The time period of the industrial revolution was 1750 to 1914. The industrial revolution occurred in two distinct phases: the first industrial revolution, between 1750 and 1850, and the second industrial revolution, between 1850 and 1914.
Furthermore, the industrial revolution originated in Great Britain and spread across the world in three waves:
The first wave occurred in Great Britain, France, Belgium, the German states and the United States during the late 1700s and the early 1800s. The second wave occurred in Spain, Portugal, Austria-Hungary, Italy and the Ottoman Empire in the late 1800s. The third wave occurred in Asia, Africa and Latin America in the early 1900s.
The following is a timeline and list of important dates of the industrial revolution:
♦ Thomas Newcomen invents the first productive steam engine.
♦ John Lombe opens the first silk throwing factory in Great Britain in Derby.
♦ James Kay invents a simple weaving machine called the Flying Shuttle.
♦ Professor William Cullen designs a small refrigerator machine at the University of Glasgow.
♦ James Hargreaves invents the Spinning Jenny, which allows workers to produce multiple spools of thread at the same time.
♦ James Watt patents his revision of the steam engine, which features a separate condenser.
♦ Samuel Crompton invents the spinning mule, which combines spinning and weaving into one machine.
♦ Edmund Cartwright invents the power loom, which replaces the flying shuttle.
♦ Henry Cort invents iron refining techniques.
♦ Beverly Cotton Manufactory, the first cotton mill in America, opens in Beverly Massachusetts and is powered by horses.
♦ On December 20, 1790, Samuel Slater opens his first textile mill in Rhode Island, which is the first American factory to successfully produce cotton yarn using water-powered machines.
♦ Eli Whitney invents the cotton gin which greatly increases the production of cotton.
♦ Combination Acts makes it illegal in Great Britain for workers to unionize in order to bargain for higher pay or better working conditions.
♦ On December 24, 1801, Richard Trevithick test drives the world’s first steam-powered locomotive, called the “Puffing Devil” or “Puffer” on the streets of Camborne, England.
♦ An American farmer, Thomas Moore, invents the first wooden ice box.
♦ On March 24, 1802, Richard Trevithick patents his steam-powered locomotive called the “Puffer Devil.”
♦ American inventor Oliver Evans designs the first refrigeration machine that uses vapor instead of liquid to cool but never builds it.
♦ Robert Fulton opens the first public steamboat service in America on the Hudson River in New York.
♦ Embargo Act of 1807 in the United States cuts off imports from Great Britain, forcing American merchants to increase the amount of goods they manufacture.
♦ Luddite Rebellion begins in Great Britain. Luddites attack factories and smash machines in protest against the industry.
♦ American merchant, Francis Cabot Lowell, tours the textile mills in Great Britain and memorizes the designs of the power loom in order to improve textile manufacturing in the United States.
♦ Parliament passes a law making it illegal by penalty of death to destroy industrial machines.
♦ On January 16, 1813, fourteen Luddites are hanged at York Castle in England for the murder of manufacturer William Horsfall.
♦ Francis Cabot Lowell and several partners start the Boston Manufacturing Company in the United States and introduce an improved version of the power loom.
♦ The Boston Manufacturing Company builds its first textile mill in Waltham, Massachusetts and introduces the Lowell System, in which every step of the manufacturing process is done under one roof and is performed by adult women instead of children.
♦ George Stephenson patents a steam engine locomotive that runs on rails.
♦ The Boston Manufacturing Company starts the first large scale factory town in America and names it Lowell after company founder Francis Cabot Lowell, who died in 1817.
♦ Trade unions are legalized in Great Britain.
♦ George Stephenson commissions a 30-mile railway to be built from Liverpool to Manchester.
♦ The Erie canal is completed which opens a water route from the Great Lakes to New York City and the Atlantic Ocean.
♦ On October 13, 1828, the defunct Beverly Cotton Manufactory burns down.
♦ On October 8, 1829, Stepehenson’s Rocket wins a speed contest, the Rainhill Trials, on the newly built Liverpool-Manchester railroad.
♦ On September 15, 1830, the Liverpool and Manchester railway opens to the public.
♦ Cyrus McCormick invents the mechanical reaper, a mechanical horse-drawn reaping machine.
♦ Sadler Committee investigates child labor in factories in Great Britain and issues a report to Parliament.
♦ The 1833 Factory Act in Great Britain provides first regulation of child labor in textile factories.
♦ Poor Law creates “poorhouses” for the destitute in Great Britain.
♦ On August 14, 1835, Jacob Perkins, now known as the “father of the refrigerator,” builds upon Oliver Evans refrigeration machine idea and patents the first vapor-compression refrigeration cycle.
♦ A blacksmith, John Deere, invents the steel plow in Illinois.
♦ Friedrich Engels publishes his observations of the negative effects of industrialization in his book The Condition of the Working-Class in England.
♦ Samuel Morse invents the telegraph, which allows people to communicate quickly over long distances.
♦ Charles Goodyear patents vulcanized rubber.
♦ Elias Howe invents the sewing machine.
♦ On October 16, 1846, a Boston dentist named William Morton holds the first public demonstration of ether at Massachusetts General Hospital.
♦ The British government establishes the General Board of Health to investigate sanitary conditions, setting up local boards to ensure safe water in cities.
♦ 10,000 people die in three months in London from a Cholera epidemic caused by contaminated drinking water.
♦ John Gorrie patents a mechanical refrigeration system machine.
♦ Elisah Otis invents a safety brake for elevators. This paves the way for tall buildings and skyscrapers to be built.
♦ James Harrison builds the first commercial ice machine.
♦ The first steam-powered cotton mill in Asia opens in Bombay, India.
♦ The Bessemer Process for making steel is invented by Henry Bessemer which allows for the mass production of inexpensive steel.
♦ Emancipation reform in Russia abolishes serfdom throughout the Russian empire, allowing serfs to seek employment.
♦ On January 10, 1863, the first subway in the world opens in London, England.
♦ On May 10, 1869, the Transcontinental Railroad is completed in the United States.
♦ The Elementary Education Act of 1870, aka Foster’s Education Act, in Great Britain makes school attendance mandatory for children between the ages of 5 and 10.
♦ Large scale industrialization begins in Japan.
♦ Public Health Act gives the British government responsibility to ensure public health for housing and sewage.
♦ Alexander Graham Bell patents the telephone.
♦ The Great Railroad strike occurs in the United States when railroad companies reduce wages.
♦ On February 12, 1877, Alexander Graham Bell publicly demonstrates the telephone for the first time at the Lyceum in Salem, Massachusetts by placing a phone call to the Boston Globe in Boston, Massachusetts.
♦ On December 31, 1879, Thomas Edison demonstrates the first practical incandescent light bulb by lighting up a street in Menlo Park, New Jersey.
♦ Elementary Education Act of 1870 is extended in Great Britain.
♦ The world’s first coal-fired power station, the Holborn Viaduct power station, went into operation in London, England.
♦ The Berlin Conference of 1884 paves the way for widespread colonization of Africa by European countries, such as Britain, France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal and Germany, who are in search of raw materials needed for industrialization and new captive markets to sell their goods to.
♦ On December 8, 1886, the American Federation of labor is founded in Columbus, Ohio.
♦ Russia begins construction on the Trans-Siberian Railway, which eventually becomes the longest railway line in the world.
♦ On September 1, 1897, the first subway in the United States opens in Boston, Massachusetts.
♦ The Factory Act in Great Britain raises the minimum work age to 12 years old.
♦ On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers make their first successful airplane flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
♦ On October 1, 1908, Ford begins production of the Model T automobile.
♦ Fred Wolf invents the first commercially viable electric refrigerator, which he named “Domelre,” short for Domestic Electric Refrigerator.
♦ In the Hammer v. Dagenhart, the United States Supreme Court rules that Congress has no power under the Commerce Clause to enact child labor laws.
♦ The Child Labor Tax law is passed.
♦ In Bailey v Drexel Furniture Co, the United States Supreme Court rules the 1919 Child Labor Tax Law unconstitutional.
♦ Congress proposes the Child Labor Amendment prohibiting child labor but the states never ratified it.
♦ Congress passes the Fair Labor Standards Act, which establishes minimum wage, overtime pay, recordkeeping, and child labor standards in the private sector and in Federal, State and local governments.
♦ China begins to drastically industrialize by building millions of small-scale factories throughout the country, eventually becoming the second largest economy in the world.
To learn more about the industrial revolution, check out the following article about the best books about the industrial revolution.
“Timeline: Events and Inventions during the Industrial Revolution.” South African History Online,
Bajpai, Prableen. “The World’s Top Economies.” Investopedia, 7 July. 2017, www.investopedia.com/articles/investing/022415/worlds-top-10-economies.asp
Nicholas, Tom and Matthew Guilford. “Samuel Slater & Francis Cabot Lowell: The Factory System in U.S. Cotton Manufacturing.” Harvard Business School, Jan. 2014, www.hbs.edu/faculty/Pages/item.aspx?num=46048
Frankema, Ewout. “How Africa’s colonial history affects its development.” World Economic Forum, 15, July. 2015, www.weforum.org/agenda/2015/07/how-africas-colonial-history-affects-its-development/
Uno, Raina. “The Rising of China: It’s Industrialization, Urbanization and it’s Consequences.” Washington State University, 5 Feb. 2015, history.libraries.wsu.edu/spring2015/2015/02/05/humans-and-the-environment-the-history-of-air-pollution-and-the-effects-on-china-today/