The year 1818 began and ended with the introduction of two very different works of art, both of which have become a permanent part of the popular culture. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was published on January 1st. On Christmas Eve, in the small Austrian village of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, young curate Joseph Mohr and schoolteacher/organist Franz Xaver Huber wrote Silent Night. *
Some other high (or low) points of 1818:
- Elisha Collier and Artemis Wheeler received patent for a repeating flintlock pistol, with a five-shot cylinder in both Britain and the United States. Their design didn’t take off in the American market, but had some success in Britain. Despite the fact that you’ve never heard of them, Collier and Wheeler helped shaped their world. In 1830, one Samuel L. Colt filed for a patent based on their designs. His mass-produced revolvers were prized weapons in the American Civil War and the handgun of choice in the American west. More important in the bigger picture, he paved the way for the interchangeable parts system of manufacturing.
- Congress adopted the flag of the United States as having thirteen red and white stripes, representing the thirteen original colonies, and one star for each state. (There were twenty at the time,)
- The Convention of 1818 settled the border between Canada and the United States at the 49th parallel.
- In India, the British East India Company defeated the Maratha Empire. Officially subordinate to the crumbling Mogul empire, the Marathas had dominated the Indian subcontinent in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Third Anglo-Maratha War (1817-1818) was the final and decisive conflict between the British East India Company and the Maratha Empire. The British victory left the East India Company in effective control of most of India.
- In Africa, Shaka united the Zulu nation. Under his leadership, the Zulu would become the dominant military force in the Natal region of South Africa.
- Karl Marx was born: not a big event in itself.
*I must admit, I took a moment to search for a clip of Frankenstein singing Silent Night, which seemed like it should surely exist. I found nothing, but I offer the idea to any of you with video skills.