Starting around 1760 America changed dramatically with the start of the industrial revolution; the country went from largely agricultural, relying on animal and human power to an urban industrial society with the invention of machinery. This was a major turning point in history, affecting nearly every aspect of society and daily life.
Industrialization began quickly in Britain with mechanized spinning in the 1780s, during the 1800s steam power and iron production grew rapidly, eventually moving to the United States in the early 19th century with mechanized textile production. Fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas were utilized replacing the human and animal power previously used. In the early 18th century people began using coal for heating and cooking, during the process of mining the coal their mines would fill with water so, in 1776, James Watt designed a coal-burning steam engine to pump water out of coal mines when using horses hauling buckets took too long. As others began to improve on his design and put it to other uses, steam-powered machinery was becoming more popular leading to factories and rapid urban growth with many moving to these new cities to become employed. Before the factory system, products were made one at a time, by hand, by skilled workers in their home or a small workshops.
People lived off the land as either landowner and self-employed farmers or laborers moving from job to job. They made their own clothing from yarn they spun and cloth they wove, families would also weave textiles to sell at markets, people and small towns were mainly self-sufficient through the cottage industry. As industrialization progressed and machinery became larger, factories formed around them and business owners hired unskilled workers to run them in the centralized workplace.
The spinning Jenny was another groundbreaking invention patented in 1764 by James Hargreaves that allowed workers to spin many spools of wool at once. Workers could spin up to 120 spools at a time increasing the productivity of mills and furthering the industrialization of the textile industry. In 1789 Edmund Cartwright patented his second power loom which served as a model for inventors to improve upon. Cartwright also patented a wool-combing machine and a rope making machine in 1789 and 1792. Most, if not all, inventions during this time period mainly benefitted the business owner.
In 1733 John Kay patented the flying shuttle. Prior to this, a weaver was needed on each side of a broad-cloth loom, the flying shuttle required fewer workers. Where multiple people in the past wouldve been used to make one piece of fabric, a machine operated by one worker could make much more.
Instead of farm families cleaning the wool and spinning it into yarn, a carding machine would comb it and Samuel Cromptons water-powered spinning machine would spin the thread; Instead of using a skilled yarn weaver, Cartwrights power loom would weave the thread into cloth. A handful of machines like Cromptons, which could produce a finer quality thread at a lower cost, ran by one or two unskilled workers each, replaced entire families and towns of skilled workers. As textile inventions and innovations became more productive and reliable, the demand for cotton increased.
This demand inspired Eli Whitney to invent the cotton gin, a machine that removed as much seed from cotton in one day that a woman did in two months. During this time many of the workers were women and children because they would work for lower pay compared to men, they worked in filthy, dangerous conditions. Children were healthy before being sent to work and often became sickly over time or were severely injured at work. Factory owners and merchants became more and more wealthy while laborers lives were incredibly rough. During this time there were no laws or regulations for the new industries, 80% of society were working class who had no power with their employers or over their jobs, and 12-14 hour days with only Sundays off were normal.
The population continued to grow but there werent enough food supplies to go around, malnourishment was common as people went hungry. Since so many people moved to the cities so quickly, adequate housing wasnt always available so many moved into already overcrowded slums. Infant mortality was high, diseases such as cholera, typhoid, and tuberculosis spread quickly, and skilled workers such as hand weavers were unemployed where previously they were solidly middle-class citizens. These patterns continued until the early 19th century when laws and regulations were made to better society. New public health acts were put in place to regulate things such as home construction, sewage, and hygiene.
In 1854 an English physician, John Snow, was able to trace a cholera outbreak to feces from a homes cesspit contaminating the public water supply and although it would take a few more years for his theory to be accepted, his work changed the way public water and sewage systems were designed. Water pipes went from being made from wood and relying on gravity to using iron pipes and steam pumps; literacy increased when the paper machine was invented and steam power was used for the printing process allowing for the expansion of publishing. The industrial revolution was the first period in history when population growth and increased personal average income happened at the same time. The life expectancy of children increased as safety practices were put into place, transportation improved along with railroads and steamships toward the end of the revolution, and remarkable mechanical advancements were made.
As the industrial revolution went on amazing progress was made. Cement was starting to be used on a wide scale for buildings, making them safer and longer lasting. Gas lighting also became popular allowing factories and shops to stay open longer then lighting the streets and alleys for workers to find their way home. A paper machine made by Nicholas Louis Robert made one continuous sheet of paper in what is known as the continuous production process and its design is still used today and inspired the process for other industries like iron and steel. Transportation was made quicker, easier, and more organized when steamboats and steam engine locomotives were invented. People were able to develop timetables for when locomotives would arrive and depart while steamboats made transporting goods across the ocean easier and faster.
Canals were used to transport heavy goods from city to city and as the revolution progressed they were improved when curves were straightened and they were made wider and deeper, canal networks were made which then served as a basis when constructing the railways. This network can still be seen in Britain today. The industrial revolution may have been over since the mid-19th century but its effects are still being seen today. These days, most things are made in factories around the world and transported by machines with the modern version of engines. Cities went from having only 3% of the world’s population in 1800 to having more than 50% today where buildings are safer, water is clean, and sanitation measures are put in place.
The inventions patented during the revolution have been improved many times through the years but without them, we would never have the things we have now. People are generally safer working in factories due to laws and regulations made after seeing some of the horrors from the early days of the industrial revolution, child labor laws were put into place when reports were written spreading the word of children losing limbs, being crushed, and young factory girls developing what was known as phossy jaw while working in matchstick factories and trade unions were organized in order to allow workers to have some say in their working conditions and pay.
In many companies around the world, trade unions are still utilized to ensure fair conditions for the workers. Unfortunately, the environment has suffered from the effects of industrialization through air pollution but efforts were made when societies and groups were founded to study these effects and figure out how to help. Today most governments are concerned with the quality of air and water so many new developments in clean production have been made. The industrial revolution made the world a more efficient place while also improving our quality of life, just about everything used today can be traced back in some form to the industrial revolution.
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