Growth of New York, 1825-1860


New York's growth between the years 1825 and 1860 can be 
attributed to a number of factors. These include but cannot be limited 
to the construction of the Erie Canal, the invention of the telegraph, 
the developed of the railroads, the establishment of Wall Street and
banking, the textile, shipping, agriculture and newpaper industries, 
the development of steam power and the use of iron products. On 
October 26, 1825 the Erie Canal was opened. The canal immediately
became an important commercial route connecting the East with the Ohio
and Mississippi Valleys. With tht time of travel cut to one-third and
the cost of shipping freight cut to one-tenthof the previous figures,
commerce via the canal soon made New York City the chief port of the
Atlantic. The growing urban population and the contruction of canals,
railroads and factories stimulated the demand for raw materials and 
food stuffs. In 1836 four-fifths of the tonnage over the Erie Canal 
came from western New York (North, 105). Much of this cargo was in the 
form of agriculture goods. 

 The farmer become a shrewed businessman of sorts as he tended 
to produce whatever products would leave him the greatest profit 
margin. The rise of the dairy industry was by far the most significant
development in the agricultural history of the state between 1825 and
1860. Farmers discovered that cows were their most relliable
money-makers, since both the domestic and foreign market kept 
demanding more dairy products (Ellis, 273). Price flucuations became 
increasingly important for the farming population between 1825 and 
1860. Prices rose from the low level of the early 1820's until the 
middle 1830's and the farmer's shared in the general prosperity (271). 
Although the rapid industrialization and urbanization of New York had 
a great deal to do with the success of agricultural markets sporadic 
demand from aboard as a result of the Irish famine, the Crimean War 
and the repeal of the Corn Laws in England also contributed(North, 
141). During this period Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York and Virginia, 
in that order were the leading wheat growing states. Between the years 
1840 and 1850 New York ranked first in the production of beef. 

 The absence of politic party differences on issues related to 
the the growth of democracy existed in regard to the foremost economic
questions, there was absolutely no partisan division evident in the
movement to incorporate new financial institutions; rather, the 
primary factors, which the legislators examined, concerned value, 
feasibility, profit and the location within the state. Dozens of 
turnpike proposals, most of which werebacked by the Republicans, 
passed the legislature; but the Federalists cooperated, seeing the 
chance for profits. Prominent Federalists like John Rutherfurd, John 
Neilson, William Paterson, John Bayard, and James Parker invested 
susstanial sums in the turnpike business. There were numerous 
Republicans who were also vitally interested in the turnpike business 
(Kass, 150). Bipartisan support also accompanied plans for the 
construction of bridges and canals. All of the parties contained a 
large number of adherents from from every level of economic well-being 
in society. This helps to expain the absence of any clear-cut party 
differences on the major economic issues of the such as the chartering 
of banks, the protestive tariff, internal improvements, the 
development of manufacturing, and the promotion of superior 
agricultural techniques. Each politcal faction had segments both pro 
and con on most of these questions, and, inall cases it was 
opprtunism, the desire for profits, which was decisive in determining
one's political position on these economic issues(175).

 New York's economic growth can also be attributed to the 
invention of the cotton gin. Cotton had become a boom crop in the 
south, however, plantation owners were either too engrossed in the 
production of their crops or too unschooled in business techiniques to 
handle its distribution. Some just did not want to be bothered. This 
opened the door for agents representing New York shipping firms who 
were only too happy to help them out - for a fee. This scheme not only 
earned the New York merchants a handsome profit but also solved the 
problem that without cotton the ship owner would be hards preesed to 
find adequate cargoes for their return voyages. And so it came about 
that New York in the nineteeth century became the nation's foremost 
shipper of cotton(Allen, 108-109). The cotton shipments entering New 
York harbor were brought to textile mills for processing. A group of 
New York capitalist estashlished the Harmony Cotton Manufacturing 
Company in Cohoes. A heavy investment of capital caused the rapid 
growth of the factory system, which was mass production with 
integration of processes and produced a high quality cotton cloth as 
well as other textiles(Ellis, 266). 

 This set the scene for an industrial society by widening the 
market, manufacturing increased rapidly throughout this period, 
although development varied enormously from industry to industry. 
Often developments were due to improvements in technical processes 
such as the adoption of steam power and the use of anthracite coal 
instead of charcoal by the iron industry. The metallurgical industries 
employed thousands for skillful workers who produced a variety of iron 
and steel products, such as farm machinery, pistols, sewing machines, 
clocks and stoves. These products were being produced using standard 
parts and multiple quantities(267). The iron industry made rapid 
progress as a result of this processas well as the expansion of the 
railroad industry which created increased demand for iron products. It 
can therefore be surmized that often growth in a one industry would 
cause increased demand for another industry's product, hence the boom 
of both industries. The growth of manufacturing was the main impetus 
to expansion , the industrial base broadened during this period,
reflecting the overall improvement in factor endowments for
manufacturing. Equally important was the cost decline in 
transportation, which opened up new sites for manufacturing 
development and reduced transport costs for existing firms (North, 
208). Production increases required a retail market. In November of 
1858, R.H. Macy established a department store in New York City 
successfully implementing a fixed price policy on a large scale 
developed by small New York stores since 1840 establishing a new 
American retail sales custom (Spann, 125).

 Some additional elements that should mentioned include the 
founding of the New York Tribune by Horace Greely, the development of 
the telegraph by Samuel Morse, the colaboration of six New York 
newspapers who joined to pay telegragh costs of foreign news relayed 
from Boston, and the establishment of a New York clearinghouse to 
facilitate banking operations. 

 Research reveals that the reasons for the success of New 
York's business enterprise between 1825 and 1860 were enumerous with 
no reason weighting more heavily than another with the exception of as 
Ellis states that, "Plank roads, railroads, canals, steamships-all had
revolutionary effects on the economy of New York. The predominately
self-sufficent farmer of pioneer days was gradually tramnsformed into 
a specialized commercial farmer sensitive to every shift in the 
markets. The isolation of many rural communities was breaking down as 
citzens and goods flowed freely in and out. Merchants in both the 
upstae and metropolitan region, recognizing the crucial role of canals 
and railroads, looked with satisfaction upon the finest and most 
actively expanding transportation network in the country. New York 
grew steadily in population, wealth, and trade largely to the splendid 
system of water and rail transportation promoted by its citizens in 
this period.", but all entwinding to create a boom of business 
expansion during this period. It appeared as if we were developing not 
only as a state but as a civilized nation whenever this development 
would be curtailed by the onsloat of a civil war. 

Works Cited

Allen, Oliver E. New York, New York: A History of the World's Most
Exhilarating and Challenging City. New York: Macmillan, 1990.

Ellis, David M., et al. A History of New York State. Ithaca: Cornell
UP, 1967.

Kass, Alvin. Politics in New York State, 1800 -1830. Syracuse:
Syracuse UP, 1965.

North, Douglas C. The Economic Growth of the United States, 1790-1860. 
New York: Norton, 1966.

Spann, Edward K. The New Metropolis: New York City, 1840-1857. New
York: Columbia UP, 1981.


Quotes: Search by Author