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The Market Revolution
The antebellum era was a time not only of profound political change but also of great technological and economic innovation. The Industrial Revolution, which began in Europe in the 1700s, had produced new inventions and methods of production. American inventors transformed the U.S. economy with new innovations of their own. This rapid development of manufacturing and improved farming had such a profound effect on American society that historians often refer to it as the Market Revolution.
Eli Whitney and the Cotton Gin
The first major innovation in the Market Revolution was Eli Whitney's invention of the cotton gin in 1793. For most of the 1700s, Americans had lacked cotton, despite the fact that they had waterways for transport and the ability to construct textile factories. Southern planters had tried to grow cotton, but they had abandoned it for rice and tobacco because cotton had proved too labor-intensive: it took one slave an entire day to separate just one pound of cottonseeds from the fibers.
The cotton gin revolutionized cotton harvesting by separating the cottonseeds and fibers automatically?it allowed one slave to produce fifty pounds of cotton in one day. Within several years of the cotton gin's invention, cotton had become a major crop in the South, and factories in the North were producing cotton cloth.
The New Cotton Economy
The cotton gin had profound, wide-reaching effects on American history and society. Southern planters abandoned almost all other crops in favor of the newly profitable cotton. In addition, planters required enormous increases in slave ...
The impact of the market revolution on American workers and the economy