United States History: 1865 to the Present



The student will use maps, globes, photographs, pictures, or tables for


  • Begin the unit with questions about how advances in transportation linked resources, products, and markets and for some examples of manufacturing areas that were located near centers of population
  • Explain the changes in transportation of resources including:
    • Moving natural resources (e.g., copper and lead) to eastern factories
    • Moving iron ore deposits to sites of steel mills (e.g., Pittsburgh)
    • Transporting finished products to national markets
  • Introduce and review examples of manufacturing areas, such as:
    • Textile industry -- New England
    • Automobile industry -- Detroit
    • Steel industry -- Pittsburgh
  • Explain that the most common reason for the Industrial Revolution was that certain technologies (the steam engine and textile technologies in particular) created a fundamental change in the way work was done. The steam engine allowed the transformation of fuel into mechanical work. In a steam engine, fuel (usually wood or coal at this time) is burned; the heat that this fuel produces is used to turn water into steam; this steam is used to drive wheels in the engine. More information is available at http://www.engr.sjsu.edu/pabacker/causeIR.htm.
  • Explain that with the rise of iron and steel, coal production in the Pittsburgh area grew by leaps and bounds. During the 1870s and on into the 1880s, area coal production increased by 300% to an annual output of 13,000,000 tons, which was 20% of the national total. About one-third of it was made into coke for use in the steel mills. The Pittsburgh coalbeds yielded coke of high quality and low sulfur content. Early local entrepreneurs thrived as coal fueled the big industries of the time. Captain W. Seward B. Hays, a self-made industrialist, was known in Pittsburgh as the "Coal King." He sold it to the Union Armies during the Civil War and even personally delivered it by barge to the front. Another notable "coal baron" was Henry Clay Frick. In 1871, at age 21, he formed a company to purchase coal lands in the rich Connellsville area near Pittsburgh. His company built ovens and pyrolyzed coal into coke for the steel mills. Within 20 years, he had bought out rivals with money borrowed from the Mellon banking family. Frick then owned 60% of the coal acreage in that region. He produced 80% of the coke for the steel mills. Andrew Carnegie's steel mills were his largest customer. Henry Phipps, founder of the Phipps' Conservatory in Pittsburgh, started the Union Iron Mills, which along with other metallurgical mills, continued to prosper even into recent times. As recently as the mid-1980s, Pittsburgh area steel mills produced more steel than any other area in the U.S. For more information, go to http://www.netl.doe.gov/KeyIssues/historyofcoaluse.html.
  • Explain that New England's industrial revolution began around the time of the embargo of 1807. Barred from importing English fabrics, Americans built their own textile mills. Other common household products were also manufactured domestically, especially shoes. Towns like Lowell, Mass.; Lewiston, Maine; and Manchester, N.H., became centers of textile and shoe production. In Connecticut, the manufacture of military arms and clocks emerged as major industries. Today, industry no longer plays the prominent role it once did. Manufacturing first moved to the South, then overseas.
  • Provide students with a brief history of the auto industry. In 1901, an oil well on a farm in Texas erupted in an incredible geyser; a steam valve blew up in New York, and an auto factory burned down in Detroit. These three seemingly unrelated events did much to make Detroit the automotive capital and to shape the still embryonic industry. When the famous oil gusher called "Spindletop" was brought in on a farm near Beaumont, Texas, the country's petroleum production was doubled overnight. A seemingly inexhaustible supply of cheap fuel for automobiles had been discovered. The availability of low-priced fuel gave added impetus to the internal combustion engine in its competition with steam and electric power and to this day has had a tremendous impact on the U.S. car market, American attitudes toward cars and driving, and the design of the cars themselves. In New York, two Detroit investors, Henry B. Joy and his brother-in-law, Truman Newberry, were at the second annual New York Auto Show in 1901. Joy had decided to enter the auto business and was looking for a car company to buy. The only carmaker in Detroit was Oldsmobile and Ransom E. Olds was not interested in selling his company. Joy had been told that the Locomobile, a luxury steam car, was a likely prospect and he and Newberry were examining one when a pressure gauge exploded near Newberry's head, showering both Detroiters with hot water and dousing their interest in steamers. They began looking for a gasoline car and were impressed with the Packard, built in Warren, Ohio, by James W. Packard. Joy bought the rights to the Packard and moved the company to Detroit. He commissioned a young architect named Albert Kahn to build a plant, which still stands on East Grand Boulevard. Kahn would design many more auto plants around the world, but from this first one would come a half-century of high-quality luxury cars. But the Packard plant was not the first to be specially built for production of cars. The first was built in 1900 by Ransom E. Olds, a young automotive wizard from Lansing who had actually built cars and ran them several years before the Duryeas did and perhaps as early as Daimler and Benz in Germany. But they were steam-powered and Olds was coming to the view that the relatively new internal-combustion gasoline engine was the way to go. It appears that Michigan became the center of the auto industry not because of any inexorable historical forces, or because of its geography, but because of the unique people who were there and who came to the state in those formative years. For more information, go to: http://www.theautochannel.com/mania/industry.orig/history/chap3.html.
  • Provide background information on the steel industry of Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is located at the confluence of the Monongahela and Allegheny rivers. This site was first settled as Fort Duquesne by the French but captured by the British in 1758. In the early years, it was the gateway to the frontier of the Ohio River Valley. The Ohio River starts at Pittsburgh. Boat building and metal industries were later the economic base of the region. When coke from coal began to replace charcoal from wood in iron and steel making, Pittsburgh grew up as the heart of the industry. A plentiful supply of bituminous coal underlies the Pittsburgh area. By the 1920s Pittsburgh produced one third of the national output of finished and rolled steel. It had the world's largest tube and pipe mill, structural steel plant, rail mill, wire manufacturing plant, and bridge and construction fabricating plant. Pittsburgh also led in the manufacture of electrical machinery, railroad cars, tin plate, glass, fire brick, and aluminum finishing. Forty percent of the nation's coal came from within 100 miles of Pittsburgh. More information is available at http://www2.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/pitts.htm.
  • Use graphic organizers at http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/actbank/torganiz.htm (Score Graphic Organizers) or http://teacherresourcecatalog.pwnet.org/docs/Reading.pdf (Reading Strategies for Content Teachers) to assist the students as they organize the background information on the the changes in transportation of resources and examples of manufacturing areas.


A collection of Web sites on the Industrial Revolution

Information on the Industrial Revolution

History of the automobile industry

Contact Us  |  About this Site  |  Credits  |  Privacy Statement  |  Terms of Use

Copyright 2014 Prince William Network/Virginia Department of Education