Factors That Contributed Towards the United States Becoming an Industrial Power

Like every major industrial country in the world, America rose to become an industrial power by leveraging a number of factors that worked in their favor. These included technological and geographical factors, among others.

As already noted, technology was a major factor in America’s rise to industrialization. Particularly, there were a number of key transport technology innovations. Notably, the early urban and economic period was rather slow, owing to the slow nature of the ‘sail and wagon’ transportation systems. However, the arrival of a new wave of transportation-related innovations (such as steam and railway) as well as other technology systems that characterized the industrial capitalism (such as coal and steel) from the 1840s heralded America’s industrial boom of the late 19th century and into the new century. Further transportation technologies (such as trucks and automobiles) in the 1920s and into the 1940s boosted the industrialization wave more. These technologies enabled the movement of an already “large and rapidly growing market and labor forces” (Knox et al. 125), which was on its own a major factor. For instance, America’s open-door policy allowed an influx of immigrants into the country, and these became important part of the industrialization process by providing both labor (skills and expertise) and market for the products of the ongoing industry. Particularly, the railway system was significantly complementary to waterways as they served as the much-needed “long haul carriers of general freight” (Knox et al. 127). Further, the railway network transcended borders, helping to further realign the economic system to continental level. The intense inter-railway company competition only helped to open up new territories westward, including Kansas City and Minneapolis-St. Paul.

Geographically, America was endowed with a vast supply of natural resources. Included here is the country’s fertile soil and favorable climate, which enabled a major boom in the production of foodstuffs, which then enabled the feeding of the big industrial workforce and at the same time made possible exportation of foods to Europe in exchange for other important resources.

However, the optimum exploitation of these factors was enabled by what Knox et al. refer to as “the evolving pattern of spatial organization” (125). This was evident from early on, when individual cities specialized as producers of specific resources. For example, the spatial organization saw a focus on gateway ports of the Atlantic seaboard, with control over “a limited hinterland where the economy was dominated by the production of agricultural staples for export to Europe” (Knox et al. 126). This organization, importantly, continued to evolve, and with time these individual city economies did not only focus on their known regions but geared toward national markets. As it were, the specialization of cities had provided the foundation for the more nationally-focused system. Particularly, binding them together did create a vital Manufacturing Belt, which (through finance, wholesaling, transportation and warehousing) added to the cumulative process of industrial growth in the region, giving the region a significant comparative advantage.

In conclusion, the case of America’s rise to industrial power demonstrates that it is not enough to have the right resources. The key is to know how leverage these factors. For America, effective and efficient spatial integration and organization was the key. It saw the integration of regional growth to a national wave of industrialization boom.



Works Cited

Knox, Paul, Agnew, John, & McCarthy, Linda. The Geography of the World Economy, 6th Edition. London & New York: Routledge, 2014.