Industrial Revolution: The Transformation Of American Society

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Throughout all of human history, advances in technology have sparked changes in society. From the stone tools of the early humans to today’s smartphones, technology has influenced history and helped shape the world to its current form. One historical period that featured significant advances in technology was the Industrial Revolution, which occurred in the 18th and 19th centuries (“Industrial Revolution” 615). During this period, much of Europe and the United States began to shift away from agriculture towards manufacturing, disrupting the existing economy and society and setting the stage for the modern world. Three technological advances of the Industrial Revolution that profoundly transformed American society were the cotton gin, which…show more content…
One immediate consequence was that cotton production rose by nearly fifty times as Southern planters began processing their cotton with the gin. Additional improvements to the machine and the development of a large-scale factory version further spurred the rapid emergence of cotton as a profitable cash crop (Brain 60). Over the span of half a century, cotton production in the United States skyrocketed from four thousand bales in 1790 to over a million bales in 1840, an increase of over 250 times (“Cotton Kingdom” 75). By the 1840s, Southern cotton made up half of American exports and constituted about 60% of the world’s supply of cotton. In addition, cotton stimulated the national economy in multiple ways. The growth in the supply of cotton promoted the Northern textile industry, while the funding and transportation of Southern cotton encouraged Northern banking and shipping. Also, Southern demand for Northern manufactured goods and Midwestern farm produce rose as a result of the profit gained from cotton. Because of its enormous effects on the American economy, cotton became known as “King Cotton” or “white gold”. However, the cotton gin also sparked the resurgence of Southern slavery, which had been in decline due to the drop in tobacco production. Ironically, Whitney had created the gin in part to help eliminate slavery by reducing the need for slaves to clean cotton (Benson 36). His plan backfired when the growing profitability of cotton actually increased the need for slaves to work as field hands. As Southern planters moved west to acquire more land for planting cotton, they brought their slaves along with them and even purchased more from the tobacco colonies of Maryland and Virginia (“Cotton Kingdom” 75). This shift westwards spread the plantation system of agriculture and rooted the institution of slavery as an integral part of the Southern economy. In short, the influence of the

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