The First American Factories (adapted from The Rise of American Industry at

Photo of industrialization

During the era of Manifest Destiny, many people began to carve out a new existence in the West at the same time that another group pioneered the American Industrial Revolution. In so doing, they developed "new, large forms of business enterprise that involved the use of power-driven machinery to produce products and goods previously produced in the home or small shop. The machinery was grouped together in factories."

"The first factory in the United States was begun after George Washington became President. In 1790, Samuel Slater, a cotton spinner's apprentice who left England the year before with the secrets of its textile machinery, built a factory from memory to produce spindles of yarn." The factory had 72 spindles and was powered by nine children pushing foot treadles. This system was soon replaced by water power. In 1793, John and Arthur Shofield built the first factory to manufacture woolens in Massachusetts. Over the next 60 years, over two million spindles were built in over 1200 cotton factories and 1500 woolen factories.

"From the textile industry, the factory spread to many other areas. In Pennsylvania, large furnaces and rolling mills replaced small local forges and blacksmiths. In Connecticut, tin ware and clocks were produced. Soon reapers and sewing machines would be manufactured. The invention of interchangeable parts allowed factories to create clocks in mass quantities."

At first, new factories were financed by business partnerships - several individuals invested in the factory and paid for business expenses like advertising and product distribution. But after 1813, a new form of business enterprise arose - the corporation in which individual investors are financially responsible for business debts only to the extent of their investment. Investors had what is called limited liability meaning that their debts would only include their investment, not heir full net worth which included his house and property. The corporation concept quickly spread to manufacturing.

"In 1813, Frances Cabot Lowell, Nathan Appleton and Patrick Johnson formed the Boston Manufacturing Company to build America's first integrated textile factory, that performed every operation necessary to transform cotton lint into finished cloth. Over the next 15 years they charted additional Photo of industrialized citycompanies in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Others copied their corporation model and by 1840 the corporate manufacturer was commonplace. Lowell and his associates hoped to avoid the worst evils of British industry. They built their production facilities at Massachusetts. To work in the textile mills, Lowell hired young, unmarried women from New England farms. The 'mill girls' were chaperoned by matrons and were held to a strict curfew and moral code. Although the work was tedious (12 hours per day, 6 days per week), many women enjoyed a sense of independence they had not known on the farm. The wages were about triple the going rate for a domestic servant at the time. The impact of the creation of all these factories and corporations was to drive people from rural areas to the cities where factories were located ... With a huge and growing market ... the corporation became the central force in America's economic growth."