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Technological innovations Essay

A number of notable technological innovations have taken place between the years 1860-1870 in the United States. In the sphere of communications, a major development was the completion of the first transcontinental telegraph line across North America by Western Union in 1861 (Western Union 2009). Moreover, in 1866, after several failed attempts, the Transatlantic Cable was laid that connected Europe and North America. Before this landmark event, the fastest communication between the two continents had taken at least a week; after the cable was laid, messages could be transmitted instantaneously.

The first message was, famously, that “a treaty of peace has been signed between Austria and Prussia” (History Magazine n/d, “Third Time Lucky”, para. 3). As concerns other inventions in the sphere of telegraphy, the stock ticker machine was invented in 1867 by Edward Callahan that made stock prices immediately available over the telegraph (National Public Radio, 2006). Important developments took place in the chemical industry, as various forms of plastic were experimented with.

For example, John Wesley Hyatt invented celluloid as a substitute for the ivory in billiard balls in 1868 (Muccio 1991). Telephone was invented in the decade to follow. Oil industry was consolidating quickly, as the demand for petroleum was growing continuously. John Rockefeller was buying oil refineries, oilfields and pipelines. By the end of the decade, he has controlled 90 per cent of the industry. His company, Standard Oil, was a pioneer in many respects, most notably in logistics and organizational design, in modern terminology.

Predecessors of Standard Oil used railroad tank cars to transport oil over large distances, which was time consuming and costly; Rockefeller’s company connected Pennsylvanian oilfields with refineries in New Jersey, Cleveland, Philadelphia and Baltimore by pipelines. In term of organizational design, corporations had a limited ability to do business across the state lines in those times, so Standard Oil decided to use a central trust that owned and coordinated subsidiary companies that were legally independent.

This development (and resulting monopolization of other industries) led the U. S. to pass the first antitrust legislation a decade later (Cowan 1997). However, it is necessary to acknowledge that many scientific breaktroughs of the decade were made by European scientists and inventors, such as speed of light measurement, laws of genetics, automobile, and dynamite. Since the first half of the decade was marked by the Civil War, advances in infrastructure and improvements in general living conditions decelerated.

Yet a crucial event in the history of American transportation occurred in 1869 when the Transcontinental Railroad was formed by joining of the Union Pacific and the Central Pacific Railroads (Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco n/d). All of the aforementioned technological developments were accompanied by dramatic changes in the social structure of the society. The period after the Civil War was marked by rapidly increasing urbanization. However, sewage facilities and housing conditions at those times were inadequate as cities struggled to cope with growing populations.

Therefore, epidemics of diseases (such as cholera, dysentery, and typhoid fever) were common. Yet important advances in sewage technologies were made. As the University of Colorado at Boulder (2009) informs, “sewered population [in the United States] increased from 1 million in 1860 to 25 million by 1900” (p. 1). Moreover, pit privies and open ditches were being replaced by buried sewers. However, wastewater was mostly diluted into rivers and other bodies of water; the first important breakthroughs in waste water management occurred at the very end of the 19th century.

Overall, the decade of 1860-1870 can be described as a turbulent one. Although major inventions and discoveries were made in the Old World, the U. S. continued to develop, industrialize, and urbanize.

Works Cited Cowan, Ruth Schwartz. A Social History of American Technology. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. Print. History Magazine. “The Transatlantic Cable. ” N/d. Web. May 8, 2010. <http://www. history-magazine. com/cable. html> Muccio, Edward A. Plastic Part Technology. Materials Park, OH: ASM International, 1991. Print. National Public Radio. “The Stock Ticker Turns 139.

” November 15, 2006. Web. May 8, 2010. <http://www. npr. org/templates/story/story. php? storyId=6490325&ft=1&f=1006> The University of Colorado at Boulder. “History of Wastewater Treatment in the U. S. ” Spring 2009. Web. May 8, 2010. <http://civil. colorado. edu/~silverst/cven5534/History of Wastewater Treatment in the US. pdf> Virtual Museum of the City of San Francisco. “Driving the Last Spike. ” N/d. Web. May 8, 2010. <http://www. sfmuseum. org/hist1/rail. html> Western Union. “History. ” 2009. Web. May 8, 2010. <http://corporate. westernunion. com/history. html>

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