Today’s guest post is from Lindsay Schakenbach, a Ph.D. candidate in history at Brown University. Her dissertation, “Manufacturing Advantage: War, the State, and the Origins of American Industry 1790-1840,” explores the development of the arms and textile industries in the context of national security, diplomacy, and territorial expansion.
Look through any opinion section of The Wall Street Journal and you’ll almost certainly find condemnations of government intervention in business or a lambasting of the inefficiencies of bureaucratic meddling. Too much government, these commentators say, is bad for the economy. A reexamination of America’s origins as an industrial superpower, however, suggests a different mantra. Take the founding of Lowell, Massachusetts, for example. Even if we debate the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution–Pawtucket, Rhode Island?, Patterson, New Jersey?–the fact remains that Lowell was the site of the first large-scale integrated factory system in the United States and stands as a symbol of the birth of industrial capitalism. And its rise to prominence depended on federal meddling. Continue reading