Engines of Change: The American Industrial Revolution, 1790–1860

In 1790 most of the things Americans bought were imported, made at home, or produced in small shops. By 1860 American factories and technology were often the envy of their international rivals. In less than a century, new machines, new sources of power, and new ways of organizing work had transformed the United States from an agricultural nation to an industrial power. Engines of Change introduced some of the people and machines that were part of this great transformation.
The exhibition features:

  • Samuel Slater's spinning frame of 1790; Slater imported the design for the machine from England by memorizing it
  • Augustus Alfred's shop, filled with 19th-century machine tools (a touch-screen video shows three of the machines in operation)
  • the huge Harlan and Hollingsworth steam engine of 1850 used in a machine shop in Charleston, South Carolina
  • John Howe's pin-making machine, patented in 1832, one of the oldest surviving automated production machines
  • a video of the John Bull, the world’s oldest operable locomotive, running down the rails under its own steam on the occasion of its 150th anniversary in 1981.