Talk:Technological and industrial history of the United States

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I think this can be merged into economic history article. Rjensen 13:15, 24 January 2006 (UTC)

There's a difference between industry and economy. Salty! 22:09, 12 February 2006 (UTC)

Article Expansion[edit]

I am beginning a drive to expand this article as it is woefully and embarrassingly incomplete. While I don't want to get into debates about technological determinism, I will submit that industry and technology have played a more dominant role in the history of the US than in any other country.

I will primarily be integrating, paraphrasing, and citing Cowan's Social History of American Technology, Thomas Hughes's American Genesis, and Smith & Claney's Major Problems in the History of American Technology as the basis for this article since they are well-recognized scholars with a broad survey of topics. If you believe these scholars represent extreme or minority perspectives or that there are other scholars who should be included, I will happily welcome your contributions and discussion.

I have begun to use the Harvard citation template for book citations as it is well-supported by Wikipedia for same-source in-line citations. For other citations, please use complimentary reference templates on Wikipedia:Citation templates for journal articles, conference proceedings, dissertations, etc.

A major problem I foresee is a conflict between organizing this article by either topic or timeline. As the organization stands now, it is more topical as I believe technological developments and advances overlap substantially and usually do not fit within tidy temporal boundaries of Presidential administrations, periods of conflict, etc. Nonetheless, I believe the organization I have introduced follows the arc of well-established American historical eras: pre-colonial, pre-revolution, ante-bellum expansion & industrialization, Civil War & Reconstruction, early 20th century Imperialism-World Wars-Depression, Cold War & globalization.

My goals in the context of wikipedia are in this order:

  1. Evaluated by History of Science WikiProject as a GA or higher by March 1, 2007 April 1, 2007.
  2. Evaluated by United States WikiProject as a GA or higher by April 1, 2007.
  3. Submit to broad peer-review and FA-review by May 1, 2007.

I look forward to your help and contributions.Madcoverboy 20:17, 6 February 2007 (UTC)

Proposed Merger[edit]

I had originally tagged this article to be merged with Science and technology in the United States as this article is generally written about history. However, I removed the tag and would like to keep the articles separate because:

  1. Science & technology article should attempt to convey some of the history of American science and technology, but also the roles of social institutions (universities, government organizations, companies) and policy decisions that have shaped the current landscape.
  2. This article should attempt to provide some sort of bridge between this article and the other histories of the US by describing the turning points and emergence of technological systems that shaped American history. Industrial systems, methods of production, and infrastructure, impact on economy, etc.

Madcoverboy 18:50, 2 March 2007 (UTC)

Do not merge. Science and technology are distinctly different subjects. Technology is about methods, machines and materials that go into production of goods or, to a lesser extent, services. Science is about principles of nature. Engineering is a link between the two, but engineering is much more closely related to technology than science. Science developed as an offshoot of technology much more so than in the reverse direction.Phmoreno (talk) 02:54, 30 June 2014 (UTC)

When I first saw this merger proposal I was unaware that there was an Economic history of the United States article. Economic histories include technology and industry, so that should be where this information should be.Phmoreno (talk) 03:15, 26 July 2014 (UTC)

A service not an industry.[edit]

The problem with these improvement drives is that they may cause unnecessary additions to articles. I just deleted a couple of sections about services because this article is about technology and industry. I feel like the article has lost a lot of focus and needs to be refocused on a history of technology and industry precisely. Scifiintel 01:03, 3 April 2007 (UTC)

If you can "precisely" define what "technology" and "industry" are, then you would have surpassed decades of academic literature and thought. Technology and industry are not just physical artifacts like steam engines and smokestacks. "New" topics like media, banking, and leisure are can be constructed in terms of innovation, production, consumption just like "old" traditional topics like steel, oil, and railroads. These "new" topics are certainly far from unnecessary and since Wikipedia is not a paper encyclopedia, the role of these "old" systems declined in social and cultural importance in the 20th century (relative to new systems in banking, media, and leisure), and there is a sizable body of literature about media, banking, and leisure in the history of technology and industry, "new" topics warrant inclusion. Madcoverboy 06:25, 3 April 2007 (UTC)


Why is there a picture of a cloned Scottish sheep in an article on U.S. technological progress? 18:14, 23 July 2007 (UTC)

Unintentional causality[edit]

While the admission that the article is embarassingly imcomplete remains on the table, may we examine, at least in part, more of the bad news (i.e., the Long Depression and the Financial crisis of 2007–2010)? Presently, the article very nearly assumes a subjective and protagonistic position. -Mccsecurity (Richard Ervasti) (talk) 18:47, 22 February 2010 (UTC)

A legitimate criticism that is largely an artifact of the fact that the article is largely sourced (by me) from undergraduate textbooks rather than more critical accounts. I support adding more content about financial crises, but keeping an eye toward avoiding undue weight. Madcoverboy (talk) 17:56, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

Proposed rearrangement[edit]

I am proposing a rearrangement and regrouping of all transportation under 'Transportation' with sub grouping 'Infrastructures' (canals and inland waterways, railroads, roads and highways, pipelines) and another sub group trains and internal combustion transport. Move telegraph and telephone from 'Infrastructure' to a new section called 'Communications' where we can add teleprinter, radio, satellite, fiber optics. Put all industry under one major heading.

Put a timeline at the beginning of each major heading. From the major heading time lines we can make an overall timeline.Phmoreno (talk) 14:42, 11 September 2011 (UTC)

An interesting idea, but I think such a reorganization should be similarly propagaged such that all content is grouped either by time or by topic. As it stands, I worry about having some topics be stand alone. Nevertheless, I think some content can definitely be summarized or condensed into fewer sections. Madcoverboy (talk) 17:54, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
It would be relatively easy for me to rewrite most of this and fill in a lot of missing detail because I have already done the reading and have all the notes and references. But looking at it now I would not know how to start without a reorganization. It can either be chronological or by category; however, I am leaning to chronological.Phmoreno (talk) 19:37, 11 September 2011 (UTC)
I'm glad that you're willing to help contribute to this neglected article! I'd suggest let's keep the moving parts to a minimum by having you add content into a sandbox article like Technological and industrial history of the United States/Sandbox first. Then we can evaluate how to add the content into the existing structure or re-organize the article to fit the sandbox. Madcoverboy (talk) 02:15, 12 September 2011 (UTC)

Missing info?[edit]

I read this article for the first time today and found myself wondering why there is no mention of relevant events that occurred in New Jersey starting with Alexander Hamilton's "S.U.M" corporation - the "Society for establishing Useful Manufactures" - being granted a operating charter in 1791 by Governor William Paterson. With the charter in hand, the S.U.M. corporation went on to develop a manufacturing complex at "The Great Falls of the Passaic River". Within a couple of decades the town of Paterson was easily the most important manufacturing town in the middle states, if not the entire country. There are several website and Wikipedia pages that discuss these and related facts. For example,

This significant omission along with many others suggest to me that perhaps the article ought to be organized on a state by state basis with an overview being developed only after the state by state components reach maturity. Wrrsimone (talk) 19:38, 10 January 2012 (UTC)

This seems significant to Paterson, NJ article and probably the county. Maybe even New Jersey history. That it was significant to the United States would need a pretty good WP:RS IMO. The ref above has an axe to grind, which is fine, but not really good enough for this article, again, IMO. Student7 (talk) 21:22, 16 January 2012 (UTC)

Industrial revolution needs to mentioned in first paragraph.[edit]

There would be little 'industrialization' of the United States without the Industrial Revolution, that it wasn't mentioned in the first paragraph (timeline) is shocking. Twobells (talk) 12:16, 8 June 2012 (UTC)

Changes needed in first paragraph[edit]

I think the first paragraph needs work:

The technological and industrial history of the United States describes the United States' emergence as the most technologically advanced nation in the world. The availability of land and literate labor, the diversity of climate and a large easily accessed upscale and literate free market all contributed to America's rapid industrialization. The availability of capital, development by the free market of navigable canals, rivers, and coastal waterways, and the abundance of natural resources owned by businesses facilitated the cheap extraction of energy all contributed to America's rapid industrialization.

...could be better expressed as:

The technological and industrial history of the United States describes the United States' emergence as the most technologically advanced nation in the world. The availability of land and literate labor, the diversity of climate and a large easily accessed upscale and literate free market all contributed to America's rapid industrialization. The availability of capital, development by the free market of navigable canals, rivers, and coastal waterways, and the abundance of natural resources owned by businesses facilitated the cheap extraction of energy all contributed to America's rapid industrialization.

The crossed out sections seem more like libertarian cant than part of a reasonable summary, and the last crossed-out section renders the sentence that contains it pretty clunky and incoherent. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 20:42, 25 March 2013 (UTC)

I agree that "upscale" sounds pov-ish. And "owned by businesses" seems unnecessary here. The "extraction of energy" seems peculiar to me. Early on, energy was mostly hydro, or lumber. The first mention of "free market" seems essential to the material IMO. The second should read something like the "availability of canals, etc." Canals were often private but not important here IMO. Student7 (talk) 21:33, 30 March 2013 (UTC)

Suggested outline[edit]

I know most of the technological history and have the notes and references. The question is: do I have the time? The major problem I have with this article is that the topic is too broad. This topic really requires a book if names and dates are to be included.

Here are my thoughts in a brief outline :

Using long economic cycle terminology to separate U.S. techno-economic history into a half five periods, but regardless of how the periods are labeled or divided, a technological and industrial history should include these: 1. 1776-1842-Early industrial period 1.1. Low population 1.2. U.S. is predominantly agricultural with cotton, tobacco the most important export crops. 1.3. Iron industry 1.4. Water power 1.5. Federal roads 1.6. Cotton textile industry 1.7. Lumber 1.8. Electrical science: Franklin proves lightning is electricity, Joseph Henry discovers magnetic inductance 1.9. Interchangeable parts and the American system of manufacturing 1.9.1. Thomas Jefferson promotes interchangeable parts based on French ideas 1.9.2. Hall and North at Federal armories 1.10. Practical high pressure steam engine developed and manufactured by Oliver Evans 1.10.1. Steamboats 1.10.2. Locomotive 1.10.3. Steam factories 1.11. Interchangeable parts achieved at Federal armories 1.12. Canals and inland waterways 2. 1842-1897-Railroad and steam engine era 2.1. Diffusion of interchangeable parts to other industries 2.2. Telegraph 2.3. Machine tool industry 2.4. Machinery industry 2.5. Mechanized shoe production 2.6. Diffusion of railroads 2.7. Steam powered factories 2.8. Telegraph network 2.9. Reapers and threshing machines 2.10. Sewing machine 2.11. Petroleum 2.12. Bessemer steel 2.13. Steam engine improvements 2.14. Otto engine 2.15. Steam shipping 2.16. Steel industry 2.16.1. Open hearth steel 2.16.2. Structural steel replaces wrought iron 2.16.3. Alloy steel 2.16.4. Armor 2.16.5. High speed tool steel 2.17. Meat packing industry and refrigerated railcars 2.18. Petroleum industry 2.19. Diesel engine 2.20. Glass blowing machine 2.21. Early electrification 2.21.1. Lighting 2.21.2. Electro-chemicals such as chlorine, sodium compounds, aluminum, magnesium 2.22. Beginning telephone system 3. 1897-1939-Steel, electricity and internal combustion 3.1. Factory electrification 3.2. Mass production of automobiles 3.3. Highway system 3.4. Factory automation 3.5. Tractors and harvesters 3.6. Chemicals, synthetic fibers, polymers 4. Post war 4.1. Factory automation 4.2. Chemical fertilizers 4.3. Combine harvesters 4.4. Green revolution 4.5. Commercial aviation 4.6. Computers 5. Post industrial economy 5.1. Diffusion of business computers 5.2. Personal computers 5.3. Internet Phmoreno (talk) 02:58, 4 July 2014 (UTC)

good idea--go for it Rjensen (talk) 07:11, 4 July 2014 (UTC)

Role of Government[edit]

The idea of "limited government" having been a major factor in helping the USA industrialize is so historically inaccurate as to amount to propaganda of a specific political slant. Almost every major technological development, and its diffusion through the economy, has been promoted and fostered by government programs at all levels. In the 1800s, most canals and railroads were assisted by local and state funding and programs. The development of steam power in general was promoted by awards at agricultural fairs funded in part by local and state governments. Especially important in the application of steam power to maritime vessels was the U.S. Navy's experiments in the 1850s under the direction of Admiral Benjamin Isherwood, the results of which were translated into numerous languages around the world. The most important technological developments for the creation of modern industry capable of mass production - metal working machine tools - were developed at the U.S. armories, and their spread to other industries and into private companies was consciously and deliberately fostered by armory and War Dept. officials. Samuel Morse's telegraph received direct funding from the Congress. Railroads were given land grants, and the services of US Army engineers. The development of radio was funded by the Weather Bureau and the Navy. The first radio company, RCA, was established at the behest of the Navy. Aviation was promoted by NACA, the forerunner of NASA. Computers and modern electronics come directly out of the government research conducted during World War Two. Finally, the internet itself was the result of a conscious and deliberate effort by the US government to promote and diffuse the technology of ARPANET. The work of Merritt Roe Smith, Nathan Rosenberg, and Vernon Ruttan needs to be included in any history of technology in the USA. — Preceding unsigned comment added by TonyWikrent (talkcontribs) 23:42, 1 June 2015 (UTC)

I encourage you to revise the article accordingly. See Wikipedia:Be bold. The assertions about "limited government" do not appear to be backed up with references, and should be revised or deleted. Caseyjonz (talk) 03:37, 2 June 2015 (UTC)
"limited" means very little government ownership, with only a few major exceptions such as the post office & dams. Other major countries, for example, nationalized their railroad & airline systems (with a tendency since 1980 of de-nationalizing them). "limited
also means, generally, low taxes and minimal controls on business.  The US much more than most countries has placed the emphasis on $$$ government support for high technology. The early 19c arsenals for example; nowadays, $$$ for research in medicine & science). In munitions, the tendency over two centuries has been a strong move away from government arsenals toward cash purchases by the Pentagon from private industry. (Nuclear weapons are major exception here-- the government makes them. But it no longer builds warships.)   The high-tech economy is then operated not by the government but by private businesses. The land grants to the railroads Were profit-making scheme whereby the government could keep taxes low by making huge profits from land sales; land grants applied to Western lands, which had no economic value before the railroads arrived. Rjensen (talk) 03:59, 2 June 2015 (UTC)