3.11 Developing an American Identity

2 min readjanuary 2, 2023


James Glackin

AP US History 🇺🇸

454 resources
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Many cultural developments were taking place in America from 1750-1800.  What did it mean to be an American? Americans were still maintaining some European cultural characteristics but were also developing their own religion, schools, arts and technology.


From 1700-1775, the population in the thirteen colonies grew by more than 2 million people. The average age was sixteen. Most of these people lived in rural America.  
The major cities were Philadelphia, New York, Boston, and Charleston. America was one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. Eighty percent of the population was white while twenty percent was black. The white population consisted of English, German, Scots-Irish and various other Europeans who lived mostly east of the Appalachian Mountains.


The two major churches were the Anglican Church and the Congregational Church. Anglicans could be found mostly in the South and parts of New York while being associated with England. Quakers, Baptists, Catholics, Jews, and Lutherans were some other religious groups.
The Congregationalists were found mostly in New England and had their origins in Puritanism. They believed that each church controlled its own affairs and did not have to answer to a higher authority. They were involved in social reforms, such as the abolition of slavery.

Arts and Education

Since farming was the main job, the time for leisure and artistic pleasure was limited in colonial days. As a result, the art, architecture and literature reflected more of a European flavor.
Some famous painters included Benjamin West, John Trumbull, John Singleton Copley, and Charles Wilson Peale, who painted noted portraits of George Washington. Ben Franklin’s witty quotes in Poor Richard’s Almanac (1758) was the second most popular book after the Bible. 
Architecture was mostly borrowed from Europe and included the Georgian style of  stone and formal red brick buildings in Williamsburg, Virginia or in parts of Philadelphia. Schools and private tutoring were mostly reserved for the rich.  Rural farmers and the poor had low literacy rates because they were busy in the fields.


New machinery from 1750-1800 made transportation and manufacturing more productive. The steam engine invented by James Watt in 1769 would lead to the steamboat and the steam locomotive in transportation.  Flatboats invented in 1782 allowed for freight and passengers to move on colonial waterways.
Textiles, a major industry, got a boost from the spinning jenny (1764) and the power loom (1784). In agriculture, Eli Whitney’s cotton gin (1793) would separate a cotton seed from the fiber, which created a large demand for black slaves in the South. While Whitney hoped that the invention would decrease the need for slaves, it actually did the opposite, as plantations could now process much more cotton as a result of the invention. The threshing machine (1784) used the same efficient separation process with the wheat stalk.
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