Overview of the Industrial Revolution
The United States and the Industrial Revolution in the 19th Century
by Martin Kelly
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 Revolutionoccurred in Great Britain and Europe during the late eighteenth century. The Industrial Revolution 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.
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 Chesapeakewhereby 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.
Cotton and Cloth
In 1794, Eli Whitney invented the cotton ginwhich made the separation of cotton seeds from fiber much faster. The South increased its cotton supply sending raw cotton north to be used in the manufacture of cloth. Francis C. Lowell increased the efficiency in the manufacture of cloth by bringing spinning and weaving processes together into one factory. This led to the development of the textile industry throughout New England.
In 1846, Elias Howe created the sewing machine which revolutionized the manufacture of clothing. All of a sudden, clothing began to be made in factories as opposed to at home.
Eli Whitney came up with the idea to use interchangeable parts in 1798 to make muskets. If standard parts were made by machine, then they could be assembled at the end much more quickly than before. This became an important part of American industry and the Second Industrial Revolution.
From Agriculture to Cities
As industries and factories arose, people moved from farms to cities. This led to other issues including overcrowding and disease. However, advances were made in agriculture too including better machines and cultivators. For example, Cyrus McCormick created the reaper which allowed quicker and cheaper harvesting of grain. John Deere created the first steel plow in 1837 helping speed up farming across the Midwest.
Communication and the Industrial Revolution
With the increased size of the United States, better communication networks became ultra important. In 1844, Samuel F. B. Morse created the telegraph and by 1860, this network ranged throughout the eastern coast to the Mississippi.
The Cumberland Road, the first national road, was begun in 1811. This eventually became part of the Interstate 40. Further, river transportation was made efficient through the creation of the first steamboat, the Clermont, by Robert Fulton. This was made possible by James Watt’s invention of the first reliable steam engine.
The creation of the Erie Canal created a route from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes thereby helping stimulate the economy of New York and making New York City a great trading center.
Railroads were of supreme importance to the increase in trade throughout the United States. In fact, by the start of the Civil War, railroads linked the most important Mid West cities with the Atlantic coast. Railroads further opened the west and connected raw materials to factories and markets. A transcontinental railroadwas completed in 1869 at Promontory, Utah.
With the great advances of the Industrial Revolution, inventors continued to work throughout the rest of the 19th and early 20th century on ways to make life easier while increasing productivity. The foundations set throughout the mid-1800’s set the stage for inventions such as the light bulb (Thomas Edison), telephone (Alexander Bell), and the automobile (Karl Benz). Further, Ford’s creation of the assembly line which made manufacturing more efficient just helped form America into a modern industrialized nation. The impact of these and other inventions of the time cannot be underestimated.
The Cotton Gin in American History
by Martin Kelly
Historical Significance of the Cotton Gin:
- Eli Whitney made very little money off of his invention. Many farmers duplicated his cotton gin without paying royalties.
- Whitney did not intend to sell the cotton gin. Instead, he planned to make a profit by separating the cotton for farmers.
- Some believe that the brush part of the cotton gin was suggested by Catherine Greene
Inventive Thinking and Creativity
Stories about Great Thinkers and Famous Inventors
By Mary Bellis
The following stories about great thinkers and inventors will help to motivate your students and enhance their appreciation of the contributions of inventors.
As students read these stories, they will also realize the “inventors” are male, female, old, young, minority, and majority. They are ordinary people who follow through with their creative ideas to make their dreams a reality.
Earmuffs “Baby, Its Cold Outside”
“Baby, Its Cold Outside” may have been the song running through 13 year old Chester Greenwood’s head one cold December day in 1873. To protect his ears while ice skating, he found a piece of wire, and with his grandmother’s help, padded the ends. In the beginning, his friends laughed at him. However, when they realized that he was able to stay outside skating long after they had gone inside freezing, they stopped laughing. Instead, they began to ask Chester to make ear covers for them, too. At age 17 Chester applied for a patent. For the next 60 years, Chester’s factory made earmuffs, and earmuffs made Chester rich.
At the turn of the century, Mrs. Earl Dickson, an inexperienced cook, often burned and cut herself. Mr. Dickson, a Johnson and Johnson employee, got plenty of practice in hand bandaging. Out of concern for his wife’s safety, he began to prepare bandages ahead of time so that his wife could apply them by herself. By combining a piece of surgical tape and a piece of gauze, he fashioned the first crude adhesive strip bandage.
Candy During the hot summer of 1913, Clarence Crane, a chocolate candy manufacturer, found himself facing a dilemma. When he tried to ship his chocolates to candy shops in other cities they melted into gooey blobs. To avoid dealing with the “mess,” his customers were deferring their orders until cool weather. In order to retain his customers, Mr. Crane needed to find a substitute for the melted chocolates. He experimented with hard candy which wouldn’t melt during shipment. Using a machine designed for making medicine pills, Crane produced small, circular candies with a hole in the middle. The birth of LIFE SAVERS!
The term FRISBEE did not always refer to the familiar plastic disks we visualize flying through the air. Over 100 years ago, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, William Russell Frisbie owned the Frisbie Pie Company and delivered his pies locally. All of his pies were baked in the same type of 10″ round tin with a raised edge, wide brim, six small holes in the bottom, and “Frisbie Pies” on the bottom. Playing catch with the tins soon became a popular local sport. However, the tins were slightly dangerous when a toss was missed. It became the Yale custom to yell “Frisbie” when throwing a pie tin. In the 40’s when plastic emerged, the pie-tin game was recognized as a manufacturable and marketable product. Note: FRISBEE ® is a registered trademark of Wham-O Mfg. Co.
If I were to tell you that Thomas Alva Edisonhad shown signs of inventive genius at an early age, you probably would not be surprised. Mr. Edison achieved enormous fame with his lifelong contributions of volumes of inventive technology. He received the first of his 1,093 U.S. patents by age 22. In the book, Fire of Genius, Ernest Heyn reported on a remarkable resourceful young Edison, though some of his earliest tinkering clearly lacked merit.
By the age of six, Thomas Edison’s experiments with fire were said to have cost his father a barn. Soon after that, it is reported that young Edison tried to launch the first human balloon by persuading another youth to swallow large quantities of effervescing powders to inflate himself with gas. Of course, the experiments brought quite unexpected results!
Chemistry and electricity held great fascination for this child, Thomas Edison. By his early teens, he had designed and perfected his first real invention, an electrical cockroach control system. He glued parallel strips of tinfoil to a wall and wired the strips to the poles of a powerful battery, a deadly shock for the unsuspecting insect.
As a dynamo of creativity, Mr. Edison stood as decidedly unique; but as a child with a curious, problem-solving nature, he was not alone. Here are some more “inventive children” to know and appreciate.
At age 14, one schoolboy invented a rotary brush device to remove husks from wheat in the flour mill run by his friend’s father. The young inventor’s name? Alexander Graham Bell.
At 16, another of our junior achievers saved pennies to buy materials for his chemistry experiments. While still a teenager, he set his mind on developing a commercially viable aluminum refining process. By age 25, Charles Hallreceived a patent on his revolutionary electrolytic process.
While only 19 years old, another imaginative young person designed and built his first helicopter. In the summer of 1909, it very nearly flew. Years later, Igor Sikorsky perfected his design and saw his early dreams change aviation history. Silorsky was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1987.
The are more childhood problem-solvers that we can mention. Perhaps you’ve heard about:
- Samuel Colt’s childhood experience with underwater explosives;
- Fourteen-year-old Robert Fulton’s manually operated paddlewheel; and
- Guglielmo Marconi’s early mechanical/electrical tinkering.
- Even television tinker, Philo T. Farnsworth, conceived his optical scanning idea at the tender age of 14.
Stories about Great Thinkers and Famous Inventors
Great Women Inventors
Inventions tell something about the inventor’s place in the society in which they live, a closeness to certain kinds of problems, and possession of certain skills. It is not surprising that up until the mid 20th Century, women’s inventions were often related to childcare, housework, and healthcare, all traditional female occupations. In recent years, with access to specialized training and broader job opportunities, women are applying their creativity to many new kinds of problems, including those requiring high technology. While women have frequently come up with new ways to make their work easier, they have not always received credit for their ideas. Some stories about early women inventors show that women often recognized that they were entering “a man’s world,” and shielded their work from the public eye by allowing men to patent their inventions.
Although Eli Whitneyreceived a patent for a cotton gin, Catherine Greene is said to have posed both the problem and the basic idea to Whitney. Furthermore, according to Matilda Gage, (, 1883), his first model, fitted with wooden teeth, did not do the work well, and Whitney was about to throw the work aside, when Mrs Greene proposed the substitution of wire to catch the cotton seeds.
Margaret Knight, remembered as “the female Edison,” received some 26 patents for such diverse items as a window frame and sash, machinery for cutting shoe soles, and improvements to internal combustion engines. Her most significant patent was for machinery that would automatically fold and glue paper bags to create square bottoms, an invention which dramatically changed shopping habits. Workmen reportedly refused her advice when first installing the equipment because, “after all, what does a woman know about machines?” More about Margaret Knight
Sarah Breedlove Walker
Sarah Breedlove Walker, the daughter of former slaves, was orphaned at seven and widowed by 20. Madame Walker is credited with inventing hair lotions, creams, and an improved hair styling hot comb. But her greatest achievement may be the development of the Walker System, which included a broad offering of cosmetics, licensed Walker Agents, and Walker Schools, which offered meaningful employment and personal growth to thousands of Walker Agents, mostly Black women. Sarah Walker was the first American woman self-made millionaire. More about Sarah Breedlove Walker
Bette Graham hoped to be an artist, but circumstances led her into secretarial work. Bette, however, was not an accurate typist. Fortunately, she recalled that artists could correct their mistakes by painting over them with gesso, so she invented a quick drying “paint” to cover her typing mistakes. Bette first prepared the secret formula in her kitchen using a hand mixer, and her young son helped to pour the mixture into little bottles. In 1980, the Liquid Paper Corporation, which Bette Graham built, was sold for over $47 million. More about Bette GRaham
Ann Moore, a Peace Corps volunteer, saw how African women carried babies on their backs by tying cloth around their bodies, leaving both hands free for other work. When she returned to the United States, she designed a carrier which became the popular SNUGLI. Recently Ms. Moore received another patent for a carrier to conveniently transport oxygen cylinders. People needing oxygen for breathing assistance, who were previously confined to stationary oxygen tanks, can now move about more freely. Her company now sells several versions including lightweight backpacks, handbags, shoulder bags, and wheelchair/walker carriers for portable cylinders.
Stephanie Kwolek, one of Dupont’s leading chemists, discovered the “miracle fiber,” Kevlar, which has five times the strength of steel by weight. Uses for Kevlar are seemingly endless, including ropes and cables for oil drilling rigs, canoe hulls, boat sails, automobile bodies and tires, and military and motorcycle helmets. Many Viet Nam veterans and police officers are alive today because of protection provided by bullet-proof vests made from Kevlar. Because of its strength and lightness, Kevlar was chosen as the material for the Gossamer Albatross, a pedal airplane flown across the English Channel. Kwolek was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1995. More on Stephanie Kwolek
Gertrude B. Elion
Gertrude B. Elion, 1988 Nobel laureate in Medicine, and Scientist Emeritus with Burroughs Wellcome Company, is credited with the synthesis of two of the first successful drugs for Leukemia, as well as Imuron, an agent to prevent the rejection of kidney transplants, and Zovirax, the first selective antiviral agent against herpes virus infections. Researchers who discovered AZT, a breakthrough treatment for AIDS, used Elion’s protocols. Elion was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame in 1991, the first woman inductee. More on Gertrude B. Elion
Did you Know That..
- windshield wipers were patented by Mary Anderson in 1903?
- dandruff shampoo was patented by Josie Stuart in 1903?
- a dishwasher was patented by Josephine Cochrane in 1914?
- the first disposable diaper was patented by Marion Donovan in 1951?
- a compact portable hair dryer was patented by Harriet J. Stern in 1962?
- a dough product for frozen pizza was patented by Rose Totino in 1979?
- the Melitta Automatic Drip Coffee Maker was patented by Melitta Benz in Germany in 1908?
Stories about Great Thinkers and Famous Inventors
By Mary Bellis
Between 1863 and 1913, approximately 1,200 inventions were patented by minority inventors. Many more were unidentified because they hid their race to avoid discrimination or sold their inventions to others. The following stories are about a few of the great minority inventors.
Elijah McCoy earned about 50 patents, however, his most famous one was for a metal or glass cup that fed oil to bearings through a small-bore tube. Elijah McCoy was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1843, the son of slaves who had fled Kentucky. He died in Michigan in 1929. More about Elijah McCoy
Benjamin Banneker created the first striking clock made of wood in America. He became known as the “Afro-American Astronomer.” He published an almanac and with his knowledge of mathematics and astronomy, he assisted in the surveying and planning of the new city of Washington, D.C. More about Benjamin Banneker
Granville Woods had more than 60 patents. Known as the “Black Edison,” he improved Bell’s telegraph and created an electrical motor that made the underground subway possible. He also improved the airbrake. More about Granville Woods
Garrett Morgan invented an improved traffic signal. He also invented a safety hood for firefighters. More about Garrett Morgan
George Washington Carver
George Washington Carver aided the Southern states with his many inventions. He discovered over 300 different products made from the peanut which, until Carver, was considered a lowly food fit for hogs. He dedicated himself to teaching others, learning and working with nature. He created over 125 new products with the sweet potato and taught poor farmers how to rotate crops to i mprove their soil and their cotton. George Washington Carver was a great scientist and inventor who learned to be a careful observer and who was honored throughout the world for his creation of new things. More about George Washington Carver
The Cotton Gin and Eli Whitney
Eli Whitney 1765 – 1825
By Mary Bellis
Eli Whitney was the inventor of the cotton gin and a pioneer in the mass production of cotton. Whitney was born in Westboro, Massachusetts on December 8, 1765 and died on January 8, 1825. He graduated from Yale College in 1792. By April 1793, Whitney had designed and constructed the cotton gin, a machine that automated the separation of cottonseed from the short-staple cotton fiber.
Advantages of Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin
Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin revolutionized the cotton industry in the United States. Prior to his invention, farming cotton required hundreds of man-hours to separate the cottonseed from the raw cotton fibers. Simple seed-removing devices have been around for centuries, however, Eli Whitney’s invention automated the seed separation process. His machine could generate up to fifty pounds of cleaned cotton daily, making cotton production profitable for the southern states.
Eli Whitney Business Woes
Eli Whitney failed to profit from his invention because imitations of his machine appeared and his 1794 patentfor the cotton gin could not be upheld in court until 1807. Whitney could not stop others from copying and selling his cotton gin design.
Eli Whitney and his business partner Phineas Miller had decided to get into the ginning business themselves. They manufactured as many cotton gins as possible and installed them throughout Georgia and the southern states. They charged farmers an unusual fee for doing the ginning for them, two-fifths of the profits paid in cotton itself.
Copies of the Cotton Gin
And here, all their troubles began. Farmers throughout Georgia resented having to go to Eli Whitney’s cotton gins where they had to pay what they regarded as an exorbitant tax. Instead planters began making their own versions of Eli Whitney’s gin and claiming they were “new” inventions. Phineas Miller brought costly suits against the owners of these pirated versions but because of a loophole in the wording of the 1793 patent act, they were unable to win any suits until 1800, when the law was changed.
Struggling to make a profit and mired in legal battles, the partners finally agreed to license gins at a reasonable price. In 1802, South Carolina agreed to purchase Eli Whitney’s patent right for $50,000 but delayed in paying it. The partners also arranged to sell the patent rights to North Carolina and Tennessee. By the time even the Georgia courts recognized the wrongs done to Eli Whitney, only one year of his patent remained. In 1808 and again in 1812 he humbly petitioned Congress for a renewal of his patent.
Eli Whitney – Other inventions
In 1798, Eli Whitney invented a way to manufacture musketsby machine so that the parts were interchangeable. Ironically, it was as a manufacturer of muskets that Whitney finally became rich.
The cotton gin is a device for removing the seeds from cotton fiber. Simple devices for that purpose have been around for centuries, an East Indian machine called a charka was used to separate the seeds from the lint when the fiber was pulled through a set of rollers. The charka was designed to work with long-staple cotton, but American cotton is a short-staple cotton. The cottonseed in Colonial America was removed by hand, usually the work of slaves.
Eli Whitney’s Cotton Gin
Eli Whitney’s machine was the first to clean short-staple cotton. His cotton engine consisted of spiked teeth mounted on a boxed revolving cylinder which, when turned by a crank, pulled the cotton fiber through small slotted openings so as to separate the seeds from the lint — a rotating brush, operated via a belt and pulleys, removed the fibrous lint from the projecting spikes.
The gins later became horse-drawn and water-powered gins and cotton production increased, along with lowered costs. Cotton soon became the number one selling textile.
Demand For Cotton Grows
After the invention of the cotton gin, the yield of raw cotton doubled each decade after 1800. Demand was fueled by other inventions of the Industrial Revolution, such as the machines to spin and weave it and the steamboat to transport it. By mid-century America was growing three-quarters of the world’s supply of cotton, most of it shipped to England or New England where it was manufactured into cloth. During this time tobacco fell in value, rice exports at best stayed steady, and sugar began to thrive, but only in Louisiana. At mid-century the South provided three-fifths of America’s exports, most of it in cotton.
Modern Cotton Gins
More recently devices for removing trash, drying, moisturizing, fractioning fiber, sorting, cleaning, and baling in 218-kg (480-lb) bundles have been added to modern cotton gins. Using electric power and air-blast or suction techniques, highly automated gins can produce 14 metric tons (15 U.S. tons) of cleaned cotton an hour.
patent for cotton gin
Margaret Knight (1838-1914)
Queen of Paper Bags
by Mary Bellis
Margaret Knight was an employee in a paper bag factory when she invented a new machine part that would automatically fold and glue paper bags to create square bottoms for paper bags. Paper bags had been more like envelopes before. Workmen reportedly refused her advice when first installing the equipment because they mistakenly thought, “what does a woman know about machines?” Margaret Knight can be considered the mother of the grocery bag, she founded the Eastern Paper Bag Company in 1870.
Margaret Knight (Mattie) was born in 1838. She received her first patent at the age of 30, but inventing was always part of her life. Margaret or ‘Mattie’ as she was called in her childhood, made sleds and kites for her brothers while growing up in Maine. When she was just 12 years old, she had an idea for a stop-motion device that could be used in textile mills to shut down machinery, preventing workers from being injured.
Margaret Knight is considered one of “the female Edison,” and received some 26 patents for such diverse items as a window frame and sash, machinery for cutting shoe soles, and improvements to internal combustion engines. Margaret Knight’s paper bag machine made flat-bottomed paper bags that are still in use to this very day!
A few of Margaret Knight’s other inventions:
dress and skirt shield – 1883
– clasp for robes – 1884
– spit – 1885
– numbering machine – 1894
– window frame and sash – 1894
– rotary engine – 1902
History of Paper and Paper-making
First There Was Papyrus
Papyrus is made from the sliced sections of the flower stem of the papyrus plant, pressed together and dried, and then used from writing or drawing. Papyrus appeared in Egypt around 2400 B.C.
Then There Was Paper
A courtier named Ts’ai-Lun, from Lei-yang in China, was the first recorded inventor of paper circa 105 A.D. Ts’ai-Lun presented paper and a papermaking process to the Chinese Emperor and that was noted in the imperial court records. There may have been papermaking in China earlier than the above date, but inventor Ts’ai-Lun did much for the spread of papermaking technology in China.
The ancient Chinese first made paper in the following fashion.
- Plant fibers such as hemp were soaked and beaten into a sludge
- The sludge was strained through a cloth sieve attached to a frame that also served as a drying platform for the resulting paper
Charles Fenerty of Halifax made the first paper from wood pulp (newsprint) in 1838. Charles Fenerty was helping a local paper mill maintain an adequate supply of rags to make paper, when he succeeded in making paper from wood pulp. He neglected to patent his invention and others did patent papermaking processes based on wood fiber.
Corrugated Papermaking – Cardboard
In 1856, Englishmen, Healey and Allen, received a patent for the first corrugated or pleated paper. The paper was used to line men’s tall hats.
American, Robert Gair promptly invented the corrugated cardboard box in 1870. These were pre-cut flat pieces manufactured in bulk that opened up and folded into boxes.
On December 20, 1871, Albert Jones of New York NY, patented a stronger corrugated paper (cardboard) used as a shipping material for bottles and glass lanterns.
In 1874, G. Smyth built the first single sided corrugated board-making machine. Also in 1874, Oliver Long improved upon the Jones patent and invented a lined corrugated cardboard.
The first recorded historical reference to grocery paper bags was made in 1630. The use of paper sacks only really started to take off during the Industrial Revolution: between 1700 and 1800.
Margaret Knight(1838-1914) was an employee in a paper bag factory when she invented a new machine part to make square bottoms for paper bags. Paper bags had been more like envelopes before. Knight can be considered the mother of the grocery bag, she founded the Eastern Paper Bag Company in 1870.
On February 20, 1872, Luther Crowell also patented a machine that manufactured paper bags.
Paper foodservice disposables products were first made at the beginning of the 20th century. The paper plate was the first single-use foodservice product invented in 1904.
Hugh Moore was an inventor who owned a paper cup factory, located next door to the Dixie Doll Company. The word Dixie was printed on the doll company’s front door. Moore saw the word everyday, which reminded him of “dixies,” the ten dollar bank notes from a New Orleans’ bank that had the French word “dix’ printed on the face of the bill. The bank had a great reputation in the early 1800s. Moore decided that “dixies” was a great name. After getting permission from his neighbor to use the name, he renamed his paper cups “Dixie Cups”. It should be mentioned that Moore’s paper cups first invented in 1908 were originally called health cups and replaced the single repeat-use metal cup that had been used with water fountains.