The Market Revolution in America
Deadline, April 13, 120 Points
How did your selected topic or question change America during the Market Revolution?
One of Samuel Slater's mills in restored condition, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.
For this assignment you, and a partner if you choose to work with one, will create an essay, brochure, newspaper, newspaper article, or web page about one of the questions listed below. So, the formatting of the text, how it appears, may or may not follow MLA formatting. However, you need to include your sources - no matter what format you choose.
First Step - Use the book
The best place to begin work on this assignment will probably be Chapter 19 of the online textbook. You will need to use other sources as you work in your short essays, but the textbook chapter will be a great place to start. I will post a few sources to the website, but be sure to ask for help too. Be specific in your essays. Use examples.
Second Step - Use the sources. Read them.
You will see that each question or topic has sources listed below it. Use them. There is probably enough there to give you a very good start on your topic. You will probably not need to spend a lot of time in web searches.In fact, I recommend against it. The best thing to do first is to read through the sources for your topic or question. Learn about it. Become an expert in it.
Third step - Begin assembling your materials, and writing
Often people will just jump right to this step. Don't do that! This is the last part of process. Be patient, but work steadily. Keep your focus on your work.
Only about 1/4 of your paper may be direct citations and quotations. The rest is the narrative, told by you. Make sure you include your citations and sources correctly.
You will notice there are ten questions or topics listed below. Each topic may only be used as many times as required to provide minimal repition for the working groups in each class. Here’s an example. If a class had 20 groups, each topic would be used twice.
After you select your topic, you need to tell me what it is.
You may work in teams of two if you choose. You are not required to use a partner.
In-class time for this assignment will depend on how well class members use it.
Here are the requirements:
The rubric will be posted below.
Assignment Questions & Topics:
First Hour Topic Choices
Second Hour Topic Choice
Some Source Materials Are Listed Below
Primary Sources about Mill Girls
Orestes Brownson, The Laboring Classes: An Article from the Boston Quarterly Review, Boston: Benjamin H. Greene, 1840.
The operatives are well dressed, and we are told, well paid. They are said to be healthy, contented, and happy. This is the fair side of the picture . . . There is a dark side, moral as well as physical. Of the common operatives, few, if any, by their wages, acquire a competence . . . the great mass wear out their health, spirits, and morals, without becoming one whit better off than when they commenced labor. The bills of mortality in these factory villages are not striking, we admit, for the poor girls when they can toil no longer go home to die. The average life, working life we mean, of the girls that come to Lowell, for instance, from Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, we have been assured, is only about three years. What becomes of them then? Few of them ever marry; fewer still ever return to their native places with reputations unimpaired. “She has worked in a Factory,” is almost enough to condemn to infamy the most worthy and virtuous girl.
A Factory Girl, “Factory Girls,” Lowell Offering, December 1840
Whom has Mr. Brownson slandered? . . . girls who generally come from quiet country homes, where their minds and manners have been formed under the eyes of the worthy sons of the Pilgrims, and their virtuous partners, and who return again to become the wives of the free intelligent yeomanry of New England and the mothers of quite a proportion of our future republicans. Think, for a moment, how many of the next generation are to spring from mothers doomed to infamy! . . . It has been asserted that to put ourselves under the influence and restraints of corporate bodies, is contrary to the spirit of our institutions, and to that love of independence which we ought to cherish. . . . We are under restraints, but they are voluntarily assumed; and we are at liberty to withdraw from them, whenever they become galling or irksome. Neither have I ever discovered that any restraints were imposed upon us but those which were necessary for the peace and comfort of the whole, and for the promotion of the design for which we are collected, namely, to get money, as much of it and as fast as we can; and it is because our toil is so unremitting, that the wages of factory girls are higher than those of females engaged in most other occupations. It is these wages which, in spite of toil, restraint, discomfort, and prejudice, have drawn so many worthy, virtuous, intelligent, and well-educated girls to Lowell, and other factories; and it is the wages which are in great degree to decide the characters of the factory girls as a class. . . . Mr. Brownson may rail as much as he pleases against the real injustice of capitalists against operatives, and we will bid him God speed, if he will but keep truth and common sense upon his side. Still, the avails of factory labor are now greater than those of many domestics, seamstresses, and school-teachers; and strange would it be, if in money-loving New England, one of the most lucrative female employments should be rejected because it is toilsome, or because some people are prejudiced against it. Yankee girls have too much independence for that. . . . And now, if Mr. Brownson is a man, he will endeavor to retrieve the injury he has done; . . . though he will find error, ignorance, and folly among us, (and where would he find them not?) yet he would not see worthy and virtuous girls consigned to infamy, because they work in a factory.
Title:Samuel FB Morse and his Invention, Influence of the Telegraph & Morse Code, Young American Republic
Samuel F.B Morse created possibly the most revolutionary piece of technology ever to be seen in the mid 19th century. Morse created the system of dots and dashes, later called Morse Code after the man himself, that could be sent using electromagnetic impulses over extremely large distances almost instantaneously. This was a quicker and more efficient means of communication that had ever been imagined in the United States.
With the help of Physicist Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail, Morse started developing this system of electrical communications in the beginning of 1836, the effects of which would not be seen until after 1844 following the granting of Congressional funds for the project.
Samuel Morse helped to create the first modern communication array in the United States in the 19th century, blurring the endless miles between cities and major urban areas in a way that brought commerce, politics, and social issues ever closer to the American people. This sudden meeting of conflicting ideals due to the telegraph developed by Samuel Morse directly assisted in steering the nation towards that of armed conflict and political turmoil in the years following its development.
Title:How the McCormick Reaper Revolutionized Farming
Date published:June 21, 2019
Cyrus McCormick, a blacksmith in Virginia, developed the first practical mechanical reaper to harvest grain in 1831 when he was only 22 years old. His machine, at first a local curiosity, proved to be enormously important.
In the decades following McCormick’s first attempts to bring mechanical aid to farm work, his invention would revolutionize farming in the United States and around the world.
McCormick’s father had earlier tried to invent a mechanical device for harvesting but gave up on it. But in the summer of 1831 the son took up the job and labored for about six weeks in the family blacksmith shop.
Confident he had worked out the tricky mechanics of the device, McCormick demonstrated it at a local gathering place, Steele’s Tavern. The machine had some innovative features that would make it possible for a farmer to harvest grain faster than could ever be done by hand.
As the demonstration was later described, local farmers were at first puzzled by the peculiar contraption that looked like a sled with some machinery on top of it. There was a cutting blade and spinning parts which would hold grain heads while the stalks were being cut.
As McCormick began the demonstration, the machine was pulled through a wheat field behind a horse. The machinery began to move, and it was suddenly apparent that the horse pulling the device was doing all the physical work. McCormick only had to walk beside the machine and rake the wheat stalks into piles which could be bound as usual.
The machine worked perfectly and McCormick was able to use it that year in the fall harvest.
McCormick produced more of the machines, and at first, he only sold them to local farmers. But as word of the machine’s amazing functionality spread, he began selling more. He ultimately started a factory in Chicago. The McCormick Reaper revolutionized agriculture, making it possible to harvest large areas of grain much faster than could have been done by men wielding scythes.
Because farmers could harvest more, they could plant more. So McCormick’s invention of the reaper made the possibility of food shortages, or even famine, less likely.
It was said that before McCormick’s machinery changed farming forever, families would have to struggle to cut enough grain during the fall to last them until the next harvest. One farmer, highly skilled at swinging at scythe, might only be able to harvest two acres of grain in a day.
With a reaper, one man with a horse could harvest large fields in a day. It was thus possible to have much larger farms, with hundreds or even thousands of acres.
The earliest horse-drawn reapers made by McCormick cut the grain, which fell onto a platform so it could be raked up by a man walking alongside the machine. Later models consistently added practical features, and McCormick’s farm machinery business grew steadily. By the end of the 19th century, McCormick reapers did not just cut wheat, they could also thresh it and put it into sacks, ready for storage or shipment.
At the Great Exhibition of 1851 in London, McCormick exhibited his latest model. The American machine was the source of much curiosity. McCormick’s reaper, during a competition held at an English farm in July 1851, outperformed a British-made reaper. When the McCormick reaper was returned to the Crystal Palace, the site of the Great Exhibition, word had spread. In the crowds attending the exhibition, the machine from America became a must-see attraction.
In the 1850s McCormick’s business grew as Chicago became the center of the railroads in the Midwest, and his machinery could be shipped to all parts of the country. The spread of the reapers meant that American grain production also increased.
It has been noted that McCormick’s farming machines may have had an impact on the Civil War, as they were more common in the North. And that meant farmhands going off to war had less impact on grain production. In the South, where hand tools were more common, the loss of farm hands to the military had much more impact.
In the years following the Civil War the company founded by McCormick continued to grow. When workers at McCormick’s factory struck in 1886, events surrounding the strike led to the Haymarket Riot, a watershed event in American labor history.
Title:Who Made America? | Innovators | Cyrus McCormick
American Big Business
A Virginia farmer invented a mechanical reaper, then harvested profits in the Midwest’s exploding grain belt, innovating credit, service, and sales practices that became essential parts of American big business.
In 1831, twenty-two-year-old Cyrus McCormick took over his father’s project of designing a mechanical reaper. Working on his family’s Virginia farm, McCormick implemented features of the machine that remain in use today: a divider, a reel, a straight reciprocating knife, a finger, a platform to catch the cut stalks, a main wheel and gearing, and a draft traction on the front. In 1834, in the face of competition from other inventors, McCormick took out a patent and soon after, began manufacturing the reaper himself.
The mechanical reaper was an important step in the mechanization of agriculture during the nineteenth century. Before the reaper, the amount of grain that could be cut by hand during the short harvest season limited both food supply and farm sizes. McCormick’s reaper would win international acclaim at the first world’s fair in London’s Crystal Palace, in 1851. It would also free farm laborers to work in factories in the expanding industrial revolution. In the late 1840s, McCormick made a fateful business decision, moving to the young town of Chicago in America’s western frontier and gambling that America’s agricultural future was in the nation’s prairie states: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, and the territories that would become Nebraska, Kansas, and Minnesota. His venture would repay him with a fortune.
“Work, Work, Work”
McCormick single-mindedly devoted himself to work. In 1848 his factory made 500 reapers; in 1851 it produced a thousand; by 1857 it was turning out 23,000. Continuously introducing improvements, McCormick launched new models every year, as car dealers do today. He bought other agricultural patents and companies, expanding his empire to sell mowers, harvesters, and more. He offered money-back guarantees and credit to struggling farmers, saying, “It is better that I should wait for the money than that you should wait for the machine that you need.” He established an extensive service organization, staffed with local agents who could befriend farmers, show them how to use the machines, and assess their credit-worthiness. McCormick died in 1884, hard-driving to the end; his final words were, “Work, work, work.” His company would combine with others to become the International Harvester Company two decades after his death.
Title:Eli Whitney’s Patent for the Cotton Gin
Website title:National Archives |
Date published:December 16, 2021
Eli Whitney and the Need for an Invention
A recent graduate of Yale, Eli Whitney had given some thought to becoming a lawyer. But, like many college graduates, he had debts to repay first and needed a job. Reluctantly, he left his native Massachusetts to assume the position of private tutor on a plantation in Georgia.
There Whitney quickly learned that Southern plantation owners were looking for a way to make cotton growing profitable at a time when tobacco was declining in profit due to over-supply and soil exhaustion. Long-staple cotton, which was easy to separate from its seeds, could be grown only along the coast. The one variety that grew inland had sticky green seeds that were time consuming to pick out of the fluffy white cotton bolls. Whitney was encouraged to find a solution to this problem by his employer, plantation owner Catherine Greene. Her financial support would be critical to his success.
Whitney knew that if he could invent such a machine, he could apply to the federal government for a patent. If granted, he would have exclusive rights to his invention for 14 years based on the Patent Act of 1790, and he could hope to reap a handsome profit from it.
The Constitution and Patent Law
The Constitution empowers Congress “To promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries” in Article I, Section 8, Clause 8. Patent law must carefully balance the rights of the inventor to profit from his or her invention (through the grant of a temporary monopoly) against the needs of society at large to benefit from new ideas.
The patent bill of 1790 enabled the government to patent “any useful art, manufacture, engine, machine, or device, or any instrument thereon not before known or used.” The patent act of 1793 gave the secretary of state the power to issue a patent to anyone who presented working drawings, a written description, a model, and paid an application fee. Over time the requirements and procedures have changed. Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is under the auspices of the Department of Commerce.
Whitney Patents a Cotton Gin
In hopes of making a patentable machine, Whitney put aside his plans to study law and instead tinkered throughout the winter and spring in a secret workshop provided by Catherine Greene. Whitney received a patent for his cotton gin in 1794 (his idea was based on earlier gins and also on ideas from other people, including Greene and enslaved laborers; some say that these were the rightful inventors of the cotton gin). Greene and her husband, Phineas Miller, financed Whitney and the legal battle that would ensue.
A small gin could be hand-cranked; larger versions could be harnessed to a horse or driven by water power. “One man and a horse will do more than fifty men with the old machines,” wrote Whitney to his father, “Tis generally said by those who know anything about it, that I shall make a Fortune by it.” But patenting an invention and making a profit from it are two different things.
Originally, Whitney opted to produce as many gins as possible, install them throughout Georgia and the South, and charge farmers a fee for doing the ginning for them. Their charge was two-fifths of the profit – paid to them in cotton itself. However, farmers and plantation owners throughout Georgia resented having to go to Whitney’s gins where they had to pay what they regarded as an exorbitant tax. They began making their own versions of Whitney’s gin and claiming they were “new” inventions. Greene and Miller brought costly suits against the owners of these pirated versions, but because of a loophole in the wording of the 1793 patent act, they were unable to win any suits until 1800, when the law was changed.
Struggling to make a profit and mired in legal battles, Whitney and his partners finally agreed to license gins at a reasonable price. In 1802, South Carolina agreed to purchase Whitney’s patent right for $50,000 but delayed in paying it. The partners also arranged to sell the patent rights to North Carolina and Tennessee. By the time the Georgia courts recognized the lack of patent protection that Whitney received, only one year of his patent remained. In 1808, and again in 1812, he petitioned Congress for a renewal of his patent.
Effects of the Cotton Gin
After the invention of the cotton gin, the yield of raw cotton doubled each decade after 1800. Demand was fueled by other inventions of the Industrial Revolution, such as machines to spin and weave it, and the steamboat to transport it. By 1850, America was growing three-quarters of the world’s supply of cotton, most of it sent to New England or exported to England where it was manufactured into cloth. During this time tobacco fell in value, rice exports at best stayed steady, and sugar began to thrive, but only in Louisiana. By the mid-19th century, the South provided three-fifths of America’s exports – most of it in cotton.
The most significant effect of the cotton gin, however, was the growth of slavery. While it was true that the cotton gin reduced the labor of removing seeds, it did not reduce the need for enslaved labor to grow and pick the cotton. In fact, the opposite occurred. Cotton growing became so profitable for enslavers that it greatly increased their demand for both land and enslaved labor. In 1790, there were six “slave states”; in 1860 there were 15. From 1790 until Congress banned the slave trade from Africa in 1808, Southerners imported 80,000 Africans. By 1860, approximately one in three Southerners was an enslaved person.
Because of the cotton gin, enslaved people labored on ever-larger plantations where work was more regimented and relentless. As large plantations spread into the Southwest, the price of enslaved labor and land inhibited the growth of cities and industries. In the 1850s, seven-eighths of all immigrants settled in the North, where they found 72% of the nation’s manufacturing capacity.
While Eli Whitney is best remembered as the inventor of the cotton gin, he was also the father of the mass production method. In 1798, he figured out how to manufacture muskets by machine so that the parts were interchangeable. It was as a manufacturer of muskets that Whitney finally became rich. He died in 1825.
Title:The cotton gin: A game-changing social and economic invention
Website title:National Constitution Center
Date published:March 14, 2022
On this day in 1794, young inventor Eli Whitney had his U.S. patent for the cotton gin approved, an invention that would have a great impact on social and economic conditions that led to the Civil War.
How much of an impact the mechanical gin (which is short for “engine”) had on the retention of slavery in the South is still being debated. To be sure, the value of cotton as a cash crop grew astronomically in the decades following Whitney’s patent went into effect. By some estimates, the United States supplied three-quarters of the global cotton supply by the start of the Civil War.
Much of that cotton made its way to Northern manufacturers to be made into clothing and other products. But slavery, in addition to the cotton gin, was a key component of the cotton business. Whitney got the idea for the gin while working as a tutor near the estate of Catherine Greene in Savannah. Greene, the widow of General Nathanael Greene also may have suggested some of the concepts behind the gin to Whitney, according to one nineteenth-century author.
The gin separated the sticky seeds from the fibers in short-staple cotton, which was easy to grow in the deep South but difficult to process. The gin improved the separation of the seeds and fibers but the cotton still needed to be picked by hand. The demand for cotton roughly doubled each decade following Whitney’s invention. So cotton became a very profitable crop that also demanded a growing slave-labor force to harvest it.
During the constitutional debates of 1787, an end to the importation of slaves by the year 1808 was one of the compromises agreed to in Philadelphia. Some Founders may have believed that slavery would fade away in the United States because of social reasons or the unprofitability of slave-produced crops before the gin was invented.
In 1807, Congress passed an act to make the slave-importation ban official. During the first cotton boom, the slave population in the South swelled to 4 million people, leaving slave owners with an ample population to maintain a workforce as the children of enslaved people continued to be born into slavery. By 1820, the nation was divided into Northern and Southern regions based on the legality of slavery in states and territories.
Whitney never really profited from the invention that had a direct role in maintaining slavery as an institution. Although the Constitution’s Article 1, Section 8, gave Congress the power to create patent laws, the rules were difficult to enforce due to loopholes, and other planters started to build their own cotton gins. His patent was finally validated in 1807 after Whitney tried to collect damages in lawsuits for years. (Whitney later invented a process for interchangeable manufacturing parts for guns, which was very profitable.)
One question that has been debated was the fate of slavery, independent of Whitney’s invention, and in particular, the idea that the cotton gin suddenly made slavery profitable. Alfred H. Conrad and John R. Meyer in their classic 1958 study about the issue argued that slavery depended on its economic survival for the spread of the institution to the Southwest in the 1860s.
Also, Reconstruction historian and law professor Paul Finkleman argued in the Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities that the common perception of slavery as a dying institution before the cotton gin’s invention is misguided. “Slaves were a profitable investment before the cotton gin and an even more profitable investment after its invention,” he wrote in 2013.
Regardless, the cotton gin was one of the significant inventions that changed American history in broad, generational ways.
Scott Bomboy is the Editor In Chief of the National Constitution Center.
Title:Who Made America? | Innovators | Eli Whitney
In popular mythology, Eli Whitney has been deemed the “father of American technology,” for two innovations: the cotton gin, and the idea of using interchangeable parts.
Eli Whitney was born in 1765 and grew up on a Massachusetts farm. During the Revolutionary War he manufactured nails to fill the demand caused by British embargos. Young Eli quickly learned how the marketplace worked, and diversified into hatpins and canes. It was his genius to observe what people needed, and to provide it.
After working his way through college at Yale, Whitney moved to South Carolina. There he saw how hard it was to separate the green seeds from short-staple cotton. In just a few days in 1793, he invented a machine that could do the task ten times faster than a slave doing the work by hand. The cotton gin revolutionized agriculture. It also made possible the cotton economy of the American South, perpetuating and increasing the practice of slavery upon which the agricultural system depended.
In 1798, Whitney, who had not seen much profit from his epochal machine, launched a new venture: arms manufacturing. Once again he observed carefully, noting a war scare with France, and delivered something necessary and innovative: arms that he claimed he could produce more efficiently with the help of machines. His idea of machine-made, interchangeable parts was the beginning of what would become known as the “American system” of mass production. Although other Americans would create this system in their industries, it was Whitney who popularized the idea and was instrumental in lobbying politicians to pass legislation to standardize arms production.
Diligence, Sobriety, Thrift
Whitney was also one of the first Americans to marry the ideas of republicanism and technological progress. A shrewd employer, Whitney advanced the paternalistic factory system that would characterize the American industrial revolution by linking economic progress with the Puritanical attributes of diligence, sobriety, and thrift. Whitney died in 1825.
Click here to view the PowerPoint we used in class about the Market Revolution.
Here is the link to the PDF file about the Market Revolution we used in class.