What were two of the factors that helped the industries of the United States  

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kipling2448 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Two of the main factors that facilitated the growth of American industry, especially from the middle of the 19th century to the early years of the 20th century, were the industrial revolution and the country's wealth in natural resources.

Citing the industrial revolution as a factor in the growth of industry may seem tautological. The reason it is listed here, though, is because industries, like logging and mining, were not reliant on the development of new technologies and means of production. The industrial revolution, therefore, is not necessarily synonymous with the growth of American industry. It was, however, the development of certain means of production like Eli Whitney's cotton gin, which was developed late in the 18th century, that enabled the development of the kinds of industry that were both inherently dependent upon technology and that enabled the spectacular growth of additional types of industry. The American South survived as a major producer of textiles, for example, right up until the latter part of the 20th century due to the innovations that characterized the industrial revolution. Similarly, up north, in Michigan, the automotive industry grew exponentially due to the machinery and assembly-line methodology exploited by Henry Ford to churn out automobiles to feed the nation's growing hunger for mechanized means of transportation.

A second major factor in the growth of industry was the North American continent’s rich abundance of the raw materials and other natural resources, such as oil and coal, that were needed for the development of industry. The country’s wealth in iron ore and other metals vital to the production of many goods for both domestic consumption and export was key to the development and growth of many kinds of industry, with the oil and coal industries integral to the ability of other industries, such as agriculture and textiles, to get those goods to markets across the continent’s great expanse as well as across the oceans to markets overseas. In fact, so important to the growth of industry was the country’s abundance of natural resources that the decline in production of such resources has been felt in the weakening of many industries over the past 30 years. Look to China today for an idea of the importance of indigenous sources of raw materials for the development of a nation’s industrial base. China is lacking in many natural resources (with the notable exception of what are known as “rare earth minerals,” specific, difficult to find raw materials essential to modern industries like computing and telecommunications), so it expends considerable energy on developing economic relationships with countries rich in natural resources like in Africa to ensure a steady supply of raw materials to support Chinese factories.

One could also add to the list of major factors in the growth of industry the industriousness of the American labor force, innovativeness of American management, and the institutionalization of a political system that provided for considerable economic freedom. While the costs of that economic freedom are felt today in the environmental degradation that resulted from the industrial revolution, there is no question that a society built and sustained upon the notion of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was instrumental in the industrialization of the United States.

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