*The Dawn of Innovation*

by on November 23, 2012 at 12:12 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

That is the new book by Charles Morris and the subtitle is The First American Industrial Revolution.  Excerpt:

The overwhelming proportion of American mechanization efforts went into basic processing industries, not precision manufacturing.  Food and lumber processors were 60 percent of all power-using manufacturing industries in 1869.  Add textiles, paper, and primary metal industries like smelting, and the number rises to 90 percent.   Industries that would plausibly lend themselves to armory practice methods — fabricated metal products, furniture, machinery, and instruments — accounted for only 7.5 percent of 1869 manufacturing power demand.

…Mid-Century America was still a predominantly agricultural country.  On the eve of the Civil War, only 16 percent of the workforce was in manufacturing.  They worked in grain milling, meatpacking, lard refining, turning logs into planks and beams, iron smelting and forging, and making steam engines and steamboats, vats and piping, locomotives, reapers and mowers, carriages, stoves, cotton and woolen cloth, shoes, saddles and harnesses, and workaday tools.  These were the industries in which America’s comparative advantage loomed largest and were the ones that dominated American output.  It was the drive to mass scale in those industries, by a wide variety of strategies and methods, that was the real American system, or perhaps the American ideology, of manufacturing.

Recommended.

Steve Sailer November 23, 2012 at 3:30 pm

19th Century America had a vast number of mechanically skilled and innovative farm boys. They didn’t have the usual peasant mindset of that’s-how-it’s-always-been-done. So, they proved hugely productive at industrializing resource extraction for this vast country.

Joe Smith November 23, 2012 at 3:45 pm

And then along came the Bessemer process and cheap steel.

matt wilbert November 23, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Is it really legitimate to suggest that importance or salience of an sector to the economy is directly related to its power demand? This sounds like a rather arbitrary metric to me.

rluser November 24, 2012 at 3:38 am

Importance? No. Salience? Yes. Power is, after all, one of the inputs for which all outputs compete.
In the context of an industrial revolution I would certainly argue for salience in power consumption.
Having not read the book, I have no idea of what thesis Morris presents.

Ray Lopez November 24, 2012 at 4:33 am

Another American Cornucopia book to add to my collection, along with others such as John Steele Gordon (who also wrote the aptly titled ‘The Great Game: The Emergence of Wall Street as a World Power: 1653-2000 [Hardcover]‘ which you can get for 19 cents on Amazon). Proof, as TC has said, that the 19th century was a great century for innovation, and all without a central bank.

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