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Technological Changes in U.S. History

Technological Changes in U.S. History

In the 17th and 18th centuries, a great migration took place with Europeans moving to the US. This marked the beginning of a nation built from scratch and which later shaped its destiny. The Europeans with their diverse national characteristics, customs and ideas impacted the new country, and thus, colonial America was a result of European’s diverse and powerful motivation that built it into an open canvas for technological and industrial growth (Foner, 2013, p. 111-113). The availability of land, diversity of climate, literate labor, and accessibility to a free and literate market were some of the propelling factors of industrial and technological growth. English entrepreneurs emigrated with the goal of making fortunes in North America and building up social structures that were present in England and which allowed the English to enjoy all liberties (Foner, 2013, p. 46-47). This paper discusses three major technological changes that impacted American history; the changes in the textile industry, the invention of steam engines, and the invention of the telegraph. Do you need urgent assignment help ? Get in touch with us at

Technological Changes in the Mills and Factories

The textile industry had upon its onset, relied heavily on production methods that were labor-intensive. The English textile industry had already spread its cotton-making business to North America with factories using machinery that was powered by water (Foner, 2013, p. 335). Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin which comprised of a simple roller and brush device that separated gin from cotton. As of 1793, cotton marketing had been slowed down by the manual removal of seeds from the plants which was quite laborious. That year, the US produced 5 million pounds of cotton using the new invention. However, as cotton was grown in the South, the economic impact was not significant as the area remained agrarian. The banking and transportation systems remained adjunct to the cotton-growing economy.

In 1789, Samuel Slater, a British immigrant to the US, partnered with Moses Brown 1789 to invent the cotton spinning mill that was powered by a fully mechanized water system (Foner, 2013, p.338). The Slater Mill produced yarn which was spun into cloth by handloom weavers. The British blockade and the European embargo in the 1812 war caused entrepreneurs to open factories in the North Eastern part of America; this set the premise for British innovations to thrive with the growing industrialization (Foner, 2013, p. 340). The independent mill model created by Slater was replaced by Francis Lowell’s British power loom replicas to create the more efficient Waltham System of the 1820s (Foner, 2013, p. 340).

Steam Engines

The expansive construction of roads and canals in the US was fuelled by the ever-growing industries and the need for transportation of goods and services across states. Although canals and turnpikes had been introduced into the transportation system, traveling through these routes was expensive and time-consuming (Foner, 2013, p. 228). Robert Fulton first experimented with the steamboat in the 1790s. However, it was not until 1807 that the first steamboat sailed on the Hudson River from New York to Albany. It took close to 20 years to invent a more economical steamboat. The steamboat services propelled the building of canals across the US. The Erie Canal completed in 1825, allowed for the flow of goods between New York and the Great Lakes. This resulted in the growth of cities such as Syracuse, Rochester, and Buffalo which were established in 1820 on Chesapeake Bay and all tidal rivers of the Atlantic. The success of the Erie Canal inspired other states in the US to build their own which eventually resulted in a meshwork of interconnected canals across the Atlantic States, Ohio, and Mississippi Valleys (Foner, 2013, p. 330-331). The steamboats invented earlier were used for navigating the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

Railroads and Telegraph

The steam engine technology enabled the invention of the steam locomotives that graced 18th-century transportation (Foner, 2013, p.322 Image done in 1884)). The establishment of the railway transport system further reduced the costs of goods transportation (Foner, 2013, p. 343). The construction of the Transcontinental Railroad increased efficiency in transportation, stimulated intense expansion of the national market, and increased investment and settlement in the West (Foner, 2013, p. 541).

The need to transmit information in a fast and reliable way was becoming evident even as industrialization advanced throughout the country. In the years 1837-1844, Alfred Vail and Samuel F.B. Morse developed a short and long-range electric current transmitter that enabled a transmitter to record the electric currents as dashes and dots. The first telegraph line was established by Morse in 1844 and ran between Washington DC and Baltimore (Foner, 2013, p. 331). The ability to relay messages over a long distance in a fast and secure manner had an enormous impact in various fields including diplomacy, banking, and journalism. Once the Transatlantic telegraph cable was positioned in 1866, the telegraph was used in dispatching news from the Mexican-American war fronts, Civil War union troop movement coordination, commodity and stock order and price relaying between markets as well as conducting diplomatic negotiations (Foner, 2013, p.331, p.522


In 1783, American colonies gained their independence at a time when industrial coordination and production changes were beginning to evolve into factories from artisan forms (Foner, 2013, p. 327). The growth of transportation infrastructure as well as improvements in internal transportation in addition to technological innovations, facilitated scale, coordination, and organization of industrial production prior to the civil war. Since then to date, industry, technology, and science have shaped the economic success of America and have also contributed to its distinct cultural identity, educational system, social structure, and political institutions. The country’s legacy of spearheading technological advances has formed the foundation for its values of self-sufficiency, entrepreneurship, meritocracy, and limited government. This paper has discussed three of the major technological changes that graced the history of the US and which continue to impact the nation today.


Foner, E. (2013). Give Me Liberty! An American History: Seagull Fourth Edition (Vol. 1). WW Norton & Company.


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Now is your chance to look back over a few hundred years of American history and try to make some sense of it all. You can think of this as a cross between an essay exam and a short-term paper.

Technological Changes in U.S. History

Technological Changes in U.S. History

One of the important skills that we can sharpen through the study of history is pattern recognition — learning to sort events into patterns and filter out the background noise that makes events seem random. There’s simply too much going on in history to focus on all of it at the same time. So I’m going to ask you to find a pattern — or to put it another way, a storyline, and follow it through time.

Choose a particular topic that’s of interest to you. It could be resistance to slavery, or the argument for/against slavery, the impact of changing technology, or opportunities for women, the role of the military, the reform impulse, religion, the development of the system of government, or changes in political philosophy or political participation; or it could be something else. Think about that particular topic as a storyline in American history. Identify three events/people/turning points where that topic is especially interesting or important. Be sure to space those three points out over time (our course spans the colonial period, through the Revolutionary and early National eras to the Civil War / Reconstruction era — your topic may not fit all those eras, but do try to spread out over a century or more). Then write an essay of about 4 pages in which you use those events or people to tell a story about how America changed (or didn’t change) during that span of time. Not the story, just a story, centered on your chosen topic.

Reference textbook:
Give Me Liberty! An American History. Eric Foner
Seagull Fifth Edition, Volume 1
ISBN: 9780393603422

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