Industrial Revolution Furniture

Some experts say America's Industrial Revolution began in the mid-1800's with the invention of better tools and larger scale metal working.

Bridge Designs

Dunlap's Creek Bridge was the first cast iron, metal arch bridge in the United States. It was designed by Richard Delafield and built by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Constructed from 1836 to 1839 on the National Road in Brownsville, Pennsylvania, it remains in use today. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark (1978). It is located in the Brownsville Commercial Historic District.

On May 15, 1820, Congress authorized an extension of the National Road to St. Louis, on the Mississippi River, and on March 3, 1825, across the Mississippi to Jefferson City, Missouri. Work on the extension between Wheeling and Zanesville, Ohio, used the pre-existing Zane's Trace of old Ebenezer Zane, and was completed in 1833 to the new state capital of Columbus, Ohio, and in 1838 to the college town of Springfield, Ohio.

In 1849, a bridge was completed to carry the National Road across the Ohio River at Wheeling. The Wheeling Suspension Bridge, designed by Charles Ellet Jr., was at the time the world's longest bridge span at 1,010 feet (310 m) from tower to tower.

"With the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century, truss systems of wrought iron were developed for larger bridges, but iron did not have the tensile strength to support large loads. With the advent of steel, which has a high tensile strength, much larger bridges were built, many using the ideas of Gustave Eiffel. In 1927, welding pioneer Stefan Bryła designed the first welded road bridge in the world, the Maurzyce Bridge which was later built across the river at Maurzyce near Łowicz, Poland in 1929. In 1995, the American Welding Society presented the Historic Welded Structure Award for the bridge to Poland."


The American Bridge Company was founded in April 1900, when JP Morgan led a consolidation of 28 of the largest U.S. steel fabricators and constructors. The company’s roots extend to the late 1860s, when one of the consolidated firms, Keystone Bridge Company, built the Eads Bridge at St. Louis, the first steel bridge over the Mississippi River, which is still in use. In 1902, the company became a subsidiary of United States Steel as part of the Steel Trust consolidation.

American Bridge Company pioneered the use of steel as a construction material, developing the means and methods for fabrication and construction that allowed it to be widely used in buildings, bridges, vessels, and other plate applications. It went on to do work across the nation and around the world.

Bethlehem Steel, founded in 1857, was once the second-largest manufacturer of steel in the United States; its Bethlehem, Pennsylvania location has since been transformed into a casino.

Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution was the transition to new manufacturing processes in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, improved efficiency of water power, the increasing use of steam power, and the development of machine tools. It also included the change from wood and other biofuels to coal. Textiles were the dominant industry of the Industrial Revolution in terms of employment, value of output and capital invested.

The Industrial Revolution marks a major turning point in history; almost every aspect of daily life was influenced in some way. In particular, the average income and population began to exhibit unprecedented sustained growth. Some economists say that the major impact of the Industrial Revolution was that the standard of living for the general population began to increase consistently for the first time in history, although others have said that it did not begin to meaningfully improve until the late 19th and 20th centuries.

The Industrial Revolution began in Great Britain, and spread to Western Europe and North America within a few decades. The precise start and end of the Industrial Revolution is still debated among historians, as is the pace of economic and social changes. GDP per capita was broadly stable before the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of the modern capitalist economy, while the Industrial Revolution began an era of per-capita economic growth in capitalist economies. Economic historians are in agreement that the onset of the Industrial Revolution is the most important event in the history of humanity since the domestication of animals, agriculture, and fire.

The First Industrial Revolution evolved into the Second Industrial Revolution in the transition years between 1840 and 1870, when technological and economic progress continued with the increasing adoption of steam transport (steam-powered railways, boats and ships), the large-scale manufacture of machine tools, and the increasing use of machinery in steam-powered factories.

Steam Engines

The efficiency of steam engines increased so that they used between one-fifth and one-tenth as much fuel. The adaptation of stationary steam engines to rotary motion made them suitable for industrial uses. The high pressure engine had a high power to weight ratio, making it suitable for transportation. Steam power underwent a rapid expansion after 1800.

The substitution of coke (a fuel with few impurities and a high carbon content) for charcoal greatly lowered the fuel cost for pig iron and wrought iron production. Using coke also allowed larger blast furnaces, resulting in economies of scale. The cast iron blowing cylinder was first used in 1760. It was later improved by making it double acting, which allowed for higher furnace temperatures. The puddling process produced a structural grade iron at a lower cost than the finery forge. The rolling mill was fifteen times faster than hammering wrought iron. Hot blast greatly increased fuel efficiency in iron production in the following decades.

Hot blast, patented by James Beaumont Neilson in 1828, was the most important development of the 19th century for saving energy in making pig iron. By using waste exhaust heat to preheat combustion air, the amount of fuel to make a unit of pig iron was reduced at first by between one-third using coal or two-thirds using coke; however, the efficiency gains continued as the technology improved. Hot blast also raised the operating temperature of furnaces, increasing their capacity. Using less coal or coke meant introducing fewer impurities into the pig iron. This meant that lower quality coal or anthracite could be used in areas where coking coal was unavailable or too expensive; however, by the end of the 19th century transportation costs fell considerably.


In 1793, Samuel Slater founded the Slater Mill at Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He had learned of the new textile technologies as a young apprentice in Derbyshire, England, and defied laws against the emigration of skilled workers by leaving for New York in 1789, hoping to make money with his knowledge. After founding Slater's Mill, he went on to own 13 textile mills. Daniel Day established a wool carding mill in the Blackstone Valley at Uxbridge, Massachusetts in 1809, the third woollen mill established in the US (The first was in Hartford, Connecticut, and the second at Watertown, Massachusetts.) The John H. Chafee Blackstone River Valley National Heritage Corridor retraces the history of "America's Hardest-Working River', the Blackstone. The Blackstone River and its tributaries, which cover more than 45 miles (72 km) from Worcester, Massachusetts to Providence, Rhode Island, was the birthplace of America's Industrial Revolution. At its peak over 1100 mills operated in this valley, including Slater's mill, and with it the earliest beginnings of America's industrial and technological development.


See how Scottsdale Art Factory takes this history and transforms it into functional art.