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Fast Facts

POP Culture: 1840

ICONS: Samuel Morse's Telegraph, Frederick Douglass, Sewing Machine
Samuel Morse Frederick Douglass Sewing Machine

  • Captain Charles Wilkes circumnavigates Antarctica, claiming it for the United States on January 19, 1840.
  • William Henry Harrison wins the 1840 presidential election, defeating incumbent Martin Van Buren.
  • The August 9, 1842, Webster-Ashburton Treaty formally designates the border separating the United States and Canada.
  • On May 24, 1844, Samuel B. Morse sends the message, "What hath God wrought" over the first telegraph line from Washington, DC, to Baltimore, MD.
  • Ireland's "Potato Famine" results in an influx of Irish immigrants to the United States beginning in 1845.
  • Alexander Cartwright and his New York Knickerbockers codify the "Rules of Baseball" in 1845.
  • Frederick Douglass publishes Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave in 1845.
  • Elias Howe patents the sewing machine on September 10, 1846.
  • During the February 22-23, 1847, Battle of Buena Vista, General Taylor's U.S. Army of 4800 men defeats Mexico's 15,000-man force lead by General Santa Anna.
  • The American Medical Association is founded in Philadelphia on May 7, 1847.
  • On January 24, 1848, James Marshall discovers gold near Sutter's Fort, California. The discovery of gold is the beginning of the California Gold Rush of 1849.
  • The 1849 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ends the Mexican-American War. In exchange for $15 million and settling $3.25 million in American claims, Mexico cedes approximately 500,000 square miles of territory in the western and southwestern United States.
  • Elizabeth Blackwell receives the first medical degree awarded to a woman on January 23, 1849, from the Medical Institute of Geneva, NY.
  • Henry David Thoreau publishes "Resistance to Civil Government," later known as "Civil Disobedience," in 1849.

The 1840 Census


10 Largest Urban Places

U.S. Resident Population: 17,063,353 Rank Place Population
Population per square mile of land area: 9.8 1 New York City, NY 312,710
Percent increase of population from 1830 to 1840: 32.7 2 Baltimore, MD 102,313
Official Enumeration Date: June 1 3 New Orleans, LA 102,193
Number of States: 26 4 Philadelphia, PA 93,665
Cost: $833,000 5 Boston, MA 93,383
Cost per Capita (cents): 4.9 6 Cincinnati, OH 46,338
Total Pages in Published Reports: 1,465 7 Brooklyn, NY 36,233
Number of Enumerators: 2,167 8 Northern Liberties District, PA 34,474
Number of Office Staff: 28 9 Albany, NY 33,721
Census Bureau Director: William Augustus Weaver 10 Charleston, SC 29,261
Number of Questions Asked: 12

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 05, 2022