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Major Topics

Iconic image Title Summary
United States of America, 1857, zoomable map
1860 Census
The 1860 Census revealed the United States to be truly a "house divided," providing demographic and economic information that illustrated the growing gap between northern free labor society and the slave culture of the South. (By Matthew Pinsker)
George Peabody, detail
19th-Century Education
Immigrants Landing in New York, 1858
19th-Century Immigration
Shoemakers' strike at Lynn, Massachusetts, March 17, 1860, zoomable image
19th-Century Labor Unions
World, globular projection, 1857, zoomable map
19th-Century World Affairs
Summer weekend at the beach, Raritan Bay, Amboy, New Jersey, August 1, 1865, artist's impression, detail
American Life and Culture
Kansas, 1857, zoomable map
Bleeding Kansas

From 1854 through much of 1857, the territory of Kansas was ripped apart by a sporadic guerrilla war that pitted free soiler settlers against pro-slavery "ruffians" as each vied to see who might control the political and economic future of the region.

Caning of Sumner, topics image
Caning of Sumner

The assault against Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts by South Carolina congressman Preston Brooks in May 1856 shocked most northerners and thrilled many southerners. However, this violent episode in the heart of the U.S. Capitol illustrated to nearly everyone that the sectional conflict was becoming far more than a battle of words. (By Matthew Pinsker)

Carlisle Indian School students in uniform, circa 1880
Carlisle Indian School
Arrest of Marshal of Police George P. Kane, Baltimore, Maryland, June 27, 1861, artist's impression, detail
Civil Liberties
Civil War at Sea Topic Image, Crew members of the USS Pawnee
Civil War at Sea
Central Square, Carlisle, Pennsylvania, 1860, detail
Civil War Homefront
Union Army Camp Scene, Mathew Brady photograph, detail
Civil War Soldiering
Elizabeth Van Lew, circa 1865, detail
Civil War Spies
Henry Clay
Compromise of 1850

Senator Henry Clay's so-called "omnibus" proposal in late January 1850 to find a national accommodation over a variety of sectional issues plaguing the nation ultimately did lead to a compromise of sorts in September of that year. The compromise failed to settle any major arguments but did allow for a series of legislative agreements, including the admission of California as a free state and the passage of a tougher federal fugitive slave law that temporarily quieted the national debate over slavery. (By Matthew Pinsker)

"The Stars and Bars," first national flag of the Confederate States, 1861
Confederate States of America
Dickinson College, 1872, map detail
Dickinson College

Chartered in September 1783, Dickinson College was originally a Presbyterian school that re-opened in 1834 under Methodist auspices. The following decades saw the institution produce and influence hundreds of young men who spread all across the American continent and into the halls of government. Little more than twenty miles above the Mason-Dixon Line, the college was also one of the few antebellum American institutions that remained about evenly divided in its membership between northerners and southerners. (By Matthew Pinsker)

Dred Scott Case, topic image
Dred Scott Case

Dred and Harriet Scott both filed freedom suits in St. Louis Circuit Court in 1846. Eleven years later, Chief Justice Roger Taney and the U.S. Supreme Court issued a verdict in the federal case of Dred Scott v. Sandford (1857) that threw away decades of precedent and political custom and helped spiral the nation closer toward civil war. (By Matthew Pinsker)

"Harrison & Tyler," election of 1840, woodcut, detail
Election of 1840
Election of 1848, topic image (Whig Banner)
Election of 1848
The presidential contest in 1848 was a pivotal one because it exposed the sectional fault lines of an increasingly divided nation. Whig candidate General Zachary Taylor prevailed over Democratic nominee Lewis Cass of Michigan and Free Soil candidate Martin Van Buren, the former president. (By Matthew Pinsker)

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