Few countries in the world escaped the period of social and economic change known as industrialization. In the United States, this process affected many cities, contributing to their development, economic growth, and an influx in population. This essay will discuss the industrialization of the city of Newark, New Jersey, and what factors caused it. Furthermore, it will consider who benefited the most from industrialization and what communities and populations were adversely affected.
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The 19th century in the United States of America is characterized by industrialization. It can be defined as the process of transformation of the economy from the agricultural one to the one based on the production and manufacturing of goods. The industrialization process saw most manual laborers and artisans being replaced by mechanized mass production and assembly lines operated by unskilled laborers (Gowaskie 22). Although the mechanization largely displaced individual craftsmen, industrialization had many positive effects on the communities within the United States. For example, large-scale production of various products, including food, resulted in them being available to broader populations due to cheaper rates. In addition, industrialization led to more job opportunities being created for people. However, it can be argued that it also furthered the gap between the rich and the poor and the latter’s exploitation by the former.
In Newark, New Jersey, the process of industrialization began in the early 19th century. The city’s rapid rate of development is often attributed to the inventor Seth Boyden, originally a native of Massachusetts (Tuttle 26). Making several improvements to his father’s hide-splitting machine, Boyden revolutionized leather manufacturing, culminating in his invention of the process of baking or patenting and the patent leather (Tuttle 26-27). Boyden opened the first leather factory in the United States and worked on iron and building steam engines and locomotives (Tuttle 27-28). In his exploration of novel ways of using the iron, Boyden invented the malleable iron, further contributing to the development of industry in Newark (Tuttle 28). The industrialization in Newark was possible to the rapid growth of railroads, connecting the city with other urban centers, including New York. Considering Boyden’s role in the development and production of steam engine castings, Newark’s success in distributing the products produced in the city should also be attributed to Boyden. Thus, it can be argued that the inventor had the most critical impact on the city, with his inventions quickly being picked up by other artisans and manufacturers.
The rapid growth of new factories was also possible due to a large influx of immigrant workers from Europe. The inflow of the migrant workforce is directly correlated with the growth of the number of factories in Newark. During the financial crisis of 1837, many factories were forced to close, and the population of migrants fell to 3,624 (Tuttle 35). However, after the crisis was over, migrants from England, Ireland, Italy, Germany, and other European countries returned to the city. From 1840 to 1846, the number of factories with assembly lines and mechanized production rose to over a hundred, with migrants filling the available workplaces (Tuttle 35). Moreover, some immigrants from Europe established their businesses, creating more vacancies and ultimately contributing to the city’s economy. By the end of the century, Newark was ranked third in industrial output in the United States (Tuttle 63). The article celebrating the 250th anniversary of Newark noted that the city’s factories employ many workers, that need to be housed, fed, and educated (Hunt 52). Thus, industrialization led to a plethora of vacancies being created in other fields.
A wide range of populations benefited and suffered from industrialization in Newark. The investors in large enterprises, such as Jacob Little, who funded Morris Canal & Banking Company, greatly benefited from the industrialization (Tuttle 31). The owners of manufacturing plants, including those of immigrant origin, managed to grow wealthy due to offering cheap products and paying low wages. However, the workers employed by these factories suffered significantly from industrialization. Before labor unions were created, factory workers were minimal wages and could barely afford housing, food, and healthcare. In addition, many of them worked with dangerous materials, including mercury, and developed muscular tremors and breathing problems due to inhaling various vapors and fumes (Tuttle 72). In 1890, Newark was declared the unhealthiest large city in the country (Tuttle 72). Furthermore, many trades and crafts were lost due to skilled artisans having to lower their prices competing with cheap products offered by factories, and their apprentices opting for other work (New Jersey History Partnership 1). Thus, industrialization led to the gap between the rich and the poor growing, with the latter suffering from the process while the former prospered.
In summary, industrialization resulted in substantial changes in the economy and population of the city of Newark. The process of industrialization began in the first half of the 19th century with the opening of new factories producing leather, sewing items, malleable iron, and a variety of other products popular throughout the country. The investor and owners of such enterprises benefited from industrialization significantly, while ordinary workers were underpaid. In addition, many artisans suffered due to increased competition and loss of interest in their craft.
Gowaskie, Joseph M. Workers in New Jersey History. New Jersey Historical, 1996.
Hunt, William T. “Newark and the Nation’s Progress.” The Newarker, 1916, pp. 51-52.
New Jersey History Partnership. “Article on Apprentices from the Newark Daily Advertiser, 1839.” New Jersey History Partnership, pp. 1-2.
Tuttle, Brad R. How Newark became Newark: The rise, fall, and rebirth of an American city. Rutgers University Press, 2009.