Industrial Revolution Essay Conclusion Generator

The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the increasing use of steam power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the factory system.

Textiles were the dominant industry of the Industrial Revolution in terms of employment, value of output and capital invested. The textile industry was also the first to use modern production methods.[1]:40

The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain, and many of the technological innovations were British.[2] By the mid-18th century Britain was the world's leading commercial nation[3], controlling a global trading empire with colonies in North America and Africa, and with some political influence on the Indian subcontinent, through the activities of the East India Company.[4] The development of trade and the rise of business were major causes of the Industrial Revolution.[1]:15

The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. In particular, average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. Some economists say that the major impact of the Industrial Revolution was that the standard of living for the general population began to increase consistently for the first time in history, although others have said that it did not begin to meaningfully improve until the late 19th and 20th centuries.[5][6][7]

GDP per capita was broadly stable before the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the modern capitalist economy,[8] while the Industrial Revolution began an era of per-capita economic growth in capitalist economies.[9] Economic historians are in agreement that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals and plants.[10]

The precise start and end of the Industrial Revolution is still debated among historians, as is the pace of economic and social changes.[11][12][13][14]Eric Hobsbawm held that the Industrial Revolution began in Britain in the 1780s and was not fully felt until the 1830s or 1840s,[11] while T. S. Ashton held that it occurred roughly between 1760 and 1830.[12] Rapid industrialization first began in Britain, starting with mechanized spinning in the 1780s,[15] with high rates of growth in steam power and iron production occurring after 1800. Mechanized textile production spread from Great Britain to continental Europe and the United States in the early 19th century, with important centres of textiles, iron and coal emerging in Belgium and the United States and later textiles in France.[1]

An economic recession occurred from the late 1830s to the early 1840s when the adoption of the original innovations of the Industrial Revolution, such as mechanized spinning and weaving, slowed and their markets matured. Innovations developed late in the period, such as the increasing adoption of locomotives, steamboats and steamships, hot blast iron smelting and new technologies, such as the electrical telegraph, widely introduced in the 1840s and 1850s, were not powerful enough to drive high rates of growth. Rapid economic growth began to occur after 1870, springing from a new group of innovations in what has been called the Second Industrial Revolution. These new innovations included new steel making processes, the large-scale manufacture of machine tools and the use of increasingly advanced machinery in steam-powered factories.[1][16][17][18]


The earliest recorded use of the term "Industrial Revolution" seems to have been in a letter from 6 July 1799 written by French envoy Louis-Guillaume Otto, announcing that France had entered the race to industrialise.[19] In his 1976 book Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society, Raymond Williams states in the entry for "Industry": "The idea of a new social order based on major industrial change was clear in Southey and Owen, between 1811 and 1818, and was implicit as early as Blake in the early 1790s and Wordsworth at the turn of the [19th] century." The term Industrial Revolution applied to technological change was becoming more common by the late 1830s, as in Jérôme-Adolphe Blanqui's description in 1837 of la révolution industrielle.[20]Friedrich Engels in The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844 spoke of "an industrial revolution, a revolution which at the same time changed the whole of civil society". However, although Engels wrote in the 1840s, his book was not translated into English until the late 1800s, and his expression did not enter everyday language until then. Credit for popularising the term may be given to Arnold Toynbee, whose 1881 lectures gave a detailed account of the term.[21]

Some historians, such as John Clapham and Nicholas Crafts, have argued that the economic and social changes occurred gradually and the term revolution is a misnomer. This is still a subject of debate among some historians.

Important technological developments

The commencement of the Industrial Revolution is closely linked to a small number of innovations,[22] beginning in the second half of the 18th century. By the 1830s the following gains had been made in important technologies:

  • Textiles – mechanised cotton spinning powered by steam or water increased the output of a worker by a factor of around 500. The power loom increased the output of a worker by a factor of over 40.[23] The cotton gin increased productivity of removing seed from cotton by a factor of 50.[17] Large gains in productivity also occurred in spinning and weaving of wool and linen, but they were not as great as in cotton.[1]
  • Steam power – the efficiency of steam engines increased so that they used between one-fifth and one-tenth as much fuel. The adaptation of stationary steam engines to rotary motion made them suitable for industrial uses.[1]:82 The high pressure engine had a high power to weight ratio, making it suitable for transportation.[24] Steam power underwent a rapid expansion after 1800.
  • Iron making – the substitution of coke for charcoal greatly lowered the fuel cost of pig iron and wrought iron production.[1]:89–93 Using coke also allowed larger blast furnaces,[25][26] resulting in economies of scale. The cast iron blowing cylinder was first used in 1760. It was later improved by making it double acting, which allowed higher blast furnace temperatures. The puddling process produced a structural grade iron at a lower cost than the finery forge.[27] The rolling mill was fifteen times faster than hammering wrought iron. Hot blast (1828) greatly increased fuel efficiency in iron production in the following decades.
  • Invention of machine tools – The first machine tools were invented. These included the screw cutting lathe, cylinder boring machine and the milling machine.[28]

Textile manufacture

Main article: Textile manufacture during the Industrial Revolution

British textile industry statistics

In 1750 Britain imported 2.5 million pounds of raw cotton, most of which was spun and woven by cottage industry in Lancashire. The work was done by hand in workers homes or occasionally in shops of master weavers. In 1787 raw cotton consumption was 22 million pounds, most of which was cleaned, carded and spun on machines.[1]:41–42

The share of value added by the cotton textile industry in Britain was 2.6% in 1760, 17% in 1801 and 22.4% in 1831. Value added by the British woollen industry was 14.1% in 1801. Cotton factories in Britain numbered approximately 900 in 1797. In 1760 approximately one-third of cotton cloth manufactured in Britain was exported, rising to two-thirds by 1800. In 1781 cotton spun amounted to 5.1 million pounds, which increased to 56 million pounds by 1800. In 1800 less than 0.1% of world cotton cloth was produced on machinery invented in Britain. In 1788 there were 50,000 spindles in Britain, rising to 7 million over the next 30 years.[29]

Wages in Lancashire, a core region for cottage industry and later factory spinning and weaving, were about six times those in India in 1770, when overall productivity in Britain was about three times higher than in India.[29]


Parts of India, China, Central America, South America and the Middle-East have a long history of hand manufacturing cotton textiles, which became a major industry sometime after 1000 AD. In tropical and subtropical regions where it was grown, most was grown by small farmers alongside their food crops and was spun and woven in households, largely for domestic consumption. In the 15th century China began to require households to pay part of their taxes in cotton cloth. By the 17th century almost all Chinese wore cotton clothing. Almost everywhere cotton cloth could be used as a medium of exchange. In India a significant amount of cotton textiles were manufactured for distant markets, often produced by professional weavers. Some merchants also owned small weaving workshops. India produced a variety of cotton cloth, some of exceptionally fine quality.[29]

The early Spanish explorers found Native Americans growing a previously unknown species of good quality cotton: Gossypium hirsutum. Cotton plantations were eventually established in the West Indies and the Americas which provided Britain with a source of this difficult to obtain raw material.[29] A strain of cotton seed brought from Mexico to Natchez, Mississippi, USA in 1806 would become the parent genetic material for over 90% of world cotton production today; it produced bolls that were three to four times faster to pick.

Trade and textiles

The Age of Discovery was followed by a period of colonialism beginning around the 16th century. Following the discovery of a trade route to India around southern Africa by the Portuguese, the Dutch established the Verenigde Oostindische Compagnie (abbr. VOC) or Dutch East India Company and the British founded the East India Company, along with smaller companies of different nationalities which established trading posts and employed agents to engage in trade throughout the Indian Ocean region and between the Indian Ocean region and North Atlantic Europe. One of the largest segments of this trade was in cotton textiles, which were purchased in India and sold in Southeast Asia, including the Indonesian archipelago, where spices were purchased for sale to Southeast Asia and Europe. By the mid-1760s cloth was over three-quarters of the East India Company's exports. Indian textiles were in demand in North Atlantic region of Europe where previously only wool and linen were available; however, the amount of cotton goods consumed in Western Europe was minor until the early 19th century.[29]

Pre-mechanized European textile production

By 1600 Flemish refugees began weaving cotton cloth in English towns where cottage spinning and weaving of wool and linen was well established; however, they were left alone by the guilds who did not consider cotton a threat. Earlier European attempts at cotton spinning and weaving were in 12th century Italy and 15th century southern Germany, but these industries eventually ended when the supply of cotton was cut off. The Moors in Spain grew, spun and wove cotton beginning around the 10th century.[29]

British cloth could not compete with Indian cloth because India's labor cost was approximately one-fifth to one-sixth that of Britain's.[30] In 1700 and 1721 the British government passed Calico Acts in order to protect the domestic woollen and linen industries from the increasing amounts of cotton fabric imported from India.[1][31]

The demand for heavier fabric was met by a domestic industry based around Lancashire that produced fustian, a cloth with flax warp and cotton weft. Flax was used for the warp because wheel-spun cotton did not have sufficient strength, but the resulting blend was not as soft as 100% cotton and was more difficult to sew.[31]

On the eve of the Industrial Revolution, spinning and weaving were done in households, for domestic consumption and as a cottage industry under the putting-out system. Occasionally the work was done in the workshop of a master weaver. Under the putting-out system, home-based workers produced under contract to merchant sellers, who often supplied the raw materials. In the off season the women, typically farmers' wives, did the spinning and the men did the weaving. Using the spinning wheel, it took anywhere from four to eight spinners to supply one hand loom weaver.[1][31][32]:823

Invention of textile machinery

The flying shuttle patented in 1733 by John Kay, with a number of subsequent improvements including an important one in 1747, doubled the output of a weaver, worsening the imbalance between spinning and weaving. It became widely used around Lancashire after 1760 when John's son, Robert, invented the drop box, which facilitated changing thread colors.[32]:821–22

Lewis Paul patented the roller spinning frame and the flyer-and-bobbin system for drawing wool to a more even thickness. The technology was developed with the help of John Wyatt of Birmingham. Paul and Wyatt opened a mill in Birmingham which used their new rolling machine powered by a donkey. In 1743 a factory opened in Northampton with 50 spindles on each of five of Paul and Wyatt's machines. This operated until about 1764. A similar mill was built by Daniel Bourn in Leominster, but this burnt down. Both Lewis Paul and Daniel Bourn patented carding machines in 1748. Based on two sets of rollers that travelled at different speeds, it was later used in the first cotton spinning mill. Lewis's invention was later developed and improved by Richard Arkwright in his water frame and Samuel Crompton in his spinning mule.

In 1764 in the village of Stanhill, Lancashire, James Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny, which he patented in 1770. It was the first practical spinning frame with multiple spindles.[33] The jenny worked in a similar manner to the spinning wheel, by first clamping down on the fibres, then by drawing them out, followed by twisting.[34] It was a simple, wooden framed machine that only cost about £6 for a 40-spindle model in 1792,[35] and was used mainly by home spinners. The jenny produced a lightly twisted yarn only suitable for weft, not warp.[32]:825–27

The spinning frame or water frame was developed by Richard Arkwright who, along with two partners, patented it in 1769. The design was partly based on a spinning machine built for Thomas High by clockmaker John Kay, who was hired by Arkwright.[32]:827–30 For each spindle, the water frame used a series of four pairs of rollers, each operating at a successively higher rotating speed, to draw out the fibre, which was then twisted by the spindle. The roller spacing was slightly longer than the fibre length. Too close a spacing caused the fibres to break while too distant a spacing caused uneven thread. The top rollers were leather-covered and loading on the rollers was applied by a weight. The weights kept the twist from backing up before the rollers. The bottom rollers were wood and metal, with fluting along the length. The water frame was able to produce a hard, medium count thread suitable for warp, finally allowing 100% cotton cloth to be made in Britain. A horse powered the first factory to use the spinning frame. Arkwright and his partners used water power at a factory in Cromford, Derbyshire in 1771, giving the invention its name.

Samuel Crompton's Spinning Mule was introduced in 1779. Mule implies "hybrid" because it was a combination of the spinning jenny and the water frame, in which the spindles were placed on a carriage, which went through an operational sequence during which the rollers stopped while the carriage moved away from the drawing roller to finish drawing out the fibres as the spindles started rotating.[32]:832 Crompton's mule was able to produce finer thread than hand spinning and at a lower cost. Mule spun thread was of suitable strength to be used as warp, and finally allowed Britain to produce highly competitive yarn in large quantities.[32]:832

Realising that the expiration of the Arkwright patent would greatly increase the supply of spun cotton and lead to a shortage of weavers, Edmund Cartwright developed a vertical power loom which he patented in 1785. In 1776 he patented a two-man operated loom which was more conventional.[32]:834 Cartwright built two factories; the first burned down and the second was sabotaged by his workers. Cartwright's loom design had several flaws, the most serious being thread breakage. Samuel Horrocks patented a fairly successful loom in 1813. Horock's loom was improved by Richard Roberts in 1822 and these were produced in large numbers by Roberts, Hill & Co.[36]

The demand for cotton presented an opportunity to planters in the Southern United States, who thought upland cotton would be a profitable crop if a better way could be found to remove the seed. Eli Whitney responded to the challenge by inventing the inexpensive cotton gin. With a cotton gin a man could remove seed from as much upland cotton in one day as would have previously taken a woman working two months to process at one pound per day.[17]

These advances were capitalised on by entrepreneurs, of whom the best known is Richard Arkwright. He is credited with a list of inventions, but these were actually developed by such people as Thomas Highs and John Kay; Arkwright nurtured the inventors, patented the ideas, financed the initiatives, and protected the machines. He created the cotton mill which brought the production processes together in a factory, and he developed the use of power – first horse power and then water power—which made cotton manufacture a mechanised industry. Other inventors increased the efficiency of the individual steps of spinning (carding, twisting and spinning, and rolling) so that the supply of yarn increased greatly. Before long steam power was applied to drive textile machinery. Manchester acquired the nickname Cottonopolis during the early 19th century owing to its sprawl of textile factories.[37]

Although mechanization dramatically decreased the cost of cotton cloth, by the mid-19th century machine-woven cloth still could not equal the quality of hand-woven Indian cloth, in part due to the fineness of thread made possible by the type of cotton used in India, which allowed high tread counts. However, the high productivity of British textile manufacturing allowed coarser grades of British cloth to undersell hand spun and woven fabric in low-wage India, eventually destroying the industry.[29]


The earliest European attempts at mechanized spinning were with wool; however, wool spinning proved more difficult to mechanize than cotton. Productivity improvement in wool spinning during the Industrial Revolution was significant, but was far less that that of cotton.[1][4]


Arguably the first highly mechanised factory was John Lombe's water-powered silk mill at Derby, operational by 1721. Lombe learned silk thread manufacturing by taking a job in Italy and acting as an industrial spy; however, since the silk industry there was a closely guarded secret, the state of the industry there is unknown. Although Lombe's factory was technically successful, the supply of raw silk from Italy was cut off to eliminate competition. In order to promote manufacturing the Crown paid for models of Lombe's machinery which were exhibited in the Tower of London.[38][39]

Iron industry

UK iron production statistics

In the UK in 1720 there were 20,500 tons of cast iron produced with charcoal and 400 tons with coke. In 1750 charcoal iron production was 24,500 and coke iron was 2,500 tons. In 1788 the production of charcoal cast iron was 14,000 tons while coke iron production was 54,000 tons. In 1806 charcoal cast iron production was 7,800 tons and coke cast iron was 250,000 tons.[41]:125

Most cast iron was refined and converted to bar iron, with substantial losses. Bar iron was also made by the bloomery process.

In 1750 the UK imported 31,200 tons of bar iron and either refined from cast iron or directly produced 18,800 tons of bar iron using charcoal and 100 tons using coke. In 1796 the UK was making 125,000 tons of bar iron with coke and 6,400 tons with charcoal; imports were 38,000 tons and exports were 24,600 tons. In 1806 the UK did not import bar iron but exported 31,500 tons.[41]:125

Iron process innovations

A major change in the iron industries during the era of the Industrial Revolution was the replacement of wood and other bio-fuels with coal. For a given amount of heat, coal required much less labour to mine than cutting wood and converting it to charcoal,[42] and coal was much more abundant than wood, supplies of which were becoming scarce before the enormous increase in iron production that took place in the late 18th century.[1][41]:122 By 1750 coke had generally replaced charcoal in smelting of copper and lead and was in widespread use in making glass. In the smelting and refining of iron, coal and coke produced inferior iron to that made with charcoal because of the coal's sulfur content. Low sulfur coals were known, but they still contained harmful amounts. Conversion of coal to coke only slightly reduces the sulfur content.[41]:122–125 A minority of coals are coking.

Another factor limiting the iron industry before the Industrial Revolution was the scarcity of water power to power blast bellows. This was solved by the steam engine.[41]

Use of coal in iron smelting started somewhat before the Industrial Revolution, based on innovations by Sir Clement Clerke and others from 1678, using coal reverberatory furnaces known as cupolas. These were operated by the flames playing on the ore and charcoal or coke mixture, reducing the oxide to metal. This has the advantage that impurities (such as sulphur ash) in the coal do not migrate into the metal. This technology was applied to lead from 1678 and to copper from 1687. It was also applied to iron foundry work in the 1690s, but in this case the reverberatory furnace was known as an air furnace. (The foundry cupola is a different, and later, innovation.)

By 1709 Abraham Darby made progress using coke to fuel his blast furnaces at Coalbrookdale.[43] However, the coke pig iron he made was not suitable for making wrought iron and was used mostly for the production of cast iron goods, such as pots and kettles. He had the advantage over his rivals in that his pots, cast by his patented process, were thinner and cheaper than theirs.

Coke pig iron was hardly used to produce wrought iron until 1755-56, when Darby's son Abraham Darby II built furnaces at Horsehay and Ketley where low sulfur coal was available (and not far from Coalbrookdale). These new furnaces were equipped with water-powered bellows, the water being pumped by Newcomen steam engines. The Newcomen engines were not attached directly to the blowing cylinders because the engines would not produce a steady air blast. Abraham Darby III installed similar steam-pumped, water-powered blowing cylinders at the Dale Company when he took control in 1768. The Dale Company used several Newcomen engines to drain its mines and made parts for engines which it sold throughout the country.[41]:123–125

Steam engines made the use higher-pressure and volume blast practical; however, the leather used in bellows was expensive to replace. In 1757 iron master John Wilkinson patented a hydraulic powered blowing engine for blast furnaces.[44] The blowing cylinder for blast furnaces was introduced in 1760 and the first blowing cylinder made of cast iron is believed to be the one used at Carrington in 1768 that was designed by John Smeaton.[41]:124, 135 Cast iron cylinders for use with a piston were difficult to manufacture; the cylinders had to be free of holes and had to be machined smooth and straight to remove any warping. James Watt had great difficulty trying to have a cylinder made for his first steam engine. In 1774 John Wilkinson, who built a cast iron blowing cylinder for his iron works, invented a precision boring machine for boring cylinders. After Wilkinson bored the first successful cylinder for a Boulton and Watt steam engine in 1776, he was given an exclusive contract for providing cylinders.[17] After Watt developed a rotary steam engine in 1782, they were widely applied to blowing, hammering, rolling and slitting.[41]:124

The solutions to the sulfur problem were the addition of sufficient limestone to the furnace to force sulfur into the slag and the use of low sulfur coal. Use of lime or limestone required higher furnace temperatures to form a free-flowing slag. The increased furnace temperature made possible by improved blowing also increased the capacity of blast furnaces and allowed for increased furnace height.[41]:123–125 In addition to lower cost and greater availability, coke had other important advantages over charcoal in that it was harder and made the column of materials (iron ore, fuel, slag) flowing down the blast furnace more porous and did not crush in the much taller furnaces of the late 19th century.[45]

As cast iron was became cheaper and widely available, it began being a structural material for bridges and buildings. A famous early example was the Iron Bridge built in 1778 with cast iron produced by Abraham Darby III.[40] However, most cast iron was converted to wrought iron, which was turned into hardware items such as nails, wire, chains, agricultural implements, tools and wagon tires.

Europe relied on the bloomery for most of its wrought iron until the large scale production of cast iron. Conversion of cast iron was done in a finery forge, as it long had been. An improved refining process known as potting and stamping was developed, but this was superseded by Henry Cort's puddling process. Cort developed two significant iron manufacturing processes: rolling in 1783 and puddling in 1784.[1]:91 Puddling produced a structural grade iron at a relatively low cost.

Puddling was a means of decarburizing molten pig iron by slow oxidation in a reverberatory furnace by manually stirring it with a long rod. The decarburized iron, having a higher melting point than cast iron, was raked into globs by the puddler. When the glob a large enough the puddler would remove it. Puddling was backbreaking and extremely hot work. Few puddlers lived to be 40.[46] Because puddling was done in a reverberatory furnace, coal or coke to be used as fuel. The puddling process continued to be used until the late 19th century when iron was being displaced by steel. Because puddling required human skill in sensing the iron globs, it was never successfully mechanised. Rolling was an important part of the puddling process because the grooved rollers expelled most of the molten slag and consolidated the mass of hot wrought iron. Rolling was 15 times faster at this than a trip hammer. A different use of rolling, which was done at lower temperatures than that for expelling slag, was in the production of iron sheets, and later structural shapes such as beams, angles and rails.

The puddling process was improved in 1818 by Baldwyn Rogers, who replaced some of the sand lining on the reverberatory furnace bottom with iron oxide.[47] In 1838 John Hall patented the use of roasted tap cinder (iron silicate) for the furnace bottom, greatly reducing the loss of iron through increased slag caused by a sand lined bottom. The tap cinder also tied up some phosphorus, but this was not understood at the time.[41]:166 Hall's process also used iron scale or rust, which reacted with carbon in the molten iron. Hall's process, called wet puddling, reduced losses of iron with the slag from almost 50% to around 8%.[1]:93

Puddling became widely used after 1800. Up to that time, British iron manufacturers had used considerable amounts of iron imported from Sweden and Russia to supplement domestic supplies. Because of the increased British production, imports began to decline in 1785 and by the 1790s Britain eliminated imports and became a net exporter of bar iron.

Hot blast, patented by James Beaumont Neilson in 1828, was the most important development of the 19th century for saving energy in making pig iron. By using waste exhaust heat to preheat combustion air, the amount of fuel to make a unit of pig iron was reduced at first by between one-third using coal or two-thirds using coke;[48] however, the efficiency gains continued as the technology improved.[49] Hot blast also raised the operating temperature of furnaces, increasing their capacity. Using less coal or coke meant introducing fewer impurities into the pig iron. This meant that lower quality coal or anthracite could be used in areas where coking coal was unavailable or too expensive;[50] however, by the end of the 19th century transportation costs fell considerably.

Shortly before the Industrial Revolution an improvement was made in the production of steel, which was an expensive commodity and used only where iron would not do, such as for cutting edge tools and for springs. Benjamin Huntsman developed his crucible steel technique in the 1740s. The raw material for this was blister steel, made by the cementation process.

The supply of cheaper iron and steel aided a number of industries, such as those making nails, hinges, wire and other hardware items. The development of machine tools allowed better working of iron, causing it to be increasingly used in the rapidly growing machinery and engine industries.

Steam power

Main article: Steam power during the Industrial Revolution

The development of the stationary steam engine was an important element of the Industrial Revolution; however, during the early period of the Industrial Revolution, most industrial power was supplied by water and wind. In Britain by 1800 an estimated 10,000 horsepower was being supplied by steam. By 1815 steam power had grown to 210,000 hp.[51]

The first commercially successful industrial use of steam power was due to Thomas Savery in 1698. He constructed and patented in London a low-lift combined vacuum and pressure water pump, that generated about one horsepower (hp) and was used in numerous water works and in a few mines (hence its "brand name", The Miner's Friend). Savery's pump was economical in small horsepower ranges, but was prone to boiler explosions in larger sizes. Savery pumps continued to be produced until the late 18th century.

The first successful piston steam engine was introduced by Thomas Newcomen before 1712. A number of Newcomen engines were installed in Britain for draining hitherto unworkable deep mines, with the engine on the surface; these were large machines, requiring a significant amount of capital to build, and produced upwards of 5 hp (3.7 kW). They were also used to power municipal water supply pumps. They were extremely inefficient by modern standards, but when located where coal was cheap at pit heads, opened up a great expansion in coal mining by allowing mines to go deeper. Despite their disadvantages, Newcomen engines were reliable and easy to maintain and continued to be used in the coalfields until the early decades of the 19th century. By 1729, when Newcomen died, his engines had spread (first) to Hungary in 1722, Germany, Austria, and Sweden. A total of 110 are known to have been built by 1733 when the joint patent expired, of which 14 were abroad. In the 1770s the engineer John Smeaton built some very large examples and introduced a number of improvements. A total of 1,454 engines had been built by 1800.[52]

A fundamental change in working principles was brought about by ScotsmanJames Watt. With financial support from his business partner EnglishmanMatthew Boulton, he had succeeded by 1778 in perfecting his steam engine, which incorporated a series of radical improvements, notably the closing off of the upper part of the cylinder, thereby making the low-pressure steam drive the top of the piston instead of the atmosphere, use of a steam jacket and the celebrated separate steam condenser chamber. The separate condenser did away with the cooling water that had been injected directly into the cylinder, which cooled the cylinder and wasted steam. Likewise, the steam jacket kept steam from condensing in the cylinder, also improving efficiency. These improvements increased engine efficiency so that Boulton & Watts engines used only 20–25% as much coal per horsepower-hour as Newcomen's. Boulton and Watt opened the Soho Foundry for the manufacture of such engines in 1795.

By 1783 the Watt steam engine had been fully developed into a double-acting rotative type, which meant that it could be used to directly drive the rotary machinery of a factory or mill. Both of Watt's basic engine types were commercially very successful, and by 1800, the firm Boulton & Watt had constructed 496 engines, with 164 driving reciprocating pumps, 24 serving blast furnaces, and 308 powering mill machinery; most of the engines generated from 5 to 10 hp (3.7 to 7.5 kW).

Until about 1800 the most common pattern of steam engine was the beam engine, built as an integral part of a stone or brick engine-house, but soon various patterns of self-contained rotative engines (readily removable, but not on wheels) were developed, such as the table engine. Around the start of the 19th century, at which time the Boulton and Watt patent expired, the Cornish engineer Richard Trevithick and the American Oliver Evans began to construct higher-pressure non-condensing steam engines, exhausting against the atmosphere. High pressure yielded an engine and boiler compact enough to be used on mobile road and rail locomotives and steam boats.

The development of machine tools, such as the engine lathe, planing, milling and shaping machines powered by these engines, enabled all the metal parts of the engines to be easily and accurately cut and in turn made it possible to build larger and more powerful engines.

Small industrial power requirements continued to be provided by animal and human muscle until widespread electrification in the early 20th century. These included crank-powered, treadle-powered and horse-powered workshop and light industrial machinery.[53]

Machine tools

Main article: Machine tool

See also: Interchangeable parts

Pre-industrial machinery was built by various craftsmen – millwrights built water and windmills, carpenters made wooden framing, and smiths and turners made metal parts. Wooden components had the disadvantage of changing dimensions with temperature and humidity, and the various joints tended to rack (work loose) over time. As the Industrial Revolution progressed, machines with metal parts and frames became more common. Other important uses of metal parts were in firearms and threaded fasteners, such as machine screws, bolts and nuts. There was also the need for precision in making parts. Precision would allow better working machinery, interchangeability of parts and standardization of threaded fasteners.

The demand for metal parts led to the development of several machine tools. They have their origins in the tools developed in the 18th century by makers of clocks and watches and scientific instrument makers to enable them to batch-produce small mechanisms.

Before the advent of machine tools, metal was worked manually using the basic hand tools of hammers, files, scrapers, saws and chisels. Consequently, the use of metal machine parts was kept to a minimum. Hand methods of production were very laborious and costly and precision was difficult to achieve.[28][17]

The first large precision machine tool was the cylinder boring machine invented by John Wilkinson in 1774. It used for boring the large-diameter cylinders on early steam engines. Wilkinson's boring machine differed from earlier cantilevered machines used for boring cannon in that the cutting tool was mounted on a beam that ran through the cylinder being bored and was supported outside on both ends.[17]

The planing machine, the milling machine and the shaping machine were developed in the early decades of the 19th century. Although the milling machine was invented at this time, it was not developed as a serious workshop tool until somewhat later in the 19th century.[28][17]

Henry Maudslay, who trained a school of machine tool makers early in the 19th century, was a mechanic with superior ability who had been employed at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich. He worked as an apprentice in the Royal Gun Foundry of Jan Verbruggen. In 1774 Jan Verbruggen had installed a horizontal boring machine in Woolwich which was the first industrial size Lathe in the UK. Maudslay was hired away by Joseph Bramah for the production of high-security metal locks that required precision craftsmanship. Bramah patented a lathe that had similarities to the slide rest lathe. Maudslay perfected the slide rest lathe, which could cut machine screws of different thread pitches by using changeable gears between the spindle and the lead screw. Before its invention screws could not be cut to any precision using various earlier lathe designs, some of which copied from a template.[17][32]:392–95 The slide rest lathe was called one of history's most important inventions. Although it was not entirely Maudslay's idea, he was the first person to build a functional lathe using a combination of known innovations of the lead screw, slide rest and change gears.[17]:31, 36

Maudslay left Bramah's employment and set up his own shop. He was engaged to build the machinery for making ships' pulley blocks for the Royal Navy in the Portsmouth Block Mills. These machines were all-metal and were the first machines for mass production and making components with a degree of interchangeability. The lessons Maudslay learned about the need for stability and precision he adapted to the development of machine tools, and in his workshops he trained a generation of men to build on his work, such as Richard Roberts, Joseph Clement and Joseph Whitworth.[17]

James Fox of Derby had a healthy export trade in machine tools for the first third of the century, as did Matthew Murray of Leeds. Roberts was a maker of high-quality machine tools and a pioneer of the use of jigs and gauges for precision workshop measurement.

The impact of machine tools during the Industrial Revolution was not that great because other than firearms, threaded fasteners and a few other industries there were few mass-produced metal parts. The techniques to make mass-produced metal parts made with sufficient precision to be interchangeable is largely attributed to a program of the U.S. Department of War which perfected interchangeable parts for firearms in the early 19th century.[28]

In the half century following the invention of the fundamental machine tools the machine industry became the largest industrial sector of the U.S. economy, by value added.[54]


The large-scale production of chemicals was an important development during the Industrial Revolution. The first of these was the production of sulphuric acid by the lead chamber process invented by the Englishman John Roebuck (James Watt's first partner) in 1746. He was able to greatly increase the scale of the manufacture by replacing the relatively expensive glass vessels formerly used with larger, less expensive chambers made of riveted sheets of lead. Instead of making a small amount each time, he was able to make around 100 pounds (50 kg) in each of the chambers, at least a tenfold increase.

The production of an alkali on a large scale became an important goal as well, and Nicolas Leblanc succeeded in 1791 in introducing a method for the production of sodium carbonate. The Leblanc process was a reaction of sulphuric acid with sodium chloride to give sodium sulphate and hydrochloric acid. The sodium sulphate was heated with limestone (calcium carbonate) and coal to give a mixture of sodium carbonate and calcium sulphide. Adding water separated the soluble sodium carbonate from the calcium sulphide. The process produced a large amount of pollution (the hydrochloric acid was initially vented to the air, and calcium sulphide was a useless waste product). Nonetheless, this synthetic soda ash proved economical compared to that from burning specific plants (barilla) or from kelp, which were the previously dominant sources of soda ash,[55] and also to potash (potassium carbonate) produced from hardwood ashes.

These two chemicals were very important because they enabled the introduction of a host of other inventions, replacing many small-scale operations with more cost-effective and controllable processes. Sodium carbonate had many uses in the glass, textile, soap, and paper industries. Early uses for sulphuric acid included pickling (removing rust) iron and steel, and for bleaching cloth.

The development of bleaching powder (calcium hypochlorite) by Scottish chemist Charles Tennant in about 1800, based on the discoveries of French chemist Claude Louis Berthollet, revolutionised the bleaching processes in the textile industry by dramatically reducing the time required (from months to days) for the traditional process then in use, which required repeated exposure to the sun in bleach fields after soaking the textiles with alkali or sour milk. Tennant's factory at St Rollox, North Glasgow, became the largest chemical plant in the world.

After 1860 the focus on chemical innovation was in dyestuffs, and Germany took world leadership, building a strong chemical industry.[56] Aspiring chemists flocked to German universities in the 1860–1914 era to learn the latest techniques. British scientists by contrast, lacked research universities and did not train advanced students; instead, the practice was to hire German-trained chemists.[57]


In 1824 Joseph Aspdin, a British bricklayer turned builder, patented a chemical process for making portland cement which was an important advance in the building trades. This process involves sintering a mixture of clay and limestone to about 1,400 °C (2,552 °F), then grinding it into a fine powder which is then mixed with water, sand and gravel to produce concrete. Portland cement was used by the famous English engineer Marc Isambard Brunel several years later when constructing the Thames Tunnel.[58] Cement was used on a large scale in the construction of the London sewerage system a generation later.

Gas lighting

Main article: Gas lighting

Another major industry of the later Industrial Revolution was gas lighting. Though others made a similar innovation elsewhere, the large-scale introduction of this was the work of William Murdoch, an employee of Boulton & Watt, the Birminghamsteam engine pioneers. The process consisted of the large-scale gasification of coal in furnaces, the purification of the gas (removal of sulphur, ammonia, and heavy hydrocarbons), and its storage and distribution. The first gas lighting utilities were established in London between 1812 and 1820. They soon became one of the major consumers of coal in the UK. Gas lighting affected social and industrial organisation because it allowed factories and stores to remain open longer than with tallow candles or oil. Its introduction allowed nightlife to flourish in cities and towns as interiors and streets could be lighted on a larger scale than before.

Glass making

Main article: Glass production

A Roberts loom in a weaving shed in 1835. Textiles were the leading industry of the Industrial Revolution and mechanized factories, powered by a central water wheel or steam engine, were the new workplace.
European colonial empires at the start of the Industrial Revolution.
The only surviving example of a spinning mule built by the inventor Samuel Crompton. The mule produced high-quality thread with minimal labour.
The reverberatory furnace could produce cast iron using mined coal. The burning coal remained separate from the iron and so did not contaminate the iron with impurities like sulphur and silica. This opened the way to increased iron production.
Horizontal (lower) and vertical (upper) cross-sections of a single puddling furnace. A. Fireplace grate; B. Firebricks; C. Cross binders; D. Fireplace; E. Work door; F. Hearth; G. Cast iron retaining plates; H. Bridge wall
The Middletown milling machine of circa 1818, associated with Robert Johnson and Simeon North
           We believe that the second industrial revolution was more of a blessing for Americans, rather than a curse. With the invention of many different types of transportation, it made everything incredibly more accessible to the world, which therefore lead to so many other beneficial products and ideas. Without this revolution the world would be stuck because we would be kept within our own geographical areas without ways of purchasing and selling products. Everything would be complicated, instead of using big factories and other resources to simplify processes. The second industrial revolution increased immigrants and immigrant labor that became a major factor in all of the progressive movements. The entire second revolution was a time of growth for the United States because they continuously learned so many new things throughout this time period. This was a step forward the world needed to take on order to be where we are today.

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