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The American Economy between 1790 - 1860

Info: 1073 words (4 pages) Essay
Published: 23rd Mar 2021 in Economics

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Prior to the American Civil war, the American economy had grown tremendously. This economic growth can be attributed to the first entrepreneurial efforts of Samuel Slater in setting up Slater Mill, which was a textile industry that borrowed the ideology from the British. Slater Mill was the first industrial innovation in the American economy in 1790. Samuel Morse was a crucial contributor as his invention of the telegraph allowed for the starting of long-distance communication in American, which took part in the economic and industrial growth of the country.  Industrialization was made possible by the building of corporations, asset investment, and corporate development (Higgs, 1971). This paper will attempt to discuss the American growth in three perspectives that are: changes in communication, changes in transportation, and changes in agricultural production.

Transportation

The American economy grew as a result of changes in transportation. In 1807, Richard Fulton pioneered the first commercial steamboat on the Hudson River. Fulton later died, but Nicholas Roosevelt and Robert Livingstone continued his ideology. With Fulton's ideology and the Clermont, other shipbuilders incorporated the idea of building steamboats with shallow drafts, which would do well in the transportation of goods in and out of an area. This transportation mode made it possible for Northern America to be accessible to the European and British markets to increase trade. Later, there was an increased demand for a faster travel mechanism on land, and thus came the railroads. Although the steamboats were quicker and stronger, the railroads could be built anywhere on earth in comparison to the steamboats only depending on the water as a means of transportation. The railroads reduced the distance and cost between the local farmer and the market in contrast to the wagon transportation, which was quite costly (Donaldson & Hornbeck, 2016). Railroads facilitated the smooth and quick transit of raw materials to industries and thus fastened the growth of timber, iron, steel, and other sectors and also led to the growth of the American economy through providing transportation services which brought about domestic income.

Communication

Changes in communication brought forth a thriving American economy before the Civil war erupted. Benjamin Franklin observed that the nation needed a communication channel for people to be able to send and receive messages quickly and, thus invented mailing, which could be sent and received through postal. The postal services became a popular method of communication, and as such, railroads provided transportation for the letters from one point to another, thus providing a smooth stream of information. Newspapers were a popular newsfeed to everyone in the American state. Franklin made sure that newspapers were sold at the lowest price so that everyone could receive insight on what was happening countrywide. The ability to converse or send information over long distances became even more comfortable with the invention of the telegraph by Samuel Morse, which connected Baltimore to Washington D.C (B. Du Boff, 1980). Telegraphs made it easier for one to have an appropriate idea of the market behavior and thus improved trading, providing a platform for the American economy to grow enormously. The telegraphs were later used to send out information to United States troops during the Civil war. 

Agricultural Production

The change in agricultural production became a factor in the growth of the American economy. Farmers snatched the growing marketing opportunities for their products as Americans rapidly demanded farm products. The farmers situated in cities such as Boston and New York became specialized in urban products such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whereas the rural farmers altered to products that could be transported over long distances and not expire fast. Such products include cattle, pigs, and wheat (Fausold, 1977). On arrival, grain can be turned to flour, and animals and pigs can be slaughtered to provide meat for sale. This healthy competition between the farmers in the city and those in the rural area brought forth an economic growth due to the availability of goods to be sold.

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The American economy between 1790 and 1860 prospered as a result of a change in communication, change in transportation, and change in agricultural production. The difference in agrarian output increased the variety of goods in the market as farmers from outside and inside cities were competing and thus increasing trade. Change in transportation was a crucial factor as the difference provided farmers with less costly, faster, and more comfortable transportation of goods through water and land. Wagon transport was quite expensive as compared to railroads and steamboats. Steamboats were invented to help solve the problem of slow transportation on water bodies. The railroads came after as a means to travel on land faster, and also they could be built almost anywhere. Communication was revolutionized with the introduction of telegraphs and postal services. Telegraphs helped in relaying information about the market behavior, leading to competitive pricing and economic growth. Postal services were invented so that people could write letters to each other. The three factors discussed above changed the American economy as it strengthened trade and communication before the onset of the Civil war and after.

References

  • ‌ B. Du Boff, R. (1980). Business Demand and the Development of the Telegraph in the United States, 18441860. The Business History Review54(4), 459–479. https://doi.org/10.2307/3114215.
  • Donaldson, D., & Hornbeck, R. (2016). Railroads and American Economic Growth: A “Market Access” Approach *. The Quarterly Journal of Economics131(2), 799–858. https://doi.org/10.1093/qje/qjw002.
  • Fausold, M. L. (1977). President Hoover’s Farm Policies 19291933. Agricultural History51(2), 362–377. Retrieved from https://www.jstor.org/stable/3741165?read-now=1&seq=2#.
  • Higgs, R. (1971). The transformation of the American economy, 1865-1914 : an essay in interpretation. New York, Wiley.

 

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