What were the reasons that the U.S. economy grew so rapidly during the late 19th century?

Expert Answers
pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There were a number of reasons why the United States’ economy grew so rapidly during this time.  Let us look at a few.

  • Technological innovation.  Perhaps the most important innovation was the Bessemer Process for making steel.  This process came to the United States in the late 1860s.  It allowed steel to be made much more quickly and inexpensively.  This allowed for a boom in things that were made from steel.  Most notably, the railroad industry was able to expand greatly. 
  • Railroads.  With the expansion of railroads, a truly national economy became possible.  Railroads could move anything to any place very rapidly and relatively cheaply.   This had never before been possible.
  • Territorial expansion.  The “opening of the West” was extremely important as well.  It provided new lands where agriculture could be engaged in on a relatively cheap basis.  This made food for the workers in the cities.  The West was also the source of a great deal of mineral wealth that could be exploited.
  • Immigration.  The large factories in the cities needed to have a lot of workers.  These workers needed to be cheap.  Because of immigration, there was a large pool of cheap labor ready to be used by the factories.

For these reasons, the US economy industrialized and grew rapidly in the late 1800s.