cover image The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution

The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution

Charles R. Morris . PublicAffairs, $28.99 (384p) ISBN 978-1-58648-828-4

As financial writer and historian Morris (The Tycoons) makes clear in his latest book, the perfect storm of universal white male suffrage along with the evolutionary perfection of mechanized, large-scale industry, and the strength of an active and influential middle class helped usher the United States to the forefront of economic prosperity at the dawn of the 20th century. While historians have already sewn these large themes together, Morris seeks to highlight the individuals who brought about the revolution, their mechanical inventions, innovations, and technological processes%E2%80%94from firearms to meat-packing to plows%E2%80%94 that drove America out of the shadow of Great Britain's industrial dominance. Often bogged down by too much detail and some clunky, modern-day analogies (he compares newly inexpensive paper to crack cocaine), Morris nevertheless breezes the reader through America's industrial trajectory, beginning in the 1820s, toward a mass-consumption society. Arguably 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. Illus. (Oct.)