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The primary beginning to the revolution was with cotton and the way it was picked and spun. From the beginning, cotton was picked by hand and from there had to be separated in order to get the seeds from the fibers. Once it was just the fibers, it had to be spun and shipped to those who would use the cotton to make clothes, bags, etc. Most cotton plantations had slaves so it was more hands to pick the cotton since one person was only able to pick and separate around a pound for an entire days work. Many people wanted cotton but it was rare and expensive due to the tedious work to separate the fibers. However, at the plantation called Mulberry Grove in coastal Georgia, the widow of Nathanael Greene, Catharine Greene, took over the property and made a vital decision that would change the world. A newly graduate of Yale, Eli Whitney, was visiting a fellow graduate at the plantation when Catharine Greene approached him with an idea. She suggested to Eli Whitney that he should come up with a solution, any solution at all, for taking the seeds from fibers so more work could be done in a day’s time. Ten days later, Eli Whitney had a working model of what the world would know as the ‘Cotton Gin’, short for engine. This machine made it possible to separate fifty times more cotton than a given person in a day. With the spread of the Gin, cotton was now ‘the king’ of the industry and therefore a vital trade for the economy. (Tindall 417-418).
To help boost the revolution as well, others began improving some equipment. Jethro Wood, for example, took the wooden plow used by farmers and made an iron one with removable parts. This was extremely helpful because if one part of the plow cracked, the farmers would not have to get a new one, just change the part. John Deere improved on Jethro Wood’s iron plow by making the steel plow.
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Waltham, Massachusetts in 1813 was the first factory to be born on American soil and this was by Francis Lowell. It was the first place to have spinning and weaving by power machinery under one roof. The factory could produce full cloth from raw materials. With all of these new editions to the world, the quest to get rich quick went in full force. Most of the men in the east headed off to California to find riches that had been found there before, leaving their women behind. Because of this overflow of women, there was nothing more for these women to do but to be hired on in factories. And factories liked to hire them because of their agility when working with the machines and that they could be paid less money than men. These women were referred to as “Lowell Girls”.(Tindall 433-434).
Several years had passed and Germans, Irish, etc, came over to America to create a better life for themselves. At this point, several other factories had been established and more and more people were looking for a job. The term organized labor came about because people who had a certain skill would get together and do a specific job that went with their skill. A lot of the time, these workers complained of an inhospitable work environment and worked for change. In the case of Common Wealth v. Hunt, Hunt sued for a better work environment. The result was that workers were not able to demand better pay, better place to work, and they also had the option of working or not. Because of this new option, many decided to go on what is known as a strike to get what they wanted from their employer. The strike of 1860 greatly affected many. In 1861, the civil war broke out and shoes were in limited supply because of the strike so soldiers were forced to glue their shoes together. As they walked they would have to come across rivers, and the water would dissolve the glue and their shoes would break apart. Many soldiers had to go barefoot. (Tindall 451-452).
From the inventions previously stated, many of them fit into Henry Clay’s American System. Henry Clay, Senator and member of the Whig party, wanted America to grow and prosper. (u-s-history.com). Henry Clay wanted Americans to have a better road system which basically meant a higher tariff, and more things that would make America grow. (Baxter 16-17). But as stated before, there were tollgates that people had to go through when traveling the newly changed roads. Americans were able to buy land and products for less money and made a better income because of it. There was also a whole new availability for jobs that allowed Americans to prosper as well. (Tindall 421-422).
Tindall, George Brown. America: Seventh Edition, New York: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc,
Baxter, Maurice. Henry Clay and the American System. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky,
“Politics and Public Service Henry Clay 1777-1852 “The Great Compromiser.” Accessed 27
October 2008 http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h321.html