The Market Revolution, Industrialization, and New Technologies

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Evaluate how the market revolution changed society and what aspects remained unchanged.

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To accept the idea of the Market Revolution in the antebellum United States is to argue that it represented a massive change in the way people lived, worked, and consumed. The Market Revolution was, in short, the development of a modern commercial economy, with people, especially farmers, participating in the market in an effort to make a profit. This meant that their economic lives were intertwined with other people's around the country and even the world.

The Market Revolution was driven by changes in technology related to power, transportation, and communication. Steam power enabled developing textile mills to drastically increase production. States and even the federal government invested in road construction as well as canals to move materials. The telegraph in particular made it possible for farmers to know crop prices in more or less real time. Other innovations, such as the cotton gin, boosted the southern agricultural economy, leading to increased demand for enslaved labor as well as land to cultivate in the Deep South. In this sense, the Market Revolution caused an existing institution to increase in size and significance.

For many urban workers, the Market Revolution witnessed changes associated with industrialization. Jobs formerly done by well-paid craftsmen could now be completed in port-industrial settings, with unskilled workers completing tasks once done by highly-trained artisans. The Market Revolution ushered in an era of tremendous growth, but it also subjected workers to economic depressions in ways that previous generations had not been. Financial panics led to extended economic downturns punctuated by rapid periods of expansion. In short, the Market Revolution marked a major turning point in the lives of many Americans.

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