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Chapter 14

Quote: “When [the Clermont] came so near that the noise of the machine and paddles were heard…some prostrated themselves and besought Providence to protect them from the approach of the horrible monster which was marching on the wave and lighting its path by spitting fire.” (Newspaper account of the Clermont’s first voyage, 1807)

reference: Kirkpatrick Sale, Fire of His Genius: Robert Fulton and the American Dream (2001).

Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1872)

Morse, the inventor of the telegraph, was also a superb American painter and was for a time a leader of nativist agitation.

He studied painting in England, with some of his work winning prizes in the Royal Academy competitions. He returned to Boston in 1815 but discovered that he could earn a living only by painting portraits. After Congress rejected his plan to paint the Capitol rotunda, he reluctantly abandoned art and turned to inventing.

From his time in Europe he had developed a strong dislike of Catholicism, and in the 1830s he was a leader of American anti-Catholic agitation.

He developed the first ideas for the telegraph from hearing lectures on electricity. But it took several years of experimentation to perfect the sending and receiving devices and to develop his “Morse code” for communicating messages by short and long signals. He was in continual poverty and was nearly at the point of abandoning the project when Congress finally authorized funds for the successful Baltimore-to-Washington line.

Quote: “If the presence of electricity can be made visible in any part of an electric circuit closed by an electromagnet, I see no reason why intelligence may not be transmitted instantaneously by electricity.” (1832)

reference: Carleton Mabee, American Leonardo: A Life of Samuel F. B. Morse (1943).

questions for class discussion

1.How does the image of the frontier compare with the reality of pioneer life as described in the chapter?

2.Why was transportation—particularly the canals and the railroads—so important in the early stages of industrialization?

3.How did the roles of men, women, and children all change as America began to move from the farm to the town and the factory?

4.What effects did the movement from a subsistence to a market economy have on American society, including farmers, laborers, and women? What were the advantages and disadvantages of the change?

makers of america: The irish

Questions for Class Discussion

1.In what ways were the Irish similar to other immigrants from the British Isles, such as the English (Chapter 3) and the Scots-Irish (Chapter 5), and in what ways were they different?

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