Lecture 14 Part 1 – American Industrial Revolution

Hi, everyone. We’re back, discussing the period after the War of 1812, which is commonly referred to by historians as the Era of Good Feelings. Americans were celebrating their second independence from Britain and beginning to transform their young republic into an ever larger nation as hundreds of thousands of people begin flocking westward. The big problem for the country during this time period is there are no interstates. There are no rail lines really connecting especially east and west. As a result, at the end of the War of 1812 we start to see several people suggesting the United States invest in infrastructure Improvements. Henry Clay of Kentucky is one of those individuals – a Congressman from Kentucky. He’s going to actually propose a pretty broad system of improvements known as the American System, in which he wants a protective tariff. He wants, in other words, a higher tax on imported manufactured goods so that manufactured goods here in the United States could compete a little more successfully with international products. He’s going to want a national bank to help oversee the the banking system here in the United States. And he’s also going to suggest federal funding for a bunch of internal improvements like the building of roads and canals. So along those lines, we’ll see that, for example, the Cumberland Road – you can see it here on the map – or also known as the National Road, will be one of the first major infrastructure projects financed by the federal government. Started in Maryland in 1805 and finished in Illinois in 1840, this will be among the most well-traveled of these east to west roads created by the federal government. And to a lesser extent, you’re going to see some state governments as well getting in on the road building business. Canals are also important for moving goods via water. A canal is just a man-made waterway usually connecting two existing natural waterways – a lake and a river or a river and a river. You get what I’m saying. The Erie Canal, for instance, will be another of these massive building projects.It will take nine years to complete in 1825 – a canal stretching 350 miles from the city of Albany, New York to Buffalo, New York along the Great Lakes. You can see the area in the circle here. What it will do is open up New York City, which is here at the bottom of the Hudson River. Now ships can go north on the Hudson River. then take a left or go west on the Erie Canal. That will get them to the Great Lakes and this will open up all of the upper midwest to trade between the east coast and this region. And water transportation is a lot faster than moving overland. And very quickly it’s going to shrink the amount of time it takes to move freight and goods from New York City to western New York state and Buffalo. For example, the cost of moving a ton of freight from New York City to Buffalo plummeted after the canal’s construction, from one hundred dollars to only five dollars. It also helps people migrate west more quickly. For example, the canal shorten the time it took to travel from New York City to Buffalo from 26 days to only six days. Imagine that. It takes almost a month to move across the state of New York. Now it takes a little less than a week. So New York City will start to boom and become a center of trade and finance over time. At least in part due to the construction of the Erie Canal, the population of New York City, for example, grew from 123,000 residents in 1820 to almost 700,000 residents just 30 years later by 1850. So water transportation though, was still somewhat limited because you had to rely upon sail technology. If the wind’s not blowing and you’re trying to move upstream you’re going to have a very difficult go of it. Robert Fulton will be an American inventor who will help to adapt the steam engine, which had already been created, he’s going to take that steam engine. He’s going to put it in a sailing vessel – the Clermont – to create the first steamship in 1807, which will navigate successfully up the Hudson River. And so his invention will really kind of usher in what becomes known as the golden age of steamboat travel here in the United States. You’ve seen those huge ships with a huge paddle wheel on the back of them? That’s a steam engine making those paddles rotate. This will be the major mover of goods and people, that is until the advent of the railroads. We also need to see that, in addition to advances in transportation, we’ll have advances in timekeeping. Benjamin Banneker will be born into a free black family in Maryland. He was taught to read by his grandmother Molly and briefly attended a one-room interracial school taught by the Quakers. He showed a very early interest in mathematics and mechanics. By 1792 Banneker had already began publishing what would end up being a series of almanacs based upon his own painstakingly calculated astronomical observations. He’ll also include in his almanacs commentaries on literature & medicine. He will actually have an active correspondence with, of all people, Thomas Jefferson – in which he will lobby quite a bit for the end of slavery. So Banneker – a very interesting intellectual, someone that really became quite reliable for his series of almanacs which he published. But also he will invent an accurate wooden striking clock, based on his own drawings and calculations. And this clock would continue to run until it was destroyed in a fire 40 years later. Learning how to keep time more accurately is also part of some of the changes that will be associated with the so-called industrial revolution. And the industrial revolution will begin to involve machines taking the place of some human labor. and It will involve these machines mass Producing Goods like textiles or cloth, furniture, shoes or other items that had been made in people’s homes up until this point in time. In fact, pre-Industrial revolution, there was manufacturing. It was just on a much smaller scale and people did it in their homes. And they did it on their own timetable. This was often referred to as as the cottage system, because it was taking place in people’s homes or cottages – or sometimes referred to as the putting out system, whereby business owners would put out their labor to people’s Individual homes. They would provide them the raw materials. The person would provide the labor. The owner would come by and pick up the half-finished shoes and pay you for what you did – pay you per piece for how many shoes you got done. And then he would go and either sell his product if it was finished or take it to the next household to take it to the next stage of production. So a lot of this will involve new machines that are powered by water and steam. The first factories in the United States will start to develop in the northeast. And this had a lot to do with a fairly dense network of rivers in the Northeast. So you’re going to see these huge waterwheels pushing some of this new machinery to help spin thread from raw cotton fibers, or new power looms, as they were known, to weave those strands of thread into cloth to make clothing, curtains, what have you. So we’re going to see a lot of changes as a result of the industrial revolution. Now people are being paid by the hour because they are not doing the work. They’re supervising machines. But they are not cranking out many of these materials themselves. So now we get to the concept of wage labor. You are paid a wage per hour that you work for someone else. So some pretty significant changes. And, like I said, in New England – in the northeast – this is where we see a lot of this textile manufacturing. Frances Lowell was among the most profitable owners of several of these textile mills in the northeast. So we often talk about the young women who went to work in some of these mills as mill girls or Lowell girls. Going to work in some of these mills you see a lot of young unmarried women in the northeast. This was considered adventure, if you can believe it or not. This is their first chance to kind of get away from home and to go work for their own wages and to go live somewhere else. So at these Lowell mills in many cases they would have the textile mill and right next to it a series of dormitories or company housing. So you actually lived on site. When the whistle called you to work, you went to work. And as you can see, for some of these women it was empowering and it was kind of liberating to go off by themselves to a different type of life to earn their own wage. There are also some downsides to it. Look at the average day – the number of hours in each month of the year that these girls were laboring. These are really, really long days, Not only that, they’re not allowed much time for breakfast, 30 minutes essentially for breakfast and lunch and dinner. Also, the girls have to be very careful what they’re doing. This was based upon some interviews with women working in some of these textile mills. And the woman mentioned –
the girls – are working three of these looms, these massive pieces of equipment. And they’re constantly having to move between them. Some may attend four. She said this requires a “very active person”. Imagine with this huge equipment. I’ll go back one slide. This is an artist’s rendition based upon actual machines, of what the interior of one of these mills looked like. Imagine you really have to be paying attention here. All those wheels and moving parts. If you get part of your dress caught up in this, a piece of hair, you will be maimed and possibly killed on the job. During this time period there’s no worker protections. You do not get a settlement if you get injured on the job. There’s no workmen’s compensation. It’s brutal. And not to mention worker protections, the woman went on to say the atmosphere, which is to say the air, is charged with cotton filaments and dust. So these people are not wearing any kind of respirators or masks to protect them. So there’s some pluses, definitely some minuses for these very hardworking individuals in some of these earliest Industries in the northeast. And we need to understand too that many of these factories, textile mills in the northeast are depending on cheap slave grown cotton from the American South. So here’s where we get to cotton cultivation. If you can remember earlier in the class, I said cotton really doesn’t become a very popularly grown crop until the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. And that’s for two reasons. Number one: a new variety of cotton that could grow away from coastal areas. It was developed. So you end up with a variety of cotton that doesn’t require you to be living just along a narrow strip along the Sea Islands, say, off the coast of North and South Carolina and Georgia. Now people can take this newer variety of cotton inland hundreds of miles. And they can still grow this crop successfully. The second major change is Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin in 1793. You cannot take raw cotton from the field and immediately send it off to be processed into thread. It’s studded with hundreds of sticky seeds that cling to the cotton fibers. You had to pick that stuff out by hand, which was very, very time-consuming. Now, however, you have a machine that you can feed the raw cotton in – this cotton gin. And it will de-seed the cotton and spit out the clean cotton on the other side much, much faster. For example, before the invention of the cotton gin it took one laborer a whole day to produce about one pound of de-seeded cotton if they were picking it out by hand. Now with the invention of the cotton gin, one laborer could produce 50 pounds of cotton by feeding it through this machine and getting it de-seeded much, much faster. And so as cotton becomes now the major crop being grown by southern farmers, they’re picking up and moving west. Take a look at this map and the states as they start to come into the union. You have a rapid-fire succession of several states in which cotton will be the cash crop grown in these regions. Also, you’ll have some territorial expansion with the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1819, where Spain will agree peacefully to sell Spanish Florida to the United States. Spain sees that the United States is an up-and-coming industrial power as well as a military power. They once more stood their ground against the British in the War of 1812. And they don’t really need Florida. They’re making most of their money in Central America and South America. So they agreed to a peaceful transference of this territory. But as the nation is moving westward, moving southward, this is bringing up a persistent problem in the U.S. Congress between northern states, which have outlawed slavery, and southern states, which believed that slavery should continue to move westward. This is starting to become a huge bone of contention between the northern and southern states – should slavery be allowed to move westward. And by 1819 you have a delicate balance in Congress. You have precisely 11 free states – meaning the northern states, and you have precisely 11 slave states in the south. But now you also have another territory – Missouri – waiting in the wings to become the next state here in the United States. And Missouri will likely come in as a slave state/ This brings up a major debate in Congress, which we’ll talk about more in the second half of this lecture.

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