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, hard to 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."

Jefferson president American Philosophical Society.

As 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 by Abraham Rees, articles described 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 appointed Surveyor of US Public Buildings - designed US Capitol & White House,

country’s first comprehensive water supply system for Philly.  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 that, only three steam engines in all US. 

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

Philly early center of American mechanical engineering.

Latrobe - Chesapeake & Delaware Canal.

first steam-powered rolling mill in US. 


Not all Brit TY adopted in AM - 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, laws provide 14-year monopoly for inventors. 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.