Moving Your Household Was Not Always Like It Is Today
In the 1800s, there were many people moving. Some from other countries looking for an economic opportunity; some moved towards the western portion of the ever-expanding landscape of the then United States; and some towards the South to the newly acquired southern real estate of Florida (1845).
In the mid-1800s, the United States began to see a mass migration of an estimated 11 million people from the rural areas into cities. This was mostly motivated by the industrialization and urbanization that was increasing at that time. Whatever the reason for moving, you can be sure people had to pack and transport as much of their belongings as they could.
From Covered Wagons to Moving Trucks
Of course, moving in the 1800s was not as streamlined as we have it today. Though the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad first surfaced in 1827, allowing for commercial and passenger transport, the automobile had not yet been invented. Therefore, people at that time were still depending on the then reliable covered wagon for long-distance moves.
Although there were specially designed covered wagons for hauling furniture and other household items in the early 1800s, it was still extremely expensive for the average person to move their furniture. Most people opted to keep and move only their personal belongings, tossing their current furniture out and opting to build new furniture on the other side of their move.
The rich and successful (merchants, physicians, manufacturers, etc.) generally stayed in one place, offering a real estate inheritance to their offspring. However, the lower income population generally moved about often. In fact, one historian offered this bit of insight: In New York City, it was common for people to rent their dwellings. Most leases were up on May 1. Thus, May 1 was known as “moving day” when mass numbers of the population would relocate.
Clothing and personal items were generally packed into large trunks for ease of transport. If moving locally, a person’s household items were then transported by hired “cart men” who would move their belongings to their next location.
As time went on, especially after the advent of the railway system, moving companies would build warehouses near a railroad. These moving companies would then use horse-drawn wagons to transport a person’s goods from the warehouses to their new home nearby. The reverse of this held true as well. A person could hire a mover to transport their belongings to the warehouse and later load their belongings on the train headed to their new location.
It wouldn’t be until around the time of WWI when it became necessary to pave roads in order to support the heavy military trucks that motorized moving trucks would emerge. Ahh, modern life! We really need to appreciate how far we come when it comes to relocating.
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