U.S. HISTORY 1801-1861


As you read about the new inventions during this time in American history, think about how the inventions changed American life, society, and perspectives.

 The Cotton Gin

    In 1792, Eli Whitney from Massachusetts went to Georgia to study law.  When he got to Georgia he saw slaves working in fields picking cotton and taking the seeds out of the raw cotton.  It was very slow and hard work for the slaves.  Six months later, he tested a machine that he invented called the cotton gin using raw cotton.  This machine could clean cotton fifty times faster in one day as a cotton field worker could in one day by hand.  All over the South, planters began growing more cotton because it was profitable (made money) as a CASH CROP.  Soon, fields of cotton were developing all over the South.  As farmers planted more and more cotton, the demand for cotton field workers increased.  Consequently, there was an increase in slave labor to cultivate this crop.  As cotton production increased, so did the migration of people to the West.

The Steamboat:

   Pioneers had been using trails and some roads to go to the West. However, many preferred to use the rivers as a means of transportation.  Americans used rivers like we use highways today.  Moving goods and people along river routes was cheaper and much faster.  Some pioneers traveled on rafts or flat boats.  These flatboats were also used to move crops down the Mississippi River.  But, these boats could only go one way - down stream.  The boats could not travel upstream.  Robert Fulton was a painter who became an inventor.  He built a new kind of boat that would solve the upstream travel problem.  This boat had power because he built a steam engine to make it move.  He named his first steamboat the Clermont.  By the 1820s steamboats were hauling passengers and goods up and down eastern and western rivers.  For the farmers in the South, these boats could pick up the goods they made and take them to new markets in the North.

The Railroad:

   The first railroad in the United States was made in 1826.  A group of Baltimore business leaders decided to build a railroad across the Appalachians to the Ohio Valley.  They wanted this railroad to be used to bring farm products from the Central Plains to the East.  Peter Cooper, a self-taught mechanic, built a steam locomotive to pull the carriages or train cars.  His engine could travel 18 miles per hour.  This was three times faster than the horse-drawn trains that Americans were using.  Constructing a railroad was cheaper than digging canals and rails did not freeze in the winter.  The railroad era in America began and people and goods were now moving across the country faster than ever.

The Reaper:

   Farmers who settled in the western territories used tools that had been used for centuries.  These tools were not productive in farm work.  Harvest season was a difficult time and people had to have a better way of harvesting their crops with better equipment or the crops would be ruined.  To get the job done, many farmers hired extra workers.  However, in 1831 a Virginian named Cyrus McCormick and Jo Anderson invented the reaper.  Jo Anderson was a slave.  This reaper was a horse drawn harvesting machine.  This machine made farm work much more productive for farmers.  It could cut as much wheat in a day as three workers.  Now, farmers could harvest more grain than ever before in less time.  There was more grain and more food production for Americans.

   Other interesting inventions:

   * Singer Sewing Machines

   *   1849 The safety pin

   *  1837 Samuel Morse invents telegraph (Morse Code)

   *  American, Charles Goodyear invents rubber vulcanization.

   *  1841 Samuel Slocum patents the stapler.

   *  1846 Dr. William Morton, a Massachusetts dentist, is the first to use anesthesia for tooth extraction.

   *  1850 Joel Houghton was granted the first dishwasher patent in 1850. The machine was made of wood and required you to hand-turn a wheel that caused water to splash on the dishes. Houghton's machine barely worked. The first practical dishwasher was invented by a woman named Josephine Cochran in 1886. Dishwashers, however, did not begin appearing in homes until the 1950s. 


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   Miss Froehlich, 2008