Industrial Revolution

  • The Beginnings of the Industrial Revolution

    Inquiry Anchor Standard:

    SS.8.6.  Develop Claims while pointing out the strengths and limitations of both.

    SS.8.7.  Construct arguments using claims and evidence from multiple sources. 

    History Standards:

    SS.8.15.  Analyze the role of innovation and entrepreneurship in institutions throughout American history, such as corporations, 

        nonprofits, and labor unions, in a market economy.

    SS.8.16.  Use historical evidence to evaluate the state of the American economy throughout history.

    SS.8.20.  Analyze cause and effect connections among historical events and developments in broader historical contexts.

    Writing Standards:

    1. Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

    Discuss with your partner and come up with three pieces of information you know about the colonial economy.  Write them down in the space provided.

    Discuss with your partner what the phrase “Industrial Revolution” means to you and what it might have looked like.  Briefly explain your ideas in writing.

    Alexander Hamilton vs Thomas Jefferson

    At the dawn of the 1800s in the United States, those men & women who moved westward in search of property and a  new life were considered the pioneers of this nation, although they were not the only pioneers.  During the same time period a growing number of men and women were moving from the farm, or rural areas, into the towns, which in many cases would grow into the cities of today.  These people were also the early pioneers of what we have come to call the American Industrial Revolution.  These people, unconsciously, focused on moving the economic system from an Agrarian System to a new Market System.  They developed new business enterprises and applied the ideas of science and technology to two important Goals: 1. Lightening of the burdens of labor and  2. Multiplying the comforts of human life.  

    Time Out

    What obstacles may have risen to hinder these peoples efforts? 

    Side Bar I:

    This illustrates, in economic terms, what I like to call the “Ripple Effect” and is also labeled the “Butterfly Effect”.   Take a pond or small lake and throw a pebble or rock into it and watch the ripples created by the impact of the rock.  You will see these ripples move away from the point of impact, or ground zero, in a circular formation.  These ripples have the ability to affect objects on or below the surface of water.  Another example would be a Tsunami, which develops after an earthquake occurs underwater.  Both examples are able to reach out and influence objects which may be far away and unrelated.

    Economies have been evolving and growing in this country since before its discovery.  What we are seeing in the Industrial Revolution is an acceleration of technological changes with no precise beginning, nor have we seen an end with these changes.    What does this mean & why is it important to understand?

    This period of economic change is characterized by an increasing use of power driven machines, or to say it differently, the development of labor saving devices.  Machines were created to make life easier on individuals in terms of physical labor, and would generally be located in what passed as factories. (As an active reader what connection could you make at this point?) 

    These factories will eventually grow in size and complexity.  This aspect of growth would be fueled by the increased efficiency of transportation and the subsequent decline of transportation costs. During the 1790s and into the early 1800s, manufactures would generally build their own machines for the factories.  As the Industrial Revolution grows we will see a shift occur and the growth of a new industry.  This will be the manufacturing of capital goods.  Manufactures will no longer create and build their own machines, but they will buy the machines they need from an independent manufacturer who specializes in the production of those machines.  This brings us to the three ESSENTIAL FEATURES of the Industrial Revolution:

    1. Mechanization:

    2. Specialization:

    3. National Distribution:


    Manufacturers found an impelling incentive for mechanization in the high cost of domestic labor, whose wages in the early nineteenth century (What years would the 19th century be?) were from 30 % to 50% higher than wages in Great Britain.  The dearness of labor (shortage) was the direct result of the high productivity of American agriculture, which forced industry to pay wages comparable to what could be earned on the land.  Another incentive was the presence of cheap waterpower to which machinery could easily be harnessed.  Moreover, the optimistic American entrepreneurs, anticipating continued technological advances, usually built machines that wore out quickly, thus making it relatively inexpensive to retool. 

    What does this mean & how might it look today?


    What ideas or concept might be fueling these changes? Discuss this with your partner and write your claims in the space provided in this box.

    If we were to rely on the perspective of popular media, the roles of the westward pioneers are generally portrayed with a greater sense of excitement as well as adventure. The men of the Lewis and Clark Expedition were looked upon as national hero’s upon their return to St. Louis on September 23, 1806. While, in retrospect, those pioneers of industry play just as a vital role in the economical, political, and social development as well as national growth and expansion.  


    What changes might be brought about in each of these areas by industrialization?




    It was under their direction that the transportation of the fledging nation was transformed and established an intricate link between the western agriculture and the eastern industries.  It isn’t just the transportation system which was built, but also the machines (capital goods-machines used to produce a product) created to accomplish this feat.  All of this came together to fuel a developing economy within the new nation.  

    Why is transportation important & how can it impact the economy?

    Factory System:

    Samuel Slater was able to memorize the machines and set up of a textile factory in Great Britain and then secretly steal away to the United States.  It was at Pawtucket, Rhode Island where he was able to convince a merchant by the name of Moses Brown to allow him to set up and build a cotton spinning mill in 1790.  This would become the first successful factory in the United States, which signaled the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.  The economy did not grow in leaps and bounds during the following years, although it did improve.  President Jefferson’s Embargo Act of 1807 along with the War of 1812 which would give the textile industry a chance to flourish in the short term period. (Ironically, it will also be the War of 1812 which will help to cause the Panic of 1819. Long term effects) Not surprising, other industries were hurt by Jefferson’s embargo.

    Side Bar III:

    Eli Whitney invented the Cotton Gin in 1793. Prior to this innovation it would take an individual a single day to clean one pound of short staple cotton by hand. Long staple cotton was easier to clean, but only grew along the coastal plains. Whitney’s Cotton Gin made short staple cotton profitable in that one individual could now clean fifty pounds of cotton in a single day. The unforeseen consequence was the solidification of the institution of slavery.  Plantations became larger and more slaves were needed to work the fields. It would be interesting to see if slavery would have died out on its own without the Cotton Gin.


    The embargo against British goods, especially textile goods, help to the boost the demand and production of the American textile companies with a growing importance of American cotton production.  By the end of the War of 1812 the number of textile factories in New England had grown into the hundreds, and the number of spindles in all the factories was approximated at 130,000.  Once the war was over, and the embargo was lifted, the renewed competition from British textile factories forced many of the American factories to shut down and close their doors.  


    How can a War or Conflict influence the economy of a nation?

    Spread of the Factory System:

    In 1804 Oliver Evans developed a high pressure steam engine, which  would ultimately be adaptable to a diverse variety of industrial uses such as navigation, sawmills, flour mills, and printing presses.  In 1798 Eli Whitney expanded upon the idea of mass production and worked on the principle of interchangeable parts within the gun manufacturing industry.  Whitney did not invent the idea of interchangeable parts, but he did play a central role in introducing the concept to the American system of production.  Prior to this, production, outside the textile industry, was still largely done by artisans or individuals.    


    How might both of these ideas affect an economy?

    High-Pressure Steam Engine:

    Interchangeable Parts:


    To build and then equip a factory took an immense amount of money, which far exceeded the capabilities of an individual entrepreneur.  Thus we see the emergence of the American corporation in the evolving economy, which can accumulate capital from numerous small investors.  Each investor would reap the benefits as the company grows, while no one investor would shoulder the full responsibility for any debts incurred. It would be under this very idea the Boston Manufacturing Company, in Waltham, Massachusetts, formed with the collaboration of a group of wealthy Boson Associates led by Francis Cabot Lowell, Nathan Appleton, and Patrick Tracy Jackson. This group built the first integrated textile factory which performed every operation from carding of raw cotton to the weaving of cloth with power looms. 

    Digging deeper 

    What advantage would be gained by having all of these phases of production under one roof?

    As mechanical devices played an increasingly important part in the lives of the American people, applied science began to invade the precincts of American education. President Madison urged the founding of a national university as a “temple of science” with the potential to expand useful knowledge.  Although this national university was never created, several private colleges added applied science to their curriculum. In 1825 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, the first of its kind, opened its doors at Troy, New York, “for the purpose of instructing persons who may choose to apply themselves in the application of science to the common purposes of life.” The American people were proud of their technological achievements and fascinated by the many useful products of applied science.  The promise of a RISING STANDARD OF LIVING encouraged them to rationalize agriculture, to build great internal improvements, to mechanize industry, and to widen commercial horizons.

    Capital and Labor:

    While Americans found the promises of the Industrial Revolution irresistible they were a little uneasy with what had been happening to their society since industry got a foothold.  Carrying with them into the new age the assumptions of a simple agrarian society, the watched apprehensively the Paper-Money Speculations, the Growth of Cities, and the Movement of young people from the Land to the Factory.  A particular obvious consequence of the factories and machines was the emergence of two new social classes. The first was the industrial capitalists, whom many regarded as ambitious and dangerously powerful. They used their wealth to gain influence in government and buying politicians with their contributions. (Bosses of the Senate political cartoon here)  Ask for political cartoon analysis handout from Jarvis.

    The second class was the factory worker who was recruited from the farm and, increasingly by the 1830s, from among the newly arrived immigrants. For a brief moment the shortage of labor meant living conditions for laborers was far better than their counterparts in Europe. The “Lowell girls” lived in comfortable boarding houses built by the company; their morals were strictly supervised; and the were provided with recreational facilities, educational opportunities, and religious instruction.  This industrial paternalism soon declined in the Lowell mills as professional managers fought competitors by cutting costs and making increased use of immigrant labor.  

    Making Connections:

    What might the cutting of cost look like?

    Children under sixteen, who constituted two-fifths of the labor force in New England textile mills, worked twelve or more hours a day. Real wages declined during this expansion of production. In 1830 it was estimated that some twenty thousand of the lowest paid women in Eastern cities worked sixteen hours a day for $1.25 a week. The callousness of the factory system in a laissez faire economy began to be reflected in the increasingly crowded dwellings of the drab factory towns.  This means that without oversight of rules or regulations the corporations were able to make up their own rules in terms of wages and treatment of the labor class. These corporations quickly turned their back on any implied promise of a rising standard of living for the labor class in deference to increasing their own profit margins. Longer work weeks for small wages became the norm as the Industrial Revolution picked up momentum into the mid and late 1800s.


    How could the Capitalists get away with these practices?

    The natural reaction to the treatment of the labor class by the industrial capitalists was to form into collectives or what we would call “labor unions”. Working men and women found that the best way to try and improve their status was through a united action, although this would instantly create unprecedented tensions in the relations between labor and capital.  The next step was the formation of city federations of craft unions, six of which united, in 1834, to for the short-lived National Trades’ Union.  Strikes for higher wages usually failed, first, because labor organizations were still weak and inexperienced, and second, because state courts usually treated them as criminal conspiracies under common law.  As the 1820s progressed, these unions called for free public education, shorter working hours, and other social reforms to aid the laboring class. Almost all of their efforts failed in obtaining these reforms. 


    Would these reforms the Labor Unions are calling for help the economy in the long run?

    Economic Crisis:

    The Panic of 1819 introduced the United States to still another hazard of a commercial-industrial economy: the modern business cycle in which Americans began to experience the rhythmic rotation of booms, panics, and depressions. In the Boom years, when cotton sold for more than 30 cents a pound and wheat for $2 a bushel, land speculation financed by the state banks became a national disease. Soon the Bank of the United States (BUS) caught the spirit of the times; rather than acting as a stabilizing force, it extended credit generously to speculators and business-promoters in both the East and the West.  Public land sales rose sharply; and between 1814 and 1819, under the motivation of high prices, cotton production doubled. 

    Reading Between the Lines:

    Why is the buying of land referred to as a “national disease”?

    An accumulation of adverse economic forces brought these good times to a sudden halt.  With the end of the War of 1812, European demand for American agricultural products, especially cotton, plummeted, and a crash in the textile industry followed in close succession. Early in 1819, the BUS, now under new and more conservative management, began to call in its loans and the exert pressure on the state banks to redeem their notes in specie (coin made of precious metal: Gold or Silver). The BUS’s attempt to save itself from its own recent follies was the immediate cause of a financial panic that forced many state banks to close their doors.  In the following depression prices fell (devaluation of the $) disastrously.  In 1823 cotton sold for less than 10 cents a pound, and public land sales nearly ceased. Thousands of farmers and planters saw their lands sold at public auction to satisfy the claims of creditors (people or organizations money is owed to); numerous speculators and business-promoters forfeited property to the BUS for failing to repay their loans.  In Eastern cities half-million workers lost their jobs when factories closed or curtailed their operations. 


    In times of economic crisis does it help a bank to foreclose, or take the property away from the debtor (those who owe money)?  How does this action help the economy, or does it?

    What would drive prices of goods down?

    Those suffering from economic distress turned to government for relief.  Manufacturers demanded higher tariff protection, and Congress answered them with the Tariff of 1824. To help Western farmers who had bought public land on credit, Congress permitted them to delay payments or to keep as much of the land as they had paid for. Several Southern and Western states passed “stay laws” postponing the time when creditors could foreclose on the property of debtors. By the mid 1820s prosperity had returned, but not before the panic and depression had created angry feelings that were reflected in national politics.  Many accused the BUS of coldly sacrificing thousands of innocent victims to protect the selfish interests of its wealthy stockholders. 

    Reading Between The Lines:

    Why would Congress pass a tariff, and how does it work?



    What are three concepts or facts your learned in this lesson? Explain.


    What are two questions you still have on the concepts or events of this lesson? (you can have more than two questions.)

    What is one point or aspect of the lesson you enjoyed?  Explain

Related Files