5.5F Technology of the Industrial Age

smartphone

AP Theme

Technology and Innovation

Learning Objective 5F

Explain how technology shaped economic production over time.

Historical Development 1

Steam and combustion engines made it possible to harness new and existing energy sources such as coal and oil. These new energy sources increased the energy available to human societies.

Historical Development 2

The “second industrial revolution” led to new methods in producing steel, chemicals, electricity, and precision machinery during the second half of the 19th century.

Historical Development 3

Railroads, steamships, and the telegraph made exploration, development, and communication possible in interior regions globally, which led to increased trade, migration, and conquest.

Contents

Key ideas

There were two periods in the early Industrial Revolution (pre-1900).

The first Industrial Revolution focused on simple mechanization and stream power. The earliest innovations were in the textile industry.

The second Industrial Revolution focused on innovations in more complex machines. Major innovations were made in metals production, chemical manufacturing, the internal combustion image, transportation, telecommunications, and electrification.

The Stages of Early Industrilization

Between 1750 and 1900, the Industrial Revolution brought massive political, social, and economic changes worldwide. 

  • Industrial innovations allowed industrial societies to dramatically increase their industrial and business output (production). 
  • With new energy sources and production technologies, industrial societies built revolutionary transportation and communication technologies that gave them significant advantages over non-industrialized nations.

These changes did not happen all at once. There were two distinct industrial periods before the 20th century. 

The first focused on factory mechanization and steam technologies. 

The second began in the 1870s and centered around mass production with the help of assembly lines and electrical energy.

Industrial Revolution 1.0: Mechanization and the Steam Engine

The first Industrial Revolution began in the factories of Great Britain in the second half of the 19th century. The first Industrial Revolution mechanized production. Water wheels were the earliest power source for mechanized factories. Steam engines became the dominant source of factory power in the first decades of the 19th century.

Simple mechanization

The first phase of the Industrial Revolution lasted from circa 1750 to 1870. It began with simple technological innovations in the textiles industry, which resulted in the mechanization of the textile production process.

Significant historical change: Mechanization allowed a single worker to produce what had previously required multiple workers. Industrial powers began producing increasing amounts of cheap textiles. By the end of the 19th century, cheap European textiles had flooded into places like India and China, destroying their native textile production economies. These two societies had supplied the world with fabrics for thousands of years. Now they bought fabrics from the industrial powers. 

Early mechanized industrial innovations

The spinning jenny

James Hargreaves’ spinning jenny was one of the earliest industrial innovations in 1764. This machine allowed one person to turn a wheel by hand to spin eight spools of yarn at once. Previously a single individual had to spin a single spool of yarn at a time.

The water frame

In 1769, Richard Arkwright patented the water frame that used a water wheel to power a threading machine that could thread 128 threads at one time.

The cotton gin

In the United States, Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin, which worked by turning a wheel and feeding raw cotton through the machine to remove the seeds. 

The steam engine and steam power

Early innovations in the textile industry were either powered by hand or water. Factories quickly switched to machines powered by coal after James Watt perfected the steam engine in 1781. 

  • Watt’s steam engine worked by burning coal to heat water. 

  • The steam from the boiling water went into a pressurized tube and built-up pressure. The steam engine would release the steam pressure to turn turbines that powered the machines.
     
  • Watt’s engine became the primary power source in industrial factories that produced paper, flour, cotton, iron, and textiles. Watt became a very wealthy man.

The impacts of the steam engine

The steam engine led to multiple changes in the factory system.  

  • Steam-powered machines allowed industrialists to build factories in an increasing number of locations now that factories did not rely upon water, wind, animals, or people as an energy source to power machines.

  • Factories became increasingly complex as steam power allowed industrialists to build larger and larger machines. 

  • As machines became increasingly complex, the quantity of goods they could produce increased. 

  • As production volumes increased, industrial goods’ prices decreased, which made industrial goods cheaper than non-industrial goods. 

  • Increasing production increased the demand for raw materials to supply factories and markets to sell manufactured goods. 

  • Industrial powers also needed new markets to sell their industrial products. 

  • The need for cheap raw materials and markets to sell goods increased imperialism in Asia in Africa.  

Steam and transportation technologies

Steam revolutionized transportation and led to the expansion of regional and international transport networks.

The steam locomotive

Early steam locomotives worked the same way as the basic steam engine. The engines burnt coal to heat water that produced steam. The pressure of the trapped steam turned a mechanism that turned the train’s wheels.

Industrial factories were the earliest adopters of simple steam trains that could move heavy materials. 

  • British engineer Richard Trevithick invented the steam locomotive in 1803 for use in mining operations.

  • Another British engineer, George Stephenson, created the first commercial passenger train in 1825. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened in 1830 and was the first intercity railway globally.
Steamboats and steamships

European and American inventors created the earliest steamboat designs in the later 18th and early 19th centuries. 

By the second half of the 19th century, American and European navies rapidly built steam warships. Steam-powered passenger liners also began regularly carrying passengers across the Atlantic between Europe and the Americas. 

The Fulton steamboat: American Robert Fulton developed the first commercially successful steamer, the North River Steamboat (the Clermont). Service on the steamboat began in 1807 and sailed on the Hudson River between New York City and Albany, New York. Within a few decades, steamboat use spread across Eastern and Midwestern United States.

SS Savannah: Passenger steamboats also quickly spread across European rivers. Ocean-going steamers came along a few decades later. TheSS Savannah was the first coal-powered steamer to cross the Atlantic when it made its journey in 1819.

The 2nd Industrial Revolution

The second industrial revolution began in the mid-19th century and improved upon earlier industrial innovations. Whereas small steam engines and water-powered the first industrial revolution, larger steam engines, and new internal combustion engines powered the second industrial revolution.

The internal combustion engine

In the mid-19th century, the internal combustion engine became commercially available. The internal combustion engine was more efficient than the external combustion steam engine, which ignited its fuel source outside of the engine, leading to energy and heat loss. The arrival of this engine revolutionized transportation technology and led to the development of automobiles and airplanes.

The internal combustion engine works by igniting a mixture of air and fuel inside an engine. As the fuel ignites, it pushes against moving surfaces in the engine, such as a piston or rotor.

  •  Belgian inventor Etienne Lenoir invented the first commercially successful internal combustion engine in 1859. 

  • In 1885, German engineer Gottlieb Daimer created the first gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. 

  • In the 1890s, Rudolf Diesel further innovated the internal combustion engine with his diesel engine, which was more energy efficient. The diesel engine soon became one of the primary power sources of large industrial machines and trains.

Metals (iron and steel)

Scientists made significant innovations in iron and steel production that allowed for the increased production of high-quality iron and steel. Increased iron and steel production allowed industrial countries to expand their heavy machinery production, resulting in the spread of technologies like rail, steamships, the telegraph, and electricity.

The Bessemer and Siemens-Martin Processes

The Bessemer process, invented by Sir Henry Bessemer, allowed the mass production of steel. The basic principle was the removal of excess carbon and other impurities from iron. The removal of these impurities allowed for the strengthening of iron into steel. The Siemens-Martin Process further refined the steel production process. First used in 1865 to make steel, this process increased steel’s purity and operated at lower costs than traditional Bessemer furnaces.

The impacts of the Bessemer and Siemens processes: The availability of cheap steel allowed for larger bridges, railroads, skyscrapers, and ships. These production processes also increased the availability of steel cables, steel rods, and sheet steel, enabling the construction of larger and more powerful machines and machine parts. With large amounts of steel, it became possible to build much more powerful guns and carriages, tanks, armored fighting vehicles, and naval ships.

Transportation

The second industrial revolution built upon prior transportation innovations.

Rail

The increase in steel production from the 1860s meant that railway engineers could now design railways out of steel at competitive costs. As a result, steel quickly became the dominant railway building material. Due to their strength, iron rails could support heavier locomotives without being damaged. Heavier locomotives could pull longer trains, which increased the productivity of the railroad. As productivity increased, the price of rail transportation for both people and goods decreased. Rail became the dominant form of transport infrastructure in the industrialized world.

The automobile

Because of its efficiency and small size, early automobile innovators adopted the internal combustion engine. Henry Daimler and Karl Benz (the company they started in known as Daimler-Benz, aka. Mercedes) invented the first motorcycle powered by an internal combustion engine. By the early 20th century, the automobile industry in Europe and America was producing millions of cars. Once industrialist Henry Ford perfected his automobile assembly line, prices dropped, and cars increasingly became affordable by middle-class Americans.

Steamships

Steamship technologies continued to evolve during the 19th century. By the 1870s, passenger liners and military vessels increasingly used steel construction and steam energy.

The first modern steam battleships: The first modern battleships appeared in Great Britain in the 1870s when the British Royal Navy built the Devastation-class turret ships. These ships had a steel frame design, mounted the weapons on top of the vessel, not inside the hull. The boat had no sails and moved under the power of two steam engines. In the 1880s, the United States began constructing the “New Navy,” which included modern steam designs and steam engines. Launched in 1884, the Boston had a steel hull design and an eight-boiler steam engine. The Boston had one of the longest careers in the United States Navy and served in the Spanish American War in the 1890s and both world wars in the 20th century.

The first trans-oceanic passenger steamships: By the 1870s, the price of operating steel and steam-powered ocean liners dropped enough to make them profitable for transoceanic transportation. Several shipping companies emerged on both sides of the Atlantic. In 1871, White Star Line’s RMS Oceanic revolutionized maritime passenger transport by increasing the comfort of ocean travel by improving first-class cabins’ comfort, increasing the porthole sizes for ocean viewing and air circulation, adding electrification, and running water. Based in Liverpool, England, White Star Lines operated shipping and transportation routes to multiple international locations.

Chemical manufacturing

Chemicals were essential components of the industrial Revolution. Pharmacist Joshua Ward developed one of the first processes for the industrial production of sulfuric acid in 1736. The first large-scale factory for the production of sulfuric acid opened in Scotland in 1749.

The late 19th century was a period of rapid expansion in the types and quantities of chemicals produced.

  • Agricultural fertilizers: Sir John Lawes pioneered the use of synthetic fertilizers in agriculture. In 1843,  Lawes opened Rothamsted Research, one of the oldest agricultural research institutes in the world. From his early research, the industrial chemical fertilizer industry was born. Chemical fertilizers have been critical components in increasing farm output and growing the global food supply. 
  • Rubber and plastic: Chemistry also supplied new materials to industrial manufacturers. In 1839, American Charles Goodyear (1800-1860) invented a new process for the mass production of strong, durable, and elastic rubber. Early rubber found its way into hoses, tires, industrial bands, sheets, and shoes. Three decades later, in 1969, John Wesley (1837-1920) created the world’s first synthetic plastic. Today, plastics are the most widely used materials for the production of consumer products.

Electrification

Electrification was one of the great inventions of the 19th century. Electricity required innovations in power generation, energy transmission, and storage.

  • Joseph Swan and Thomas Edison created and patented the first commercially viable incandescent light bulbs. To avoid competition with one another, they formed the Edison and Swan Electric Light Company to manufacture light bulbs and other electrical products. Today, the Edison Electric Company is known as General Electric (GE).
  • In the 1860s, scientists began understanding the process of generating electricity. They found that by rotating magnets around metal coils, energy was produced.  This energy could then be collected and used. 
  • In the early 1880s, the Gaulard-Gibbs transformer allowed for the transformation of high voltage electricity into lower voltage electricity. As high voltage electricity from the distribution network reached end-users, transformers decreased the voltage to a lower level.

Telecommunication

The earliest telecommunications devices were the telegraph and the telephone.

The Telegraph 

American Samuel Morse invented Morse code and the telegraph. In 1829 Morse traveled to Europe, where he encountered scientists working on electrical signals for communication. Here, Morse sketched out an early draft of his telegraph machine. The telegraph works by sending electrical signals across a wire. These signals come out the other end of the wire in pulses. The pulses correspond to letters in the alphabet that are combined to make messages. The first commercially successful telegraph opened in 1837 in England.

Impact of the telegraph: The rapid expansion of telegraph networks took place throughout the second half of the 19th century. John Watkins Brett built the first undersea telegraph cable between France and England. The Atlantic Telegraph Company was formed in London in 1856 to construct a commercial telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean. The company completed the construction of this cable in 1866. By the end of the 19th century, governments and telegraph companies had laid telegraph cables across the world’s oceans. The telegraph revolutionized communication. Messages that took days, weeks, or months could now move between sender and receiver in minutes.

The Telephone

The next significant telecommunications innovation was the telephone, patented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell. Bell also produced the first successful commercial telephone system. He later started the Bell telephone company in 1877. Today, the Bell telephone company is known as AT&T.

Modern factory processes

Factory processes refer to the way the methods of production in factories. 

The assembly line

Scientific management led to the assembly line production process. With assembly lines, products move from one workstation to another. New parts are added in a sequence to complete a product at each workstation.

Henry Ford: Henry Ford of the Ford motor company pioneered the large-scale use of the assembly line to manufacture large products. The assembly line allowed Ford to produce the first car (the Model-t) that the middle class could afford. 

Industrial Revolution 1.0: Mechanization and the Steam Engine

H

There have been multiple industrial revolutions since the mid 17th century.

Simple Mechanization

The first phase of the Industrial Revolution lasted from circa 1750 to 1870. It began with simple technological innovations in the textiles industry, which resulted in the mechanization of the textile production process.

James Hargreaves’ Spinning Jenny was one of the earliest industrial innovations in 1764. This machine allowed one person turning a wheel by hand to spin eight spools of yarn at once. Previously a single individual had to spin a single spool of yarn at a time.

Later in 1769, Richard Arkwright patented the water frame that used a water wheel to power a threading machine that could thread 128 threads at one time.

In the United States, Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin, which worked by turning a wheel and feeding raw cotton through the machine to remove the seeds.

Mechanization allowed a single worker to produce what used to require multiple workers. Industrial powers began producing increasing amounts of cheap textiles. By the end of the 19th century, cheap European textiles had flooded into places like India and China, destroying their native textile production economies. For thousands of years, these two societies had supplied the world with fabrics. Now they bought from the industrial powers.

The Steam Engine and Steam Power

Early innovations in the textile industry were either powered by hand or water. However, factories quickly switched to machines powered by coal after James Watt perfected the steam engine in 1781. Watt’s steam engine worked by burning coal to heat water. The steam from the boiling water was collected in a pressurized tube. The steam engine would release the steam pressure to turn turbines that powered the machines. Watt’s engine became the primary power source in industrial factories like produced paper, flour, cotton, iron, and textiles. Watt became a very wealthy man.

The steam engine in factory production

The steam engine led to multiple changes in the factory system.

The steam engine in transportation

Steam revolutionized transportation and led to an expansion of regional and international transport networks.

The Steam locomotive (trains)

Early steam locomotives worked the same way as the basic steam engine. The engines burnt coal to heat water that produced steam. The pressure of the trapped steam turned a mechanism that turned the wheels of the train.

British engineer Richard Trevithick invented the steam locomotive in 1803. Industrial factories were the earliest adopters of simple steam trains that could move heavy materials.

Another British engineer, George Stephenson, created the first commercial passenger train in 1825. The Liverpool and Manchester Railway opened in 1830 and was the first intercity railway in the world.

Steamboats and steamships

European and American inventors created the earliest steamboat designs in the later 18th and early 19th centuries.

American Robert Fulton developed the first commercially successful steamer, the North River Steamboat (also known as the Clermont). Service on the steamboat began in 1807 and sailed on the Hudson River between New York City and Albany, New York. Within a few decades, steamboats had spread across rivers in the Eastern and Midwestern United States.

Passenger steamboats also quickly spread across European rivers. Ocean-going steamers came along a few decades later. The coal-powered steamer the SS Savannah was the first coal steamer to cross the Atlantic when it made its journey in 1819.

By the second half of the 19th century, American and European navies were rapidly building steam warships. Steam-powered passenger liners also began regularly carrying passengers across the Atlantic between Europe and the Americas.

Industrial Revolution 2.0: Advanced Manufacturing Processes

H

The second industrial revolution began in the mid-19th century and improved upon earlier industrial innovations. Whereas small steam engines and water-powered the first industrial revolution, larger steam engines and new internal combustion engines powered the second industrial revolution.

With these more powerful engines, scientists and inventors improved steel production, the use of petroleum as an energy source, electricity transmission, transportation technologies, and communication technologies. These innovations allowed industrial capitalism to expand and more easily link buyers and sellers across vast geographic distances. In the 20th century, as these technologies improved, their cost decreased, revolutionizing people’s daily lives in industrialized nations.

The Internal Combustion Engine

In the mid-19th century, the internal combustion engine became commercially available. The internal combustion engine was more efficient than the external combustion steam engine, which ignited its fuel source outside of the engine, leading to energy and heat loss. The arrival of this engine revolutionized transportation technology and led to the automobile and the airplane’s development.

The internal combustion engine works by igniting a mixture of air and fuel inside of an engine. As the fuel ignites, it pushes against moving surfaces in the engine, such as a piston or rotor.

Industries and technologies of the 2nd Industrial Revolution

Metals (iron and steel)

Scientists made significant innovations in iron and steel production that allowed for the increased production of high-quality iron and steel. Increased iron and steel production allowed industrial countries to expand their heavy machinery production, resulting in the spread of technologies like rail, steamships, the telegraph, and electricity.

The Bessemer and Siemens-Martin Processes

The Bessemer process, invented by Sir Henry Bessemer, allowed the mass-production of steel. The basic principle was the removal of excess carbon and other impurities from iron. The removal of these impurities allowed for the strengthening of iron into steel. The Siemens-Martin Process further refined the steel production process. First used in 1865 to make steel, this process increased the purity of steel and operated at lower costs than traditional Bessemer furnaces.

The availability of cheap steel allowed for larger bridges, railroads, skyscrapers, and ships. These production processes also increased the availability of steel cables, steel rods, and sheet steel, enabling the construction of larger and more powerful machines and machine parts. With large amounts of steel, it became possible to build much more powerful guns and carriages, tanks, armored fighting vehicles, and naval ships.

Transportation

The second industrial revolution built upon prior transportation innovations.

Rail

The increase in steel production from the 1860s meant that railway engineers could now design railways out of steel at competitive costs. As a result, steel quickly became the dominant railway building material. Due to their strength, iron rails could support heavier locomotives without being damaged. Heavier locomotives could pull longer trains, which increased the productivity of the railroad. As productivity increased, the price of rail transportation for both people and goods decreased. Rail became the dominant form of transport infrastructure in the industrialized world.

The automobile

Because of its efficiency and small size, early automobile innovators adopted the internal combustion engine. Henry Daimler and Karl Benz (the company they started in now known as Daimler-Benz, aka. Mercedes) invented the first motorcycle powered by an internal combustion engine. By the early 20th century, the automobile industry in Europe and America was producing millions of cars. Once industrialist Henry Ford perfected his automobile assembly line, prices dropped, and cars increasingly became affordable by middle-class Americans.

Steamships

Steamship technologies continued to evolve during the 19th century. By the 1870s, passenger liners and military vessels increasingly used steel construction and steam energy.

The first modern battleships appeared in Great Britain in the 1870s when the British Royal Navy built the Devastation-class turret ships. These ships had a steel frame design, mounted the weapons on top of the vessel, not inside the hull. The boat had no sails and moved under the power of two steam engines. In the 1880s, the United States began constructing the “New Navy” that also included modern steam designs and steam engines. Launched in 1884, the Boston had a steel hull design and an eight boiler steam engine. The Boston had one of the longest careers in the United States Navy and served in the Spanish American War in the 1890s and both world wars in the 20th century.

By the 1870s, the price of operating steel and steam-powered ocean liners dropped enough to make them profitable for transoceanic transportation. Several shipping companies emerged on both sides of the Atlantic. Based out of Liverpool, England, White Star Lines operated shipping and transportation routes to multiple international locations. In 1871, White Star Line’s RMS Oceanic revolutionized maritime passenger transport by increasing the comfort of ocean travel by improving first-class cabins’ comfort, increasing the porthole sizes for ocean viewing and air circulation, and adding electrification and running water to the ship.

Chemical manufacturing

Chemicals were essential components of the industrial Revolution. Pharmacist Joshua Ward developed one of the first processes for the industrial production of sulfuric acid in 1736. The first large-scale factory for the production of sulfuric acid opened in Scotland in 1749.

The late 19th century was a period of rapid expansion in the types and quantities of chemicals produced.

Electrification

Electrification was one of the great inventions of the 19th century. Electricity required innovations in power generation, energy transmission, and storage.

Telecommunication

The earliest telecommunications devices were the telegraph and the telephone.

The Telegraph 

American Samuel Morse invented Morse code and the telegraph. In 1829 Morse traveled to Europe, where he encountered scientists working on electrical signals for communication. It was here that Morse sketched out an early draft of his telegraph machine. The telegraph works by sending electrical signals across a wire. These signals come out the other end of the wire in pulses. The pulses correspond to letters in the alphabet that are combined to make messages. The first commercially successful telegraph opened in 1837 in England.

The rapid expansion of telegraph networks took place throughout the second half of the 19th century. John Watkins Brett built the first undersea telegraph cable between France and England. The Atlantic Telegraph Company was formed in London in 1856 to construct a commercial telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean. The company completed the construction of this cable in 1866. By the end of the 19th century, governments and telegraph companies had laid telegraph cables across the world’s oceans. The telegraph revolutionized communication. Messages used to take days, weeks, or months could now move between sender and receiver in minutes.

The Telephone 

The next significant telecommunications innovation was the telephone, which was patented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell. Bell also produced the first successful commercial telephone system. He later started the Bell telephone company in 1877. Today, the Bell telephone company is known as AT&T.

Modern Management Practices

The assembly line

Scientific management led to the assembly line production process. With assembly lines, products move from one workstation to another. At each workstation, new parts are added in a sequence to complete a product.

Henry Ford of the Ford motor company pioneered the large-scale use of the assembly line to manufacture large products. Ford’s use of the assembly line increased Ford’s production efficiency, which resulted in Ford producing a car (the Model-T) that large numbers of middle-class Americans could afford.

Interchangeable parts

The key to the assembly line’s success was producing interchangeable parts that workers could add together to create a final product. During the second industrial revolution, interchangeable parts became easier to create as machine tool production increased. Machine tools that could bore, cut, and grind allowed for the mass production of small interchangeable parts.