Notable American Inventors of the Industrial Revolution

The Industrial Revolution that occurred in the 19th century was of great importance to the economic development of the United States. Industrialization in America involved three important developments. First, transportation was expanded. Second, electricity was effectively harnessed. Third, improvements were made to industrial processes. Many of these improvements were made possible by American inventors. Here is a look at ten of the most significant American inventors during the 19th century.

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Thomas Edison

oted inventor Thomas Edison at the lightbulb's golden jubilee anniversary banquet in his honor, Orange, New Jersey, October 16, 1929
Underwood Archives / Getty Images

Thomas Edison and his workshop patented 1,093 inventions. Included in this were the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb, and the motion picture. He was the most famous inventor of his time and his inventions had a huge impact on America's growth and history.​

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Samuel F. B. Morse

circa 1865: Samuel Finley Breese Morse (1791 - 1872), American inventor and artist.
Henry Guttmann / Getty Images

Samuel Morse invented the telegraph which greatly increased the ability of information to move from one location to another. Along with the creation of the telegraph, he invented morse code which is still learned and used today.​

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Alexander Graham Bell

Scottish inventor Alexander Graham Bell ( 1847 - 1922 ) who invented the telephone. Bell was born in Edinburgh.
Topical Press Agency / Stringer / Getty Images

Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876. This invention allowed communication to extend to individuals. Before the telephone, businesses relied on the telegraph for most communications.

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Elias Howe/Isaac Singer

Elias Howe (1819-1867) inventor of the sewing machine.
Bettmann / Getty Images

Elias Howe and Isaac Singer both were involved in the invention of the sewing machine. This revolutionized the garment industry and made the Singer corporation one of the first modern industries.

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Cyrus McCormick

Cyrus McCormick
Chicago History Museum / Getty Images

Cyrus McCormick invented the mechanical reaper which made the harvesting of grain more efficient and faster. This helped farmers have more time to devote to other chores.​

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George Eastman

Inventor and industrialist George Eastman invented the Kodak box camera and introduced daylight-loading film.
Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division

George Eastman invented the Kodak camera. This inexpensive box camera allowed individuals to take black and white pictures to preserve their memories and historical events.

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Charles Goodyear

circa 1845: Portrait of American inventor Charles Goodyear (1800 - 1860).
Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber. This technique allowed rubber to have many more uses due to its ability to stand up to bad weather. Interestingly, many believe the technique was found by mistake. Rubber became important in industry as it could withstand large amounts of pressure.

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Nikola Tesla

Portrait of Serbian born inventor and engineer Nicola Tesla (1856 - 1943), 1906.
Buyenlarge / Getty Images

Nikola Tesla invented many important items including fluorescent lighting and the alternating current (AC) electrical power system. He also is credited with inventing the radio. The Tesla Coil is used in many items today including the modern radio and television.

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George Westinghouse

George Westinghouse (1846-1914), founder of the industries that bear his name, American inventor and manufacturer.
Bettmann / Getty Images

George Westinghouse held the patent to many important inventions. Two of his most important inventions were the transformer, which allowed electricity to be sent over long distances, and the air brake. The latter invention allowed conductors to have the ability to stop a train. Prior to the invention, each car had its own brakeman who manually put on the brakes for that car.

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Eli Whitney

Portrait of Eli Whitney, 1900
Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin. Bettmann / Getty Images

Invented by Eli Whitney in 1794, the cotton gin stabilized the economy of the plantation era Antebellum South and established cotton as what would become one of America’s most profitable and essential crops. In addition, Whitney’s development of the process of mass production using interchangeable parts proved to be one of the most significant developments of the Industrial Revolution.

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Robert Fulton

Portrait of Robert Fulton
Portrait of Robert Fulton (1765-1815) American inventor. Robert Fulton / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

Robert Fulton invented the world’s first commercially successful steamboat—the Clermont—in 1807. Steamboats like Fulton’s enabled the affordable and dependable transportation of raw materials and finished goods, and contributed significantly to America’s westward expansion. Fulton also contributed to the growth of the U.S. Navy into a world military power by inventing the first steam-powered warship.

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Kelly, Martin. "Notable American Inventors of the Industrial Revolution." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Kelly, Martin. (2023, April 5). Notable American Inventors of the Industrial Revolution. Retrieved from Kelly, Martin. "Notable American Inventors of the Industrial Revolution." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 3, 2023).