Inventions of the Industrial Revolution: Examples & Summary

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  • 0:07 Revolutionizing Cotton…
  • 2:11 Transportation Inventions
  • 2:53 An Iron Industry…
  • 3:41 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Patricia Chappine

Patricia has a master's degree in Holocaust and genocide studies and 27 graduate credits in American history. She will start coursework on her doctoral degree in history this fall. She has taught heritage of the western world I and II and U.S. history I and II at a community college in southern New Jersey for the past two years.

Although many factors influenced the first Industrial Revolution, the progress made by several inventors was essential. In this lesson, learn about the innovators who helped to spur the Industrial Revolution forward.

Revolutionizing Cotton Production

During the late 18th century, Britain's cotton production far exceeded that of any other country. The reason for this was mostly advanced technology. In 1768, James Hargreaves perfected the spinning jenny. What exactly is a spinning jenny? Well, it was basically a machine that helped the user produce yarn. It was a revolutionary invention at the time, because it allowed the person working the machine to spin multiple balls of yarn instead of just one. The machine itself did not make items out of yarn, but simply produced the yarn needed to make the items.

At the time, Britain was selling cotton products at such a high rate that the yarn supply could not keep up with the demand. The spinning jenny was the first step in speeding up the process of yarn production. More innovators continued to improve yarn production. In the same year that Hargreaves perfected the spinning jenny, Richard Arkwright invented the spinning frame. This machine could produce stronger yarn and was powered by water instead of man-power. This earned it the nickname the 'water frame.'

In 1779, Samuel Crompton invented the spinning mule, a device that combined elements of the spinning jenny and the spinning frame. This new innovation allowed the user to produce different types of yarn.

With the production of yarn speeding up, cloth weaving also needed an improvement. In 1787, Edmund Cartwright answered the call by perfecting the power loom. This machine presented a more efficient way to make cotton products.

While engines that ran on steam were not the invention of James Watt, in 1775 he made the first modern, reliable steam engine. His innovation came after he noticed that a typical steam engine wasted power in heating and cooling processes. Watt found that the use of a separate condenser for cooling would allow the cylinder to remain hot. Importantly, these engines were powered by coal, so they did not need to be located near bodies of water as earlier machines had. This allowed factory owners greater control over where they would locate their factories. Soon, Watt's design was the preferred type for factory use.

Transportation Inventions

Transportation improvements were essential to the success of the Industrial Revolution. Goods needed to be transported to markets and supplies needed to be shipped to factories. New roads and canals were built in England from 1760 to 1830. However, these systems were soon overshadowed by the railroads.

It might be surprising that the earliest railroad tracks existed in German coal mines in the 1500s. Originally, the tracks were used to help horses pull carts filled with coal. This method was common in Britain and continental Europe until Richard Trevithick invented the first steam-powered locomotive on an industrial line in 1804. This early engine moved along at only five miles per hour.

An Iron Industry Transformation

With the new factories springing up, the demand for better ways to produce iron also increased. During this time, the production of iron changed drastically. New ways to smelt iron ore based on the use of courke or coke, a fuel made by slowly burning coal, were used. Since coke could heat iron much faster than charcoal, the amount of iron increased.

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