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Overview of the Industrial Revolution

The United States and the Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century


Image of the steamboat Clermont designed by Robert Fulton - American Industrial Revolution.

Here is an image of the steamboat Clermont designed by Robert Fulton from the American Industrial Revolution.

McCabe, James Dabney. Great Fortunes and How They Were Made. Project Gutenberg etext.

Background of the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution (1820-1870) was of great importance to the economic development of the United States. The first Industrial Revolution occurred in Great Britain and Europe during the late eighteenth century. It then centered on the United States and Germany.

The Industrial Revolution itself refers to a change from hand and home production to machine and factory. The first industrial revolution was important for the inventions of spinning and weaving machines operated by water power which was eventually replaced by steam. This helped increase America’s growth. However, the industrial revolution truly changed American society and economy into a modern urban-industrial state.

Growing Industrialization

The real impetus for America entering the Industrial Revolution was the passage of the Embargo Act of 1807 and the War of 1812. Americans were upset over an incident with the Chesapeake whereby the British opened fire when they were not allowed to search the ship. They also seized four men and hung one for desertion. This resulted in much public outrage and the passage of the Embargo Act which stopped the export of American goods and effectively ended the import of goods from other nations. Eventually, America went to war with Great Britain in 1812. The war made it apparent that America needed a better transportation system and more economic independence. Therefore, manufacturing began to expand.

Industrialization in America involved three important developments. First, transportation was expanded. Second, electricity was effectively harnessed. Third, improvements were made to industrial processes such as improving the refining process and accelerating production. The government helped protect American manufacturers by passing a protective tariff.

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