The Industrial Revolution for Kids: The People and Technology That Changed the World, with 21 Activities

The Industrial Revolution for Kids: The People and Technology That Changed the World, with 21 Activities

by Cheryl Mullenbach


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An NCSS Notable Social Studies Trade Book for Young People
ILA Children's and Young Adult's Book Award—Intermediate Nonfiction
The Industrial Revolution for Kids introduces a time of monumental change in a “revolutionary” way. Learn about the new technologies and new forms of communication and transportation that impacted American life—through the people who invented them and the people who built, operated, and used them. In addition to wealthy industrialists such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie and ingenious inventors such as Eli Whitney and Alexander Graham Bell, you’ll learn about everyday workers, activists, and kids. The late 19th and early 20th centuries come to life through the eyes of hardworking Chinese immigrants who built the Transcontinental Railroad; activist Isaac Myers, an African American ship caulker who became a successful businessman and labor union organizer; toiling housewife Hannah Montague, who revolutionized the clothing industry with her popular detachable collars and cuffs; and many others who help tell the human stories of the Industrial Revolution. Twenty-one hands-on activities invite young history buffs to experience life and understand the changing technologies of this important era.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781613746905
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/01/2014
Series: Chicago Review Press For Kids Series
Pages: 144
Sales rank: 115,998
Product dimensions: 10.90(w) x 8.40(h) x 0.30(d)
Lexile: 930L (what's this?)
Age Range: 9 - 12 Years

About the Author

Cheryl Mullenbach is a former history teacher, librarian, public television project manager, and social studies consultant. She is the author of Double Victory: How African American Women Broke Race and Gender Barriers to Help Win World War II and has contributed to Arizona Living Magazine, the Des Moines Register, Iowa Council for the Social Studies Journal, Iowa Heritage Illustrated, and An Encyclopedia of American Women at War. She lives in Panora, Iowa.

Read an Excerpt

The Industrial Revolution for Kids

The People and Technology That Changed the World : with 21 Activities

By Cheryl Mullenbach

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 2014 Cheryl Mullenbach
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61374-693-6



The marriage of Louisa Pierpont Morgan, eldest daughter of J. Pierpont (J. P.) Morgan, took place on a November afternoon in 1900 in New York City. J. P. Morgan was one of the wealthiest men in the world. He had made his millions as a banker and business investor. Louisa's dress was fashioned from French lace; her veil was held in place by a large spray of diamonds. The reception was held at the Morgan mansion — the first house in New York City lit entirely by electricity. The bride and groom received over 400 gifts, including paintings, furniture, silver dinnerware, and gold plates. Mr. and Mrs. Morgan gave their daughter a diamond tiara and necklace — and $1 million.

About the same time that Louisa Morgan was celebrating her wedding, Nora Nelson, a young woman who worked at a factory in Troy, New York, was thinking about marriage too. She worked long days for little pay at a factory that manufactured detachable shirt collars. When she heard Tacoma, Washington, was a city with an unusually large number of single men, she got an idea. Nora sent a letter to a Tacoma newspaper writing that there were plenty of single women working at the factory who would be willing to move west for a suitable husband. Within a very short time, she received 250 letters from interested men! Nora decided to form a matrimonial club made up of women with marriage in mind who would consider a move to Washington. Everyone who joined paid monthly dues to help send members to Tacoma. Within a day Nora's club had 40 members.

Louisa Morgan and Nora Nelson lived at the same time and only about 150 miles apart, but their lives were vastly different. Nora's situation was much like that of thousands of young people at the time — constant struggle in a harsh, bleak environment. Louisa's circumstances were shared by a privileged few. And though Louisa and Nora never knew one another, they depended on each other for their livelihoods. Nora's job existed because of wealthy investors like J. P. Morgan, and Louisa's lifestyle was possible because of hardworking men and women like Nora.

Revolutionary Changes in Industries

Louisa Morgan and Nora Nelson lived during the time that became known as the Industrial Revolution. It was a time when workers began to use machines, rather than their hands, to make products. The Industrial Revolution occurred between the early 1800s and 1900s in America. Over about 100 years revolutionary changes took place in industries — manufacturing, transportation, and communication.

It's difficult to say how and where these innovations started, because it wasn't just one event or person who brought about the Industrial Revolution. But most historians agree it began with machines designed to make thread and cloth — the textile industry. These inventions led to even more innovations, in areas other than textiles. Soon machines were used for transportation and communication too. This was a shift, because before 1800, people and animals supplied the energy for making, transporting, and communicating things.

These remarkable changes meant people from all backgrounds worked, traveled, and communicated differently than their parents and grandparents had. They played and relaxed in new ways too. It seemed as though every part of life was undergoing gigantic change.


Analyze Interchangeable Parts

DURING THE Industrial Revolution manufacturers began to use interchangeable parts. Today most products are made with interchangeable parts. You can find an example in an ordinary product in your home — the toilet.


[??] 2 toilets

[??] Pencil and paper

[??] Computer with Internet access

Remove the lid from the back of a toilet in your house. Draw a picture of each item you see.

Do the same with a second toilet.

Do you see the same objects in each toilet tank? Place a star next to the items you find in both tanks. These parts are interchangeable. You could take a part from one toilet and use it in the other.

Conduct an online search to find the name of each object you saw in the tanks. Label your drawings with the terms. Identify the function of each item. How does it make the toilet work?

Changes in the Way Products Were Made

For centuries workers made products like shoes, clothes, tools, furniture, and food by hand. Skilled craftsmen and craftswomen, not machines, produced these goods. As machines were invented to make these products, people began to work in different ways.

Before the Industrial Revolution, people worked in small shops, on farms, or in their homes. Women made clothes, soap, and candles for the family. Men chopped wood for fuel and raised animals for food. Most of the items they used every day were homemade or purchased from local craftspeople. Many people in America lived in rural areas and small towns.

As the Industrial Revolution began in the 1800s, that began to change gradually. More and more items that people used every day were made in factories in large cities. People operated the machines. Each worker made one part of an item. All the parts were put together for a finished product. It was a very different way of working.

Samuel and Harriet Slater opened a factory in Rhode Island in the late 1700s that made thread — an important product for textile manufacturing, but it was only one part of making cloth. They hired hand weavers in the community to finish the cloth in their homes.

Francis Cabot Lowell took the process a step further in Massachusetts. Like Samuel Slater, Francis used ideas he had seen at a mill in England. In 1813 he formed the Boston Manufacturing Company in Waltham, Massachusetts. He later moved his company to the banks of the Merrimack River at a location that became known as Lowell, Massachusetts. At Francis's mill, machines wove the thread into cloth, and all the other steps in the process were completed within the mill. This was a turning point in the making of cloth. Soon other investors built textile mills in the northeastern states. From 1814 to 1850 many mills were started. This growth of the textile industry marks the beginning of the Industrial Revolution in America.

As the Industrial Revolution evolved between 1800 and the early 1900s, many improvements were made to machines. People were constantly adjusting to new ways of working and making products. Changes in the way people worked meant changes in other parts of their lives.

When Samuel and Harriet Slater built their factory, they liked to hire families. Other factory owners copied the Slaters' idea. They offered work to parents and children. It wasn't unusual for an entire family to move to a factory town and go to work at the same mill. There were special jobs for the children. Some owners provided houses for the families, and some built stores where the workers could purchase everything they needed.

When Francis Cabot Lowell built his textile mills in Massachusetts, he hired young, unmarried girls to work. He wanted intelligent, reliable workers, and plenty of smart young women were looking for new opportunities. Some lived on farms, and farm life could be very harsh. The chance to live in a city and earn a paycheck — as much as $3.50 per week — seemed very appealing. (The average pay for most young girls who worked away from home as "hired help" was only 75 cents per week.) The girls who went to work in Francis Cabot Lowell's factories were called Lowell girls.

The Slaters and Francis Cabot Lowell became very rich as a result of their new ideas for making products. They affected the American way of working for many generations. A few people like the Slaters and Francis Cabot Lowell have been remembered as people who started the Industrial Revolution in America. Most of the people who worked in their factories have not been remembered for anything. But without the hardworking Lowell girls and the families who moved to work in the Slaters' mill, the Industrial Revolution may not have happened in America.

The J. P. Morgan family and Nora Nelson lived about 100 years after the Slaters and the Lowells. But Louisa Morgan and Nora Nelson lived the lives they did because of the ideas started and implemented by the Slaters, Lowells, and the workers in the early textile mills.

Changes in Transportation

For as long as anyone could remember, people and products traveled on wagons pulled by animals or on ships pushed by wind. Sometimes people rode on horseback or walked where they needed to go. They used canoes or rafts powered by people. But during the Industrial Revolution, machines began to affect the way people and products traveled.

Before machines became a big part of transportation, overland trails and roads zigzagged between towns and from farms to towns. In some places roads called turnpikes required payment at designated stops. When the payment was made, a pike was removed from the road, allowing the traveler to continue.

In 1811 construction began on a road called the National Road — because the national government contributed to the cost of building it. Land was cleared, and men and mules worked to lay down the surface of stone and sand. It took years to build. By 1838 the National Road stretched from Cumberland, Maryland, to Vandalia, Illinois.

The National Road and other gravel roads of the time were better than no roads. But transporting goods and people over roads was slow. In the winter it could take about seven hours to go 10 miles. The trip from New York to Pittsburgh (400 miles) took a week and a half. Travel from New York to Washington, DC (250 miles) took four days, and travel from New York to New Orleans, Louisiana (1,300 miles) took four weeks. And it could be a very bumpy ride — on a horse-drawn wagon over gravel.

People enjoyed a much smoother journey by river. When Robert Fulton came up with the idea of using a steam engine to power a boat in 1807, river transportation was revolutionized.

Before the use of steam-powered boats, it was fairly easy to travel downstream. The wind and current provided the power. But it was very difficult to move upstream, against the current. It meant a backbreaking and arm-straining job for men who operated river crafts. The only way to move upstream was to use a long pole to push off the river bottom in shallow water and to paddle in deeper areas. The invention of steamboats meant boats could more easily and quickly navigate upstream. This opened up a valuable means of moving products — farm goods and manufactured items — throughout the country. It also meant people could move about much faster.

People were stunned when they heard about Robert Fulton's steamboat traveling 150 miles up the Hudson River in only 32 hours. Steam engines on boats turned the nation's rivers into superhighways. Many rivers wind through the United States. People and goods traveled up and down the rivers constantly.

But sometimes people needed to travel between two rivers to reach their destination. When there were no roads between the rivers, travel was difficult. To solve the problem, engineers designed canals — manmade waterways — to connect rivers and lakes or to connect rivers and lakes to seaports.

By 1840 there were thousands of miles of canals spanning the eastern United States. One canal could be hundreds of miles in length. The 400-mile Erie Canal connected the Hudson River in New York City and Lake Erie in Buffalo. The Wabash and Erie Canal — between Toledo, Ohio, and Evansville, Indiana — was more than 450 miles long.

Products such as salt, f lour, or textiles were shipped from eastern factories on cargo boats through the canals. Lumber, gravel, or farm products were carried from the West to eastern towns and cities. People traveled on special boats — called packet or canal boats — where they ate and slept during their journey through the canal. During nice weather they sat on the roof of the boat. This could be a problem, however. When the boat went under a bridge, the passengers had to lie down on the roof to avoid hitting the bridge bottom.


Test Machine Travel

BEFORE THE Industrial Revolution introduced new ways of travel, people moved from place to place by foot. The invention of machine travel (steamboats, trains, and cars) greatly reduced travel times. Test for yourself how much time machine travel (a bike) can save.


[??] Measuring tape

[??] Duct tape — a bright color will be easier to see

[??] A friend

[??] Stopwatch or any timepiece with a second hand

[??] Pencil and paper

[??] Bike

Find a safe place to do this activity, such as a playground, a park, or the school track. Measure a distance between two points — a distance long enough to pick up speed by bike. Mark the beginning and ending points with duct tape.

Ask your friend to be the stopwatch operator.

First, run between the two points as fast as possible. Have your friend use the stopwatch to record your time. Write it on a piece of paper.

Next, take your bike to the starting line. Ride your bike as fast as you can to the finish line. Have your friend record your time. Write it on the paper.

Compare the two times. How much faster was the bike mode of travel?

"There is a great deal of jolting, a great deal of noise, a great deal of wall, not much window." That's how one person described a trip on a train in 1842. Rail travel was another new form of getting from one place to another in the early 1800s. It may not have been the most pleasant way to travel, but trains were faster than walking and more comfortable than a horse-drawn stagecoach. And they could travel anywhere that a track could be laid; they didn't depend on a waterway for their movement. At first the rails were made of wood, but later they were replaced with iron rails, which lasted much longer. And coal replaced wood as the fuel that produced steam for the train engines.

When they were first used in the 1820s, trains were considered amazing marvels. Trips that took months by horseback were reduced to days by train. So all that jolting and noise didn't seem so bad. After all, riding in a train car with a roof overhead was warmer and drier than riding in the open air on a horse's back. And train travel did not require ducking under bridges as with a canal boat.

A major transportation milestone occurred when the Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869. Two railroad companies teamed up to accomplish the feat, clearing land and laying rails over mountains and rough terrain. Workers for the Central Pacific started on the West Coast and toiled their way east. Workers for the Union Pacific started in Nebraska and worked their way west. The two teams met in Utah.

It's almost impossible to imagine the excitement people must have felt when they began to travel by train. A horse covered about 10 miles per hour in good weather. A train moved at a speed of about 20 miles per hour.

Steamboats, canals, and trains revolutionized travel. But these innovations were just the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. Over the years many more amazing improvements to transportation would occur. New forms of energy fueled new and faster machines. Electricity replaced steam, and gasoline replaced electricity. By the end of the Industrial Revolution, people were using electric streetcars and gasoline-powered automobiles for travel. And those were truly revolutionary.

Changes in the Way People Communicated

For generations people were very limited in the ways they could communicate. They talked to one another face to face or exchanged letters with people from a distance. Newspapers were a way to distribute information widely and quickly. Magazines and books also spread ideas and opinions. During the Industrial Revolution, people were introduced to new, exciting ways to communicate.

Dear Grand Pa and Grand Ma,

... I must tell you how I spent Christmas Eve. We all went to a Christmas tree. I got a new red oil calico dress and a doll. Uncle Giles put a book on for Sabra and me, and each one of us girls got a string with candy and raisins on it. Christmas Day we all went to Uncle Giles's. New Year's we were invited to a New Year's dinner up to Mr. Bumgardner's. I ate till I nearly bursted — eating oysters and good things. I will tell you what I study: reading and arithmetic and spelling and geography and writing. Christmas night I got a pair of stockings and a nice new book called The Three White Kittens. Sabra and Maggie both got a new pair of stockings and primer books. New Year's all of us girls got a candy apple apiece and a paper sack of mixed candy and a paper sack of raisins.


Excerpted from The Industrial Revolution for Kids by Cheryl Mullenbach. Copyright © 2014 Cheryl Mullenbach. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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The Industrial Revolution for Kids: The People and Technology That Changed the World, with 21 Activities 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Historical_Romance_Lover More than 1 year ago
I always enjoy this series of books and this is no exception. I love how they have stories from people that lived during this time period as well as pictures to give students an idea of what it was like back then. My students just love looking at pictures and seeing how things have changed. Some of the activities that are included can easily be done in a classroom. Some of them include learning about Morse Code, designing a tenement space, model of an elevator, tracking manufactured items, inflate a dollar, do detective work, weave a placemat, and design a product for the World's Fair. Listening to Talking Walls is an activity where children examine the exterior of older building to see if they can determine the history of the building. My school in a historical part of the city and I totally see me kids getting into this activity.  This book covers the good, the bad and the ugly that are the Industrial Revolution. The only thing I would have liked to have seen was how the Industrial Revolution started and evolved in Europe... Thanks go out to Chicago Review Press via NetGalley for a copy of the book for an honest review.