Since the years after American colonization, the drive of technology and technological advances has been a large part of our history. There have been society-changing inventions that have made millionaires, thriving cities, and one of the world’s most advanced countries.
The fore-mentioned inventions and expansions include the cotton gin, the market expanding the telegraph, steamboat, canals, railroads, farming advances in the steel plow and McCormick reaper. But the most impacting invention is the light bulb and the use of electricity as the power which led to many other inventions.
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In 1793, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin which helped to make the South a money-making machine. The gin made it possible for farmers to grow short-staple cotton for a profit. Short-staple cotton was the only cotton that grew well in the interior regions. Cotton was in great demand in England and the North, which made this gin a major breakthrough. Large amounts of cotton were supplies to them; making Southern farmers a tremendous profit.
Non-slaveholding farmers began cultivating this cash- crop in fertile areas. Wealthy planters bought huge areas of land and put a massive slave labour force to work. By 1820, this system altered the South into a roaring Cotton kingdom and hastened the expansion of slavery.
During the market revolution in the mid- 19th century, many new inventions and technologies, produced in America, contributed vastly to the change in American life.
Samuel F.B. Morse created the telegraph in 1837 and ran a successful test in 1844 that made it conclusive that it will work. The new communication device was used by businessmen to transmit orders and relay fresh information on prices and sales. The telegraph was used by railroads to keep trains moving regularly and to warn engineers of safety hazards. 23,000 miles of telegraph wire was across the country by 1853. The steamboat, invented by Robert Fulton, was a better industry.
Farmers and manufacturers both used the steamboat to ship their goods to market more directly. Also, ships can go up and down rivers and could make the return trip because of the steam engines. By 1830, about 200 steamboats travelled the nation’s western rivers which flowed into the Mississippi, making voyage time and freight rates much lower.
With this tremendous transportation power in the water, waterways had to be created where they did not exist. By 1841, there were more than 3,300 miles of canals. The first major canal was the Erie Canal. Shipping changes fell to about a tenth of the cost of sending goods over land. With the success of this canal, dozens of canal projects were produced. Farmers in Ohio no longer needed the Mississippi and could now ship their grain to New York City through the canal and river.
The rise of railroads began in the 1870s. Shipping by rail costs more, but the vital advantage of speed led to its success. Trains could operate during winter and brought goods to people who did not live near waterways. Railroads became a safe and reliable source of transportation and 10,000 miles of track had been laid by 1850. Heavy investment in canals and railroads transformed the Northeast into the center of American commerce.
Two resourceful inventions allowed farmers to develop fertile farmland more efficiently and cheaply and made farming more profitable. John Deere, a blacksmith, invented the steel plow, enabling farmers to replace their oxen with horses. Deere was selling 13,000 plows each year in the late 1850s. Cyrus McCormick’s mechanical reaper allowed one farmer to do the work of five men. This allowed farmers to grow cash crops instead of just growing to feed themselves. These reapers and plows were sent to them by train, the same train that took their crops to market in the East.
Thomas Alva Edison was an initiator in the new industrial frontier and created a research laboratory in Menlo Park. He perfected the incandescent light bulb there and invented an entire system for distributing and producing electrical power. The controlling of electricity changed the nature of business in America. By 1890, electric power ran numerous machines and became available in homes and impelled the invention of increasing numbers of appliances. Streetcars made travel cheap and efficient and encouraged the growth of cities outwardly.
Also, electricity allowed manufacturers to locate plants where they went, allowing the industry to grow as never before. Although not as effective in its beginning, the telephone that was invented by Alexander Graham Bell laid the groundwork for a worldwide communications network.
The country’s expanding technological advances through the years have changed the everyday lives of people across the country. Inventions such as the typewriter and the telephone affected office work and opened jobs for women. The simple man gained power as a consumer in the marketplace. With all its positive and negative effects, the drive of technology has improved the standard of living overall. People had more opportunities for recreation and the power of industry would never be the same.
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