American History and Genealogy Project

District Of Columbia

The District of Columbia is a tract of country 10 miles square, on both sides of the Potomac river, about 120 miles from its mouth, ceded to the United. States by Virginia and Maryland, in 1790, for the purpose of becoming the sea of government. It includes the cities of Washington, Alexandria, and Georgetown, and is under the immediate government of Congress. In 1800 the population was 14,093; in 1810, 24,023; in 1820, 33,039; in 1830, 39,858; in 1840, 43,712, of which 30,657 were whites, 8,361 were free colored persons, and 4,694 were slaves.

Employed in agriculture 384, in commerce 240, in manufactures and trades 2,278, navigating the ocean 126, do. canals and rivers 80, learned professions and engineers 203.

Population of the Principal Towns.

1800. 1810. 1820. 1830. 1840.

Washington, . . . 3,210 8,208 13,247 18,827 23,364

Alexandria, .... 4,196 7,227 8,218 8,263 8,459

Georgetown, . . . 4,948 7,360 8,441 7,312

The surface of the District is gently undulating, furnishing fine sites for its cities, and particularly Washington and its public buildings; the soil is naturally sterile, but it possesses a fine, healthy climate. Agriculture is, of course, not an object of primary attention, but the agricultural statistics in 1840, may be of some interest. There were 2,145 horses and mules, 3,274 neat cattle, 706 sheep, 4,673 swine, poultry to the value of $3,092. There were produced 12,147 bushels of wheat, 294 of barley, 15,751 of oats, 5,081 of rye, 272 of buckwheat, 39,485 of Indian corn, 707 pounds of wool, 12,035 bushels of potatoes, 1,331 tons of hay, 55,550 pounds of tobacco, 651 of silk cocoons. The products of the dairy were valued at $5,566, and of the orchard at $3,507.

This district has become the centre of a considerable and active commerce, though it cannot at all compete with Baltimore, in its vicinity. Vessels of the largest class come up to Alexandria, 6 miles below Washington, where the Potomac is a mile wade, and from 30 to 50 feet deep; and vessels of a large size come up to the U. S. Navy Yard, at the junction of the East Branch with the Potomac, at Washington. A very considerable quantity of flour and other produce comes down the Potomac, and centers chiefly at Alexandria, and some at Georgetown. The chief business of Washington city has relation to the accommodation of the national legislature, and of the officers of the general government.

The exports in 1840, were $753,923, and the imports were 119,852. There were 7 commercial and 2 commission houses in for trade, employing a capital of $310,000; 285 retail drygoods and other stores, cap. $2,701,890; 48 persons engaged in the lumber trade, with a capital of $140,000; 527 persons were employed in the fisheries, with a capital of $64,500. There were produced home-made or family articles, to the amount of $1,500; 1 paper mill produced to the amount of $1,500; 9 persons manufactured pottery to the amount of $6,200; hats and caps were manufactured to the amount of $47,200, employing 48 persons, and a capital of $22,100; 3 rope factories employed 31 persons, and a capital of $24,925; 9 tanneries employing 72 persons, and a capital of $80,400; 7 other manufactories of leather, as saddleries, &c, manufactured articles to the amount of $110,450, with a capital of $66,750; 11 persons manufactured confectionery to the amount of $7,500, with a capital of $2,800; 42 persons manufactured machinery to the amount of $60,300; 189 persons produced bricks and lime to the amount of $151,500; 97 persons manufactured carriages and wagons to the amount of $59,535, with a capital of $38,550; 4 flouring mills manufactured 25,500 barrels of flour, and with other mills, employed 30 persons, and produced to the amount of $183,370, with a capital of $98,500; ships were built to the amount of $20,257; 190 persons manufactured furniture to the amount of $125,872, employing a capital of $85,000; 60 brick and 33 wooden houses built, employed 142 persons, and cost $168,910; 12 printing offices, 10 binderies, 3 daily, 5 weekly, 6 semi-weekly newspapers, and 3 periodicals, employed 276 persons, and a capital of $150,700. The whole amount of manufactures was 81,005,775.

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Georgetown College, a Catholic institution, was founded in 1799. The Columbian College, under the direction of the Baptists, was founded in 1821. In these institutions there were in 1840, 224 students; there were in the district 26 academics and grammar schools, with 1,389 students, 29 common and primary schools, with 851 scholars; and 1,033 white persons, over 20 years of age, who could neither read or write.

In 1836, the Presbyterians had 14 churches, 9 ministers, and 1,134 communicants; the Episcopalians had 7 churches; the Baptists had 5 churches, 4 ministers, and 533 communicants; the Methodists had several ministers; the Roman Catholics 6 ministers; the Friends 2 meetings; and the Unitarians 1 minister. At the close of 1840, the debt of the district amounted to 81,500,000.

A branch of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal terminates at Washington. The Alexandria canal is a continuation of the Chesapeake and Ohio canal, 7? ms. to Alexandria.

The district is divided into two counties; the county of Washington is on the n. side of the Potomac, and the county of Alexandria is on the s. side. In the former, the laws of Maryland are continued in force; in the latter, those of Virginia. The district has never been represented in the Congress of the United States. Congress, however, makes what laws it pleases for both; it meets annually at Washington, on the first Monday of December, unless otherwise provided by law. The President of the United States, and the other chief officers of the government, reside at Washington. The Supreme Court of the United States sits here annually, on the second Monday in January.

At the suggestion of Gen. Washington, this district was fixed on for the seat of government; and in 1790 was ceded for that purpose to the United States, by Virginia and Maryland. The city of Washington was laid out on a broad scale in 1791, but its magnificent plan remains to a considerable extent in a state of nature, only a small portion of it having been built upon. In 1800, the seat of government was removed from Philadelphia, and fixed permanently in this place. During the late war with Great Britain, the capitol was partially, and most of the other public buildings entirely burned by the British; but they have been rebuilt, with greater magnificence.

Table of Contents

Source: A Complete Descriptive And Statistical Gazetteer Of The United States Of America, By Daniel Haskel, A. M and J. Calvin Smith, Published By Sherman & Smith, 1843

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