ix At the dawn of the 19th century, the United States was a fledgling nation, a rural expanse with a small population scattered along the East Coast. It was weak militarily and economically dependent on Europe for its manufac- tured goods. The United States was still seen in Europe as a fruitful source of raw materials, as it had been for centuries. The Industrial Revolution was underway in Britain, and the United States was lagging behind. But by the end of the century, the United States had become the leader of the world in manufacturing output, surpassing Britain for the first time. A technological revolution was taking place at the end of the century that modernized all aspects of American society. The concept of Manifest Destiny emboldened the young country to surge inexorably westward in a feat of expansionism that was believed to be both justified and preordained. The 19th century was an indisputably transformative period in the history of the United States, and in this volume we will examine a selection of artifacts that can help explain what was taking place in this dynamic new society. The relentless industrialization of the country during the 19th century was sparked by a number of crucial inventions that had a momentous influence on American society. A transportation revolution was underway beginning with the invention of the steamboat by Robert Fulton, which allowed for transportation of goods up the Mississippi River and stimulated the devel- opment of the Midwest. Even more significant was the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, which knit together the disparate regions of the now-massive expanse that made up the United States by the sec- ond half of the 19th century. Nearly forgotten today is the importance of the introduction of the safety bicycle in the 1880s that transformed per- sonal travel, demanded better roads, and presaged the development of the automobile. A revolution in long-distance communications took place with the introduction of the telegraph in the 1840s. The invention of the tele- phone in 1876 was the next critical step in the communications revolu- tion. On another front, over the span of the century, the nature of work was transformed. A once-rural and agricultural economy metamorphosed into INTRODUCTION
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