OUR NEW WORLD 8. Before we had railroads.—It is only since engines, steamships, and railroads'have been invented that so many people in so many countries have been able to help us live comfortably in our neighborhood. Rail roads are quite new in the history of the world, and they bring many of the things that make us comfortable. Even Abraham Lincoln, born in Kentucky in 1809, had a home almost exactly like the Douglas home (Sec. 3), and it was as good as any in the neighborhood. His family did not have a stove, nor did they have enough tallow to make candles; the boy Lincoln read his few books by firelight. The few things they got by trade came in wagons over the Allegheny Mountains to Pittsburgh, and down the Ohio in flatboats.
9. Lincoln's trip to New Orleans.—When Lincoln's neighbors wanted to sell wheat and salt pork, they joined together and built a flatboat, which they floated down the Ohio and Mississippi with a load of produce. On such a trip to New Orleans Lincoln went when he was nineteen. Down, down the ever-winding river, day after day, past hundreds and hundreds of miles of dark forest, drifted the boat. At last, after many days, they saw on the left bank of the muddy, winding river a little, straggling city, called New Orleans. Sail ing vessels that carried wheat and meat to the West Indies and to Europe were tied to the river bank. After the men had sold their wheat and pork, they sold the boat as lum ber, for the Mississippi was so swift and deep that they could not push the flatboat, even when it was empty, up stream with poles. The men went home by steamboat. Before 1810 men had to walk all the way home through the great forests.
Now you begin to see why there was not much trade in the region where Lincoln spent his boyhood. At that time, most of the peo ple of America lived in the country, where each family grew its food, made most of its own clothing, and chopped its own firewood. But now many distant parts of the world help to provide us with food, clothing, shelter, and tools. What made this sudden change, which so quickly built up a world-wide trade and made all people neighbors? 10. The great inventions.—This change
was largely due to a series of great inventions. Abraham Lincoln was only nineteen years old when the first railroad in the United States was built, in 1828. The first telegraph line was used in 1844, and the first steam ship line to Europe was started in 1836. About this period the reaper and many other new machines were invented. From that day to this, men have been inventing new machines faster and faster. The steam thresher, the tractor, the gas engine, the telephone, the ocean cable, the electric motor, the typewriter, the fast printing press, and many other machines help men to do things much more rapidly and easily than before. In Lincoln's boyhood men used muscle, as they had done for ages; now they use machines. In those early days men drove horses; now they drive engines.
Any traveler can now go from Maine to California in less than the seven days which it took George Washington to bump along in his horse-drawn coach for 225 miles over a rutty road, from Washington to New York. Now, instead of spending weeks walking through the woods from New Orleans to Kentucky, as was necessary when Lincoln was born, the traveler can take an afternoon train at New Orleans, rest through the night in a sleeping car, and arrive in Kentucky the next day.
11. Sea trade and travel.—On the sea, likewise, inventions have made travel safe and speedy. After ships were driven by steam, it was easy for the naval vessels to catch the ships of the pirates who were such a danger to travelers in George Washington's time. The sea is made safe not only by the naval ves sels, but by many light houses, and by wireless tele graph, which enables men to speak from ship to ship and to call for help from hun dreds of miles away, if they are in distress. To-day, steamships leave New York and San Francisco for Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, and South America. Steamships sail the sea as regularly as the mail comes to our doors. These ships, and the trains, too, bring us many, many things from all over the world.