In the late 1800s, numerous enterprising Americans created a flood of new inventions meant to make life easier for others. In 1897, the U.S. government issued more patents than in the decade before the Civil War and would become known the world over as the land of inventions and innovations.
This wouldn't be a post about inventions and innovations without mentioning Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Nikola Tesla was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and physicist best known for his contributions to the knowledge of alternating current (AC) electrical supply system. Tesla emigrated to the U.S. in 1884 from Austria. He worked at Edison Machine Works in New York City for a time before going his own way; he would establish laboratories and companies where he would develop a range of electrical and mechanical devices such as his famed alternating current induction motor. Tesla was also famous for his experiments with wireless technology--from wireless lighting and wireless electrical power to wireless communication. Without Tesla's experiments, there would be no basis for cell phones or WiFi today. In 1876, Thomas Edison set up a research laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey where numerous scientists worked to produce products such as the electric light bulb, phonograph motion picture camera, and more. With most of the inventions produced by Edison's crew requiring electricity, Edison would open the first electrical power plant in New York City in 1882; soon, power plants would spring up in other cities all over the country, providing electricity to homes businesses, and schools. Today, the electrical inventions of Tesla and Edison, and the availability of electricity in the home are often taken for granted.
The period of the Second Industrial Revolution/Technological Revolution would lead to a rise in communications technology just as the Market Revolution had. In 1866, Cyrus Field had laid an underwater telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean between the U.S. and Europe. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell further improved communication with the successful invention of the telephone; by 1885 more than 300,000 telephones had been sold, mostly to businesses, and Bell would go on to organize the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (or AT&T today). Other devices would go on to make the work life and home life simplified. In 1868, Christopher Sholes invented the typewriter; George Eastman's Kodak Camera was introduced in 1888 and its light weight replaced the use of huge cameras and hundreds of pounds of chemicals; and the costs of the typewriter and the Kodak Camera were low enough that ordinary people could buy them and use them in their daily lives.
The time period also brought about a change in how people traveled. In the late 1800s, Europeans invented the automobile and it would make its way to the U.S. In 1902, only 8,000 Americans owned an automobile; in 1913, Henry Ford developed the assembly line, which allowed him to churn out vehicles at a quickened pace making the automobile more widely available to the American public in both quantity and price. Ford even began churning out his own automobiles such as the Ford Model A and the Ford Model T--both available in every color you could want...as long as that color was black. Roadways were built and expanded upon and today the name Ford continues to live on.
One final mode of transportation that came about because of the Second Industrial Revolution was the aeroplane, or airplane as we say now. In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright tested a gas-powered airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. On its first flight, the plane stayed in the air for 12 seconds and flew 120 feet. at the time, no one could see a practical use for these flying machines, and it wasn't until World war I broke out when their potential military use was realized. By the 1920s, travel by airplane began to "take off" and Boeing would begin the move from manufacturing military aircraft to commercial fleets.
Many of these inventions and innovations remain in use today while others have not stood the test of time and our modern technological revolution, but these inventions and innovations would propel America forward and make us known the world over as a technological powerhouse.