Inventions and resource development

The second half of the 19th century brought an explosion of new discoveries and inventions that, in the opinion of the Beard family, prominent American historians, amounted to the heralding of a "second industrial revolution." They cite as especially important the following:

Mining became significant after the 1850s, when iron mines opened in the Lake Superior region of the upper Midwest. These helped spur rapid development of iron and steel mills located on the shores of the Great Lakes. After the first discovery of petroleum, John D. Rockefeller realized the potential wealth and power to be gained by concentrating the production of oil and outlets for its distribution.

Soon large copper and silver mines were opened, followed by lead mines and the development of cement factories. In 1893 at the World Exposition, a dynamo was displayed. Such mechanisms were soon built into dams to harness vast amounts of electricity. With the advent of the telegraph and telephone, communications tied the nation together and facilitated large-scale diversified businesses. The use of railroads and improved machinery helped the growth and proliferation of such basic industries as steel, coal, oil and electric power.

Despite continuing immigration, artisans were scarce, and it made sense for industry to develop mass production methods. Frederick W. Taylor pioneered in the field of scientific management, carefully plotting the functions of various workers and then devising new, more efficient ways for them to do their jobs. True mass production was the inspiration of Henry Ford, who in 1913 adopted the moving assembly line, with each worker doing one simple task in the production of automobiles. In what turned out to be an extremely farsighted action, Ford offered a very generous wage -- $5 a day -- to his workers, which enabled many of them to be buyers of the automobiles they made.