Warm, humid summers and cold, snowy winters marked the Climate of much of the North. This region had rocky, hilly, and often infertile land. These conditions, along with the short growing season, made farming difficult. The many forests of the North served as a source of timber for shipbuilding. Clear, fast rivers ran down most of the mountains of the North, into the Atlantic Ocean. The coastline of the Atlantic was full of sheltered bays and inlets. Settlers found that ships could sail along wide rivers into many of these bays. At a certain point, called the Fall Line plateau over which eastward-flowing rivers fell onto the plains - the many Waterfalls of most rivers made them no longer navigable. Thus, at the Fall Line many ships dropped their cargoes, unable to travel further inland. Cities, which served as trading centers, grew up at these points. Soon people realized that the waterfalls were a cheap source of energy, and the waterpower began to be used to run factories.
The years between 1800 and 1860 marked a period of rapid population growth throughout the United States. This was especially true in the North, where the overall population rose from about 5 million to 31 million during that time. Part of this increase was due to massive immigration. Between 1830 and 1850 alone, over 2 million Irish, Germans and other northern Europeans arrived In the United States. Most of them settled in the North.
After 1 800 cities in the North thrived as centers of commerce. Set up along the Atlantic coast, cities served as centers of trade between the North and Europe. They were also hubs of manufacturing of textiles (cloth goods) and other products. Increasingly, people In the North were living in cities. In 1800 about 5 percent of the population lived in cities, but by 1850 nearly 15 percent did. Increased trade and manufacturing drew many laborers to towns to work.
Cities were often crowded and ditty. It wasn't until after the 1830's that harbors and streets were improved, sanitation systems were started, and police forces were created. Then public services such as education began to take root. Cities became increasingly important as centers of art, culture, and education. Most cities printed newspapers and books and provided many forms of recreation, such as dancing, cardplaying, and theater.
Northerners developed an economy based on many, different industries, among them
shipping, textiles, lumber, furs, and mining. Even though a majority of the people lived
on small family farms, agriculture in the North was difficult. They found that much of the land was suited for subsistence farming-raising food crops and livestock for family use-rather than producing goods to export, or send to other countries. As a result, Northerners began to use "'Yankee ingenuity" to manufacture all kinds of goods. Aided by the discoveries of the Industrial Revolution, such as the use of waterpower and coal for steamplants, manufacturing developed quickly. Items such as textiles (things made from cloth), iron, and ships were manufactured in great quantities. These goods were then traded for foreign products, transported to and from all continents by trading ships. In order to protect its industries from foreign competition, the North favored high tariffs, or taxes on goods coming in from other countries.
The growth in transportation, trade, manufacturing, and city population in the North brought about many changes. Cities took on an increasingly important role in determining the culture of the North. A growing class of merchants, manufacturers, wage earners, and now business owners brought now ideas to the North. The majority of Northerners, though, were still religious Protestant farmers. Since villages had become strong centers of community activities, both religion and education were organized. There were schools and churches in most towns. The Northern emphasis on public education grew after the 1830's, and some public schools were set up in larger cities. Still, though, a minimum of boys went to secondary school, and college was reserved mostly for the wealthy.
Transportation vastly improved in the first half of the 1800's, a time when the size of the United States more than doubled. At the turn of the century there were few major stretches of surfaced roads, but by 1860 there were over 88,000 miles of them. Canals, mostly built in the North, were another improvement in cheap transportation. When the Erie Canal was clearly a huge success for Now York, other commercial cities began to build canals in the 1830's. A decade later, a system of over 3,000 canals provided water transportation between the Eastern seaboard and rivers In the West. Soon after, the first railroads were laid, and by 1850, 30,000 miles of tracks connected distant parts of the United States. Most of these now W lines were in the North.