Technology History - Industrial Revolution

Until the late 1700s, goods and tools were hand-made, as seen in historical pictures. One of the most important changes in history was mechanization. Everything from farming to family life was affected by the Industrial Revolution.

Invention of the steam engine, originally devised to pump water out of coal mines, led the way to mechanization of other industries by creating a reliable power supply for machines. Historical images show the textile industry using machinery to manufacture cloth on a large scale, replacing hand-looms and spinning-wheels that had been part of nearly every household throughout earlier history. The factory system replaced home-made clothing with paid textile workers who operated machines that manufactured thread, yarn, and cloth. As readymade shoes and garments became available, many families shopped in clothing stores instead of sewing or knitting their own clothing. As seen in vintage pictures, the new marketplace economy generated advertisements for manufactured goods and prepared foods, another growing industry in the late 1800s.

In other industries as well, pictures of individual craftsmen, such as a village blacksmith using a forge to work iron, are succeeded by images of giant factories with many workers, such as steel mills. Historical pictures show that transportation joined the changeover to steam power, as steamboats and steamships along with steam railroads were a faster way than barges, pack animals, or horse-drawn wagons to transport raw materials and finished goods. Canals became obsolete as railroad tracks were laid. New towns sprang up along the transcontinental railroad because of easier access to markets. The flood of pioneers on the great western wagon trails dwindled to a trickle of people willing to travel long distances on foot or on horseback.

As seen in historical pictures, agriculture was mechanized, too. Farm machines were much more efficient than horse-drawn plows or harvesting by hand, beginning with Cyrus McCormick's reaper in the 1840s. As seen in vintage pictures, planting and harvesting large tracts of land was possible with machinery, a development especially suited to the newly settled farms on the Great Plains of the US and Canada. Cattle drives to herd livestock to railroad stockyards for transport to large-scale slaughterhouses increased the economic importance of ranching, further opening the west.

The sociocultural effects of the Industrial Revolution were enormous. Industrialization caused more women working outside the home, as seen in historical pictures. Child labor in factories was another result. Urbanization replaced agrarian populations for many industrialized nations. Many who crowded into cities faced urban poverty and unhealthy conditions, including sweatshops and slums, as illustrated in historical pictures. Air and water pollution increased in the 1800s because of overcrowding and untreated industrial waste. The negative consequences of the Industrial Revolution created a demand for workplace safety, for prevention of cruelty to animals such as the horses used to pull trolleys and streetcars on city streets, and ultimately for protection of the environment from degradation, including creation of national forests. Labor unions were organized, leading to strikes and violent conflicts between workers and factory owners until reforms were instituted. Government legislation restricted monopolies through antitrust laws, workplace safety standards, and food sanitation regulations. National parks were created to preserve unspoiled natural areas for the enjoyment of all citizens, and in the 20th century, designated wilderness areas were added to the list of protected public lands.

More positive effects of industrialization are also seen in historical pictures. Retailing boomed because shoppers could find an abundance of manufactured clothing, shoes, and prepared foods, lessening the work of making clothes and goods by hand as well as relieving housewives of some cooking and baking duties. The sewing-machine was one of many labor-saving devices for the home invented during the Industrial Revolution, as shown in historical images. Electricity allowed even more changes to be created. Home entertainment that had centered on family sing-alongs, games, and handmade toys expanded to include the phonograph, vacation travel, and movies.


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