The Dawn of Innovation

The First American Industrial Revolution

Regular Price $24.99

Regular Price $31.99 CAD

Regular Price $24.99

Regular Price $31.99 CAD

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On Sale

Mar 4, 2014

Page Count

384 Pages




In the thirty years after the Civil War, the United States blew by Great Britain to become the greatest economic power in world history. That is a well-known period in history, when titans like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller, and J.P. Morgan walked the earth.

But as Charles R. Morris shows us, the platform for that spectacular growth spurt was built in the first half of the century. By the 1820s, America was already the world’s most productive manufacturer, and the most intensely commercialized society in history. The War of 1812 jumpstarted the great New England cotton mills, the iron centers in Connecticut and Pennsylvania, and the forges around the Great Lakes. In the decade after the War, the Midwest was opened by entrepreneurs. In this beautifully illustrated book, Morris paints a vivid panorama of a new nation buzzing with the work of creation. He also points out the parallels and differences in the nineteenth century American/British standoff and that between China and America today.

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“An unprecedented 3.9 percent average annual rate of economic growth—sustained for more than a century—propelled the U.S. to global economic leadership. Morris chronicles the remarkable story behind the remarkable number… Morris concludes with a provocative comparison of the nineteenth-century duel pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and today's rivalry between China and the U.S. Economic history freighted with social and political relevance.”

USA Today“Morris obviously possesses an inquiring mind…. [He] explicates … developments skillfully.”“Morris's analysis shines brightest in the final chapter as he compares the United States' past economic growth with the current hyper-expansion of China. Only then, by examining the hurdles China faces in its ascendance to economic superpower, does Morris show how truly innovative the transformation of America was and why it will be impossible to repeat in the future.”

Tyler Cowen, New York Times Magazine, One-Page Magazine“The early 19th century as a pep talk for today.”

John Steele Gordon, Wall Street Journal
“[A]n illuminating narrative that shows, among much else, what happened when Yankee ingenuity met the Industrial Revolution…. Post-Civil War industrialization had an important and largely overlooked predecessor in the first decades of the 19th century. It is a story well worth telling, and Mr. Morris tells it well…. The author's in-text illustrations and diagrams are very helpful in showing the cleverness and ingenuity of mechanisms designed by such forgotten giants as the clockmaker Eli Terry, the gun maker Thomas Blanchard and the steam-engine designer George H. Corliss. Mr. Morris's deft character sketches bring them to life as well. The steam engine powered the steamboat and the railroad, which knitted the country together into one huge common market, allowing industrial economies of scale that would, in the later 19th century, astonish the world….”

Civil Engineering“In an elegantly written assessment of how the current situation is like—and unlike—its 19th-century analogue, Morris flashes the knowledge and insight that landed him on the Council on Foreign Relations and crafts an effective coda for his paean to American innovation.”

Michael Lind,­ New York Times Book Review
A Daily Beast Favorite Book of the Year

A Wall Street Journal Best Business Book of the Year

“The author is at his best when he focuses on the people behind the technology…. Morris' research is thorough…. Ambitious.”

Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief of ProPublica and former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal
“Charles Morris, fast becoming our leading narrative historian of economic success and scandals, tells how nineteenth-century America outproduced, outmarketed,  outdistributed––and stole technology from––the former No. 1 power, Great Britain, to displace it on the world stage. The fascinating tale also holds crucial lessons for Americans as China races to unseat the U.S. as the world leader.”

Charles H. Ferguson, director of Inside Job and author of Predator Nation                         
“A fascinating book that pulls together the strands of American development into a sweeping and vivid account of the nation's rise to economic preeminence. Charles Morris has a special gift for making complicated subjects accessible and even entertaining.”

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