Inventions of the Industrial Revolution

Contributor: Meghan Vestal. Lesson ID: 11857

Did computers, tractors, bicycles, and light bulbs just appear out of nowhere? These, and many other inventions, are children of the Industrial Revolution that swept the country and changed our lives!

categories

World

subject
History
learning style
Visual
personality style
Beaver
Grade Level
Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

Audio:

Do you think your life is so hard now? Do without all the conveniences you take for granted! How did the inventions of the Industrial Revolution make life easier?

In the previous lesson, found under Related Lessons in the right-hand sidebar, you began learning how the Industrial Revolution reshaped the American way of life.

Hundreds of new inventions were created, making daily chores and commercial production much faster and simpler. In this lesson, you will learn about a few of the most important inventions of the Industrial Revolution and how they changed American life.

One of the most well-known inventions to come out of the Industrial Revolution is Eli Whitney's cotton gin. The cotton gin was a machine that benefited rural farmers rather than urban factories. The problem with cotton, which is used in textiles, is that even after it is picked, it is full of seeds. For many generations, these seeds had to be removed from the cotton by hand a laborious task to say the least! The cotton gin proved a quick solution to this problem by quickly and efficiently removing the seeds from the cotton. The revolutionary cotton gin increased cotton production, but it also increased the need for slave labor. If the cotton gin was making it easier to remove the seeds from cotton, why was there a need for more slave labor? Explain your ideas to your teacher or parent. Speeding up the process of the seed removal meant that farmers could grow more cotton. The increase in cotton production meant there was a greater need for people to pick the cotton.

cotton gin on display at the Eli Whitney Museum

Image by Tom Murphy VIII, via Wikimedia Commons, was released into the public domain.

Another invention that benefited farmers was the mechanical reaper. As the American population grew, and more families began moving to cities, there was an increased demand for wheat. Cyrus McCormick wanted to find a way to solve this problem by inventing a machine that would increase seed production. His ingenious solution to this dilemma was the mechanical reaper, a mechanism that was pulled by horse across a wheat crop. As the machine moved, its blade cut the wheat and the wheat fell onto a platform. The mechanical reaper increased wheat production while decreasing the amount of manpower needed to farm the wheat.

mechanical reaper

In the previous Related Lesson, you learned that tremendous improvements were made to transportation during the Industrial Revolution. Those improvements were made thanks to Thomas Savery's steam engine. Today, Savery's steam engine may seem more like a Rube Goldberg machine (a complex machine designed to do a simple task), but at the time, these seemingly complicated machines did effectively perform the task at hand. Savery's steam engine operated with the use of coal. Coal was loaded into the steam engine next to a water tank. As the coal burned, it caused the water in the tank to boil, thus producing steam. The steam would cause other parts of the engine to move, which would cause a reaction among other engine parts, and so on. Initially, the steam engine was used to power machines in factories, but it was soon discovered that it could also be used to power trains and ships.

steam engine

The steam locomotive was another invention that came out of the Industrial Revolution. The steam locomotive was a train that was powered by a steam engine. This improved locomotive made ground transportation much faster, enabling raw materials to get to the factories in the cities. It also made it easier for people to move to cities.

steam locomotive

Robert Fulton's steamboat was a boat powered by a steam engine. The steamboat improved river transportation, making it easier to transport goods between the North and the South. Steamboats were also used during westward expansion to take people to the western territories.

riverboat

Some of the best-known inventions of the Industrial Revolution were the machines used to increase factory production. The spinning jenny was one of the first inventions to come out of the Industrial Revolution. Invented by James Hargreaves, the spinning jenny could spin several spools of the thread at one time, and it only took a few minutes to spin all the spools. It only took one person to operate a spinning jenny.

spinning jenny

Another important textile machine was the power loom. The power loom mechanized the textile weaving process, greatly increasing textile production.

In addition to inventions that improved production and transportation, many inventions were also created that improved communication. For example, in the late 1770s, the electric telegraph was patented. The electric telegraph can be viewed as one of the first telephones, because it allowed people to communicate over long distances. It used wires to send signals from one location to another. These signals could then be interpreted into messages.

A few years later, the typewriter was invented. The typewriter is a machine that uses movable type to compose any type of writing, including letters, journal entries, and newspaper articles. The typewriter increased the speed and efficiency of the process of writing documents.

typewriter

You have learned about just a few of the important inventions that came out of the Industrial Revolution. Visit 100 Industrial Revolution Inventions, courtesy of Siteseen, to see an alphabetical listing of Industrial Revolution inventions. Then, move on to the Got It? section to create an Industrial Revolution game!

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