Continuity and Change- The Industrial Revolution and Market Revolution
Industrialization and the market revolution were times of great change in America. All American lives experienced positive and negative changes during the antebellum period. During this time, revolutionary advances in transportation and communication were taking place, these improvements made the exchange of goods more efficient which helped the economy expand.
The technological advances and land expansion during the antebellum period started a chain reaction. A few innovations were the steamboat, railroads, the telegraph, and canals. The creation of canals in the North was an important part of moving heavy materials and goods long distances for a lower price. Railroads also sped up the delivery of goods and it allowed people to travel to the new booming cities.
The economy was rapidly growing during this time and so was personal wealth. In part one of Eric Foner’s interview, he talks about how the market revolution changed people’s lives by introducing a private realm of freedom and individual economic ambition and achievement. The idea of freedom was mainly thought of as public rights at the time of the revolution, but people started gaining individual freedoms by choosing their own lines of work, working to get ahead individually, and competing in the marketplace.
New jobs brought positive changes to the lives of Americans as there were more opportunities to work. Some wages were higher than what people had previously been making when working from home. Individuals were gaining wealth from going to their new jobs as well as selling goods in the national marketplace. The overall living conditions for some American families increased and so did diets and education. There were some downsides to the new job market though, specifically in factory jobs. Air pollution increased with the creation of mills and factories. Workers were forced to work in poorly ventilated work areas and they often worked with dangerous machines. Workers were clocking in strenuous hours for low wages. Women experienced dramatic changes as they were introduced to the workforce. While this was a positive step forward for women, they still experienced prejudice and wage gaps. However, this did lead women to become more involved in politics and spark the fight for suffrage and social reforms.
I agree with historians and the use of the term ‘revolutionary. I do believe all of these events were truly revolutionary because of how much change they caused at the time and how they have continued to. When assessing if something should be considered ‘revolutionary’ there are many things we must consider as historians. I think the most important aspect is how quickly technology evolved during the industrial revolution. I also think a point from the Industry in the U.S.A podcast is also something to consider, “For 135 years leading up to the First World War — which generally marks the end of the Second Industrial Revolution — the United States achieved an average economic growth of 3.9% annually. No other country in the world has ever come close to achieving that much growth, that rapidly, for such a long period of time”. The economic growth of this period was revolutionary because of how rapidly this country grew. Entire industries and their technologies were being developed, it provided a foundation to how things function today.