An American Industrial Revolution Unit

for Middle School Students and their Teachers

home inventions horrors of workplace big business labor production

Mystery Inventors/Inventions 

What did this man invent?

What famous person invended this?
Who is responsible for this invention?
To find out the answer, Click on the picture. To return to this page, use the BACK button on your browser.

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What is a Revolution?

Think about it:

  • During the  American Revolution, America declared its independence from England and became its own country.
  •  During the  French Revolution, the King and the entire court lost their heads literally.  The people wanted a say in the government.
  • Why did they call the Industrial Age a Revolution?


HINT FROM THE DICTIONARY:   A sudden or momentous change in a situation

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What caused the American Industrial Revolution?

In the 1800s after their independence from England, America saw the need to become less dependent on England and Europe.  England wanted America to remain dependent on them.  America shipped them cotton and they manufactured it into cloth and sent it back.  Anyone who worked in a factory was not allowed to leave the country.  England planned to keep the technology and not share.  Americans offered a large reward for anyone who could build a factory in this country.  A brave man with a photographic memory took on the task.  Samuel Slater memorized everything in the factory, quit his job, moved to London where he worked doing manual labor.  He didn't tell anyone he used to work in the factory.  He caught a ship to America and built  the first factory on a stream in Rhode Island.

It's interesting that as soon as an idea becomes reality, someone else has already thought of a way to improve it.  In the 1800s there were so many ideas and improvements on those ideas, it was like a revolution--a big dramatic change in the way things were

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This Week You Will Learn About 19th Century Inventions

Famous Inventors

Gordon McKay and Lyman Blake
Cyrus H. McCormick
Elisha Graves Otis
Michael Faraday
Alexander Graham Bell
Elias Howe
Randolph Diesel

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Activity One:

Choose an American invention of the 1800s
Conduct research in the library, using the Internet as well as other sources.

Please find out:

  • Who invented it? When it was invented? Where it was invented? What impact this invention had on America's History?
  • Remember to document your sources:  Write a Bibliography as you search.
  • Using ClarisWorks design a poster which advertises your invention.
  • Email it to your teacher.
  • It must contain all of the information and it must catch the viewers attention with color & pictures.

The class will compile these into an Invention Slide Show. You will get to moderate your portion of the slide show. Your speech must be one minute in length.

Visit These Web Sites For Help and Information:

A Science Odyssey: People and Discoveries: Technology

A&E Biographies

Who's Who in American History

American History 102: Photo Gallery

Ninteenth Century U.S.

 Photographs 1880-1920

Good Photograph and Image Sites

Scientific American

National Inventors Hall of Fame-Index of Inventions

Timeline of Media Inventions

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Activity Two:

What Revolution are we going through now?
Think about it:

What big changes are happening now? Give up?  Try this web site.

 A Science Odyssey: You Try It: Technology at Home Activity

  • Interview your parents or another adult about life when they were your age.
  • Write 10 open-ended questions about what modern conveniences they had or didn't have compared to what you have now.
  • Interview them.  Report back to the class.
  • For extra credit, ask your grandparents the same thing!



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