Factory System

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Inventions Improve American Life

    This section will give you information of famous inventors, their inventions, and links to other sites where you could go for extra information pertaining to the topic.  As you read through the information think about how the different inventions would effect you character profile.  Keep these thoughts in mind while reading: The differences in your work before and after the invention.  Do you think the inventions REALLY benefited the American way of life?  Why or why not?  Which invention was the most beneficial to them?  Do some of these inventions effect us today?  The underlined inventors are links to websites which will give you a more indepth look at that person and their invention.


On the Farm:
    The American farmers were using the same techniques they had brought over from England up to the Revolutionary War.  They turned soil with wooden plows and cut grain with a hand sickle.  They used oxen and mules to thresh grain by trampling out the seeds.  In 1797, Charles Newbold invented the cast-iron plow.  At first the settlers were cautious to try the new method.  They believed it "poisoned" the soil, but they soon realized they were able to get much more work done using the new plow.  In 1837, a blacksmith named John Deere patented the steel plow.  It worked much better than the cast iron plow because it cut the soil at an angle rather than up and down and it was much lighter.  It could be drawn by horses which worked a lot faster than oxen.  In the 1830s, Cyrus McCormick patented a "mowing and reaping" machine.  It enabled farmers to do without large numbers of hired hands.  These last two inventions raised wheat production in the United States so much that American farmers were soon exporting a surplus to Europe.

Other Tools:
    A special bit for cutting chunks of ice large enough so they could be brought to the cities.  That way city dwellers, as well as farmers, could enjoy fresh food.  Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber in 1839.  It protected boots and shoes from rain, snow, and mud and did not become sticky or melt in hot weather.  In 1846 Elias Howe invented the sewing machine, but in 1851 Singer improved it by introducing the foot treadle.  The homemaker only had to spend half and hour instead of 4 hours making and mending clothes.  Clothing was able to be mass produced in factories and it cut down 75% of the cost!  Ordinary people could afford store bought clothes. Singer also came up with two new ideas along with his sewing machine.  He advertised the sewing machines in newspapers and magazines and he also allowed his customers to pay for it in an installment plan.  His business boomed and his ideas were soon adopted by other industries.

    With the boom in production people were looking for faster and more direct ways of shipping their products.  Thus came about the steamboats.  In 1804, Oliver Evan of Philadelphia had designed a high pressure steam engine.  The steamboats were built of wood.  They were propelled by either a stern wheel or side wheels, and were fueled by logs from woodpiles along the riverbanks.  They were also dangerous; fires and boiler explosions were common.  By 1830s, there were some 200 steamboats on the western rivers.  Because of that freight rates and voyage time dropped dramatically.
    By 1840 there were 3,000 miles of railroad track in the United States and by 1850 there was about 10,000 miles in almost every state east of the Mississippi.  Railroad travel began to replace water travel.  It was more expensive, but freight and people reached their destinations much quicker.  Railroad also established standard time zones in the area to help the United States become more efficient.

The telegraph was invented by Samuel F. B. Morse in 1844.  The first test run went from Washington to Baltimore tapped out in Morse Code.  Railroads used the telegraphs regulary to warn engineers of safety hazards along the track.  Industries were able to communicate coast to coast with purchases and selling their product.  All of these inventions started bringing America closer together.

Divine., Breen., Frederickson., Williams. (1994) America, The People and the Dream: Turning Expansion Inward. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman & Co.

Faragher. (1994) Out of Many: The Industrial Revolution.  Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall

Jordan., (1988) The Americas: An Era of Reform.  Evanston, IL: McDougal, Littell & Co.

Websites linked to this page are listed on the teacher's page.
Picture Citations are also listed on the teacher's page.