During the antebellum era (in the early to mid nineteenth century), the Northern economy was becoming increasingly industrialized. The North was linked to the Midwest (then called the Northwest) by railroad and canal, while the South remained largely agrarian and did not industrialize to the same extent. The South also had far fewer miles of railroad track, making it more isolated, geographically and culturally, from the rest of the country. The Northern economy was moving away from the need for agricultural workers and was turning to factories and the use of immigrant labor, while the South, in part because of the invention of Eli Whitney's cotton gin in the late 1700s, was still highly reliant on slavery.
The Second Great Awakening, which took place around 1800, led to increased fervor for abolitionism in the North and to other reform movements, such as temperance. This sentiment did not hold sway in the South, which remained culturally and economically committed to practicing slavery.