The Spread of the Industrial Revolution
about some of these issues in ch. 7 but I didn't assign it
because it goes into such complex economic history issues.
Hobsbawm's key points are:
- British economic success was based on buying raw
materials from colonies and underdeveloped countries and
selling finished products back
- For a while Britain was the only country doing this, but
then some other countries industrialized also
- They did this initially by copying technology from
- But once they had done so, Britain was no longer the
center of the world economy
As a transition to the
next book (which focuses on the US), the Industrial Revolution in
the United States:
American conditions were very different from
those in England:
- different resources: wood was plentiful, resources like
ores were very spread out
- shortage of labor: most people wanted to farm, might work
a few years to earn money
- people were very spread apart, distances were very large
- shortage of skilled workers, people with knowledge about
- people who came to the U.S. were more ambitious, open to
new things, or more focused on new opportunities because there
- capital was scarce and tended to be invested in
plantations or overseas trade
revolution was slow to get started in the U.S. because the U.S.
was a third world country and England was determined to protect
- England passed a law in 1765 (repealed
1824-25) prohibiting export of textile machinery and
emigration of skilled mechanics.
said in 1802: "The greatest danger to my business is that
of attracting the attention of the English... They employ all
possible means to prevent the establishment of manufactures
here. They burned my predecessor's cotton mill, and
might easily try to do the same to my mills."
Jefferson: fear of the misery of industrial cities in
England and belief that an agricultural nation was essential
for democracy. Felt that farmers were by nature
virtuous. He wasn't against technology--he had a lot of
machines on his plantation, but he was against
industrialization until the blockades starting in 1807 that
lead to the war of 1812 convinced him that the U.S. couldn't
afford to be dependent on other countries for manufactured
- Early efforts to smuggle in machines weren't
very successful, eg. disassembled mule that arrived in
Philadelphia in 1783 was never successfully assembled.
The first useful drawings of textile equipment were not
available until 1812, published description of how to run
machinery not until 1832
- shortage of labor, shortage of capital,
shortage of skills
First successful mill--Slater Mill
Slater had served a 7 year mill
apprenticeship in England. Came to the United States to
make his fortune and made a partnership with a hardware
Brown--in Pawtucket, RI
- Slater put up his expertise and his partners
put up the money, and Slater got half ownership
- set up in an old fulling mill in 1790, then
build a new mill in 1793. 100 spindles, spinning only, Arkwright
water frames, little innovation. Metal parts made
by local blacksmiths, relying on Slater's knowledge of
critical dimensions, gearing, settings, surfaces.
- At first used almost entirely child
labor--hired 7 boys and 2 girls between the ages of 7
and 12 in 1790. By 1800 he had more than 100 employees,
and he relied on recruiting families and providing housing for
them around the mill (fathers often worked as hand loom
weavers, not in the mill).
- Slater owned or had an interest in 13 textile
mills, and left an estate of $690,000 when he died in 1835.
- By 1810 there were 54 mills in Massachusetts,
26 in Rhode Island, 14 in Connecticut--all small mills without
- British immigrants made up about half the
managers and machine-makers before 1830.
the green line points to the location of Lowell north and west of
map from National Atlas of the United States
Origins of Lowell--the first large
textile factories in the U.S. :
- Boston merchants became interested in textile
factories after the War of 1812 showed the advantages of
diversification. Boston Manufacturing Co.: Nathan
Appleton, Patrick Tracy Jackson, Francis
- hired an English mechanic named Paul
Moody to build a power loom and set up a factory on the
Charles river in Waltham. Opened in 1815--first complete
cotton factory in the US. Capitalized at $400,000 (10x
- Needed more water power in order to expand,
and wanted to build a new town to avoid the corrupt city.
- Lowell, Mass, at the beginning of the
Middlesex canal. First mill opened in 1822--built by
more than 500 Irish laborers who were subject to such
discrimination that they were not allowed to work in the
mill. They lived in a shanty town called The
The Lowell labor system:
- land was cheap in the United States and people
wanted to own their own farms, not work in mills. Where to
find a workforce for a large mill?
- hire young
women from the countryside to
work for a few years before they get married. Women
lived in heavily supervised dormitories,
were required to attend church, followed many factory
rules, and made good wages for
women at the time.
- The women averaged $3.60 a week in 1836, at
which point they were paying $1.50 a week for room and
board. This compared favorably to $1 a week for domestic
- until the mid 1840s the work was not
stressful, although they worked 73
hours hours a week (a 12 to 14 hour
day, six days a week, 309 days a year, with only three
Intermittent labor, mostly
fetching and carrying.
In order to have
factories, there needed to be better transportation to distribute
factory-made goods over a wide area
- Lowell population
- The Boston Manufacturing company returned an
average annual dividend of 19% from 1816 to 1826. Even
in the more competitive 1850s the Merrimack Company (which
operated some of the Lowell mills) averaged 12% annual return
for most of the decade.
- Competition began to result in a worse deal
for the workers as early as the 1830s--in 1836 there was a
strike in reaction to a cut in wages of $1 a week.
Speed-up made the work damaging to health
- immigrant workers began to be hired in the
1840s: immigrant workers in mills: 1845--8%, 1850--33%,
1860--60% (of those 47% were Irish--potato famine started in
Now consider transportation issues in the United States:
- again England took the lead
- the technologies were copied
in the United States
- U.S. conditions were
different particularly because the distances were much greater
essential to economic development, and the need became more
critical with westward expansion. Factories might be
considered undemocratic, but there was no doubt that you needed
roads to unify the 13 colonies into a nation. Note
particularly how transportation technology was adapted to meet
Turnpikes in the U.S.:
- First turnpikes (improved toll road) in the
United States in Pennsylvania
and Virginia in 1795. 1796-1814 Mass. chartered 97
- in 1775 it took a week to go from Boston to
New York by land, in 1800 it took four days.
- cleared and leveled land, built simple wooden
bridges (even floating bridges to cross deep ponds).
Large rivers were crossed by ferry.
- 1785 bridge over the Connecticut at
Bellows Falls--wooden covered bridge 365 feet, 50 feet
above river--build by a simple carpenter.
- Bridges longer than a single stringer were
built first with arches then with trusses--Burr
Truss was one American innovation that combined the
A Burr Truss
Canals in the U.S.:
- Many proposals for canals in late 18th century
- First canal completed was the Santee
Canal in 1800, connecting Charleston with Columbia
- the person who knew how to built a canal was
Senf: came from Europe during the American revolution
as a Hessian mercenary with knowledge of military
- With a couple of
exceptions developed to meet military needs, there were no
engineering schools until the 1860s--the expertise to build canals did not exist except
for mill races and a few short canals around rapids.
- Such engineering as
there was learned by apprenticeship, and there was not a
clear distinction between an engineer and a mechanic.
Most engineers were entrepreneurs, not employees of larger
businesses (there weren't yet any large businesses until the
- Bridges were built by
the local carpenter, and the canals built for water-powered
grain mills or to carry boats short distances around rapids
did not use much technology. They were often built with
local businessmen or civic leaders (the first canal on the
Merrimack at Amoskeag was build by a judge of common pleas)
who had no experience.
The Middlesex canal--27
miles joining the Charles River with the junction of the Concord
and Merrimack, with 20 locks, 8 aqueducts, and 48 bridges.
, History, Visitor
- Chartered in 1793
by Boston merchants who wanted to bring more trade through
Boston. Director: Loammi
Baldwin, a retired colonel who dabbled in
cabinetmaking, surveying and experimentation and had a
Harvard-education in Latin and Greek.
- A local surveyor and
magistrate, Samuel Thompson, set out to survey the route,
using a compass, his eye, and his best judgment. In
one 6 mile stretch he measured the route with a rise of 16
1/2 feet. A later survey turned up a descent of 25
- You can't build a major
canal without specialized knowledge
- They had only simple
tools: axes, hoes, shovels, mattocks, crowbars, scythes,
and pitchforks, cold chisels for cutting stone.
- They did not know
how to excavate efficiently, how to seal the canal so
that it would not leak, or what was the best shape for
retaining walls and the best material for locks.
- They did not know
how to make mortar that would hold under water or how to
design the machinery to open and close the valve gates
of the locks.
- They needed an expert.
hired William Weston, an experienced Englishman who had
recently come to America to supervise the construction of a
canal in Philadelphia.
- He agreed to come to
Boston in the summer of 1794 because the Philadelphia
project had run out of money. For six weeks work
and travel time he was paid $2107.60.
- sent in advance the
key instruments--a spade, an improved wheelbarrow, and
his own leveling instrument
- The wheelbarrow got lost
in transit, and no one could figure out how to use the
leveling instrument until Weston arrived himself.
- When he arrived he did
the necessary surveying and taught the locals how to solve
their problems--taught them the specialized knowledge of
- sealing the canal by
puddling with clay in many thin layers
- he arranged for
machinery for the lock gates to be cast in a foundry in
New York from molds he made himself
- The Middlesex canal was
finally successfully completed in 1803 at a total cost of
$1,164,200. It was a moderate financial success, but,
more important, the investors profited by increased trade
through Boston. "The trip to New Hampshire took five
days, and passage back to Charlestown took four days, and
while the cost of carrying goods from Boston by a team of
oxen was $20 per ton, the rate of boating freight on the
canal cost from $5 to $13." (source no longer
- Three people who worked
with Weston went on the be successful canal
engineers--Loammi Baldwin's son Loammi
Baldwin Jr., Benjamin Wright, and Robert Brooke
A similar story could be told
about the Erie
- Planning for the Erie
canal began about 1804, construction authorized in 1816
after much unskilled study.
- Completed in 1825--at
363 miles the longest canal in the world.
- Also a major source of engineering
training--by 1825 all but one principal engineer had
worked their way up in the canal system and at least 11 of
the 24 principal engineers went on to other engineering
of the Erie Canal
Steam Boats in the U.S.
- experiments as early as 1780s both in
England and American, but the need was greater in America.
- a lot of varied speculation, including an 1785
paper by Benjamin Franklin in which he concluded that
paddlewheels were inefficient and proposed jet propulsion.
- This put John Fitch on the wrong track--his
mechanic convinced him not to try water jets but he worked on
crank and paddles
instead of paddle wheels. he did demonstrate a boat in
1787 and run boats on the Mississippi in a commercial
operation as early as 1790, although he ultimately failed.
- Robert Fulton trained in England and France
(he had gone to London originally to study art but ended up
studying civil engineering). He built his first
commercially successful steamboat for the Hudson starting
operation in 1807 (with a promise of a 20 year monopoly from
the NY legislature) with a 133 ft. boat called the Clermont
with twin sidewheels. He used a
Watt engine and built his boats for passenger comfort and
The Clermont, from an early history of steam power by
- He also ran boats on the Mississippi, but they
didn't do very well.
- Other engineers solved the problems of
adaptation of the steam boat to western
- The key innovation was the high-pressure steam
engine invented by Oliver Evans in 1801. Dominated
western steamboats because less fouled by muddy water.
- Gradual development of shallow hull and flat
bottom, upper decks, horizontal engine (easier to connect to a
stern paddlewheel. Model
- Extremely profitable--sometimes 100% a
trip. Henry Shreve did the best job of putting all these
innovation together and also invented the snagboat
- The steam boat was the first time the United
States took the lead in developing a major new technology
The railroad in the U.S.:
- started with short horse-drawn lines such as
the Granite Railroad, Quincy, Mass., 2 miles long, also in
Friend of Charleston, 1830
total mileage in the United States:
- From Charleston to Hamburg on the Savannah
River--136 miles opened in 1833. The South Carolina
Canal and Rail-Road Company hired an engineer names Horatio
Allen who not only built the first domestic-built locomotive,
Friend of Charleston, but also was a pioneer in the
1830s in adapting locomotive design to American conditions by
inventing the swivel truck.
- the railroad met a tremendous need and grew
Adapting the railroad to American conditions:
started with the problem that English locomotives
were too heavy and rigid--distances were long, iron track was
expensive. Inventions concentrated on the problem of
- wooden ties in loose gravel instead of granite
- T-rail--requires less iron and skilled labor
railroad construction (image HD217)
- equalizing lever suspension (1839) to prevent
damage on rough roadbeds
- swivel truck--jointed locomotive for sharp
- engines that burned anthracite (though wood
lasted a long time)
- cowcatcher--because roads were not walled
off. Isaac Dripps first design impaled the cow on
prongs--difficulty of extricating the cow alive led to design
to sweep the cow aside
- gauge standardized by law in 1863--30 years
after England. Issue of states rights but also Erie
Railroad deliberately chose 6 ft. gauge to prevent diversion
- standard time 1883
Bull, imported in 1831
Government helped with the huge expense.
The railroad brought modern management and a
national market. These led to big
business and consumer culture. A timeline of railway
- State charters gave privileges of eminent
domain, sometimes monopoly, no taxes--about 20% of railroad
capital came from state purchase of stock and loans
- Many projects failed, eg. Stumphouse Tunnel
north of Walhalla
- Federal congress started early debating land
grants for a transcontinental
railroad --debates over the constitution and sectional
jealousies over the route.
- In 1850 there was a federal land grant for a
railroad from Illinois to Alabama, but the transcontinental
railroad was blocked by route partisans until the civil war.
- 1862 Pacific Railway act set a route from
Omaha Nebraska to Sacramento Calif, completed May 10, 1869 . Other
routes in 1880s.
this page written and copyright Pamela E. Mack
last updated 2/6/2015