by Elliot N. Weiler
Lancaster was incorporated as a borough in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania on May 1, 1742
By the middle of the nineteenth century, Lancaster had already positioned itself as an important East Coast hub for commerce and culture. The downtown Centre Square area was by far the leading place to conduct business; the newly erected Court House, Demuth Tobacco Store, Central Market, Farmers Bank, and several newspapers were all headquartered within a short walk of the city center. Within a mile of downtown, rapid industrialization was taking place as steam cotton mills were erected along the banks of the Conestoga River. Cultural additions to the City included the opening of Fulton Hall, Franklin and Marshall College, and the Yeates Institute.
As a developing city with an expanding population, Lancaster was forced to improve its infrastructure and public works in order to maintain the health and safety of its people. To that end, the 1850s saw the construction of a public water works system and a paid fire department. As coach, locomotive, and canal travel improved, Lancaster's economy and people became even more interconnected with their fellow Americans. Cultures throughout the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and Eastern United States meshed, as Lancastrians evolved from a rather provincial agricultural community to the sophisticated metropolitan area it is today, more than a century after these dramatic changes.
The following Census data help to quantify some of the demographic distributions in Lancaster, while elaborting on the types of public institutions that were available to its people. While not a complete picture of the City or County, the data illustrate a rather homogeneous community in the early stages of industrialization.
1850 Census Data for Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Aggregate Population Statistics: Lancaster County
47,859 - White Males
47,471 - White Females
95,330 - Total White Population of Lancaster County
1,841 - Free Black Males
1,773 - Free Black Females
3,614 - Total Free Black Population of Lancaster County
Population Statistics for Lancaster City
1,444 White Males, 1,549 White Females, 4 Free Black Males, and 13 Free Black Females
2,079 White Males, 2,067 White Females, 29 Free Black Males, and 42 Free Black Females
1,321 White Males, 1,397 White Females, 57 Free Black Males, and 53 Free Black Females
1,074 White Males, 1,151 White Females, 19 Free Black Males, and 25 Free Black Females
Other Notable Institutions
Mayor from 1843-1851; M. Carpenter
Alderman in 1850; J.C. Van Camp, Jacob F. Koutz, and George Musser
Congressman Thaddeus Stevens represented Lancaster in the United States House of Representatives
One college with three teachers, 30 students, and a $2,700 endowment.
349 Public School buildings with 386 teachers and 16,511 pupils (County-wide). The public school endowment was $1,160, taxation was $51,418, public funds accounted for $9,205, and other sources of income totalled $2,457, bringing the public school budget for Lancaster County schools to $64,240.
The material about Lancaster in the 1850s was compiled by students in
Professor David Schuyler's American Studies Senior Seminar at
Franklin and Marshall College, Lancaster, Pennsylvania.
Philip Geiser '97 Binghamton, NY Lancaster County Court House
James Robertson '97 Chapel Hill, NC Lancaster Water Works
Stephanie Cullinan '97, Marlton, NJ--Lancaster County Prison
Joshua Corless '97, Durham, NC--Franklin and Marshall College
Tyler Hill '97, West Hartford, CT--Fulton Hall
Jess Berline '97, Birmingham, MI--Conestoga Steam Mills
Elliot Weiler'97, Birdsboro, PA--Introduction to Lancaster in the 1850s