By John Stewart Bowman

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Although some urbanization had taken place since 1783, Americans in 1812 were still a predominantly rural people. More than four out of five farmed. Unlike their counterparts in Europe—where farmers lived in closely settled communities from which they departed in the morning to work the land and to which they returned at night—most farmers in the United States lived apart from each other, on their own farmsteads. Northern farmers were usually in sight of their nearest neighbors, but most southern and western farmers were not.

Other occupations that Americans followed in 1812 were fishing, lumbering, and fur trading. Like farmers to their fields, most fishermen went out each day in their own boats and brought back their catch for their families. The only fishing industry was whaling, in which the company that owned the ship provided crew members with gear and provisions 47 THE UNITED STATES ON THE EVE OF WAR and paid them with a share of the catch. Lumbering, like fishing, was organized on an individual basis. Loggers working on their own supplied timber to widely scattered and independent sawmills.

Although most Americans worked hard, they did not neglect the lighter side of life. By 1812 horse racing had moved northward from the South, where it had been popular since colonial times, and almost every large town in the United States boasted a racecourse on its outskirts. People usually wagered with each other on the outcome of the races. They also gambled at billiards, cards, dice, dogfights and cock-fights, and wrestling matches. Although gambling was illegal in most of the country, the laws against it were seldom enforced.

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America at war by John Stewart Bowman
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