Only a small part of this territory was populated. Much of New York and Pennsylvania was savage wilderness. Only the seacoast of Maine was inhabited, and the eighty-two thousand inhabitants of Georgia hugged the Savannah River. Hardy pioneers had climbed the Alleghanies into Kentucky and Tennessee, but Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, and Wisconsin had perhaps not more than four thousand persons.
Occupations of AmericansThough the First Census did not classify the population by occupation it is certain that nine-tenths of the workers worked more or less on the soil. The remaining tenth were engaged in trade, transportation, manufacturing, fishing and included professional, doctors, lawyers, clergymen, teachers, and the like. In other words, nine out of ten of the population were engaged primarily in the production of food.
The successful farmer on the frontier had to be a jack of many trades. Often he tanned leather and made shoes for his family and harness for his horses. He was carpenter, blacksmith, cobbler, and often boat-builder and fisherman as well. His wife made soap and candles, spun yarn and dyed it, wove cloth and made the clothes the family wore, to mention only a few of the tasks of the women of the eighteenth century.
IndustryThe organization of industry, however, was beginning. There were small paper mills, glass factories, potteries, iron foundries and forges. Capitalists, in some places, had brought together a few handloom weavers to make cloth for sale, and there were the famous shoemakers of Massachusetts.
Mineral ResourcesThe mineral resources of the United States were practically unknown. The country produced iron for its simple needs, some coal, copper, lead, gold, silver, and sulfur. But mining was hardly practiced at all.
Fisheries and ShipyardsThe fisheries and the shipyards were very important, especially for New England. The cod fishermen worked on several hundred vessels and the whalers about forty. Thousands of citizens living along the seashore and the rivers fished to add to the local food supply. The deep sea fishermen exported a part of their catch, dried and salted.
Yankee ships sailed to all ports of the world and carried the exports of the United States. Flour, tobacco, rice, wheat, corn, dried fish, potash, indigo, and staves were the principal exports. Great Britain was the best customer, with the French West Indies next, and then the British West Indies.
The principal imports came from the same countries. Imports and exports practically balanced each other, at about twenty million dollars annually, or about five dollars a head. The great merchants owned ships and many of them, such as John Hancock of Boston, and Stephen Girard of Philadelphia, had grown very rich.
Land TransportationInland transportation depended on horses and oxen or boats. There were few good roads, sometimes just dirt trails. The settlers along the river valleys often used boats. Stage-coaches made the journey from New York to Boston in four days in summer and in six in winter. Two days were required to go between New York and Philadelphia. Forty to fifty miles a day was the speed of the best coaches, provided always that they did not tumble into the ditch. In many parts of the country one must needs travel on horseback or on foot.
Home and Farm ToolsHomes were heated with open fires or Franklin's stoves. To start a fire you needed a flint and tinderbox, matches were unknown until about 1830. Candles provided light at night. There was no plumbing or running water. Food was cooked over an open fire.
The farmer's tools were crude. The plough was still primitive. Farmers sowed wheat by hand, cut it with a sickle, flailed it out upon the floor, and laboriously knocked away the chaff.