The Boston Weekly

Tuesday, April 22, 1856

A Path Across the Mississippi

Today, an important breakthrough has been made in railroad design. After three years of construction, the Chicago and Rock Island railroad bridge has finally been built and tested by three trains - each with eight passenger cars. The bridge held up safely and is now open for public use. "This new bridge is certainly one of the finest inventions I've seen," says Robert Thompson from Iowa. "Now I can get all the way to New York City in forty-two hours or less! All this technology keeps getting better and better," he tells us.

It's amazing to see how far America has come in the few years since railroads were first invented. Railroads came about in the beginning of the Transportation Revolution, which was a recent time when America made great technological advances in the speed and conveniences of travel. The first railroad was invented in Great Britain in the early 1800's. However, they didn't become popular in America until the 1830's. Railroad engineers had to overcome certain challenges when designing them for the United States. Unlike Great Britain's straight, flat tracks, the U.S. had to have tracks specifically built for its mountainous terrain and sharp turns. Right now, there are about nine thousand miles of railroad tracks in America.

Because of railroads, the United States economy has grown in tremendous ways. Now, farmers and manufacturers can ship their goods to distant markets instead of having to sell everything locally. They can also ship it much faster than if they were using wagons for transportation. Wagons have a speed of less than two miles per hour and a trains have a speed of about twenty miles per hour. With all the economic benefits, cities near train stations have thrived, like our beloved Boston Massachusetts. We hope that more life-changing inventions like railroads are in America's future.

Clarification of Recent Court Case

As you may have heard, last Friday, there was a dispute over waterway control between Edward White and Richard Scott. White believed that Scott had violated his property rights by sailing his steamboat through what was supposedly "his waterway." Although the local court ruled that Scott wasn't guilty, there has been some confusion over the court's choice, such as Paul Martin's argument. "Edward White's mansion was located immediately to the right of the waterway, so it should have been considered his property," Martin said. "I still don't understand why the court ruled the way they did. It's all hogwash to me," he finished.

To clarify this ruling once and for all, The Boston Weekly has used the example of a similar court case that reached the Supreme Court back in 1824, known as Gibbons v. Ogden. You may remember what went on during this trial, but if you don't, this is a great opportunity to refresh your memory. Like the dispute between Edward White and Richard Scott, the Gibbons v. Ogden case was over waterway control. Thomas Gibbons had been driving his steamboats in New York waterways that Aaron Ogden said he owned. Gibbons claimed that his federal boat license gave him the right to do so. Ogden sued Gibbons, so Gibbons took the issue to the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court's final ruling was that the government had the authority to regulate trade between states, so the government should be allowed to control waterways that people used to transport goods on. In the end, Thomas Gibbons was found innocent, but an even more important result came from the trial. Since people learned they could use all waterways for trade and shipping, many more people began to use the waterways for those purposes.

In both cases, the boat the offender was using was a steamboat. That isn't just a coincidence though. The main boat used for shipping and trading in both situations were steamboats. Steamboats were invented in the late 1700's but weren't widely used in America until the early 1800's. The reason they were so popular was because they could travel upriver and didn't need wind power to operate. They also could move goods quickly, which helped the economy. Steamboats came in handy for cities along rivers, which was why there was a dispute over steamboats in "private" waterways in the first place.

Advice: Mills

Congratulations to Susan Adams for having her question featured in this week's advice column! Many others also asked similar questions, so hopefully this will help our valued readers. Here is Susan Adams question:

Dear Boston Weekly,

I am the oldest of eight siblings and work on my family farm. My dream has always been to break away and earn money that isn't for my family. Since I am a female, I don't have many other options besides working in mills. I don't know much about them and need some advice about the benefits of different mill systems. If you could help, that would be wonderful!


Susan Adams

Thank you for the letter Miss Adams. The two main mill systems are the Rhode Island System and the Lowell System. In both systems, you make textile products, but the way they each do it is different. Below are some of the qualities that make them unique. We hope this solves your problem.

The Rhode Island System was invented by a man named Samuel Slater. In the Rhode Island System, mill owners advertise to large families. Mill owners also divide up the work into simple tasks that workers must repeat all day. In mill towns that follow the Rhode Island System, there are several benefits for workers. Two houses are provided as well as a company store. In the company store, the workers can buy all the basic things they need to live and even have the option of paying for expensive items in small amounts over time. These mill towns also have other stores located within them that are commonly found in normal towns.

As the title suggests, the Lowell System was invented by Francis Cabot Lowell. Unlike mill towns that operate using the Rhode Island System, these mill owners advertise to young, unmarried women. (A perfect fit for you, Miss Adams!) Lowell System mill towns have boarding houses for the women with rooms and meals provided for them. The mills they work in are very clean and have the best technology of the time. Inside the mills there are two types of machinery - one that spins thread and one that makes cloth.

Working in a mill is a great career because it doesn't require specialized skills. Because of this, mills transform worker's lives.

Samuel Slater's Eighty-seventh Birthday!

Yesterday was Samuel Slater's eighty-seventh birthday. Samuel Slater is well known for his accomplishments in textile mills. As a young immigrant from Great Britain, Slater formed a partnership with Smith Brown and William Almy in a textile company. They opened their first mill in 1793, located in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. It became an instant success. In his lifetime he opened thirteen other mills and established the Rhode Island System. After Samuel Slater started mills in America, plenty of other people followed. This lead to an economic boom in the textile industry. Let's celebrate Samuel Slater's accomplishments on his special day!

Mistreated in Mills

Working in mills is a good job, but the conditions can be harsh. Sarah Turner is a young girl who works at a mill with her family. In an interview with her, she admits to the terrible conditions of her working environment. When asked what her daily life was like, she responded with, "There is so much dust in the room that I always have a cough. I also have to work with my hands all day and they become sore by the end." This isn't the only person who is suffering in mills. Christopher Nelson told us, "The room is stuffy, hot, and loud. I have to shout to the other workers for them to hear me. Also, I've seen people get fired when immigrants who agree to be paid less arrive." Clearly, some mill employees aren't being treated fairly.

If you are a mill worker and feel mistreated, there are always trade unions you can join. Trade unions are groups of people who tried to improve the wages and working conditions of factory workers. Sometimes, trade unions go on strike, which is when you don't work at your job until your employer meets your needs. Strikes don't always work in trade union's favor, but when they do, they bring good changes. A woman named Sarah G. Bagley protested enough to change the twelve to fourteen hour work day to a ten hour work day in some states about ten years ago. The more people who speak up about factory working conditions the better, so make sure you find a way to get involved if this applies to you.

Something to think about...

Have you ever wondered why products you see today in stores are identical to each other? Well, you can thank Eli Whitney for that. Whitney wanted to be able to build things faster, so he came up with an idea - interchangeable parts. Interchangeable parts are identical parts of a machine. If machines are built using interchangeable parts, no one needs to handcraft individual pieces for machines because they are all the same. This idea became the basis of mass production, which is producing large numbers of the same goods.

Construction Notice

Due to the construction of telegraph wires, Northeast Boston Railroad Station will be closed starting this Thursday. Thank you for your flexibility and understanding. Hopefully the wires will be up and running as soon as possible.

For those of you who don't know or don't understand what a telegraph is, it is a device that sends information over wires across long distances. The telegraph was invented by Samuel F.B Morse in 1832. To use a telegraph, a telegraph operator uses Morse code to communicate with a person at the other end of the wire. The operator sends pulses of electric current through the wire by tapping a bar called a telegraph key that controls the length of each pulse. A long pulse comes out as a long click and a short pulse comes out as a short click on the other end. Long clicks are called dashes and short clicks are called dots. Different combinations of the dots and dashes mean different letters in Morse code. Telegraph wires continue to grow everywhere as they get more popular.

From Water to Steam

Many of our factories are built along riversides so they can use water for power. However, America has been turning to steam for power lately. This is a great achievement for the U.S. because we can now expand our factories into areas where there aren't water sources! With a booming economy America is on it's way to becoming a great nation.