colonies - settlers bring technology, knowledge from home countries;

New World - different geography, geology;

Need new skills.

1750 about 90% of colonial population at least part-time farmers.

access to new crops, corn

rapid population growth - about doubled every 25 years.

plow. Seeding. Weeding. Harvesting, threshing,

adaptations — axe, fencing;

wood — vital resource; building, fuel, chemical manufacture, tools, transport.

East Coast deforestation;

Shipbuilding - shipwrights, carpenters, blacksmiths, instrument makers, painters, ropemakers and sailmakers;

sawmills, run by waterpower.

Millwrights’ knowledge —skills of carpenter, mason, stonecutter, blacksmith, wheelwright and surveyor.

by 1820s, one water-driven mill for every 142 New Yorkers.

15 horsepower.

Lack of resources - short on people;


small crafts - blacksmith, carpenters, glass blower, barrel making, stonemason, tanner.

- NY and Philly under 100,000 people — London past one million.

David Rittenhouse clockmaker, scientific instrument maker; orreries 1760s.

Transport — 1750s, six 18-hour days from New York to Boston.

1790s turnpikes, 1808 National Road (doesn’t reach St. Louis until 1850)

Conestoga wagons.

transport costs 29% of selling price of flour from wheat grown in Shenandoah Valley & sold in Alexandria, VA 80 miles distant.

philosophy of mercantilism

1675 50 sawmills in Massachusetts alone;

Furs. Fish.

mid-1700s, more ironmaking establishments in American colonies than in Britain itself.

Blast furnace

"pig iron"

wrought iron


1700 colonies 1,500 tons of iron; 1775, 30,000 tons.

1750, Parliament Iron Act - removed all duty taxes on bar iron & pig iron brought from colonies into England; second, prohibited colonists from building any new mills to produce finished metal products.

"A colonist cannot make a button or horseshoe without some sooty ironmonger in Britain bawling & squawling that he's being robbed."

1764 fifty Boston merchants agreed to stop wearing fancy imported lace; mechanics pledged to wear only aprons made in Mass.

"make American and buy American" movements

1772, Philly china factory, glass factory & paper factory.

- Continental Congress resolutions encouraging build-up of domestic industry;

encouragement for making firearms, saltpeter & sulphur,

Pennsylvania rifle;

one shipment alone, French sent 21,000 muskets & over 100,000 pounds of gunpowder.


transfer of technology, diffusion of inventions.

Continuing obstacles to US economic growth - population still relatively small compared to Britain, less concentrated - hard to get labor supply, maintain consumer demand.

1790, 9 out of 10 lived on farms;

travel slow, transportation costs high.

Advantages - decent base for agriculture; water power; significant natural resources (wood, coal, iron).

What would be future of America’s economy? What would the technology of a new America look like?

Thomas Jefferson - US minister to France after Revolution, visits England, sees big textile factories.

Jefferson wanted to establish peaceful pastoral ideal, preserving America's "rural virtue".

"Those who labor in the earth are the chosen people of God. While we have land to labor then, let us never wish to see our citizens occupied at a workbench, or twirling a distaff... let our workshops remain in Europe. The loss by the transportation of commodities across the Atlantic will be made up in happiness and permanence of government. It is the manners and spirit of a people which preserve a republic in vigor."

But later, called such ideas "theory only and a theory which the servants of America are not at liberty to follow. Our people have a decided taste for navigation and commerce."

president American Philosophical Society.

U.S. president, built more than one hundred new gunboats for US navy.

1802, Corps of Engineers, West Point Military Academy.

Jefferson improved designs for plow; Monticello full of inventions.

Alexander Hamilton, 1791 Report on the Subject of Manufactures. "To procure all such machines as are known in any part of Europe can only require a proper provision & due pains."

Philly merchant Tench Coxe;

Society for Establishing Useful Manufactures;

Philly's 1788 Independence Day parade - float; "May the union government protect the manufactures of America."

Textile manufacture;

British inventors & industry shield of secrecy — patent rights, defense against foreign competition.


Parliament laws prohibiting export of textile or metalworking machines;

1780s law forbidding skilled workers from emigrating; Americans attempting to lure them faced five hundred pound fines and one year jail.

American incentives for skilled immigrants;

Machines smuggled out.

1802-1820, Abraham Rees, The Cyclopaedia, describes power loom, spinning jenny.

21-year old textile worker Samuel Slater.

1789, came to US,

ad by Rhode Island merchants who wanted mechanic to run spinning production.

first to make water frame profitable in US.

1790, Pawtucket, RI started cotton spinning mill using British-style water frame.

Slater network of textile mills — adapted to American conditions,

1812, 76 cotton mills within 30-mile radius of Providence, RI, operating over 50,000 spindles.

Benjamin Henry Latrobe - born England 1764.

moved to Virginia 1796;

1803 Surveyor of US Public Buildings - designed US Capitol & White House,

First comprehensive water system in US.

Philly population 25,000 in 1776; over 70,000 by 1799.

Fear of disease from contaminated water; fear of fire.

Plan - two steam engines pump water out of river up to elevated reservoir, distribute it through underground wooden pipes.

Before, only three steam engines in US.

Latrobe: steam engines "as tame and innocent as a clock."

Philly center of mechanical engineering.

Latrobe - Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

first steam-powered rolling mill in US.

Not all British technology adopted in US - Newcomen steam engine.

1840s, most US industry water power.

Tens of thousands of small watermills.

American improvements — innovations in British power loom design.

Technology transfer two way street — British adopt US nail-making machines;

Constitution - gives Congress power "to promote the progress of science and useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writing and discoveries".

1790 patent system, 14-year monopoly.

Patent board - sec'y of state, war, attorney general.

Jefferson: "subjects require a great deal of time to understand and do justice by them."

Patent office fell into chaos, controversy.

Patents granted —














Pre-1880s patent models;

Patent Office fires 1836, 1877.