The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - The Industrial Revolution Illustration

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
The Industrial Revolution
in America


For Kids

For thousands of years, goods were made by hand. But around 250 years ago, a new machine was invented in England. It was called the Spinning Jenny. The Jenny was created to speed up the way yarn was made. One machine, the Spinning Jenny, could spin as fast as 8 workers. There were soon machines for weaving as well. These machines ran on running water. They had to be located near a stream to use them. Then the steam engine was invented. And everything changed. The steam engine could run other machines anywhere. Suddenly, there were so many new inventions! The use of machines spread to other industries besides spinning and weaving. The use of machines spread to other countries as well. There was an explosion of new machines and new ways of doing things. This time period in history is called the Industrial Revolution. There were many good things and many bad things about the Industrial Revolution.  

The Good: Manufactured goods could be made more cheaply by machine than by hand. This allowed people to buy goods they could never afford before. Many of the comforts we enjoy today are dependant upon machines, for example machines that generate electricity.

The Bad: Many people were put out of work and replaced with machines. Most people who still had jobs could no longer, for the most part, work at home. They had to work in a factory and oversee the machines, machines that did not allow for creatively. Poorly built factories sprang up quickly, and tenement houses were built near them or attached to them for the workers.

The Ugly: The tenements were over crowded. Many were fire traps. Some adults complained and refused to work under these conditions. Rather than change the conditions, factory owners began to hire children, sometimes very young children, some as young as four years old. It was cheaper than hiring adults. Children worked 12-14 hours a day under dangerous conditions. Some were mistreated or whipped if they fell behind in their work.

Almost everything we have had to be invented. Some inventions are very old like the wheel or the bow and arrow. Sometimes two inventors invented the same thing at the same time. Almost every invention is improved over and over until sometimes it evolves into a different invention entirely! So there is nothing new about invention. What was new or different about the time period in history that we call "The Industrial Revolution" was that a whole bunch of new inventions were built at about the same time with a common goal - that being to replace a large number of workers with a machine so that goods could be made more rapidly. 

Very few people would wish to return to the way things were before the Industrial Revolution, but many new laws had to be enacted and enforced to remove the bad and the ugly, and leave the good. That took time.

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