One of the many results of the American Revolution was a sense of newly found freedom in the United States - the freedom to speak out openly, to have representation in the government, and to be able to expand ones own property. These new liberties marked the beginning of the 19th century.
The French, closely allied with the United States at the time, had been eager to help during the Revolutionary War. They also controlled large expanses of land to the west of the 13 states. A few years later, the French leader Napoleon needed money for war in France. He allowed Thomas Jefferson (the president of the United States at the time) to buy their portion of the "New World". This acquisition of land was known as the "Louisiana Purchase."
After the Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson sent out an expedition to examine exactly what he had bought from the French. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark led the expedition, which was named after them. Lewis and Clark knew that they would need to hunt and fish on the way for food, but they brought many supplies as well.
The rivers that Lewis and Clark traveled along, certainly provided plenty of fish. In the Columbia River, salmon was abundant and large, too. To this day, the largest salmon ever recorded in the Colombia River weighed 1 800 pounds and measured 20 feet across. In the Missouri River, catfish was found.
Lewis and Clark encountered many "strange" animals, unknown to them, such as bison. Lewis and Clark carefully kept drawings of each of these animals. In fact, many birds are now named after Lewis and Clark themselves (for example, Clark's Nutcracker). The Native Americans, as well, helped Lewis and Clark with many new ways of providing food for the expedition. Without their help, they might not have been able to explore that vast lane. But with their help, the Lewis and Clark mission was a grand success back home in the east.
After the accomplishments of the Lewis and Clark expedition, many settlers saw opportunities and wanted to move to the new land the United States owned.
Early pioneers, as they were called, had mixed success "out west." On the one hand, hunting was fabulous and unbounded. On the other hand, agriculture was limited, and what little they had of it was difficult to sustain.
A brand new farm was rather difficult to get started. First, the land had to be cleared. This required a lot of trees to be chopped down by the settlers. However, the trees were not wasted ; the logs would go into the production of a log cabin. Finally, the tree stumps had to be removed. The clearing did not really end there. Farmland constantly had to be cleared of rocks, which had the potential to ruin the plow, and thus their harvest.
Farm animals were constantly in danger from many predators such as wolves or bears. The government set up many different monetary incentives for settlers to kill the most crop-destroying animals. Illinois offered $200 to anyone who killed the most wolves. The person who won the $200 one year, killed over 60 wolves. $20 was given to anyone who killed 10 or more wolves.
Even squirrels were a menace to farmer's crops. Ohio once passed a law that required every settler to present 100 dead squirrels by the end of the year, or else pay 3 cents for each one that was not killed.
During the height of the Pioneer Era settlers set up many towns. A major cause of the rise of settlement towns was the need to rely on each other. It was difficult to survive in the wildernis on ones own. Every Pioneer town had a general store, often the hub of the settlement. Of course, a "general" store included anything the settlers needed, but food was the major component. Townships became the central part of the new life in the west.
Even after towns were started, hunting remained the key to survival out west. The local Natives used taught the settlers their methods of hunting game: to attract the giant turkey (often more than 20 pounds each), Natives would teach the settlers how to gobble like one. Also, they showed them how to trap flocks of these birds by using a lure of corn. Special flutes made of bones attracted turkeys with their sound.
Deer were very easy prey for hunters of the time. They had very poor eyesight, and hunters could easily follow the tracks of the deer. Hunters still had to be carful because deer have sensitive ears and a strong nose. Other animals that were hunted included antelope, prairie chickens, and other birds.
Passenger Pigeons were so numerous at the time that they literally blacken the sun. There was no point in trying to kill them individually. Hunters just set lots of food down on the ground. When the pigeons noticed a it and flew down to feast, and the hunter threw a huge net over them, trapping the pigeons. An entire bushel of passenger pigeons would be sold for 25 cents.
Back in the Eastern United States, other changes in lifestyle were the cause of drastic events for the future. Earlier, before the United States had been independent, England, France, and Spain, all controlled large portions of land in the New World. Meanwhile, all three of those nations were rapidly colonizing sections of Africa, too.
Thinking only about profit and trade, these nations brutally enslaved natives of Africa to ship to the New World, where food-producing farms and sugar plantations in Brazil and other places needed extra hands for extra profit. Many slaves were also brought to the United States.
The slave traders were right about the profit, but they couldn't foresee the divisions that were to take place in the United States. The southern states, which contained much of the farmland and plantations, felt they needed salves from Africa to enhance their output. The northern states, however, were far more industrialized, and much richer than the south. Not needing many farm laborers, they condemned slavery in the south.
Meanwhile, tensions grew as southern states felt that the states themselves should have the right to decide whether they desired slavery or not. The issues of states rights and slavery boiled over and led to a brutal war between north and south: the American Civil War.
Of course, the ideological differences were stark, but the food on either side was pretty similar. In the prison camps for captured soldiers, the food was unsuitable: rotten potatoes, and stale, maggoty crackers known as hardtack. The armies on both sides pillaged the areas they attacked. First, they would eat their fill at the farms they captured. Then, they would burn down the farms so that the opposite side would not get the chance to eat from it.
For the soldier in the Civil War, food differed little in quality from that of the prisoner. A typical non-battle day would begin at 6 AM with black coffee and hardtack. It was not uncommon to find maggots here, either. In fact, soldiers dunked hardtack in their coffee so that the maggots inside would float to the top. A soldier would then skim off the weevils.
By 7:30, breakfast was done, and marching and weapon practice began. After drills, at around 10:30, lunch commenced. However, even lunch was no specialty- it was the same food as breakfast. Then at 2:00, drilling continued. At 5:00 dinner was served, and once again, it was the same, but this time a morsel of meat or vegetable might be served. After dinner, soldiers might sing around a campfire for entertainment.
This brutal schedule lasted for years in a terrible war. Eventually, however, the North won the war and North and South tried to resolved their differences and make the best of a reunification. The South, however, remained, as it had been before the war, the poorer side. The agents of the North were often met with contempt as they attempted to help the South during the so-called reconstruction.
During the later half of the 19th century, many more changes occurred. The industrial revolution brought mass production of many goods. Eventually, these concepts would be applied to food: battery farming, supermarkets, and fast food are all hallmarks of a modern, food-filled society in America.
|Make appleade ... a favorite 19th century drink.|
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