America's Economic Revolution p.254-290

Chapter 10 Study Guide

During the period from 1815 to 1860, the North (New England, the Mid-Atlantic, and the Old Northwest) began to develop more clearly into a market society, a process that began during the War of 1812. In doing so, the North became distinctly different from the South which developed more clearly into a slave society during the same period. First look at the characteristics of a market society and then turn to a discussion of the features that characterized life on pre-industrial farms and the features that characterized the lives of pre-industrial artisans. As the North began the transition from a society with markets to a market society, the lives of farmers and artisans began to change. For example, it was during this transition period that the putting-out system developed in the Northeast, a system that offered an opportunity for farm women to acquire the money necessary to buy more fertile farmland in the West. We also find that the first factories, such as Samuel Slater's spinning mill, emerged along with the advent of the putting-out system. Therefore, the production of goods for the larger marketplace rather than for one's family, one of the major characteristics of a market society, began to alter people's lives and the nature of work.

The shift from a subsistence economy to an industrialized, market-oriented economy was also made possible by a transportation revolution that was encouraged and made possible by state governments that provided economic aid for such internal improvements as turnpikes, canals, and railroads. However, the unification brought about by these internal improvements was regional, for while the North and the West were evolving in the same economic direction, the Cotton South was not. The result was an economic shift from South to North and the solidification of economic links between the Northeast and the Old Northwest. Although many Northerners viewed these internal improvements as a sign of progress, others worried not only about the urban growth these improvements fostered but also about the destruction of the natural environment.

Industrial innovations and an available labor force for emerging factories also helped transform the Northern economy. In the section Factories and Industrialization, we see the advent of the American system of manufacturing (consisting of mass production and interchangeable parts and dependent on the development of a precision machine-tool industry) and its application to the cotton textile industry. However, growth and development in the economic sphere brought changes to the workplace and to the worker. The reality of the Waltham system never matched the ideal, for the emphasis shifted from providing decent working conditions, decent wages, and other amenities for workers to building an industrial empire and maximizing profits. Resulting changes in the workplace, in the nature of the work, in the relationship between owner and worker, and in relationships among workers led the New England mill women to organize and strike in the 1830s. Factory owners then began to search for a more compliant labor force. Irish women, whose work was a necessity and not merely a stage in their lives, provided the answer. Some male workers attempted to regain control over their lives by becoming more active in reform politics and by becoming involved in organized labor. But unsettled economic conditions, hostility by employers, and divisions among workers kept organized labor weak during the period. As a result, organized labor's most notable achievement during the period came when the courts relieved workers from the threat of conspiracy laws being used against them if they organized or engaged in strikes.

The emergence of the textile industry was also accompanied by an increased demand for ready-made clothing, the invention of the sewing machine, and the emergence of the garment industry. With the expansion of manufacturing came the emergence of specialists in commercial transactions. Specialization, another of the major characteristics of a market economy, is also seen in the emergence of commercial farming in the North as many farm families shifted from the mixed agriculture of pre-industrial times to specialization in cash crops.

Although economic expansion accompanied the emergence of a market economy in the North, economic growth was uneven during the period from 1815 to 1860 and was characterized by cycles of boom and bust, which had differing effects on people's lives. In general, ordinary working people faced increasing insecurity, and the lives of farm women were altered as many began to contribute more to the family income.

The heterogeneity that had been a distinctive characteristic of American society since colonial times became more pronounced as some five million immigrants poured into the nation between 1830 and 1860. The Irish and Germans were numerically the two major immigrant groups during this period. After considering the reasons for immigration, we look at the lives of immigrants and the prejudice they often faced in American society. A second group, free blacks, was allowed, unlike Native Americans, to remain within American society but was not allowed equality of economic, political, or social opportunity within that society. As they faced the daily assaults of white racism, African Americans, like Native Americans, struggled in various ways to maintain their dignity, self-respect, and cultural identity. Though a great source of strength, the ethnic and cultural diversity of the North was also a source of tension and division. Such tension and division are natural components of a society that is a mix of ethnic, religious, and socioeconomic groups with divergent belief systems and value systems.

Worker Worlds in Antebellum America

1808 Congress outlaws the importation of slaves.

1816 Eli Terry introduces his shelf clock.

1831 Nat Turner's Rebellion in southern Virginia.

1837 Procter and Gamble founded in Cincinnati, Ohio.

1852 Congress passes steamboat safety law.

American Diversity: This chapter raises the issue of European immigration as an unwanted component of American society. After nearly two centuries of trying to attract immigrants to America, the influx of Irish Catholics in the 1840s stirred popular resentment and political movements with goals of keeping Irish Catholics and other immigrants as a distinct underclass in American society.

Demographic Changes: Lower mortality rates and immigration made the period before the Civil War one of rapid population growth. The geographical center of the population was shifting westward also. One great irony of American population shifts is that as more western lands were settled, the country as a whole became more urban. Cities grew relatively faster than the country in general.

Economic Transformations: During this first Industrial Revolution the legal, economic, and social foundations for Hamilton's vision of America were established. Manufacturing began to eclipse trade as the central focus of the commercial economy, and the factory system created new wealth. As America industrialized the gap between rich and poor grew.

Globalization: As western agricultural production grew and transport of goods from the interior to the coast improved, America developed as an exporter of agricultural products, further linking her to the Atlantic economy. Cotton played a major role as England's textile mills took a large share of America's expanding output.

Reform: Industrialism changed the face and the role of labor in the United States. People left farms for manufacturing jobs in the city. For a brief period women labored in factories under the Lowell System until cheaper immigrant labor replaced them. With wages diminishing and working conditions deteriorating, a fledgling labor movement began to take shape. Workers began to realize that in a world of large corporations, organization was the only way for labor to achieve its goals. That realization alone may have been the major success of the period; no substantial labor reforms occurred.

Digital History

The Roots of American Economic Growth
After the War of 1812, the American economy grew at an astounding rate. The development of the steamboat by Robert Fulton revolutionized water travel, as did the building of canals. The construction of the Erie Canal stimulated an economic revolution that bound the grain basket of the West to the eastern and southern markets. It also unleashed a spurt of canal building. Eastern cities experimented with railroads which quickly became the chief method of moving freight. The emerging transportation revolution greatly reduced the cost of bringing goods to market, stimulating both agriculture and industry. The telegraph also stimulated development by improving communication. Eli Whitney pioneered the method of production using interchangeable parts that became the foundation of the American System of manufacture. Transportation improvements combined with market demands stimulated cash crop cultivation. Agricultural production was also transformed by the iron plow and later the mechanical thresher. Economic development contributed to the rapid growth of cities. Between 1820 and 1840, the urban population of the nation increased by 60 percent each decade.

Biography of America

The Rise of Capitalism (series 7)

Individual enterprise merges with technological innovation to launch the Commercial Revolution -- the seedbed of American industry. The program features the ideas of Adam Smith, the efforts of entrepreneurs in New England and Chicago, the Lowell Mills Experiment, and the engineering feats involved in Chicago's early transformation from marsh to metropolis.

Lecture Outlines

Sectionalism 1790-1825

The Developing North 1800-1855


A Mill workers Dilemma