The Industrial era drastically changed the working and living conditions of people, resulting in an at the same time unprecedented boom of production and a decrease in the demand for labor. While containing within itself both extensive benefits and substantial drawbacks, industrialization became a process that fundamentally changed the course of human development. Thus, a compelling way of analyzing its effects would be through a direct examination of nineteenth-century thought presented within the Scientific American periodical.
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Modernization within manufacturing remains the most famous example of industrialization, often highlighting people as becoming minor within the factory production process. The Scientific American‘s header even poses it as a journal that promotes industry first and advocates any technical improvements only second (“Scientific American magazine, vol. 2 issue 1,” 2009). However, while manufacturing was the most affected field, the impact of industrialization-influenced innovation could be felt in all spheres of nineteen-century life.
The most significant cause of industrialization was scientific discovery, which effectively propagated change. An apt mid-century example would be a US committee on machinery observing “self-acting machines at work in the making not only of textiles and firearms but a dozen other products ranging from pianos to hairpins” (Rodgers, 2014, p. 66). Such use of machines, however, was just the first result of some of the effects of industrialization, brought about through successful scientific exploration.
Advanced steamboats, shingle machines, a mechanism for eased ship-steering, and a sewing machine are some of the many advancements possible to trace to 1848 (“Scientific American magazine, vol. 2 issue 1,” 2009). Through the implementation of such innovations, the quickening of the production process becomes possible, and the first steps towards future household-use of machines are taken.
Power Sources and Materials
New methods of production required new resources but not necessarily new laborers. Machines, after all, needed people only because they were responsible “for the task of supplying it with the raw material, and of oiling and cleansing it” (Rodgers, 2014, 67). Monitoring only the inventions within Scientific American allows seeing advancements in iron casting and blacksmithing, harnessing of electromagnetic and steam energy, and mechanics, which altogether amounted to widespread industrial progress (“Scientific American magazine, vol. 2 issue 1,” 2009). Steam and electricity, thus, gradually supplant coal as the primary source of power, drawing researchers’ interest through providing hope for more efficient energy suppliers.
Industrialization became an inter-linked cause and effect process, with discoveries creating modernized materials that in turn lead to new revelations. The most obvious example would be the patenting of a unique type of pavement, which promised fast setting and eased re-setting in the event of roadworks (“Scientific American magazine, vol. 2 issue 1,” 2009). “More products being created with less labor” becomes an almost official slogan of industrialization (Le Blanc, 2016, p. 25). New or re-imagined materials meant brand-new quality, however not specifying if it were better or worse, generally orienteered towards price-effectivity.
Lines of communication between cities and even countries becomes possible during the industrial era, shocking not only with its possibility but also with its speed. The proposal of creating a connection between the USA and Canada stops being laughable, with the line between Buffalo and New York creating a precedent of a 507 mile-long telegraph line (“Scientific American magazine, vol. 2 issue 1,” 2009). Communication by lightning or connection by magnetic telegraph become synonymous not just because of the source of power but also because of the speed of conversation.
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Thus, touching upon numerous domains of human life, industrialization turns into a process that effectively furthers itself, creating miraculous advancements on all fronts of discovery. The Scientific American, as a representative of the popular thought of its time, displays effectively the interest in this process garnered from the public. Widespread changes in machines, materials, and even techniques used became a cornerstone for the transition of nations from one era of development into another.
Le Blanc, P. (2016). A short history of the U.S. working class: From colonial times to the twenty-first century. Chicago, IL: Haymarket Books.
Rodgers, D. (2014). The work ethic in industrial America 1850-1920 (2nd ed.). Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
Scientific American magazine, vol. 2 issue 1. (2009). Web.