Wealth has had many factors that contribute to the meaning given by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2009), which defines wealth as “abundance of material possessions or resources.”
In the early part of the United States, depending on the location in the continent, wealth was determined by different factors, especially after the Industrial Revolution. In the South, with slavery abounding, wealth was not just about the land owned, or the crops sold, but it included the number of slaves that the plantation owner had on the plantation.
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In the North, the industrial revolution and technology grew and wealth was based on the type of product, number manufactured, monopoly of the industry, and innovation and development of new machines (A Coming Industrial Change, 6; Johnson, 35; Mr. Lloyd’s Book on Trusts, 23; Smith, 256; Topic of the Times, 6; The New Orleans Exposition, 4; The World’s Exposition, 3).
Just like wealth, the industrial revolution took on many aspects and was defined in many different ways depending on the location in the world. While Britain and Western Europe really started the industrial revolution, the United States quickly took over as the leading innovator and wealthiest nation.
However, it was not long before Japan and China were imitating the industrialized countries, and trying to gain in the revolution and wealth that was to be had by all. The belief was that the Japanese could “copy ‘any pattern or design more accurately and skillfully than any other artisan in the world’” (What the Country Has Achieved During the Last Forty Years, 29).
In the United States, the wealth and industrial revolution were separated in terms of North and South. The North brought in machines and new technologies to help them use the products of the South. Factories were created and manufacturing of goods began and refined in the following years.
The export to other countries increased as did the wealth and educational facilities of the north and mid-west. With the factories at optimum efficiency of the time, and more settlers moving west, the next logical step in the north was the creation of railroads (A Coming Industrial Change, 6; Johnson; Pioneer Railroad Men, 2; Topic of the Times, 6).
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