The Market Revolution, Industrialization, and New Technologies

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What advances in transportation took place during the 1800s and the industrial revolution?

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1800's advances in transportation: Early in the century, a lot of barge canals were built.  Canals were not new, but the number of them built was an advance. On the Documenting the American South website, there is an article that you may enjoy about canal travel. It is reprinted in George W. Bagby's The Old Virginia Gentleman and Other Stories.  As soon as technology permitted the building of steam locomotives, railroads began replacing canals.  Railroads could go places canals could not go and steam locomotives could haul bigger loads of freight and passengers; canal boats were pulled by mules.  Steam powered river boats and steam powered ocean going ships became prominent in the 19th century.  The ocean going ships came to be constructed of iron and steel instead of wood.  These vessels could carry more cargo and were faster than the river barges, keel boats, and sailing ships that had preceeded them.

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The "Transportation revolution" happened during this time, which included the widespread use of the steam engine.  It also included the use of man-made canals (The Erie Canal was completed in 1825) and turnpikes, where those who used the road would pay a fee each time to finance its construction.  The National, or Cumberland Road in effect became our country's first interstate highway, joining parts of five states.

Later in the century, the railroad replaced canals as the most economical means of moving goods and people, and connected almost all parts of the nation.

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Though a lesser means of long transportation than the train and steamboat, the bicycle also became an important means of short-distance travel during the late 19th century. Originating in the early 1800s, the first bike was made of wood without pedals and was propelled by walking and then riding. Later versions with the large front wheel were deemed too unsafe and unwieldy, but by the 1880s, chain-driven bicycles had become highly popular.

The bicycle was what made the Gay Nineties gay. It was a practical investment for the working man as transportation, and gave him a much greater flexibility for leisure. Ladies, heretofore consigned to riding the heavy adult size tricycles that were only practical for taking a turn around the park, now could ride a much more versatile machine and still keep their legs covered with long skirts. The bicycle craze killed the bustle and the corset, instituted "common-sense dressing" for women and increased their mobility considerably. In 1896 Susan B. Anthony said that "the bicycle has done more for the emancipation of women than anything else in the world."

Bicycling became so popular in the 1880s and 1890s that biking organizations were formed. One even lobbied for better road conditions, "literally paving the road for the automobile."

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The two major advances in transportation that took place during the 1800s were the steamboat and the train.

In the United States at the beginning of the 1800s, essentially all transportation was either by animal power or by wind power (sails).  Other boats could go down rivers, but not back up them.  Nothing could go overland except if it was pulled by animals.

The invention of the steamboat changed this so that boats could go either direction on rivers.  When railroads were first built and later expanded, the problem of moving goods and people overland was solved too.

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