How did the Industrial Revolution change American society?

The transition to a new industrial manner in Great Britain, continental Europe, and the United States occurred between 1760 and 1820. This period was known as the Industrial Revolution. 

The shift from hand to machine production and new chemical and iron manufacturing techniques increased the use of steam and water power. 

The development of machine tools and the increase in the mechanized factory system were all part of this transformation.

The Industrial Revolution transformed from an agrarian to a manufacturing economy, with things made by machines rather than by hand.

Increased production and efficiency, reduced pricing, more commodities, higher earnings, and migration from rural to urban regions resulted.

The Industrial Revolution also ushered in extraordinary population expansion. The employment, output value, and capital invested made Textiles one of the crucial industries during the Industrial Revolution.

Textiles were also among the first industries to adopt contemporary manufacturing techniques. These technical advancements brought in new methods of working and living, transforming society as a whole. 

It was a time when industrialization produced a wealthy entrepreneur class and a comfortable middle class backed by immigrants and newcomers from America’s fields and small towns.

What sparked the Industrial Revolution?

The Industrial Revolution began with a torrent of innovation, fueled by a stable political situation, a sophisticated banking sector, excess capital, and improved agricultural production, which expanded the pool of workers. 

What effect did the Industrial Revolution have on American culture?

The Industrial Revolution shifted from an agrarian to a manufacturing economy, with things made by machines rather than by hand.

Increased production and efficiency, reduced pricing, more commodities, higher earnings, and migration from rural to urban regions resulted.

Beginning of the Industrial Revolution

Handloom weaving in 1747, from William Hogarth's Industry and Idleness
Handloom weaving in 1747, from William Hogarth’s Industry and Idleness

The beginning of the Industrial Revolution was in the United Kingdom. Many technological and architectural breakthroughs were developed there. 

By the mid-eighteenth century, Britain had established itself as the world’s most powerful commercial nation commanding a global trading empire. It included colonies in North America and the Caribbean. 

By the activities of the East India Company, it had substantial military and political control over the Indian subcontinent, particularly with the proto-industrialized Mughal Bengal.

One of the critical causes of the Industrial Revolution was trade development and the rise of a business. The Industrial Revolution was a critical moment in history.

It affected practically every area of daily life somehow. Average income and population, in particular, began to expand at an unprecedented rate. 

Some economists claim that the most crucial effect of the Industrial Revolution was the general population’s standard of living in the western world.

It began to rise consistently for the first time. In contrast, others claim that it did not begin to improve meaningfully until the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The adoption of the Industrial Revolution’s early breakthroughs, such as automated spinning and weaving, stalled, and their markets developed from the late 1830s to the early 1840s, resulting in an economic slowdown.

Late in the time, innovations such as the increased use of locomotives, steamboats, steamships, and hot blast iron smelting emerged.

New technologies, such as the electrical telegraph, which became popular in the 1840s and 1850s, were not powerful enough to propel the economy forward at a rapid pace. 

After 1870, rapid economic expansion emerged due to a new set of technologies known as the Second Industrial Revolution.

New steelmaking techniques, mass-production, assembly lines, electrical grid systems, large-scale machine tool manufacturing, and the employment of increasingly modern technology in steam-powered factories were among the breakthroughs.

Industrial revolution in the United States

Andrew Jackson labeled industrialist Samuel Slater the father of the American Industrial Revolution
Andrew Jackson labeled industrialist Samuel Slater, the father of the American Industrial Revolution

The United States was predominantly an agricultural and natural resource producing and processing economy during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

During this time, the United Kingdom and sections of Western Europe began to industrialize. 

In the large and sparsely populated area of the time, the construction of roads and canals, the introduction of steamboats, and the construction of railroads were all crucial for processing agricultural and natural resource products.

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The cotton gin and creating a system for interchangeable components were significant American technological achievements during the Industrial Revolution. The latter was supported by the development of the milling machine in the United States. 

The ascendancy of the United States as the world’s leading industrial nation in the late nineteenth century was based on the invention of machine tools and the system of interchangeable parts.

In the mid-1780s, Oliver Evans designed an automated flour mill that used control mechanisms and conveyors to eliminate the need for labor from when grain was placed into elevator buckets to when flour was released into a wagon. 

This is regarded as the first modern materials handling system, and it represents a significant step forward in the march toward mass manufacturing.

Horse-powered machinery was initially employed for small-scale applications such as grain milling in the United States. Still, after textile mills were erected in the 1790s, the country turned to water power. 

As a result, New England and the Northeastern United States, which have fast-moving rivers, became the epicenter of industrialization.

In 1787, Thomas Somers and the Cabot Brothers established the first and the largest cotton mill, famously known as the Beverly Cotton Manufactory. It was a crucial milestone in future research and development. 

This mill was built to run on horses, but the operators immediately discovered that the horse-drawn platform was financially unsustainable, and they suffered losses for years.

Despite this, the Manufactory served as a testing ground for new ideas in spinning a tremendous amount of cotton and inventing the water-powered milling structure later employed at Slater’s Mill.

Samuel Slater (1768–1835) established the Slater Mill in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in 1793. He had learned about new textile technology as a young apprentice in Derbyshire, England.

He disregarded restrictions prohibiting trained workers from emigrating by emigrating to New York in 1789, seeking to profit from his knowledge. He then owned 13 textile mills after launching Slater’s Mill. 

In 1809, Daniel Day opened a wool carding mill in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, the third woolen mill in the Blackstone Valley.

The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor lines the history of the Blackstone, dubbed “America’s Hardest-Working River.”

On a tour of British mills in 1810, merchant Francis Cabot Lowell of Newburyport, Massachusetts, memorized the design of weaving machines.

On his return to America, he established the Boston Manufacturing Company after realizing that the War of 1812 had damaged his import business. However, demand for the domestic finished fabric was growing in America.

The discovery of processes for making interchangeable metal parts was a significant contribution by the United States to industrialization.

The U.S. The Department of War developed precision metal machining processes to create interchangeable parts for tiny guns.

The American manufacturing system became notable for its machines and processes for generating standardized and interchangeable parts.

Precision manufacturing techniques allowed for the creation of machines that mechanized the shoe and watch industries. 

Steel is sometimes recognized as the first of numerous new sectors for industrial mass-production that began around 1850 and are considered to characterize a “Second Industrial Revolution.”

Although it wasn’t until the 1860s that a method for mass-producing steel was developed when Sir Henry Bessemer built a new furnace it could turn molten pig iron into steel in vast quantities.

The Waltham Watch Company, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, began the industrialization of the watch business in 1854 with the creation of machine tools, gauges, and assembling procedures geared to the micro accuracy required for watches. 

Second Industrial Revolution

Sir Henry Bessemer's Bessemer converter, for making steel from the 1850s to the 1950s
Sir Henry Bessemer’s Bessemer converter, for making steel from the 1850s to the 1950s

Steel is sometimes recognized as the first of numerous new sectors for industrial mass-production that began around 1850 and are considered to characterize a “Second Industrial Revolution.”

It wasn’t until the 1860s that a method for mass-producing steel was developed when Sir Henry Bessemer built a new furnace that could turn molten pig iron into steel in vast quantities.

However, it wasn’t commercially available until the 1870s, when the technique was tweaked to produce a more consistent product. The open-hearth furnace began to supplant Bessemer steel near the end of the nineteenth century.

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This Second Industrial Revolution gradually expanded to include chemicals, primarily chemical industries, petroleum (refining and distribution), and the automotive industry later in the twentieth century.

It was marked by a technological leadership shift from Britain to the United States and Germany. The rising availability of low-cost petroleum products has diminished the importance of coal and increased the industrialization potential.

In the electrical industries, a new revolution began with electricity and electrification. 

Beginning in the 1890s, the development of hydroelectric power generation in the Alps facilitated the fast industrialization of coal-depleted northern Italy.

By the 1890s, these areas had become industrialized, and businesses like the U.S. Steel, General Electric, Standard Oil, and Bayer AG had joined the railroad and ship companies on the world’s stock markets, creating the first large industrial conglomerates with increasing global interests.

Impacts of the Industrial Revolution

The number of High Streets in towns and cities rapidly grew in the 18th century
The number of High Streets in towns and cities rapidly grew in the 18th century

Before the Industrial Revolution, America had a primarily agricultural economy that relied on the trade of tobacco and natural resources like woods, minerals, fur, and fish to build prosperity.

England, which benefited from a series of technological discoveries due to its colonial acquisitions, became the first industrial power in the world in the late 18th century. 

The English attempted to use legislation to monopolize their technology and skilled workers. The industry expanded throughout Europe and eventually to America.

The United States became the world’s leading industrial power during the Second Industrial Revolution, which lasted roughly from 1870 to 1914.

The majority of Americans in the 18th century lived in self-sufficient rural settlements. The Industrial Revolution saw the rise of big urban hubs like Boston and New York City and massive internal worker mobility.

The Industrial Revolution also aided the increase of unskilled labor. Before the nineteenth century, most non-agricultural Americans worked in a skilled trade.

Apprenticeships for artisans were not required with the onset of industrial production, and labor became commoditized.

The Industrial Revolution also resulted in the widespread availability of low-cost goods, ushering in a consumer culture that signaled the end of many rural Americans’ subsistence lifestyles.

Robert Fulton established steamboat service on the Hudson River, Samuel F. B. Morse invented the telegraph, and Elias Howe’s sewing machine invention, all before the Civil War, signaled the start of the technological innovation that would define the United States in the nineteenth century.

After the Civil War ended, industrialization accelerated rapidly in the United States. The Second Industrial Revolution, often known as the American Industrial Revolution, spanned most of the second half of the nineteenth century.

The country overgrew, and the new territory had plenty of natural resources in the first half of the century. The first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869, making it easier to carry people, raw materials, and finished goods.

The United States also possessed tremendous human resources: fourteen million immigrants arrived between 1860 and 1900, supplying employees for various sectors.

The American businesspeople in charge of this expansion were willing to take risks to make their companies profitable.

Andrew Carnegie became a titan of the steel industry by founding the first steel mills in the United States to adopt the British “Bessemer technique” for mass production steel.

He bought stakes in mines that generated steel’s raw material, mills and ovens that manufactured the finished product, and railroads and shipping lines that delivered the commodities, thus controlling every step of the steelmaking process.

Other entrepreneurs, such as John D. Rockefeller, formed a trust by combining the operations of many giant corporations. The Standard Oil Trust, founded by John D. Rockefeller, eventually monopolized 90 percent of the business, severely restricting competition. 

To preserve high pricing and profits, these monopolies were frequently accused of threatening smaller firms and competitors.

American inventors such as Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Alva Edison invented new technologies that revolutionized communication, transportation, and manufacturing.

Edison improved existing technologies, such as the telegraph, while inventing groundbreaking new ones, including the light bulb, phonograph, kinetograph, and electric dynamo. 

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Meanwhile, Bell experimented with new speech and hearing technology and became known as the telephone’s creator. The industrial revolution transformed the fundamental nature of work for millions of working Americans. 

They may have previously worked for themselves at home, in a small shop, or in the field, crafting raw materials into products or cultivating a crop from seed to table.

They worked for a large corporation when they took factory jobs. The task was frequently hazardous and undertaken in filthy conditions.

Many children, as well as some women, entered the workforce. Child labor has become a significant issue. Labor unions grew due to dangerous working conditions, long hours, and concerns about wages and child labor.

Workers staged strikes and work stoppages in the decades following the Civil War, which helped bring their grievances to the public’s attention.

The Great Railroad Strike 1877 was a particularly dramatic labor disturbance. Wage cuts in the railroad industry sparked the strike, which lasted 45 days and expanded across three states before being forcefully put down by a mix of vigilantes, National Guardsmen, and federal forces.

Cities were where the new jobs for the working class were to be found. As a result of the Industrial Revolution, the United States began its shift from a rural to an urban civilization. 

Young people were raised on farms, and millions of immigrants from Europe perceived more chances in cities and relocated there. Housing for all of the additional city residents was an

issue. Many employees lived in slums; open sewers ran alongside the streets, and the water supply was sometimes polluted, bringing sickness.

These dreadful urban conditions sparked the Progressive Movement in the early twentieth century, which resulted in a slew of new legislation designed to protect and support people, ultimately altering the government-people relationship.

Economic and political impact

Bustling with work and activity, The Wealth of the Nation by Seymour Fogel is an interpretation of the theme of Social Security
Bustling with work and activity, The Wealth of the Nation by Seymour Fogel is an interpretation of the theme of Social Security

The American Industrial Revolution indicated the rise and supremacy of capitalism, an economic theory that Adam Smith theorized in “Wealth of Nations” and Karl Marx elaborated on in his magnum opus, “Capital.”

The factories that rose during the Industrial Revolution exemplified the capitalist idea of wage labor, which required workers to relinquish ownership of the means of production in exchange for an hourly salary.

This trend concentrated wealth in the hands of industrialists, whose fortunes became linked to consumer market fluctuations.

With its massive population and vast natural resources, Capitalist America became an economic juggernaut during the Industrial Revolution, taking advantage of a vast domestic and worldwide consumer market. 

The development of the United States as a global economic power, the battle between traditional culture and recent progress, and the passage of labor-related legislation were all political consequences of the American Industrial Revolution.

The Civil War was fought between an agrarian culture that relied on slave labor and an industrial society that relied on paid workers to drive the consumer economy.

The rise of the American economy has worldwide ramifications, notably the normalization of relations with Japan and the acceleration of territorial expansion.

Urban workers also became a politically active group, helping to pass legislation like the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act. 


The Industrial Revolution was a series of significant economic, technological, and social developments over a long period.

Between 1760 and 1840, it was a global event characterized by the transfer of new manufacturing processes. 

Although the United States benefited greatly from Europe’s technological advances throughout the Industrial Revolution, American inventors contributed to this global age of economic and industrial prosperity.

Manufacturing has been changed by increased automation and mechanization, aided by modern machine tools and interchangeable parts, particularly in the textile industry.

Domestic markets were also able to expand due to improved transportation networks and growing urban populations.

During this time, the United States’ economy was considerably strengthened, and its reliance on imports was lessened thanks to historic levels of productivity in domestic manufacturing and commercial agriculture.

In Europe and the United States, the Industrial Revolution increased income and population.

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