How did technology and innovation in American industry and in the transportation system begin during the Jeffersonian era?
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While the Industrial Revolution in England had virtually reached full stride by the first quarter of the nineteenth century, its development in the United States was a bit slower in coming. Much of America's industrialism began at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries. In the Jeffersonian period, however, technology and innovation certainly came to the fore.
The Louisiana Purchase in 1803, while one high point of Jefferson's presidency, presented logistical problems regarding the management and development of the newly-acquired territory. In addition, the American population was expanding from the original thirteen colonies as more and more settlers moved inland. In response to this, a number of important cities and trading outposts emerged. The American river system provided something of a solution to American expansion. Robert Fulton's steamboat, developed in 1809, allowed for the navigation of the Mississippi River in both directions. Earlier ships were dependent on the river's currents. When not favorable, captains had to resort to portaging, which was costly and time-consuming. Fulton's steamboat, however, addressed this problem.
In addition, certain inventions increased the productivity of the American farming system. The cotton gin, originally developed in 1793 by Eli Whitney, came to prominence in the Jeffersonian period. It allowed individual farmers (who could afford cotton gins) to produce more, and eventually they could produce a surplus, allowing them to make money.
The steamboat and the cotton gin are only two of the noteworthy examples of the development and use of technology and innovation in American industry and transportation during the Jeffersonian period.
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