In the late 1700s in Britain and in the United States, the Industrial Revolution in the United States, dramatically changed the way people lived and worked. The Industrial Revolution from 1820 to 1870 changed the world. Most people used hand tools or simple machines to make the things they needed for everyday life. This changed home production of goods to machines and factory production of goods.
The birthplace of the revolution took place in Great Britain. Great Britain was sending and selling many of their products to the people of the United States. However, this came to a halt due mostly to the Embargo Act of 1807, which ended the import and export of products from other countries. The War of 1812, when the U.S. went to war with Great Britain, also forced America to seek ways to become more independent and not rely on other countries for needed products.
The act and war led to the expansion of transportation, further use of electricity, and industrial processes that increased the production of goods in America. The Industrial Revolution brought about many important events, inventors, and inventions.
Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin in 1794. The cotton gin increased the speed of separating cotton seeds from the fiber. Later, the spinning (removing the seeds) and the weaving was joined together into one factory, allowing for lower costs and more efficiency, which led to the textile industry throughout the New England states. In 1846, Elias Howe invented the sewing machine, which allowed for the faster production of clothing. The cotton gin invention also helped Eli Whitney come up with the idea to use interchangeable parts, which are standard parts that can be used on different types of machines, and again lowered the cost and increased the efficiency of manufacturing.
Other improvements took place in the farm industry. The reaper was invented and allowed the harvesting of grain to be faster and cheaper. John Deere invented the steel plow in 1837 helping farmers become more efficient and faster in growing crops. The increase in the number of factories and production of goods outside the home led people to move from farmlands into the cities.
However, more people moving into the cities brought about new problems. Overcrowding, disease, joblessness, and poverty was everywhere. There was violence stemming from the protests of workers against bosses who were paying very low wages. Some factories used child labor.
Other improvements, though, were made in communication and transportation. In 1844, Samuel Morse created the telegraph which allowed communication from the east coast to the Mississippi. The Cumberland Road became the first national road beginning in 1811, and river transportation also improved through the invention of the first steamboat in 1793 by Robert Fulton. The completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 created a route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes helping the economy.
Finally, a transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869 at Promontory, Utah helping increase trade and travel across the United States. The railroad linked the most important Midwest cities with the entire Atlantic coast as well. It became much easier to move material, products, and other supplies between the producers and the consumers.
The Industrial Revolution inspired many other great inventions during the rest of the 19th century and well into the 20th century, including the lightbulb by Thomas Edison in 1878, the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in 1877, and the automobile by Karl Benz in 1885.
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