The Market Revolution, Industrialization, and New Technologies

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What were three reasons farmers left farming during the industrial revolution?

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One major reason why farmers left for the factories during the Industrial Revolution was that it was also a Market Revolution. Prior to this, most labor was done in the home. Women, when not working in the farm fields, would work in the small-scale production of goods. This helped supplement the often meager profits that came from farming itself. When factories started making most produced goods, these at-home jobs mostly dried up. This forced many to leave the farms to go and work directly in the factories.

Population growth was another reason. The 19th Century marked a steep increase in the population of the United States and England. Coupled with improved farming techniques, it became less necessary to have large numbers of people all working on farms. In fact, having too many people on a farm became a liability. There simply was not enough in the way of profits to feed and take care of everyone there. Consequently, many left for the factories to help relieve the burden on their farms.

Innovations in transportation technology also led to this shift. Better roads, expanding railroads, and steamship travel allowed goods and people to travel faster, more cheaply, and safer than ever before. While people had previously been limited by their local geography, they could now travel more easily to cities and mill towns where new factory jobs existed.

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During the Industrial Revolution in America and Europe, there were many reasons why farmers decided to stop farming and migrate to rapidly growing urban centers. The first reason for rural to urban migration was new, lucrative opportunities in cities (i.e., factory work). The second reason was a loss of rural employment on farms because of new agricultural technologies. Lastly, farmers were sick and tired of making little profits. As farming became more automated, high yields drove down food prices, while transportation to market continued to be too high for farmers to sustain.

In both Europe and America, the Industrial Revolution created mass migration from rural areas to urban centers as people sought factory work. Before the Industrial Revolution in Europe, most Europeans lived on small farms. By the mid-1800s, 50% of the English population had migrated to big cities like Manchester, London, and Birmingham. Likewise, in America, eleven million people migrated from rural to urban centers from 1870–1920. By 1920, over half the American population lived in cities like New York City and Boston. Steam-powered spinning and weaving machines, coupled with steamboat and locomotive transportation, caused an explosion in manufacturing. The introduction of the assembly line with interchangeable parts also meant that unskilled workers could easily labor in factories.

Secondly, there was a marked loss of rural employment, which sent people packing for urban industrial centers. In England, for example, before the Industrial Revolution was in full force, the country experienced the Agrarian Revolution—an explosion of new farming technologies and techniques. This revolution meant that more crops could be grown more quickly, making many farm jobs obsolete. As the Industrial Revolution brought new technologies, farming jobs continued to dwindle.

In America, the effect was similar. New farming technologies sprouted up all over the nation, beginning with the cotton gin in the late 1793. Eventually, the cotton gin would be operated using steam power, revolutionizing the cotton industry and making it the most profitable market in America. Additionally, reapers and threshers allowed for a smaller number of people to cut wheat stalks faster. This meant that not as many people were physically needed for the task.

Lastly, farmers were eager to make money in big cities as they became disillusioned with the difficult task of farming. Many had suffered with little profits for too long and yearned for new opportunities. Bad weather could sabotage a crop and leave farmers with nothing to show for their hard work. Furthermore, farmers complained that it was difficult and costly to get their produce to markets. When these concerns were expressed to politicians, they often fell on deaf ears. With Henry Clay's American System, the federal government invested in railroads, canals and roadways. The allure of new industrial cities on the Eastern Seaboard was undeniable. For example, large, profitable textile mills were big draws for rural folk. The Beverly Cotton Manufactory (1787), the Slater Mill in Rhode Island (1790), and the Waltham Mill in Massachusetts (1814) made New England the "cradle of the American Industrial Revolution."

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During the industrial revolution, many farmers left the profession.  There were many reasons for this.  One reason was financial. Farmers were producing too many crops. Part of this was due to the use of machinery that led to increased crop production.  As a result, crop prices dropped causing farmers’ income to also drop.  Some farmers mortgaged their farms to deal with the debt.  However, this usually led to foreclosure by the banks.

Another reason farmers left the profession was because they felt they were being treated unfairly.  Railroad companies would not give the farmers rebates on shipping rates.  Railroad companies often gave rebates to businesses that did a lot of shipping on the trains. The railroad companies wouldn’t do this for farmers. Farmers also believed they were being charged very high interest rates.  This contributed to their debt issues.  When farmers could not pay back their loans, they lost their farms.

Farmers also left the profession because farming was a hard life.  They had to work very long hours every day.  They lived in isolated areas.  They faced serious problems discussed in the above paragraphs.  When the industrial revolution came, some farmers moved to the cities. There were more jobs available in the cities, and there were more things to do.

Farmers had many reasons to leave farming during the industrial revolution.

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