Important Inventions of the Industrial Revolution

Spinning Jenny

The Industrial Revolution was the period of time during the 18th and 19th centuries when the face of industry changed dramatically. These changes had a tremendous and long lasting impact on the economies of the world and the lives of the average person. There were hundreds of inventions during this time period. Below are a few of the most important.

Spinning Jenny

James Hargreaves developed the spinning jenny in 1764. This machine allowed workers to spin more wool at one time greatly increasing productivity. This invention was necessary for the industrialization of the textile industry.

Steam Engine

James Watt created the first truly reliable steam engine in 1775. Other, less efficient models had been developed in the 1600s. Watt’s version included a crankshaft and gears and is the foundation for modern steam engines. This invention made locomotives and many of the textile machines possible.

Power Loom

Edmund Cartwright invented the power loom in 1785. It dramatically changed the way cloth was woven by making it much easier. It would take almost another fifty years and several alterations by other inventors before it would become commonly used.

Cotton Gin

Eli Whitney patented the cotton gin (short for cotton engine) in 1794. Prior to the invention of the cotton gin, cotton seeds had to be removed from the cotton fiber by hand. This invention made cotton a much more profitable crop for farmers. With this invention, many more farmers turned to cotton as their main crop, greatly increasing the amount of cotton plantations in the South. These expanding farms needed cheap labor, which also resulted in an increased use of African slaves.


Samuel F. B. Morse created the telegraph in 1836. This invention changed the face of communication. Instant communication became possible between the east and west coasts and allowed people to know what was happening almost as it happened. This would revolutionize media and personal communication.

Sewing Machine

Elias Howe created the sewing machine in 1844. This forever changed the way clothes were made and allowed the mass production of clothing. Before this it was most common for women to make all of the clothes for their families. Only the very wealthy could afford to have a tailor or seamstress make custom clothing of the latest fashion. It was later improved upon and patented by Isaac Singer in 1855.

Internal Combustion Engine

Jean Lenoir invented the internal combustion engine in 1858. Eventually this engine was used in mass transportation.


Alexander Graham Bell created the telephone in 1876. The telephone further improved communications and eventually led to the various communications devices used today.


Thomas Edison created the phonograph in 1877. Prior to the creation of the phonograph the only option for entertainment was for live musicians or actors to perform. This allowed people to listen to music anywhere.


Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright created the first airplane in 1903. The ability to fly had long been a dream of the human race. Within a few decades planes had changed the face of personal and business travel and had dramatically altered warfare.

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