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The Industrial Revolution

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The Industrial Revolution was the social and economic changes that occurred when manufacturing shifted from people’s homes and shops to factories. It was a time of dramatic change, from hand tools and handmade items, to products which were mass produced by machines. Life generally improved, but the industrial revolution also proved harmful. Pollution increased, working conditions were harmful, and capitalists employed women and young children, making them work long and hard hours.

The shift to factories in the United States grew out of a process that began in the British textile industry. British inventors developed machines to do tasks that had been done by hand. Some of these developed machines consist of the spinning jenny, which was run by water power, replaced the spinning wheel. The power loom replaced the hand loom. These machines were too expensive for most individuals. Manufacturing moved from people’s homes and shops to factories. This changed in producing goods changed not only the way goods were produced, but also how people lived and worked.

Americans copied, and modified many British industrial methods. This created much tensions and competition between them. British factory owners refused to allow any machinery or plans of machines to leave England as an attempt to limit competition. Samuel Slater was a British textile worker. He outwitted the British factory owners and memorized the plans. Slater built his own spinning mill in Rhode Island using these plans to build machines.

The use of new machinery and new techniques from England helped the American industry to succeed. One infamous was that of the cotton gin by Eli Whitney in 1794. Even though it was very successful, Whitney never saw any profit from it because his idea was stolen and copied by others despite his patent. Another method was the use of standard interchangeable parts. Eli Whitney developed tools and machinery to make parts that were exactly alike. Originally, blacksmiths were required to make each part one by one. This was a great invention because having interchangeable parts sped up production and reduced costs.

Being a young nation, transportation in the United States was difficult and expensive. The United States needed easier, quicker, and cheaper methods of transportation. The first hard-surfaced road in the United States was the Lancaster Turnpike that linked Philadelphia and Lancaster Pennsylvania. Later in the years, more than 10,000 miles of roads were built to link the major commercial centers. Many roads were also built by private companies which charged a toll for their use. The roads were rather rough and travelers would bump over the uneven surfaces.

Since the roads were rocky and costly, other methods of transportation were needed such as canals. A canal is an artificial waterway for navigation or irrigation. In 1825, New York completed the Erie Canal which joined Buffalo on Lake Erie with Troy and Albany on the Hudson River. This new waterway linked the Atlantic Coast to all of the Great Lakes for the first time. Ships would sail from New York City up the Hudson River to Albany and then their cargo and passengers shifted to canal boats. The canal helped New York become the nation’s most important city.

The Erie Canal made travel into the heart of the country easier and less expensive. Goods that cost $100 by road only cost $10 by canal. The trip was also shorter- maybe a third as long. Western raw materials such as iron ore or cotton were shipped by canal to East and manufactured goods were shipped to the western frontier. The enormous success of the Erie Canal encouraged an era of canal building.

Within only a few years, Canal building virtually ended. Canals could not compete with less costly kinds of transportation such as ships. When trade with England was cut off during the War of 1812, New England merchants developed a highly profitable trade with Asia. Fast clipper ships with sails sped southeast from Salem and Boston and went through the water of Cape Horn at the tip of South America. On the northwest cost of North America, they traded blankets and trinkets for furs brought by Indians. The furs were exchanged in China for silk, tea, and fine porcelain. On the return journey, the American ships took on California hides for New England shoemakers. The canal barges and the sleek clipper ships were important to trade. However, neither one could compete with new vehicles power by steamвЂ"the steamboat and the railroad.

Robert Fulton is credited for making the steamboat a success. He launched the Clermont, the first commercially successful steamboat, on the Hudson River in 1807. Soon, steamboats dominated transportation on American waterways. Eventually, the steamboats domination also declined. They were replaced by the steam railroad, which did not depend on the fixed routes of natural water ways.

Railroads finally revolutionized travel in the United States. Railroads developed first in Britain but grew most dramatically in the United States. By 1860, trains clatter over about 30,626 miles of track. Train travel was speedy but uncomfortable. Cinders from the wood-burning engine blew into people’s eyes. Black soot covered passengers clothing. The train lurched and jolted over uneven tracks. Even so, the railroads could be built almost anywhere and the amount of people using them continued to grow. Railroads offered fast, direct, and dependable services. In 1837,



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