When one focuses on particular areas of the United States today, he or she easily associates places with various themes or strong points. For instance, when one thinks of New York, Times Square and Broadway musicals come to mind, whereas when the focus is on California, beautiful beaches and Hollywood comes to mind. This was the same case in the 1800s, the difference being that the country was divided into two main parts as it was still growing: the North and the South. Just as each state possesses its own culture and identity, the North and South were distinct in their characteristics, life styles and economy.
Firstly, the North was the industrial center of the 19th century in America, with the latest technologies and transportation systems, such as factories and railroad. In fact, the majority of the railroads were found there. Factories were replacing tedious hand work and many migrated north for new job opportunities to run these machines and take the advantage of the growing economy. Simple towns were grouping together to turn into large and vivacious cities with a blend of heritages.
Furthermore, these varying backgrounds were mostly of European immigrants, specifically the Irish and Germans. Problems in Europe, such as war and famine, made the new America a tempting ordeal. Because of the rush of immigrants coming to work at the Northern factories, many problems started growing. Entire cities succumbed to diseases starvation and extreme filthy conditions. The positive side was that there was an organized culture, which meant that there were educational and religious centers for everyone, even though the wealthy were always the best educated. Intermarriages gave birth to a new generation along with new, flexible ideas, which often broke down cultural norms and prejudices.
The main reason for factories being so successful in the North was because of the climate. Summers were hot and humid and winters were snowy and frigid, which made farming agriculture impractical. Furthermore, a great advantage was that the North was surrounded by water, which made it an ideal trade center and the water also powered the factories. Along with the factories people found huge job pools at railroad sites and at building canals.
Secondly, the South was an entirely different setting. Unlike the progressing North, the South was highly dependent on agriculture, specifically cotton plantations. In fact, most of the cotton passed across the globe came from Southern farms. This was because of the ideal climate consisting of long summers and moderate winters. As for technology, agricultural technology advancements rose rapidly, such as the cotton gin. With almost no major cities, the South consisted of small towns and plantations which provided people with needed goods. Others depended on the South to provide many goods that included (after cotton) rice, sugar, indigo, and tobacco.
There was a clear cut class system consisting of rich plantation owners, farmers, skilled workers and slaves, as the North was highly dependent on slaves for a successful economy. The Southern culture was basically whatever the upper class, especially plantation owners, followed. With minimal educational opportunities, the wealthy provided private schools and tutors for their children and African slaves made efforts to provide whatever little education they could to their offspring, mostly religious.
Even though, there were railroads in the South, they were mostly for transporting goods and people relied on horses and steamships. Both the North and South were progressing in the 1800s, but in varying ways. While the South had space, the North was being overpopulated. While the North became a cultural melting pot, the Southerners were still rigid conservatives. Despite many differences, both areas were booming economically and without a doubt, Americans owe a lot to the diligent workers, who provided this country with its unshakeable foundations.