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A Changing Country


The story of Chapter 15 takes place during the first half of the 1800s. In the East large factories manufactured more goods. The new steam engine began speeding people and these goods all over the country. Then, when gold was discovered in California, people raced west in search of fortune and opportunity. Follow the time line below to trace some of the other major events from this period.




Focus Activity


What were the effects of the Industrial Revolution?


Industrial Revolution

cotton gin

interchangeable parts



Samuel Slater

Eli Whitney

Francis Cabot Lowell

Cyrus McCormick

John Deere


Lowell, Massachusetts


A few miles outside of Boston, a new brick building stood beside the Charles River. The year was 1814. Inside, a few people watched as a machine wove yarn into cloth far more swiftly than a person could weave it by hand. "We sat by the hour," Nathan Appleton remembered, "watching the beautiful movement of this new and wonderful machine."


The new machine that Nathan Appleton described had been invented in Great Britain. In the late 1700s British inventors and businesses brought about the changes in industry and technology that became known as the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution changed the way goods were made. Goods that had been made by hand in homes or workshops were now made by machines, often in factories.

Before the Industrial Revolution, women and children slowly spun yarn and wove cloth by hand. The first British factories used water-powered machines to spin cotton yarn and weave cloth. After the Industrial Revolution, production increased and costs decreased.

At the time of Britain's Industrial Revolution, the young United States was still mainly a land of farms. Before long, though, a British mechanic named Samuel Slater would bring the Industrial Revolution to the United States. His yarn-spinning machine would come to represent the beginning of a new way of life for our country.



Because of the Industrial Revolution, no other country in the world could make cloth as cheaply as Great Britain. The British wanted to keep their profitable technology a secret. So they passed laws making it illegal to export machines or machine plans. The people who operated machines in cotton factories were not even allowed to leave the country.

In 1789 Samuel Slater memorized the plans of the British spinning machines. He had heard that, because of the free market in the United States, business owners there would pay for this new technology. In a free market, producers of goods and services freely decide how to use resources in response to demand. People in the United States wanted to start their own business in making cloth.

Slater slipped out of the country and came to the United States. Soon he was hired by a merchant to build spinning machines in Rhode Island. By 1790 Slater had built the first American machines to spin cotton into yarn.

The Cotton Gin

Slater had to pay a high price for the cotton he used in his factory, which limited his profits. In 1793, however, an American inventor built a machine that made cotton cheaper to produce. His name was Eli Whitney.

Whitney heard planter's talk about how long it took enslaved workers to remove the stubborn seeds stuck to cotton. Whitney invented the cotton gin in ten days. Whitney's gin, which is short for "engine," helped workers clean up to 50 times more cotton than they could by hand.

As you can see from the bar graph below, cotton production boomed after the invention of the cotton gin. Together, slave labor and the cotton gin made growing cotton more profitable. Many-planters became more determined to keep slavery alive.

Whitney's original cotton gin is kept today in the National Museum of History in Washington, D.C.



The cotton gin helped create a plentiful supply of cotton. However, the United States did not have Great Britain's water-powered machines, called "power looms." The looms wove cloth more quickly and cheaply than Slater's machines.

From Cotton to Cloth

Like Samuel Slater and Eli Whitney, Francis Cabot Lowell helped spread the Industrial Revolution in the United States. In 1810 Lowell, a New England merchant, toured several cloth-making factories in Great Britain. He decided to build a factory of his own. In 1813 Lowell and his partners built our country's first power loom, in Waltham, Massachusetts. For the first time all stages of cloth-making—from spinning cotton into thread to weaving yarn into cloth—happened under one roof.

The swift waters of the Charles River powered the machines. The diagram on the next page shows how the waterwheel spun big leather belts. The belts, in turn, kept the machines moving.

Lowell died in 1817, but his business partners later built several textile mills next to the Merrimack River in Massachusetts. They also built a town, which they called Lowell, around the mills for the workers. It was the first planned town for workers to be built in the United States.

Working at Lowell

Mostly unmarried women between the ages of 15 and 19 worked at the mills in Lowell and other towns. Few jobs were open to women then. Therefore, many were glad to get the work, • although they had long and tiring days.

The women from New England who worked at Lowell were called "mill girls." They lived in boarding houses built by the mill owners. In their spare time, the women attended lectures and reading clubs. Some also wrote poetry and stories for the Lowell Offering, a magazine published by the mill girls.

A mill girl spent 12 to 14 hours a day working at her machine, six days a week. The noise was often deafening. Lucy Larcom complained of "the buzzing and hissing of pulleys and rollers and spindles." Read the following excerpt from a Lowell mill girl's letter home to her father. What rule did she have to follow? Why do you think that rule was important?



Excerpt from a letter written by Mary S. Paul on April 12, 1846.

I am at work in a spinning room and tending four sides of warp which is one girl's work. The overseer tells me that he never had a girl get along better than I do and that he will do the best he can by me. . . . I have a very good boarding place [and] have enough to eat. . . . The girls are all kind and obliging. The girls that I room with are all from Vermont and good girls too. Now I will tell you about our rules at the boarding house. We have none in particular except that we have to go to bed about 10 o'clock. At half past 4 in the morning the bell rings for us to get up and at five for us to go into the mill.

warp: lengthwise threads of the spinning machine

obliging: helpful



In addition to the cotton gin, Eli Whitney introduced another idea that helped to spread the Industrial Revolution in the United States. The idea came from a French inventor, but Whitney was the first to use it in this country.

In 1798 Whitney got a contract to make 10,000 guns, called muskets for the United States Army. Muskets were among the many items that were still being made by hand. When a musket broke, for example, a gun maker had to make a special part in order to fix it.

Whitney said that he could make the 10,000 muskets in only two years. Many people doubted that Whitney could deliver them in time. Yet Whitney had an idea. He planned to create tools that would make each part of a musket the same, or a standard, size. Each part for his musket would fit in any of his other muskets. In addition, all these same-sized parts for his muskets would be made at once, which also saved time. These standard-sized parts were called interchangeable parts.

At his factory near New Haven, Connecticut, Whitney slowly brought together machines and workers. He did lot deliver the muskets in time. However, his efforts cleared the way for new advances in the Industrial Revolution.

Changes on the Farm

In 1832 the Industrial Revolution came to the farm. A Virginia farmer named Cyrus McCormick improved the horse-drawn reaper. A reaper is a machine that uses sharp blades to cut and harvest grain. By hand, farmers cut 2 or 3 acres of wheat a day. Using McCormick's reaper, they could now cut up to 12 acres a day.

In his factory in Chicago, McCormick made reapers with interchangeable parts. The parts allowed farmers to repair broken reapers quickly. McCormick even sent agents to make on-the-spot repairs during the harvest season.

In the Middle West, farmers complained that wooden plows were unable to cut through the tough roots of the prairie grass. In 1837 an Illinois blacksmith named John Deere made a better plow. He took an old steel saw and bent it over a log. The soil fell cleanly off the steel saw. Soon many farmers were using Deere's plow. Later, historians called it "the plow that broke the plains" of the West.

Thanks to interchangeable parts, people can replace brakes, handle bars, tires — practically every part of the bicycle.


The old horse-drawn (top) and the modern gasoline-powered reaper (above) have both been labor-savers for American farmers.


The Industrial Revolution brought great wealth to some entrepreneurs (ahn truh pruh NURZ) and improved the lives of many who could buy factory goods. An entrepreneur is a person who starts and owns a business. Yet a price was paid for these gains. Many people worked long hours in difficult conditions. In the South, slavery was strengthened. Differences between the North and South became even greater.

The Industrial Revolution brought other changes. In 1800 most people lived on farms. By the end of the 1800s, workers in the United States were producing more factory goods than any other country, including Britain.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• The Industrial Revolution came to America in 1790 when Samuel Slater began building spinning machines.

• In 1793 Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, which increased cotton production and made it more profitable.

• In 1813 Francis Cabot Lowell built the first mill that handled all stages of cloth production under one roof.

• Cyrus McCormick's reaper of 1832 and John Deere's steel plow of 1837 made work on farms easier.


1. How were Slater and Lowell important to the Industrial Revolution?

2. In what ways did the Industrial Revolution change farming?

3. FOCUS What changes in work did the Industrial Revolution bring?

4. THINKING SKILL What were some positive and negative effects of Eli Whitney's cotton gin?

5. WRITE Suppose you are a mill girl. Write an article for the Lowell Offering that explains what you like and dislike about your work.




Focus Activity


What inventions led to better transportation across the country?



steam engine





Robert Fulton

DeWitt Clinton

Peter Cooper


National Road

Erie Canal


In 1788 a French traveler named Brissot de Warville (bree SOH duh vahr VEE yuh) boarded a stagecoach in Fairfield, Connecticut. The coach clattered over the steep and rocky road to New York. Warville could not understand how the driver avoided "dashing the carriage to pieces." Soon there would be better ways for people to travel across the United States.


In 1800 the best roads in the United States were paved with rocks or logs. Most roads were narrow dirt trails filled with roots and tree stumps that broke wagon wheels. When it rained, deep puddles and sticky mud slowed the wagons and horses even more. It took a stagecoach, for example, four days to cover the 215 miles between Boston and New York. A stagecoach was a large, horse-drawn carriage that carried passengers, baggage, and mail.

In 1811 the federal government started building the National Road. When finished, the road would stretch from Cumberland, Maryland, all the way west to Vandalia, Illinois. Made of stone and gravel, the National Road linked the East with what was then the West. It was a big improvement in transportation. "The whole population is in motion," wrote one observer in 1828. Soon, however, the steam engine would make travel even easier over both land and water. A steam engine uses the energy from steam to power its engine.



Roads were not the only way to travel in the United States. Because river travel was cheap, canoes and flat-bottomed boats also carried many goods and passengers on the country's rivers. Log rafts floated crops and goods downstream on the Mississippi River to the port of New Orleans. As a young man Abraham Lincoln guided a flat-bottomed boat down the river from Indiana. Going upstream, or against the current, was much harder. The steam engine solved this problem.

Full Steam Ahead!

An American artist named Robert Fulton learned of a powerful steam engine that had been developed in Scotland. Although he was a successful painter, Fulton had a strong interest in engineering. In 1793 he gave up painting and began to design a steamboat. As its name suggests, a steamboat is a boat powered by a steam engine.

After years of work, Fulton designed a boat that used a steam engine and two large paddle wheels. Fulton called his steamboat the Clermont. Others called it "Fulton's Folly." One observer said it looked like "a backwoods sawmill mounted on a scow [flat boat] and set on fire."

In August 1807, the Clermont was ready for a run from New York City north to Albany. Crowds lined the banks of the Hudson River and cheered as the steamboat paddled upriver. The 150-mile trip took only 32 hours, a record time for those days. A flat-bottomed boat took from 8 to 11 days for the same trip. Soon tourists looking for pleasure rides, and merchants wanting to ship their goods, began using the steamboat. The Clermont proved that steamboats could move people and goods quickly and cheaply.

Robert Fulton (below) and his Clenmont (bottom) proved that steamboats were an easier way to travel upstream.



The governor of New York, DeWitt Clinton, dreamed of linking the Hudson River with Lake Erie through what he called a "Grand Canal." Such a canal, or human-built waterway, would allow boats to travel from New York City all the way north and west to the Great Lakes.

"Clinton's Ditch"

When people heard about Clinton's idea, they said it was impossible. The distance between Lake Erie and the Hudson River is about 350 miles. "It is little short of madness to think of it!" said Thomas Jefferson.

No one had ever attempted to build such a long canal. Most canals at this time were only a few miles long. It seemed nearly impossible to raise the amount of money—$7 million—needed to dig the canal. Critics began calling the canal "Clinton's Ditch."

Clinton asked investors from Europe to buy a share in the canal. An investor is a person who uses money to buy or make something that will make a profit. By the summer of 1817, Clinton had found enough investors to pay for the cost of digging the canal.

Digging the Canal

In a ceremony on July 4th, Clinton broke ground for the Erie Canal. From the beginning, the digging was tough. One of the biggest problems was finding enough workers. Engineers had hired farmers to build the first stretch of canal, but there were not enough of them. The builders solved the problem by hiring immigrants from Europe.

Another problem was elevation. The land along Lake Erie was 565 feet


higher than the land along the Hudson River. To solve this problem, the workers built canal locks. A canal lock is a kind of water elevator that moves boats to higher or lower levels. Review the diagram on page 412 to see how a canal lock works.

The Completed Canal

Finally, after eight years of hard work, the Erie Canal was finished in 1825. Cannons roared and people cheered as Clinton sailed in a canal boat into New York Harbor from Lake Erie. When he reached the Atlantic Ocean, Clinton poured a barrel of Lake Erie water into the ocean to represent the new link. "They have built the longest canal in the world in the least time, with the least experience, for the least money, and to the greatest public benefit," reported one newspaper in Buffalo, New York.

The Erie Canal was an immediate success. Before, shipping goods over land between Buffalo on Lake Erie and New York City took 20 days and cost $100 a ton. The Erie Canal brought the price down to $10 a ton and cut travel time to eight days.

Farmers in Indiana, Illinois, northern Ohio, and the territory of Michigan could ship their crops more easily to cities in the East. Eastern merchants could sell their iron and manufactured goods in the West. With the Erie Canal, trade boomed, and New York City quickly became the country's biggest and most important port and city.

The success of the Erie Canal caused a rush of canal-building in the 1820s. However, a new invention that used a steam engine soon made canals less important. In Great Britain, the railroads carried people and goods faster than anyone had dreamed. As the maps on this page show, roads and railroads soon began crossing the United States as well.


The Tom Thumb marked the first use of steam engines on our country's railroads.


The first railroad cars were pulled on iron rails by horses. In 1829 a British inventor replaced the horses with an "iron horse"—a steam locomotive. In 1830 a New York businessman, Peter Cooper, brought the iron horse to this country.

Tom Thumb

Cooper suggested that the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company use steam power instead of horses. "I will knock an engine together in six weeks that will pull carriages 10 miles an hour," he said. He named the engine Tom Thumb, after a character in a children's story.

People doubted that the Tom Thumb could travel fast. A Baltimore stagecoach company decided to challenge the Tom Thumb to a race. At first "the race was neck and neck." Then, something went wrong on the Tom Thumb. The horse-drawn coach won. Still the Tom thumb proved steam engines could haul large loads long distances.


In the early 1800s, new inventions and improvements in roads helped to increase trade and lower the cost of transportation in the United States. The Erie Canal carried thousands of European immigrants from New York City to the West. Swift travel helped to expand and to unify the young country.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• The Erie Canal, completed in 1825, increased trade between East and West.

• Peter Cooper built the Tom Thumb in 1830 and showed that a steam locomotive could haul large loads over long distances.


1. What were some of the problems of our country's early roads?

2. What did Robert Fulton's steamboat, the Clermont prove?

3. FOCUS How did the steam engine change travel in America?

4. THINKING SKILL What are some different points of view about the Erie Canal expressed in the lesson?

5. GEOGRAPHY What kind of maps would a canal builder use? Explain your answer.




The River Watchers

EAST PEORIA, ILLINOIS. All along the Illinois River, young people are watching the water. Teachers at East Peoria Community High School have been training river watchers since 1990. Together with at least 20,000 students in high schools throughout Illinois, the river watchers have created an early warning system that alerts environmental experts to changes in the river's health.

Thirty years ago the Illinois River was polluted. Homes and factories had dumped waste and harmful chemicals into the water. Parts of the river had become unsafe for swimming or fishing.

Concerned about the river's health, East Peoria citizens and officials worked with businesses to clean up the river. Now the people of East Peoria take pride in its clear, clean water. They also take action to keep it that way.

Several times each year, the river watchers patrol the Illinois's banks. They test the water temperature, check the clearness of the water, and measure levels of chemical pollution and oxygen. The results of these and other tests are sent by computer to a central information center. Scientists at the United States Fish and Wildlife Service use this information to identify any changes in overall water quality.

Today the Illinois River is the site of a yearly fishing contest. Top bass fishers from all over the United States attend. Once a year the students in Peoria also hold a Clean Water Celebration. Over 3,000 students come to see exhibits on pollution cleanup. High school student Guin Rhodes took part in the Peoria cleanup. "I always knew the river was there. But I never thought much about it. Now I know the possibilities of how it can change for the worse. It has made me pay attention to how the river should be treated."

Dr. Robert Williams, who started the Illinois River Project in 1990, says that many of the river watchers feel as Guin does. "My kids," he explains, "will never cross another river the rest of their lives and not look down and wonder if this river is all right."




Focus Activity


How did Texas become part of the United Sates?


Stephen F. Austin

Antonio Lopez de Santa Ana

Juan Seguin

David Crockett

Jim Bowie

William Travis

Suzanna Dickenson

Sam Houston

Lorenzo de Zavala



The Alamo


San Jacinto River



Mary Austin Holley was impressed with the rich lands of Texas. In 1831 she wrote to her friends in the United States, "The newcomer has but to plant his seeds in the ground, and the increase is astonishing." Holley was one of the many people who had left the United States to start a new life in Texas.


The first Europeans to set foot in Texas were Spanish explorers. For many years the Spaniards who colonized Mexico heard stories of "the great kingdom of the Tejas (TAY hahs)." These stories described Native American people, the Caddo, who called themselves tejas, or "friends." Later, Spanish explorers began calling the entire region Texas.

Texas was part of the Spanish territory of Mexico. In 1821 Mexico won its independence from Spain after ten hard years of fighting.

Mexican leaders worried that there were not enough people living in Texas, which was one of Mexico's northern provinces, or states. They believed the United States might take control of Texas if there were too few people to defend it. To attract more settlers, the Mexican government offered land to Mexicans who were willing to move north to Texas. The Mexican government also began looking to Europe and the United States for more settlers.


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