The Second Industrial Revolution: Technological Developments, Key Stages, and Timeline Highlights

The Second Industrial Revolution: Technological Developments, Key Stages, and Timeline Highlights

The Second Industrial Revolution is also referred to as the Technological Revolution. It took place between 1870 and 1914. The rapid pace of scientific advancement, standardization, mass production, and industrialization were its characteristics. The First Industrial Revolution was a slowdown in the development of significant inventions.

The root of the second industrial event goes back to earlier manufacturing advances. Events like the creation of a machine tool industry.

The Industrial Revolution in the United States

Samuel Slater started industrialization in the United States. Slater brought Richard Arkwright's designs across the Atlantic despite laws. These laws prohibited the emigration of textile workers. He had worked at one of the mills that Arkwright (the inventor of the water frame) opened. Later, he built more cotton mills in New England. Samuel Slater was the "Father of the American Industrial Revolution."

The United States followed its own path to industrialization, propelled by homegrown innovators. innovators like Eli Whitney and innovations "borrowed" from Britain. Whitney's invention of the cotton gin in 1793 completely changed the cotton industry.

How did the Industrial Revolution start in the USA?

For many reasons, the Industrial Revolution began in the USA. Like the previous Industrial Revolution, no single event caused it. Instead, this revolution was the result of a chain of events that happened over time.

The 1800s saw a significant transformation in North America's appearance. Between 1820 and 1860, the United States faced territorial growth. These changes have never happened before. This would proceed fast until internal political unrest descended into widespread civil disorder. This led to the bloody American Civil War in 1861, which lasted until 1865.

The peaceful end of this war started the second revolution in the United States. This was a time of huge social, economic, and technological growth.

Bessemer Steel was a crucial part of the Second Industrial Revolution. This would enable the rapid expansion of vital transport links. Transport links like the transcontinental railroads. 

This further accelerated the speed of industrialization. It pushed the expansion of utilities from the big cities to more rural areas. Utilities like the telegraph, gas and water suppliers, and sewers. The rail lines' expansion after 1870 allowed the movement of people and ideas. It culminated in a new wave of immigration to the States. In the same period, innovators introduced new systems like electrical power and telephones.

Prominent Industrial and Technological Developments

A synergy between iron and steel, railroads, and coal developed at the beginning of the Second Industrial Revolution. Railroads allowed cheap transportation of materials and products. It leads to cheap rails to build more roads. Railroads also benefited from cheap coal for their steam locomotives. This synergy led to the laying of 75,000 miles of track in the U.S. in the 1880s, the largest amount in world history.

These are fifteen of the most important inventions of the Second Industrial Revolution:

  • The light bulb – 1879
  • The telephone – 1876
  • The internal combustion engine – 1886
  • The automobile – 1886
  • The airplane – 1903
  • The radio – 1895
  • Synthetic dyes – 1907
  • Plastics– 1907
  • Aspirin– 1899
  • Canned food – 1809
  • The cash register – 1883
  • The typewriter – 1867
  • The camera – 1888
  • The phonograph – 1877
  • The moving picture – 1895

These are a few of the many new technologies that developed during this time. These inventions had a major impact on society and changed the world forever.

What Was the Rise of American Industry in the 1800s?

In the decades following the Civil War, the United States emerged as an industrial giant. The first 30 years of the nineteenth century saw the birth of American industry. 

Old industries expanded, and many new ones emerged. These industries include petroleum refining, steel manufacturing, and electrical power. The railroads grew a lot in this period. Even remote parts of the country were brought into a national market economy.

Industrial growth transformed American society. It produced a new class of wealthy industrialists and a prosperous middle class. It also produced an expanded blue-collar working class. 

Millions of new immigrants made up the labor force that powered industrialization. American society has become more diverse than ever before.

Not everyone shared in the economic prosperity of this period. Many workers were jobless for at least part of the year, and their wages were low when they did work. This situation led many workers to support and join labor unions.

Meanwhile, farmers also faced hard times. Increasing production led to more competition and falling prices for farm products. Hard times on farms led many young people to move to the city for better job opportunities.

Americans born in the 1840s and 1850s would experience enormous changes. Some of these changes resulted from a sweeping technological revolution. Their primary light source would change. For example, from candles to kerosene lamps and then to electric light bulbs.

They would see their transportation evolve from walking and horsepower to new options. New options include steam-powered locomotives, electric trolley cars, and gasoline-powered automobiles.

They experienced an industrial revolution that changed how people worked and lived. They would see how millions of people moved from rural America to the cities.

What Was America Like in the 1800s?

The decade was a period of drastic change. The advancements of the previous three decades towards the end of the 18th century had propelled the Industrial Revolution into a global movement. 

Using the new technologies, whole wars were fought. This gave impetus to imperialist campaigns in Africa and Asia, as well as the later counter-movement in Latin America.

In the decades following the Civil War, the United States emerged as an industrial giant. Old industries expanded, and many new ones emerged. For example, petroleum refining, steel manufacturing, and electrical power. 

The railroads grew a lot, and even remote parts of the country were brought into a national market economy. Industrial growth transformed American society. It produced a new class of wealthy industrialists and a prosperous middle class. It also produced an expanded blue-collar working class.

Millions of new immigrants made up the labor force that made industrialization possible. American society has become more diverse than ever before.

How Did Industrialization Affect the United States in the Late 1700s?

The Industrial Revolution altered the U.S. economy. It set the stage for the US to dominate technological change and growth in the Second Industrial Revolution and the Gilded Age.

The Industrial Revolution also saw a decrease in labor shortages. Labor shortages characterized the U.S. economy through its early years.

This was partly due to a transportation revolution happening at the same time. Steamboats and rail transport can connect low-population areas to the population centers. This led to an increase in the labor force available around larger cities. 

It led to a lessening of the classic American labor shortages of the time. It was easier to move resources and goods during the 2nd Industrial Revolution. This made trade and production much more efficient and helped the U.S. build a large transport base.

The US developed techniques to make interchangeable parts. and it allowed easy assembly and repair of firearms or other devices. It minimizes the time and skill needed to repair or assemble devices.

By the beginning of the Civil War, innovators developed rifles with interchangeable parts. After the war, innovators made more complex devices with interchangeable parts. devices like sewing machines and typewriters.

In 1798, Eli Whitney obtained a government contract to manufacture 10,000 muskets in less than two years. By 1801, he had failed to produce a single musket. Washington authorities called him to justify his use of Treasury funds.

There, he created a demonstration for Congress. He assembled muskets from parts chosen from his supply. While this demonstration was later proven to be fake, it popularized the idea of interchangeable parts.

Eli Whitney continued using the concept to allow unskilled laborers. These workers produce and repair weapons quickly and at a low cost. Thomas Blanchard is another important inventor. He made the Blanchard lathe, making identical copies of wooden gun stocks possible.

Interchangeable parts made the development of the assembly line possible. The assembly line eliminated the need for skilled craftsmen. Each worker would only do one repetitive step instead of the entire process.

The first industrial revolution affected labor in the United States. Companies from the era would recruit thousands of New England farm girls to work in textile mills. These girls often received much lower wages than men. 

The work and pay gave young women a sense of independence that they did not feel while working on a farm. The First Industrial Revolution also marked the beginning of the rise of wage labor in the US. As wage work grew over the next hundred years, it would affect American society.

What Are the Two Stages of Industrialization in the US?

Historians have found that the US has gone through two stages of industrialization. The first industrial revolution in the US began in the 18th century. It focused on textile manufacturing and steam power.

The textile industry and steam power were the main base of the 1st industrial revolution. The Second Industrial Revolution focused on steel production, railroad construction, and electricity.

Key Stages of the American Industrial Revolution

The American Industrial Revolution began in the years following the end of the Civil War. American entrepreneurs were building on the advancements made in Britain. Industrial innovations and electricity would transform the US like the UK.

The Colonial Era: Cotton Gin, Interchangeable Parts, and Electricity

The American Industrial Revolution wouldn't take full effect until the middle of the 1800s. One colonial innovator made his mark on the young nation.

In 1794, Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. It made the separation of cotton seeds from fiber faster. The South increased its cotton supply. It sends raw cotton north to make clothes.

Francis C. Lowell increased the efficiency of cloth manufacturing. He brought the spinning and weaving processes into one factory. This led to the development of the textile industry throughout New England.

Whitney also came up with the idea of using interchangeable parts in 1798 to make muskets. If standard parts were made by machine, then they could be assembled at the end much more quickly. This became an important element of American industry and the Second Industrial Revolution.

Benjamin Franklin was busy experimenting with electricity during this era. He invented the lightning rod. Michael Faraday in the U.K. would lay the foundation for modern electrical motors.

1800-1820: Transportation and Expansion

The young U.S. wasted no time in expanding westward following independence. The nation's westward expansion in the 1800s was aided in no small part by its vast network of rivers and lakes. The Erie Canal made it possible to travel from the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. This helped New York's economy and made New York City a great place to do business.

The lake cities of the Midwest were booming thanks to steamboat transportation. Road transit was also beginning to link portions of the country together. They built the Cumberland Road, the first national road, in 1811. This later became part of Interstate 40.

1820–1850: The Middle Class's Ascent

The industry expanded as major water networks in the west saw the emergence of new cities. Midway through the 1820s, the Erie Canal and other industrial hubs saw the emergence of the first freight railroads. In 1830, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad started running regularly scheduled passenger service.

The invention of the telegraph in 1844 also changed the country. because it made it possible for people to send news and information immediately. As the rail system grew, it was impossible to avoid putting telegraph lines and relay offices along the main routes in train stations.

The middle class started to increase as the industry grew. Thanks to early industrialization, many Americans gained disposable income. Some people have free time for the first time. Innovators created new industrial and domestic machines as a result. Elias Howe invented the sewing machine in 1846, revolutionizing the apparel industry. The productivity of factories may increase. Homemakers could make clothing for the family much faster.

Impact of the Civil War, 1850–1870

At the outset of the American Civil War, railroads were crucial to boosting trade across the country. The lines connected the most significant Midwestern cities to the Atlantic coast. They fueled the region's industrial expansion. They finished the transcontinental railroad in 1869 at Promontory, Utah, and made the rail gauges the same in the 1880s. The railroad became the main way for people and goods to travel for the rest of the 19th century.

Other technology changed as a result of the Civil War. Innovators developed photography around 1830. Semi-portable cameras and horse-drawn mobile darkrooms made it possible to capture the battle.

The telegraphs help to communicate the news of the country across great distances. Newspapers published the engravings of these images in all sizes. Medicine has come a long way since the first anesthetics were used, and new ways were found to treat injuries.

Another discovery, made in 1859, would have effects not only on the Civil War but also on the rest of the country. They found the first large oil reserves in Titusville, Pennsylvania. And the state became the center of oil drilling and refining in the United States.

Electricity, Telephones, Steel, And Labor Between 1870 And 1890

The electrical network would change the country. These changes were more than the railways had during the decades following the Civil War. Thomas Edison patented the first usable incandescent light bulb in the world in 1879. building on work carried out by a British inventor. He soon started advocating for the construction of an electrical grid in New York City. He did it to support his idea.

Edison relied on direct-current (D.C.) power transmission. It was only capable of sending electricity over short distances. George Westinghouse, a competitor, built an electrical network. It was different from Edison's. It pushed for the use of alternating-current (A.C.) transmission transformers.

The telephone was another recent technology. The same poles that supported the new power lines support the wires. In 1876, when the United States turned 100, many inventors showed off this product. Inventors like Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Edison,

People's movement from farms to cities helped the urbanization process. The stronger steel alloys by metallurgists allowed the building of the first skyscraper in Chicago in 1885. Steel was another 19th-century invention.

The workforce would also change, especially in the first half of the 20th century. when special organizations helped workers gain more economic and political power.

The Assembly Line, Mass Transit, And the Radio in 1890 And Beyond

Nikola Tesla's inventions helped George Westinghouse surpass Thomas Edison. But he finally lost out to Edison. A.C. had taken over as the primary power transmission method by the early 1890s. Like railroads, industry standardization allowed electrical networks to grow. It grew first in cities and then in less populated areas.

By providing electricity, these electrical wires enabled people to work in the dark. The nation's manufacturers' light and heavy machinery were also powered by it. This process fueled its economic growth during the 20th century.

Henry Ford's use of the assembly line in the production process changed American industry. It hastened the development of another breakthrough, the automobile, which Karl Benz created in 1885.

Public transportation was also expanding during the period. The first U.S. subway opened in Boston in 1897, along with above-ground electric streetcars.

The development of radio in 1895 would once again revolutionize mass communication. It would alter how the country communicated, improving its development and expansion.

How Did Industrialization Affect the Economy in the United States?

During the revolution, the capitalist concept of wages was a popular one. Workers had to give up their means of production in exchange for an hourly wage.

There were many factories, and the larger factories outnumbered the smaller ones. They were forced to work for more giant factories instead.

This led to market fluctuations and increased wealth for the wealthy. They had more power. The capitalists benefited from the local and international consumer markets. By this time, America was a major economic force on the world stage. All labor-related legislation is a political outcome of the American Industrial Revolution.

The continuation of positive ties with Japan coincided with economic growth. The geographic reach of America also grew faster. Urban workers have also started to take an interest in politics. They contributed to passing laws like the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

How Did the Industrial Revolution Change American Society?

The Industrial Revolution facilitated the rise of unskilled labor. Craftsmanship no longer required labor because the machines could make up for it. People made a lot of goods that were cheap and easy to get. This made the American way of life easier and simpler.

The United States' industrialization accelerated after the Civil War. The number of natural products was expanded due to the country's expanding area. Both raw materials and finished goods were much easier to transport by train. As a result, there were more immigrant workers available for various jobs.

People in business took all the risks of importing immigrants to grow their industries. And they occasionally intimidated minor competitors to force them out of the market.

New discoveries assisted in the advancement of manufacturing, transportation, and communication. The works include Edison's inventions of the light bulb, electric dynamo, and kinetograph. Another invention is Bell's development of the telephone.

Children and women joined the workforce due to the rise in human resources. The problem of child labor has grown. Labor unions grew during this period. Hazardous working conditions and worries about pay and child labor were its causes. The workforce in cities rose along with the growth in work. As a result, the United States transitioned from a rural to an urban culture.

How did the United States Benefit From the Industrial Revolution?

The American industrial revolution brought about many favorable conditions. These circumstances include the introduction of new technology and a rapid population rise. Other circumstances are labor increase, more resources; better food production.

They developed more agricultural and economic resources. More people joined the workforce, and technology improved. The US also served as a productive environment for it. Industrial development aided economic progress, which also promoted exploitation.

The U.S. saw economic expansion, improved internal markets, and improved transportation services. The American industrial revolution also brought skilled workers and more advanced equipment. This aided in luring and attracting both industrial and economic expansion. The industrial revolution brought smart, friendly, and ambitious people from European countries.

How Did the Second Industrial Revolution Change Americans' Lives?

The Second Industrial Revolution may have brought the most changes in various ways. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cities expanded. In this period, the clock began to dictate people's lives rather than the sun. It had a significant impact on how people's lives changed.

The manufacture of mass-produced consumer items and weapons. Traveling by train, car, or bicycle has become much easier. News and ideas were disseminated simultaneously through the telegraph, radio, and newspapers. Life accelerated significantly.

The Timeline Highlights

Mass production assembly lines and electrification defined the Second Industrial Revolution. New technological developments have led to the use of new energy sources. New energies include electricity, gas, and oil. Everything has grown in scale. The basis of this revolution was a new factory-based economic and industrial model.

Frederick Winslow Taylor devised ways to organize production to push industries forward. American business magnate Henry Ford also did it.

The telegraph and telephone transformed communication techniques. The steel industry started to expand. Transportation methods saw significant change as scientists built on earlier discoveries to produce the automobile in the late 1800s and the airplane in the early 1900s.

All the following are milestones:

  • With the invention of electricity and oil
  • the telephone
  • The growth of cross-country railroads in the U.S.
  • The reliance of industry on mass-produced assembly lines
  • heavy machinery powered by electricity. 

You can also read the following article to get more familiar with Industrial Revolution:

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The Second Industrial Revolution: Technological Developments, Key Stages, and Timeline Highlights

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24th Jul 2022 Saeed Abd

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