The story of an invention in the age of scientific technology

The story of an invention in the age of scientific technology
The story of an invention in the age of scientific technology

The story of an invention in the age of scientific technology (eg. television, microwave, cell phones, i-phones)

As both symbolic and socioeconomic fact, nothing in late-nineteenth-century America rivaled the power of the railroad. Everybody and their brother wanted a better way to schlep it across the country. At best, you’d get to the West in a few months with a mule-pulled wagon or a pricey ticket on a steamship chugging around the tip of South America.

At worst, well, you might contract cholera, suffer from bouts of watery diarrhea, and die in the middle of Wyoming. So, when the final golden spike was hammered and the first transcontinental line was completed at Promontory Summit in the Utah Territory in 1869, the newly stitched-together nation shrank just a bit.

The coasts grew closer together as the outlying rural communities and the Great West were that much more accessible from the urban metropolises of New York and Chicago.

The significance of the burgeoning national rail network is hard to overstate in any history of the period, but here, we’re primarily interested in three aspects of the rail system’s tremendous historical impact.

On one level, the national railroad network provided the routes for the new national market for consumer and capital goods. Consequently, the railroad was a technological innovation that spurred more, faster innovation. And last but not least, the locomotive steaming across the country became a powerful symbol of technological progress and promise.

Nowadays, we’re more likely to choose a five-hour flight over a four-day train ride to get across the country, but completing the milestone left people wanting more cool stuff.  The huge change shaped attitudes toward future innovations, including the automobiles that would emerge in the next century.

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