When the Industrial Revolution rolled around, influential changes began to dominate the American landscape. Before the 1870s, only two cities in the United States held more than 500,000 inhabitants—New York City and Philadelphia.
At the time, New York City had 813,669 inhabitants while Philadelphia had 565,529 inhabitants. The Industrial Revolution brought about an explosive reorganization of society. Cities grew and the skyscrapers shot up like seeds from the ground.
The Era for the Industrial Revolution
Between 1880 up until 1929, America’s beating heart became the industries within it — like the steel industry. Society used the steel industry to improve virtually every aspect of the nation: cars, boats, even the telegraph.
The First Transcontinental Railroad, and other railways, were primarily made out of iron at the time. These railways were converted upon the introduction of steel manufacturing. Steel rails were sturdier and more durable, therefore lasting much longer. Modern-day railway tracks are still made out of steel, although contemporary production processes are different.
Dividing the Tasks of Labor
The Industrial Revolution was further propelled by the invention of the assembly line in 1913. When Henry Ford introduced this new system to the factories, industry in the United States exploded. Before, it took over 12 hours to build a single car. A car could now be built in two hours and 30 minutes.
This contributed to even further growth. You could find good-paying manual labor in the city, causing many rural farmers to migrate. During this time, Birmingham, Alabama began to boom. It was a center for iron and steel manufacturing, drawing laborers from all over.
Booming Cities across America
The urban landscape became a key driver of industry. Young and aspiring businessmen flocked to the city because it became a source of wealth. There, they could raise the necessary capital for their business ventures.
As a result, cities became central business hubs. New York City grew in epic proportions. The population exploded from slightly over 500,000 people to 3.5 million individuals from 1850 up until 1900. Chicago, America’s heartland, became one of the fastest growing cities in the nation during the last half of the 19th century. This city expanded at an absolutely rapid pace from only 100,000 people to over 1.2 million.
Structural steel aided in the construction of high-rise skyscrapers. This new, stronger kind of steel was a revolutionary product. Structural steel was also excellent for fireproofing. This kind of steel was different than the Bessemer steel used for railroad tracks. Industrialist Andrew Carnegie jumped on the structural steel bandwagon. He redesigned his factories, and replaced his Bessemer converters with the open-hearth process.
Structural steel was higher quality, and a key player in the construction of new skyscrapers. By 1920, more Americans were living in cities than in the countryside thanks to these developments. The steel industry was a major player in making this happen. Its contributions to construction and infrastructure led to increased connectivity and productivity.