About the Author: Johnny Roy has been an Advanced Placement US History teacher for the past 8 years at Cuyahoga Heights High School just outside of Cleveland, Ohio. He has been actively involved with the AP Reading as a grader for the past 3 years having scored the DBQ, LEQ, and SAQ sections of the exam.
The Market Revolution
The Market Revolution was a fundamental transformation of the United States economy throughout the first half of the 19thcentury, primarily due to the widespread mechanization of industry and the expansion and integration of various economic markets both domestic and foreign.
Key factors that contributed to this economic shift were technological advancements in modes of transportation, a growing demand and employment in factory jobs followed by increased urban migration, and an agricultural shift away from subsistence farming (for self-sufficiency) towards commercial farming (for profits).
Key factors that contributed to this economic shift were technological advancements, a growing demand and employment in factory jobs.
These philosophical and technological shifts would encourage the embracement of capitalist principals that would drive economic activity throughout the nation. However, the resulting changes were not only economic, the Market Revolution caused distinct shifts in American society impacting the family dynamic, gender roles, government oversight, and regional population shifts.
The resulting changes were not only economic, but impacted the family dynamic, gender roles, government oversight, and regional population shifts.
Key Components of the Market Revolution – Transportation, Mechanization, and Commercial Farming
Following the War of 1812, the country looked to expand into the western territories in order to take advantage of the economic opportunities there as new markets opened up. In order to get manufactured goods to these new markets, a massive system of canals and roads were constructed.
The Erie Canal was completed in 1825 and connected the port city of New York with the mid-west cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland.
The Erie Canal was completed in 1825 and was an engineering marvel. The canal ran 363 miles and connected the port city of New York with the mid-west agricultural centers via a system of canals running to the Great Lakes. Mid-west cities like Detroit, Chicago, and Cleveland thrived as they became booming trade centers as mid-western agricultural products were shipped through the Great Lakes and along the canal to New York and eventually Europe.
By midcentury, railroads were one of the fastest growing industries in the country.
By midcentury, railroads were one of the fastest growing industries in the country. As businessmen and corporations saw their profits and demand for products worldwide increasing, railroad construction took on an ever increasing pace.
As the Midwest and Northeast regions became linked by rail, both areas prospered economically. Trade of wheat, corn, and grain along with hogs and cattle were commonly loaded onto trains and shipped East for domestic consumption or to shipped to Europe. Railroad companies became one of the largest employers in the country and investment profits from growing demand helped fuel investments in other industries such as coal, lumber, and oil.
As the countries industries became mechanized, a greater demand for factory labor spread throughout the economic system. Previously urged to engage in apprenticeships, young workers were now being encouraged to join the labor force by moving to urban centers and take a wage job.
Previously urged to engage in apprenticeships, young workers were now being encouraged to join the labor force by moving to urban centers and take a wage job.
The decline of the apprenticeship system and loss of labor in rural areas forced farmers themselves to shift from traditional subsistence (self-reliance) farming and bartering of goods, to a more commercialized (for profit) single crop approach. John Deere’s improvements to the steel plow and Cyrus McCormick’s reaper allowed for farmers to grow and harvest mass quantities of crops that was needed to satisfy the increasing domestic and global demand for agricultural products.
Significant Changes due to Market Revolution Factors
People generally move to and live where they can find work and support their families. Throughout the 19thcentury an increasing number of people were leaving farms and moving to cities and gaining employment in factories. Supporting the textile industry, the Lowell Mills in Massachusetts became a prime example of factory job opportunities attracting young adults to leave the farm and come work for wages.
As more and more factories opened up across the Northeast and Mid-west, many young workers left the farms to move to the cities and pursue their own careers. Even interior cities grew in population as trade and transportation centers. Along river based trade routes, cities like Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, and St. Louis grew as major distribution centers.
As the 19thcentury moved on, more and more of the population found their way to the cities and by 1920.
As the 19thcentury moved on, more and more of the population found their way to the cities and by 1920 more people were living in cities than rural areas for the first time in American history.
Impact on the Family and the Role of Women
As the changing Market Economy demanded a greater number of factory workers, many women took the opportunity to go to work and earn money. Many young girls left the isolation of the farm for the excitement and opportunity to move to the city and get a job.
As women earned money they became more heavily involved in political and social reforms that they wanted to see and challenging the long held cultural belief that women shouldn’t be involved in areas of society outside of the home. The early part of the 19thcentury brought a series of reform movements, many due to the religious influence of the 2ndGreat Awakening, such as temperance, female suffrage, abolition, and prison reforms.
The early part of the 19thcentury brought a series of reform movements, many due to the religious influence of the 2ndGreat Awakening, such as temperance, female suffrage, abolition, and prison reforms.
This active participation in political and social life challenged the clear patriarchal hierarchy that had dominated the country up until this point. As factory wages became the primary source of income the home also became a refuge from the hard labor of the day.
Separate spheres began to develop. The home or domestic sphere, where men still expected women to monitor and maintain became a battle ground over traditional gender roles and new social positions on female equality. As some women fought against being pushed into the sphere of domesticity, others fought for greater access to political and educational opportunities, oftentimes against their own husbands who were hesitant to relinquish too much control.
As some women fought against being pushed into the sphere of domesticity, others fought for greater access to political and educational opportunities.
Growth of Unions
As the number of factory workers increased and business profits continued to rise, many laborers began to demand a greater share of the company’s earnings through higher wages and benefits. The battle between the rich and poor escalated all over the country as the divide between the haves and the have nots became more obvious.
Employers tried to keep and enforce more and more control over their workers, but the workers were not going to be denied. Women workers went on strike due to wages being cut as textile prices continue to decline due to production exceeded demand.
By the 1850’s, American laborers were actively being challenged by the influx of immigrants coming to the United States to take advantage of labor opportunities
By the 1850’s, American laborers were actively being challenged by the influx of immigrants coming to the United States to take advantage of labor opportunities in the railroads and steel industries and the prospect of striking it rich after the discovery of gold in 1849.
With corporations gaining more and more influence and power, the United States Government was forced into a more active oversight role in order to protect the average citizen. As the Market Revolution rolled, the line between business and individuals rights became more blurred.
The United States Supreme Court began to decide the balance that must exist between the rights of the individual and that of a private business. In 1837, the Supreme Court decided in Charles River Bridge v Warren Bridge (1837) the needs of the public outweighed the rights of a private business. A later Supreme Court decision in Munn v Illinois (1871) further solidified the government’s ability to regulate private business as the courts ruled against the railroads citing public interest grounds under the government’s ability to regulate interstate trade. Federal legislation such as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 and then the Clayton Anti-Trust Act of 1914 would challenge the dominant trusts that would later form from the economic progress and innovations of the Market Revolution.
Federal legislation such as the Sherman Anti-Trust Act of 1890 and then the Clayton Anti-Trust Act of 1914 would challenge the dominant trusts that would later form from the economic progress and innovations of the Market Revolution.
Emerging Into a Global Power
As the United States moved towards the Civil War in the middle of the 19thcentury the country’s economy was transforming into a mechanized industrial and agricultural global power. Innovations in transportation, communication, and factory production spurned westward expansion and the growth of urban economic centers.
Following the Civil War this transformation would be complete.
The Mid-west and the Northeast became dominant economic regions while the South futilely clung to the ways of slavery and cotton production. The Market Revolution ushered in a new philosophical approach the country’s economic systems. Following the Civil War this transformation would be complete as the 2ndIndustrial Revolution saw the United States emerge into the most dominant industrial power in the world throughout the 20thcentury.