Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts in Liberal Studies (MALS)


Liberal Studies

First Advisor

Brian Black

Second Advisor

Rory McVeigh


The intent of this thesis project is to thoroughly analyze the effects of the transatlantic transfer of British steam engine machinery to the United States during the Antebellum and Gilded Ages. The American assimilation of British steam engine technology sustained improvements in industrial production, commerce, and transportation. In the process, transforming the work habits of native-born Americans and recent European immigrants by creating the need for a more mobile labor force while leading to the first urban proletariat in American society.

The transatlantic transfer of textile machine technology disseminated to America from England, during the Republic, had initiated the movement from a predominantly agrarian to and industrial society However, despite this fact, American improvements in the application of British steam engine technology perpetuated urban industrialization and westward expansion during the Antebellum and Gilded Ages. Meeting the needs of developing urban industrial centers meant being able to supply a more mobile and diverse labor force Industrial capitalists would be able to accomplish this task by totally control the means of production through the utilization of steam power in the manufacturing and transportation processes. This newly created labor force would not only include the exploitation of lower class native-born Americans, individuals from various ethnic and cultural backgrounds, but would also include women and children as well.

Therefore, the primary focus of this thesis project will be to examine how the incorporation of American steam engine machinery in agriculture, industry, and transportation recreated American society during the Antebellum and Gilded Ages. Specifically analyzing the interaction between steam technology, labor, and the social and cultural institutions effected by its various applications. Each of these particular factors, in turn, had a profound effect on members of the labor class, and recent European immigrants, exposed to the utilization of steam machinery on a more frequent basis.

The American transformation of British steam technology would not only create a more mobile labor force needed for industrial expansion, but also modify the organizational structure and function of the corporate bureaucracies that controlled labor. This particular organizational feature would be further refined with the advent of the steam locomotive connecting urban industrial and rural regions throughout the United States during the Gilded Age.