The Railroad Grows into an Industry (1840-1850)by Kathleen Tracy
Prior to the 1820s, the main form of commercial transportation in America was steamboats, which were able to move large quantities of freight and passengers. When the first railroads were built, they were initially seen as a novelty. But a handful of visionaries believed that railroads could transform the way business was conducted and create new opportunities for both established companies and independent entrepreneurs.
In the 1840s and the 1850s, the railroad industry would experience tremendous growth and become the primary means of moving goods throughout the United States. Expansion of the rail system stimulated the economy, promoted manufacturing, and turned railroads into one of the most valuable industries in the world, making their owners millionaires and industrialage power brokers in the process. Railroads also helped make America one of the most dominant economic powers in the world.
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