincoln in 1860, over half of the white male electorate turned out to vote in every presidential election. Between 1840 and 1860, at least 69.6% of eligible voters cast a ballot, with an 80.2% turnout in 1840 and an 81.2% turnout in 1860. In the early twentieth century, those percentages declined. At least 30% of all eligible voters have stayed home for presidential elections since 1904; in 2000, only 49.3% of the electorate voted. Recently, the number has begun to increase again: in 2004, 60.0% of those eligible cast a ballot.20

Fans were charged admission to watch a baseball game for the first time in 1858. The first game of the national championship series brought 1,500 spectators out to a Long Island race course (in present-day Corona, Queens). Spectators paid 50 cents each to watch the New York All-Stars beat Brooklyn, 22-18.21

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