Most historic pre-Civil War 19th century event…

December 15, 2008 by  
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Continuing with our discussion on the “most historic” reports to be found in newspapers, we have been discussing the events of American history by era, the last being the Civil War. This post will discuss the most significant event in American history of the 1801 – 1860 era.

Much in American history happened during these 60 years: from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the War of 1812 from 1812-1815, the Texas war for independence of 1836, the Mexican War of 1846-1848, the California Gold rush of 1949+, and the events leading up to the Civil War to name just a few.

But what single event during the period of 1801 – 1860 would rank as the most significant in American history? If you could only have one newspaper from the pre-Civil War era in your collection, what one event would you most desire to best represent the era and–in your opinion–most affected the future of American history?

Arguments could be made for many events including those noted above, but also perhaps also the Monroe Doctrine of 1823, maybe a single event from the War of 1812, or the battle of the Alamo, or the treaty ending the Mexican War, or the Cherokee Trail of Tears, or perhaps even John Brown’s raid at Harper’s Ferry that would happen just before the outbreak of the Civil War.

In my opinion the Louisiana Purchase was the most significant. This purchase from France would double the land area of the United States and in time 13 states would be carved from it. The explorations of Lewis & Clark and the subsequent Westward migration of so many from the East would transform the nation in so many ways that its significance cannot be ignored. To me it was the most significant event in American history from 1801 to 1860.

What’s your thought? We would all love to hear.

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3 Responses to “Most historic pre-Civil War 19th century event…”

  1. Paul Sarna on December 16th, 2008 1:52 am

    For me the Burr-Hamilton duel really stands out. Not only is it amazing to think of the Vice-President murdering someone in such a fashion, but Hamilton was such a larger than life figure in this country’s history.

  2. Alan Pollack on December 16th, 2008 2:49 am

    I would have to pick James Marshall’s gold discovery on the South Fork of the American River at Sutter’s Mill on January 24, 1848. Marshall’s discovery would eventually set off one of the greatest mass migrations in human history, especially after James K. Polk announced the gold discovery to the world in his State of the Union address on December 5, 1848. The Gold Rush literally opened the West to settlers from far and wide. If I could choose a newspaper to have in my collection from this event, I would love to have a local California paper with a first report on Marshall’s discovery, if such a report exists (Tim, do you have one in your private collection??).

    A close second would be the Lewis & Clark expedition which has been likened to the 1969 moon landing as THE incredible feat of the 19th century. Lewis & Clark set the stage for the Mountain Men, the Oregon Trail wagon trains, and ultimately the Gold Rush and settling of the West by the Americans.

  3. Tim Hughes on December 16th, 2008 2:42 pm

    Alan – An interesting perspective and one difficult to argue against.
    Although we have a number of 1840’s California newspapers in our collection none have an early report on the Gold Rush, and yes, such an issue would be exceedingly desirable. The first newspaper in California began in 1846 so a number of titles were in print by 1848 and 1849, but our experience is that any California imprint from this decade is now exceedingly rare to find. Even issues from 1850-1855 are becoming quite rare.

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