The Spread of the Industrial Revolution

Studying for the test:factories in Manchester, England

Hobsbawm talks 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:

Critical thinking: what caused the differences between the industrial revolution in the US and in Britain?

American conditions were very different from those in England:

immigrants by
          country as a percent of US population
this chart is of new permanent legal residents, does not include undocumented immigrants or people brought to the US as slaves

The industrial 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 its advantage
Slater Mill with waterfall in front
  Slater Mill
First successful mill--Slater Mill

the green line points to the location of Lowell north and west of Boston
map from National Atlas of the United States
Origins of Lowell--the first large textile factories in the U.S. :

Boots Mill, Lowell

recruiting women for the mills
The Lowell labor system:

 weaving (image #10)
Lowell changes: In order to have factories, there needed to be better transportation to distribute factory-made goods over a wide area
Now consider transportation issues in the United States:
Transportation was 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 American conditions.

Turnpikes in the U.S.:

  A Burr Truss Covered Bridge

Canals in the U.S.:

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.   Map HistoryVisitor Centermap showing Merrimack and Charles rivers
Middlesex canal 

A similar story could be told about the Erie canal.  

 Celebration of the Completion of the Erie Canal

The railroad in the U.S.:


 Best Friend of Charleston, 1830
total mileage in the United States:
1830 1840 1850 1860 1870
canals 1277 3326 3698

railroad     73 3328 8879 30,636 50,000

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  cost/mile

 railroad construction (image HD217)

 The John 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.

this page written and copyright  Pamela E. Mack
last updated 9/13/2019