The Market Revolution

Hello readers! I'm finished with student teaching and my undergraduate studies as a whole and I'm glad to finally be able to have time to sit and work on this blog. Teaching 9th and 10th graders global studies was definitely an experience I won't forget as I work toward getting done what I need to do to one day have control over my own classroom, but I'm glad to be able to write about American history for a change.

So, we left off with this blog in September having to backtrack a bit, but now we're going to be moving forward again as we pick up in the late 1700s-mid-1800s and discuss the Market Revolution.

The Market Revolution is a term used by historians to show the significance of this period in American history. The Market Revolution was a period of rapid development in manufacturing and improved farming, and these changes were so profound on the country at that time that historians called it a "revolution" because it showed great technological changes and advances.


Some of the changes which transpired during the Market Revolution had to do with farming. The earliest Market Revolution invention in regards to farming was the cotton gin, invented by Eli Whitney in 1793. The cotton gin was a machine that separated the cotton fibers from the cotton seeds, which was significantly more productive that separating the seeds and fibers by hand. The fibers were later processed into clothing or other textiles, and any undamaged seeds could be replanted or used to produce cottonseed oil (used for cooking) or cottonseed meal (used in animal feed and organic fertilizers). The invention of the cotton gin led to an increased need for slaves so more cotton could be produced, led to the rise of plantations and a Southern merchant class, led to a rise in Northern factories (to manufacture the cotton into textiles), and would lead to the rise of the Cotton Kingdom [note: all of these will be discussed in greater detail in another post later on]. There were two other very important inventions which aided in the expansion of agriculture in this era, and those were the mechanical mower-reaper invented by Cyrus McCormick in 1834 and the steel plow invented by John Deere in 1838. The mechanical mower-reaper was a machine that allowed farmers to cut standing grain and sweep it onto a platform where it would then be raked into piles by a man standing to the side of the machine. This allowed for more profitable wheat farming in the West, and even created surpluses that the West would sell to the Northeast. The horse-drawn steel plow replaced the ox-driven wooden plows of the past. The steel plow allowed farmers to till their soil fast and more cheaply, as it didn't need to be repaired/replaced as often as the wooden plows did.


There were great changes to transportation during the era of the Market Revolution. Railroads were being constructed and were being used to transport goods across the existing states and territories and would continue to be a major form of transportation right up until the invention of the automobile, but a major innovation to transportation during the Market Revolution era was the steamboat, invented by Robert Fulton in 1807. The steamboat truly revolutionized how products such as cotton and even food could be transported. Instead of putting the goods on ships and sailing down the Atlantic coast, or putting the goods on railroads, the steamboat allowed people to ship their goods by using the Mississippi River and transport them from the East to the West (what we today refer to as the Midwest).

Continuing with the topic of transporting goods via waterways, the Erie Canal located in New York State opened in 1825 and was used to transport goods and people. The Erie Canal was the first of several canals in the North that linked western farmers with eastern manufacturers, allowing the western farmers to have their raw materials produced.


Communication was starting to take off in various ways around this period as well. For example, newspapers and mail carriers were becoming more widespread, and the instant messaging of the day was invented as well--the telegraph, invented by Samuel F.B. Morse in 1835, as well as Morse Code. In 1858, the first transatlantic cable was laid between the U.S. and Europe, enabling rapid communication between the continents.

These innovations would give rise to a powerful economy and would propel the U.S. to become a wealthy nation. The Market Revolution would also give rise to the Cotton Kingdom and Southern Slavery. This era as a whole would lead to the changing of society and culture in the prebellum era.  


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