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American Industrial Revolution

The American Industrial Revolution was a worldwide event that started in the United Kingdom and later spread to Europe and reached America in the early 19th Century.

This revolution began around 1760s involved changes in agricultural practices, manufacturing methods, technology, mineral extraction, transportation, and cultural activities.

Before the onset of the Industrial Revolution, agriculture was the main economic activity for the people of America. People could engage in small-scale farming of food crops to sustain their food needs.

Basic tools and items such as clothing, furniture, and handmade tools were common to be made and used by the American people. They engaged in barter trade for crops they could not produce or items they could not make.

Most of the people did supplement their income by manufacturing excess goods, such as woven fabrics and spun thread, which they sold to nearby merchants and neighbors in exchange for the raw materials needed for their final products.

The 19th century saw the main start of the American industrial revolution through New England’s textile mills.

In the United States, the Industrial Revolution significantly brought changes to the society. It should be known that urbanization and the fast-rising population were directly caused by industrialization, as more and more people migrated from rural to urban areas in search of jobs or available housing. Most people become extremely wealthy, yet other people lead miserable lives in appalling circumstances.

People relied on traditional equipment such as grill mist to process flour before the development of an advanced flour miller by Oliver Evans in the 1780s. This machine was useful to flour industries and most of the breweries back then. High-pressure steam engines and workshops to repair this machine were additional inventions by Evans during the end of the 17th Century. Afterward, cotton fiber and short fiber separating the machine was invented and generated huge amounts of profits for cotton farmers in the southern part of America. Industrial advances in agricultural machinery led to a high need for water to generate hose power for machinery thus leading to heavy industrialization along rivers in New England and Northeast United States (Rees, 2016). Between 1800 and 1820 there was the introduction of more industrial tools that were fuel and coal-powered which improved the efficiency of manufacturing.

Robert Fulton constructed the first steamboat for commercial use linking Albany and New York City in 1807. Steamboat technology became essential to U.S. domestic freight shipments as new canal routes proliferated in the 1820s and 1830s. There was a decrease in subsistence farming and an increase in consumer items available. Towns and cities saw a significant population migration from the countryside because of the shift from an agriculturally oriented economy to one centered on machine manufacturing.

The Industrial Revolution brought changes to communication, which was key in transforming business and fostering community connections. The American electrical telegraph system was created in 1836 by Samuel F. B. Morse and Alfred Vail. It used electric current pulses to send messages over large distances through wires. “Morse code,” a signaling alphabet, was used to transcribe messages.

The American Industrial Revolution had many impacts on the culture and social well-being of people. The Industrial Revolution also allowed people to find cheaper items, live in nicer housing, and eat healthier meals. The benefits of the Industrial Revolution were instantly felt by the middle class and upper class, while the working class created unions and fought for better pay and working conditions, reaping the gains as well (Allen, 2017).

Negative outcomes did occur, though. For example, a wealthy class of industrialists, merchants, and ship owners came to dominate and amass enormous money, while the working class lived in substandard conditions and cramped quarters. Children were made to work in factories against their will, where they were abused and exploited, while women’s lives drastically changed because of leaving their families to work in domestic settings and textile factories. The middle class, which benefited more from riches than the working class, was developed during this period (Licht, 1995).

Despite the revolution leading to the growth of industries, it had adverse effects on the environment. Due to the reliance on fuel and coal in the manufacturing industries, air pollution increased severely, and this forced cities such as Chicago to enact laws governing air pollution.

Similarly, industrialization resulted in overcrowding and poor sanitation in urban areas thus contributing to the spread of diseases such as typhoid and cholera. People depended on contaminated wells within city confines for drinking water supplies.

Furthermore, environments around cities faced major challenges from untreated human waste which accumulated as cities had no sewage systems. Many towns constructed centralized water delivery systems in the middle of the 1800s as it was determined that tainted water was linked to illness. However, public health officials believed that rivers, lakes, and the sea were capable of self-purifying, hence wastewater continued to be released without treatment.

The growth and development of industries led to a high labor requirement in industries, farms, and various sectors.

Immigration played a great role in the industrial revolution of America and up to date immigrants make up a bigger population of the American urban parts.

There is a connection between Immigration and industrialization since American manufacturing companies relied on immigrant labor for their labor. Labor was a valuable source of economic production; as more immigrants arrived in the country, they made greater contributions to economic output, which in turn fueled the country’s economic expansion (Hirschman and Mogford, 2009). Since most immigrants were young, active men, they had a favorable effect on both immigration and the industrial revolution.

In a nutshell, the American Industrial Revolution had both positive and negative impacts on the growth and development of the United States of America. More jobs, cheaper commodities, higher living standards, and greater wealth were all brought about by the revolution. However, it also harmed society because it led to the creation of social classes, with the upper class growing richer and the working class falling behind. Immigration to America was beneficial to the American Industrial Revolution because most of its workers were foreign-born.


Rees, J. (2016, July 7). Industrialization and urbanization in the United States, 1880–1929. Oxford Research Encyclopedia of American History. ‘

Allen, R. C. (2017). The Industrial Revolution: A very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Hirschman, C., & Mogford, E. (2009). Immigration and the American Industrial Revolution from 1880 to 1920. Social science research, 38(4), 897-920.

Licht, W. (1995). Industrializing America: The nineteenth century. Baltimore, Md: Johns Hopkins University.


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