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Industrial and Transportation Revolution: Causes & Effects

Mini-Essay 2

Timeline of events
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Industrial and Technological Developments
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Mini-Essay #2
Outline the physical/geographical obstacles/challenges and the economic and political factors involved in building a network of roads, canals, and railroads (e.g., Henry Clay's American System).

         During the Industrial Revolution, a network of roads, canals and railroads were established.  It was necessary that America have good inland roads that could be used for travel and shipment of goods from a seaport.  Henry Clay’s American System helped the building of roads and canals, while stimulating the growth of industries and trade.  Clay thought that the three systems would work together.

Tariffs would protect industries and it would give the government enough money to be able to build roads and canals.  Businesses could buy more agricultural goods from their profits and ship them along the new system of transportation. A national bank would also help unify a common currency in the United States. Thomas Jefferson did not agree with the American System because he said it favored wealthy people in New England.  The South also agreed with Jefferson because they did not see how tariffs would benefit them. 

Better ways of transportation were needed because there were ruts, holes, mud, stones, and no bridges at rivers.  That is why canals, steamboats, railroads, and improved roads were made.  Usually, the old roads were just dirt paths, but one new type of road was the “corduroy road”, which was a series of round logs that were placed side by side.  Another type of road was the plank road, which were slightly better, but rotted away quickly.  The best were macadam roads, which used crushed rock or clay as a base, and tar or asphalt on top.  In 1806, some people decided that they needed a National Road that would travel from the East Coast to the Mississippi. As the westerners really wanted this National road, the people in the East did not want to pay for a road that went onto the wilderness.  The South believed the government should pay for roads, because even people who lived places where the roads did not go would have to pay to construct the roads.  The National Road made traveling a lot quicker.  Roads were expensive to build and maintain, so people came up with the idea to build canals. 

River travel had many advantages over wagon and horse travel, some examples were that the trip was a lot smoother, and pioneers could load their goods on barges if they were heading downstream. One geographical problem of river travel was that most rivers flowed in a north to south direction and not an eats to west direction.  Because of this problem and the fact that steamboats could not bring together the eats and west parts of the country, a plan to create a canal was made.  This idea came from DeWitt Clinton in New York, he wanted a canal built from Albany to Buffalo, which would connect the Hudson River to Lake Erie. This canal would be named the Erie Canal.  Many people thought it was a crazy idea because it would cost a lot of money and would be hard to build.  The Erie Canal would cover 360 miles, and Irishmen were used to complete the work. Along the way there were steep hills that boats would have to climb.  To accomplish this, locks were created.  Locks were like elevators for water and boats.  The Erie Canal, along with other canals, made it a lot cheaper to transport goods. The Erie Canal was finally completed in 1825 when officials poured water from Lake Erie into the Atlantic Ocean. Along with the construction canals, miles of railroads were also being built.

Railroads were another way to improve the way to transport goods.  At first locomotives were pulled by horses until the first steam-powered locomotive began working in Britain 1829.  Peter Cooper created the first American steam locomotive in 1830.  Most of the railroad tracks were in the North and the Midwest, but soon railway builders built on to these tracks to bring together the Midwest and the East.  The opening of railroads allowed for grain, livestock, and dairy products to move directly from the Midwest to East. The railroads also created the four time zones, because of the needed time unification for communities in railroad transportation.  Because the railroads brought transported good quicker and cheaper, merchants could put them at lower prices.  The new system of transportation brought people into Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and industries began to develop.  Railroad construction was made possible because of government subsidies.  Subsidies are financial aid and land grants given from the government.  Railroad executives began to argue that they should receive free public land to build tracks on because the railroad networked benefited the entire nation.  The national government agreed and granted 130 million acres of land to railroad companies.

People soon wanted a railroad, called the transcontinental railroad, which would go across the whole nation.  The Northerners wanted it to pass through the North, and the Southerners wanted it through the South.  During the Civil War, the government decided to go with the Northern route.  A race began between the Union Pacific Company who built westward, and the Central Pacific Company, who worked eastward, to see who could cover the greatest distance with track. The Central Pacific hired around 10,000 Chinese workers, while the Union Pacific used the Irish and African Americans.  The two companies had to cope with the terrain and clear the land by destroying forest and blasting tunnels through mountains to be able to finish the transcontinental railroad.  Union Pacific workers won, but the Central Pacific had to cover harsher terrain.  The construction of the transcontinental railroad was completed on May 10, 1869 Provost, Utah. In 1883, 2 more transcontinental lines were built, and many smaller lines with connected the West with the rest of the nation.

As more tracks were laid, the need for steel rose, thus stimulating the steel industry along with the coal industry, construction companies, and railroad car manufacturers.  The new railroads brought the next wave of settlers to the west.  Also, in 1883, the railroad companies divided the country in four time zones and established a new way for people to look at time.  Each time zone was exactly one hour apart from the next one.  In 1918, congress passed a law to make the practice of this official.