Pre-Civil War Era: South vs. North

By: Tuulia Koponen

The Agricultural South

Political Structure:

  • fertile soil & warm climate
  • ideal for large-scale farms & crops such as tobacco and cotton
  • no large cities aside from New Orleans
  • most cities that existed were along rivers and coasts
  • transportation between cities was difficult unless done by water
  • no large slaves systems in the Appalachian region & Missouri
  • largest concentration of slaves in the east coast along the Chesapeake Bay
  • slave codes kept slave population in check by granting them no rights
  • 1/10 of the population lived in urban areas
  • only 35% of the nation's railroads
  • had policy regarding as to what determined someone as black

Social Structure:

  • adult men tended to belong to the Democratic party and serve military or agricultural careers
  • 2/3 of whites owned no slaves at all
  • 1860-"peculiar institution" became staple of the culture
  • almost as many blacks as whites
  • on plantations slaves were segregated from whites and lived apart from them
  • on small farmers slaves slept and ate with the family in the main home
  • 50% of children died before the age of 5
  • less educated than the North with no public education
  • typical southerner was a modest farmer or yeoman farmer living self-sufficiently
  • "poor white trash" had no slaves, no travel, no education, & high birth/death rates
  • slave males of decent age received healthcare

Economic Structure:

  • agriculture very profitable
  • shipping ports located along the coast to send agricultural produce to Europe and the North
  • 80% of the labor force worked on farms
  • little need for industrial development
  • task slave system: one task every day, after completed allowed to do whatever
  • gang slave system: worked for as long as overseer saw fit, sun up to sun down
  • slaves in cities worked for wealthy families as house maids, butlers, or servants
  • 1840s-1850s: slaves cost $500-$700
  • average southerner could not afford a single slave in his/her entire life
  • rice, tobacco, and cotton were big cash crops
  • 1860-agricultural economy began to stall as Northern manufacturing experienced boom


The Main Man: Joseph Thomas

Age: 40

Gender: Male

Occupation: Yeoman farmer

Fun/Entertainment: Enjoying the crops harvested; playing the fiddle


Political Structure:
  • soil & climate favored small farmsteads
  • many large cities were established
  • easier transportation
  • 1860: 1/4 of all people lived in urban areas
  • more than 2/3 of the nation's railroads
  • 7/8 immigrants settled in the North
  • more involved in the nation's affairs
  • working class felt like it was a part of helping guide the nation
  • legal and political rights belonged to men
  • women formed clubs/associations for women's reform
  • migration often occurred from one industrial town to another

Social Structure:

  • more members in the Whig/Republican Party
  • children slightly more prone to go to school
  • less time was spent in the household
  • home was strictly for housekeeping and bringing along children
  • separation between work and home
  • father guides the family, rules over the family
  • women were given less educational opportunities
  • social networks were formed among women
  • conditions for lower class became worse
  • domestic help became available for the middle class
  • divorce was difficult on women as they would rarely get custody over their children

Economic Structure:

  • industry flourished
  • fueled by abundant natural resources
  • between 1800-1860: laborers in agricultural areas dropped from 70% to 40%
  • immigrant labor force
  • more likely to have business, medicine, or education careers
  • unskilled and skilled labor
  • work was often done in factories, mills, and shops
  • after 1840-agriculture declines due to competition with Northwest
  • in New York apples become a major crop
  • big dairy productions also spring up in New York
  • unmarried women became nurses or teachers



Age: 38

Gender: Male

Occupation: Newspaper mill worker for the NEW-HAMPSHIRE PATRIOT AND STATE GAZETTE

Fun/Entertainment: Spending time with his family at the dinner table; resting after a long day's work at the newspaper mill