There have been questions about what caused the second industrial revolution. After the Civil War ended, Americans began to look for ways to rebuild as well as to develop new industries. There was an increasing push out west to find new land, as well as the flourishing cities in California, began to demand new means of transportation for gold as well as for supplies. According to historians, the period of the second industrial revolution ranged from 1870 to 1914 which was a period of rapid growth in United States manufacturing in the late 1800s.
The effects of the industrial revolution are evident even in our present world and comprise both positive effects and negative effects. The negative consequences of industrialization are presently combated with the aid of improved technology over the decades. The first industrial revolution was characterized by coal, iron, railroads, and textiles (fabrics) while the second industrial revolution was characterized by machinery run electrically, industrial equipment, personal appliances, and medical breakthroughs. In this article, we see what the second industrial revolution implies and its causes.
What was the second industrial revolution?
The second industrial revolution also known as the technological revolution was a period of breaking advancements in the aspects of manufacturing, technology, and the methods of industrial production which particularly took place in the United States from 1870 to 1914. In essence, this was a period of tremendous economic, industrial, and technological advancement that took place between the end of the American Civil War and the start of the first world war.
Developments such as steel, electricity, increases in mass production, and the building of a nationwide railroad network facilitated the growth of sprawling cities. This historical hike in factory output alongside the invention of technological marvels such as the telegraph, the telephone, the automobile, and the radio would forever bring about a change in how Americans lived and worked. It is said that the invention of the Bessemer process for cost-effective steel production as well as the associated expansion of the U.S railroad transport system triggered the second industrial revolution.
The second industrial revolution was a phase of rapid scientific discovery, standardization, mass production, and industrialization from the late 19th century down to the early 20th century. The first industrial revolution which ended in the mid-19th century was identified by a slowdown in important inventions before the second industrial revolution.
Advancements in manufacturing and production technology made possible the widespread adoption of technological systems such as telegraph and railroad networks, gas and water supply as well as sewage systems which had earlier been concentrated in a few select cities. The enormous expansion of rail and telegraph lines that took place after 1870 allowed for an unprecedented movement of people and ideas which built up to a new wave of globalization. It was in the same period that new technological systems were introduced, most significantly electrical power and telephones.
What caused the second industrial revolution?
The factors that caused the second industrial revolution include the expansion of electrical technology, the mass production of steel through the Bessemer process, the internal combustion engine, and the creation of synthetic materials. The causes also include the invention of air brakes and unprecedented urbanization and territorial expansion in the United States.
Causes of the second industrial revolution
- The expansion of electrical technology
- The invention of the Bessemer process
- The creation of the first electric light
- The internal combustion engine
- The creation of synthetic materials
- The invention of air brakes
- Unprecedented urbanization and territorial expansion in the USA
The expansion of electrical technology
After the first industrial revolution, people began to carry out experiments with new technologies that had the potential to revolutionalize manufacturing and communication; with this, the expansion of electrical technology is the main cause of the second industrial revolution. This form of energy gave room for more efficient mass production methods and communication technologies.
The invention of the Bessemer process
The invention of the Bessemer process is another factor that caused the second industrial revolution. It is evident that many developments of the second industrial revolution practically improved on the already-existing or earlier technology. For instance, the mass production of steel had begun with the development of the Bessemer process in 1850. This innovation removed the impurities from the iron ore or molten pig iron thereby producing stronger steel that was better suited for the building of rail lines and machines. This process was later improved by engineers.
To explain further, the first developed open hearth siemens-martin process in Germany in the 1860s was slower than the Bessemer process but produced steel of higher quality that was less brittle. By the beginning of the twentieth century, the Siemens-Martin process became the most common way of steel manufacturing. Therefore, the mass production of steel facilitated the great engineering feats of the second industrial revolution such as the first skyscrapers and the railroad expansion.
With this, the second Industrial revolution was said to have been triggered by the invention of the Bessemer process for the production of steel in a cost-effective way and the associated expansion of the United States railroad system and this period brought about an unprecedented increase in industrial production. Advancements that took place in factory workflows such as mass production, electrification, and automation contributed immensely to economic growth. It gave rise to the first workplace safety and work hours laws as well as the prohibition of child labor.
See also: What caused the industrial revolution?
The creation of the first electric light
With the creation of the first high-resistance, an incandescent electric light that was carried out by Thomas Edison in 1879, the pathway was paved for the huge expansion of manufacturing technology by the second industrial revolution that would be in place over the next few decades. In the late Victorian period, the invention of the light bulb made provision for a much safer alternative to the open flame of the gaslight, especially in the atmospheres of factories that were most often hazardous. With this, there was a gradual expansion in distribution networks and the electricity that was being provided by coal-powered generators.
The development of the internal combustion engine
The development of the internal combustion engine was another factor that caused the second industrial revolution. This greatly helped to free men from the most tedious manual labor, making possible the airplane or aviation as well as other forms of transportation. In turn, power generation was revolutionalized.
Physicists usually refer to the internal combustion engine as a “prime mover” meaning that it makes use of some form of energy such as gasoline to move objects. The first reliable internal combustion engines were created or developed in the mid-nineteenth century and were almost immediately made used for transportation.
The creation of synthetic materials
Another cause of the second industrial revolution was the creation of synthetic materials such as plastic and nylon that were derived from the oil industry. These materials contributed immensely to the production of surgical and other useful materials.
The invention of air brakes
The air brake which George Westinghouse invented in 1869 sent compressed air through a line to enable the train’s engineers to apply brakes from the locomotives. This also caused the second industrial revolution. Prior to this, workers would jump from one moving car to the next in order to apply brakes manually. Obviously, this method was very dangerous, meaning that in situations where a train car broke free, there would be no way of stopping it. The fact that trains could now be stopped more safely, they could also travel at higher speeds.
Unprecedented urbanization and territorial expansion in the USA
All these new technologies birthed a significant increase in mass production and a decrease in costs. This gave room for businesses to have economic growth at an unprecedented rate in a very short time frame and this industrialization brought about huge changes in society.
Therefore, it is valid to say that the need to improve or build on the existing technology brought about the second industrial revolution just as some facts have been explained above. We saw some areas in which technologies improved such as the railroads, air brakes, telegraphs, gas, etc. These elements birthed the second phase of industrialization. Having said this, the unprecedented urbanization and territorial expansion in the United States also caused the second industrial revolution.
How the first and second industrial revolutions differ
The greatest difference between the first and the second industrializations was the expansion of electricity. Although electricity was introduced during the first industrial revolution, it was not widely used during that period. This form of energy gave room for factories to be built on a much larger scale and for production to take place more efficiently. The use of electricity brought about the development of new communication technologies such as the telephone and radio.
Another big difference was the increase in the steel production that is to be used in carrying out construction and manufacturing activities. Steel is much stronger and more durable than other materials, therefore, it allowed for the creation of larger and more complex structures. Also, with the introduction of synthetic materials, many products became much cheaper to produce and then there was a great expansion in the use of natural raw materials and the range of uses as well.
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