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Industrial Revolution

British Ingenuity Sparks America's Growth

The Bessemer Converter 
“Making bessemer steel at Pittsburgh - the converters at work [graphic] / drawn by Charles Graham.”
LC-USZ62-108121  [1886] found in the John Bull and Uncle Sam: Four Centuries of British-American Relations (Library of Congress Exhibition)


Research reveals that not all sources agree on the dates of the Industrial Revolution.  However, sources show that it clearly began in Great Britain.

Industrial Revolution in Great Britain

1709 – Abraham Darby (1678-1717) converts furnace to smelt iron with coke instead of charcoal.

1712 – Thomas Newcomen (1663-1729) builds the first commercially successful steam engine known as the Atmospheric Steam Engine.

1733 – John Kay (1704-64) develops the flying shuttle which weaves yarn mechanically rather than by hand., thereby allowing weavers to weave faster.

1742 - Cotton mills first opened in England.

1764 – James Hargreaves (1772-78) is credited inventing the spinning jenny to improve about the spinning wheel.

1769 – Josiah Wedgwood (1730-95) opens a pottery-making factory near Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire, England.

1769 – Richard Arkwright (1732-92) patents his water frame, a spinning machine powered by water.

1769 – James Watt (1736-1819) develops an improved steam engine that allowed steam to be converted.

1770 – Hargreaves patents his spinning jenny

1771 – Richard Arkwright opens a water-powered mill in Cromford, England.

1773 – A group of brokers establishes a stock exchange in London.

1774 – Matthew Boulton (1728-1809) and James Watt open a steam-engine factory in Birmingham, England.

1776 – Adam Smith, founder of modern economics  gets his An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations published.

1779 – Samuel Crompton (1753-1827) invents the spinning mule which is a cross between Hargreaves’ spinning jenny and Arkwright’s water frame.

1781 – James Watt invents a rotary motion device for his steam engine

1784 – Andrew Meikle (1719-1811) Scottish engineer develops a water-powered threshing machine.

1785 –Watt’s steam engine is first used to power a cotton mill.

1785– Edmund Cartwright (1743-1823) patents his water-powered loom.

1786 – Matthew Boulton develops steam-powered coin-minting machinery.

1786– Richard Arkwright uses a Watt engine in a cotton mill.

1791 - A Manchester mill orders 400 of Edmund Cartwright’s power looms, but workers burn down the mill because they fear losing their jobs.

1799-1800 – New Combination Acts outlaw trade unions which are repealed in 1824.

1801 – Richard Trevithick (1771-1833) builds a steam carriage.

1804 – Trevithick runs a steam locomotive on rails in an ironworks.

1806-59 - Isambard Kingdom Brunel builds many railroad lines and tunnels bridges, and steamships during his lifetime.

1811-16 – During Luddite riots, workers destroy machines they fear will replace them.

1823 – Charles Babbage (1791-1871), an English mathematician, develops his difference engine, a mechanical computing machine.

1825 – George Stephenson (1781-1848) builds the  25-mile long Stockton & Darlington Railway.

1829 – Stephenson’s Rocket locomotive travels at 29 mph.

1831 – Michael Faraday (1791-1867) discovers the principle of electromagnetic induction, later used in electric generators.

1838 – The Liverpool & Manchester Railway is extended south to London, thereby making 500 miles of railroad track in Britain.

1840 – Rowland Hill (1795-1879) introduces prepaid mail and the first postage stamps.

1851 – The Great Exhibition opens on May 1 in Hyde Park, London, and runs until October 11. More than 6 million people pay to visit the exhibition.

1855 – Henry Bessemer (1813-98) patents his process for converting pig iron into steel.

1858 – Brunel’s Great Eastern, the largest ship at that time, is launched.

1866 – The Great Eastern lays a telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean.

1901 – Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1937) Italian inventor sends the first transatlantic signal from Cornwall, England, to Canada.

 Morris, Neil Morris. The Industrial Revolution. Heinemann/Raintree, 2010. pp 12-14. Print.

Industrial Revolution in Belgium, France, Germany

1801 – Joseph-Marie Jacquard (1752-1834) French inventor develops a loom that can weave cloth with intricate patterns.

1837 – The first public railroad in France opens between Paris and Saint Germain.

1869 – Alfred Krupp introduces the open-hearth steelmaking process in his factory in Essen, Germany.

1870 - Deutsche Bank is founded in Germany as a specialized bank for foreign trade.

1875 – The German Socialist Democratic Party (SPD) is founded.

1878 – Tariffs are brought in on iron and grains.

1879 – Werner von Siemens (1816-92) German builds the first electric railroad.

1885 – Karl Benz (1844-1929) Germany, Benz develops the first automobile to run on an internal combustion engine.

Morris, Neil Morris. The Industrial Revolution. Heinemann/Raintree, 2010. pp12-14. Print.

Industrial Revolution in the United States

1793 – Eli Whitney (1765-1825) Invents a cotton gin that separates seeds from fibers, speeding up production of the raw material.

1793 – Samuel Slater (1768-1835) Although British, Slater secretly emigrated to America in 1789 taking with him the knowledge of fellow Brit Richard Arkwright’s water-powered spinning machine. Doing so was against the British law of sharing technological information. Slater is credited for being the “father of the American factory system.”  

1798 – Eli Whitney signs a contract with the U.S. government to produce 10,000 muskets in 28 months. Whitney did not invent interchangeable parts of muskets. That invention is attributed to Frenchman and gunsmith Honore Blanc.

1807 – Robert Fulton (1765-1815) Engineer builds the first successful steamboat, the Clermont. In 1809 he obtains a patent from the U.S. government for his steamship.

1808-1825 – Creation of the Erie Canal. Connecting the Atlantic Ocean to the Great Lakes. The canal makes NYC become a key trading center.

1812 – Francis Cabot Lowell (1775-1817) Textile industrialist founds the Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham, Massachusetts.

1814 – Lowell and mechanic and partner Paul Moody create the first American power loom modeled after the British one.

1814 (circa) Lowell is credited for bringing in girls –“mill girls” from the farms to work in the mills, girls as young as 15 years old.

1817 – The New York Stock & Exchange Board is established. The name later changes to New York Stock Exchange.

1819 – The U.S.-built Savannah is the first steamship to cross the Atlantic.

1824 - Robert Owen. Welsh industrialist purchases the town of New Harmony, Indiana, and attempts to implement his cooperative business ideas in an entire community.

1826 – Lowell, Massachusetts is incorporated as a town; it is the first planned U.S. industrial town. The town’s name reflects the textile industrialist Lowell.

1830 – The first U.S. passenger train steams along a line in South Carolina.

1831 – Cyrus McCormick (1809-84) Invented the horse-drawn mechanical grain reaper which allowed for quicker and cheaper harvesting of grain. He is considered the “father of modern agriculture.” In 1834 he applies for a patent.

1837 – Samuel F. B. Morse (1791-1872) His first telegraph device, a one-wire system, is unveiled.

1837 – John Deere (1804-86) Designs first cast steel plow. This plow helped the Great Plains farmers by speeding up farming. The lightweight plow had a steel-cutting edge.

1838 – Samuel Morse invents Morse Code.

1839 – Charles Goodyear (1800-1860) discovers vulcanization, a process to make rubber stronger.

1844 – Samuel Morse. He builds a test telegraph line between Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In 1844 he files a patent for the printing telegraphy and receives it in 1849.

1844 – Elias Howe (1819-67) Invented the lockstitch sewing machine. Applies for a patent in 1846. He legally fought to maintain the right to his invention; he won the suit in 1856. The sewing machine revolutionized the manufacture of clothing—from home to factory.

1851 – Isaac Singer (1811-75) develops an improved sewing machine—the first practical, commercially successful sewing machine and an economical one, thereby affordable to the average American family.

1855 – The first 10-story steel-girder skyscraper is built in Chicago.

1859 – Edwin Drake (1819-80) strikes oil near Titusville, Pennyslvania.

1866 – Cyrus Field (1819-92) Because of his good business sense, Field is considered the father of transatlantic cable as he was able to bring the idea to fruition.

1869 – Railroad lines meet at Promontory, Utah to complete the first continuous railroad track across the country. A golden spike marks the union.

1869 – George Westinghouse (1846-1914) Inventor requests patent for his invention of railroad air brakes and forms the Westinghouse Air Brake Company.

1869 – The first U.S. national workers’ organization, the Noble Order of the Knights of Labor, is founded in Philadelphia.

1870 - John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) and his associates organize the Standard Oil Company.

1876 – Alexander Graham Bell (1847-1922) displays his telephone at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exhibition.

1877 – Thomas Edison (1847-1931) develops the phonograph.

1878 – Edison invents the incandescent light bulb.

1881 – Edison develops the central power station.

1881 – Samuel Gompers (1850-1924) A British-American labor leader who helped establish the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions of the United States and Canada.

1881 - Jay Gould (1836-92) A corrupt railroad king and the first of the “Robber Barons.” He bought Western Union to enhance his control of communication along railroad lines.

1882 –Rockefeller controls the U.S. oil-refinery business.

1882 – Electric lighting illuminates New York City.

1886 – A nationwide strike of factory workers in the United States demands an eight-hour workday

1886 – The American Federation of Labor (AFL) is founded in Columbus, Ohio.

1887 - Nikolas Tesla (1856-1943) –Croatian-born, former Edison Works employee, Tesla files for seven patents. He is considered one of the greatest electrical engineers. By the time he died, he had more than 700 inventions.

1890 – Tesla invents the high-frequency current generator

1890 – Mary Harris Jones aka Mother Jones (1830-1930) Hired as a paid organizer by the United Mine Workers.

1891 – Tesla invents coreless transformers

1892 – Rudolf Diesel (1858-1913) designed a pressure-ignited heat engine—the diesel engine—that would be successfully tested in 1897

1892 – Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) Wealthy steel manufacturer who at that time was considered the wealthiest man in the world combines three of his firms to form the Carnegie Steel Company.

1892 - Steel workers at Carnegie’s Homestead Mill plant go on strike.

1892 – Edison develops the motion-picture studio

1893 – Edison develops a system for making and showing motion pictures.

1893 – Tesla invents the wireless telegraphy system

1899 – Tesla establishes a research laboratory in Colorado Springs, Colorado, to conduct his high voltage experiments using the Tesla coil of 12 million volts.

1901 – Edison develops alkaline storage batteries

1903 – Wright brothers, Wilbur (1867-1912) and Orville (1871-1948), make the first successful flight in a powered aircraft.

1913 – Henry Ford (1863-1947) begins mass-producing the Model-T car in America’s first assembly line.

Morris, Neil Morris. The Industrial Revolution. Heinemann/Raintree, 2010. pp 12-14. Print.

Outman, James L. Outman, Elisabeth M. Outman Outman, and Matthew May May. Industrial Revolution, Biographies. U.X.L., 2003. xi-xiv. Print.