Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814) was a delegate to the Continental Congress, a signer of the Declaration of Independence, and a lifelong supporter of John Adams. While Gerry was governor in 1812, he instituted the Republican redistricting of Massachusetts to rearrange the state, so as to have more Republican senators. This gave rise to the term “gerrymandering.”
At the end of the 19th century, the population of tramps in America numbered 50,000, which was larger than Wellington’s army at Waterloo.
Massachusetts passed a law in 1842 that stated, “Children under the age of 12 could not work more than a 10-hour day.”
Kerosene, replacing whale oil as a luminant, proved “explosive as gunpowder.” In 1880, 39% of all New York fires were caused by defective lamps.
In Five Points, New York’s immigrant area, only 9 out of 600 children attended school in 1870. Most immigrant children worked 18-hour days in a factory.
At the beginning of the 20th century, two out of every ten adults couldn’t read or write, and only 6 percent of all Americans had graduated from high school.
In Chicago in 1893, the crime rate was so high that there was one arrest for every 11 residents, and there were eight times more murders than in Paris.
Louisa May Alcott, author of "Little Women", was the first woman to register to vote in Concord after Massachusetts passed its state suffrage law.
During the 19th century, one-third of all mill employees were children.
The Married Woman’s Property Act passed in 1860. It gave women the right to own property, but they still could not sell it without their husband’s permission.
The Lone Ranger may have been inspired by a real-life Black U.S. Marshal. His name was Bass Reeves, and he was born a slave in 1838. For three decades after slavery was abolished, the six-foot-two, 190 pound former slave was the most feared and respected lawman in the territories. He worked as a U.S. Marshal, and, though a crack shot and quick draw, he only killed 14 men in the line of duty. He arrested over 3,000 felons, including his own son!
Equal pay for equal work was first put forth by Susan B. Anthony at the 1850 teacher’s convention.
In 1880s America, the only requirement to become a full-fledged policeman was 30 days’ instruction in the use of a nightstick.
Tabasco sauce, which is made with red, ripe peppers that are ground and soaked in vinegar and left to ferment in oak casks for 3 years, was first made in Louisiana by a bankrupt Confederate banker as a way to make money.
A Gandy Dancer is slang for a railroad worker who maintained the tracks in the years before the work was taken over by machines.
The pony express lasted from April 1860 to October 1861. It was created to provide the fastest mail delivery between St. Joseph, Missouri, and Sacramento, California. It was also used to try and gain the million dollar government mail contract for the Central Overland California and Pikes Peak Express Company. It consisted of a total of 183 men and 400 horses to travel day and night, summer and winter. The riders were paid one hundred dollars per month.
Jumping over a broom is a custom among African Americans from the days of slavery, when slaves were not allowed to marry, but crossed that line by jumping over a broom in front of witnesses.
When Richard Warren Sears started his company, which initially sold watches, he used the mail-order method. Very soon, his catalog grew into a massive “book” of 532 pages that offered a huge variety of products, such as dolls, refrigerators, stoves, and all kinds of groceries. By 1906, the catalog was referred to as “the Consumer’s Bible.”
Medical care in New York City’s poorest slums was pretty nonexistent in the late 1890s, until social reformer Lillian Wald—founder of the Henry Street Settlement—established a visiting nurses service. Her nurses went from tenement to tenement offering free or low-cost check-ups and treatment, mostly for immigrant mothers and kids. Rather than climbing all those tenement stairs on their rounds, the nurses simply hopped from rooftop to rooftop.