15 Industrial Revolution Inventions That Made History

, Staff Writer
Updated April 15, 2021
Eli Whitney cotton gin invention
    Eli Whitney cotton gin invention
    ivan-96 / DigitalVision Vectors / Getty
    Used under Getty Images license

Inventions created during the Industrial Revolution significantly changed how goods and services were produced and what people did for a living. The Industrial Revolution lasted from approximately 1860-1914. Discover a few of the many Industrial Revolution inventions that changed the world, made history and continue to impact the modern world.

Late 18th Century Industrial Revolution Inventions

The first industrial revolution started in approximately 1760, lasting throughout the 18th century and into the 19th century.

Spinning Jenny

James Hargreaves invented the spinning jenny in 1764. This multi-spindle spinning machine greatly sped up the process of producing yarn needed to manufacture cloth. Hargreaves patented the invention in 1770.


Watt Steam Engine

While steam engines were invented well in advance of the Industrial Revolution (1698), James Watt invented a way to greatly improve their efficiency by using a separate condenser. He came up with the idea for what became known as the Watt steam engine in 1765. Within 11 years, the first engine was built and put into use.

Power Loom

Edmund Cartwright invented the power loom. He built the first prototype of the power loom in 1765. He continued to improve the process through 1788, receiving several patents along the way. He opened a factory using his design paired with steam power.

Cotton Gin

Eli Whitney was granted a patent on the cotton gin in 1794. The machine that Eli Whitney invented revolutionized cotton production by automating the process of separating cotton strands from seeds. It led to the mass production of cotton fabric.


19th Century Industrial Revolution Inventions

Portions of the first and second phases of the Industrial Revolution took place during the 19th century. The First Industrial Revolution is said to have ended around 1740, with the Second Industrial Revolution beginning around 1870 and extending past the turn of the Century.

Steam Locomotive on Rails

In 1802, Richard Trevithick, a mining engineer, patented what he called a high-pressure engine. This device became the first steam-powered locomotive engine on rails. It was based on the design of the Watt steam engine. The device was functional, yet cumbersome. It paved the way for modern steam locomotion.

Arc Lamp

In 1809, British chemist Humphrey Davis invented the first arc lamp. He did so by using strips of charcoal as electrodes to connect two wires to a battery. At the time, these lights were not widely adopted as they were costly and impractical to operate at the time. Within 70 years, following the invention of the generator and innovations to the design, arc lamps came to be used for streetlights.


Blücher Steam Locomotive

In 1814, George Stephenson built what is considered to be "the first fully effective steam locomotive." This locomotive was able to travel four miles per hour while hauling eight wagons loaded with 30 tons of coal. Stephenson named the locomotive Blücher, in honor of the Prussian general with the same last name who would go on to help the British defeat Napoleon the following year at Waterloo.

Hot Blast Furnace

In 1828, James Nielson patented a hot blast furnace that came to be widely adopted throughout the iron industry. Neilson's hot blast furnace greatly improved the efficiency with which iron could be smelted. The furnace used an extremely hot temperature (hence the use of "hot blast" in its name), which led to faster processing that could be done with fewer materials and cheaper fuel.


Faraday Disk (Electric Generator)

In 1831, Michael Faraday invented the Faraday Disk, which became the first electricity generator. He was able to create this divide after discovering that the motion of a magnet when placed inside coiled wire causes an electric current to flow to the wire. This innovation ultimately led to the design of modern electric generators.

Steel Plow

In 1837, John Deere invented the steel plow. After the blacksmith moved from Vermont to Illinois, he recognized that farmers were finding it difficult to work the difficult prairie soil with their cast-iron plows. John Deere set out to come up with a solution, which led him to craft a different shape of plow using what started out as a steel saw blade. By 1849, he was producing 2,000 of these early steel plows per year while also continuing to innovate.


Bessemer Process/Converter

In 1856 and 1860 respectively, Henry Bessemer patented a unique steel production process and a device called the Bessemer Converter. As a result, he came up with a unique approach to mass-produce steel efficiently and effectively. His steel production company, Henry Bessemer & Co., was able to beat out competitors on price due to the efficiency of his process and converter. He then licensed the technology to other steel manufacturers.

Incandescent Light Bulb

Thomas Edison invented and patented incandescent light bulbs. He received related patents in 1879 and 1880, which led the way for these illuminating devices to be mass-produced.

Early 20th Century Industrial Revolution

The Second Industrial Revolution continued through 1914. It is sometimes referred to as the Technological Revolution.


Modern Assembly Line

In 1901, Ransom Eli Olds patented the modern assembly line. He produced Oldsmobile automobiles using the first assembly line of the modern era. It was a stationary (not moving) assembly line. Oldsmobile's Curved Dash is the first car mass-produced via this process. The assembly line led to a production boost of more than 500 percent.

Successful Airplane

In 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the first airplane that was successfully able to fly. The Wright brothers experimented with gliders before designing their own gasoline engine, which is what ultimately powered their first successful airplane flight.

Moving Assembly Line (Large Scale)

The Ford Motor Company developed a moving assembly line that could be used in large scale manufacturing. It was implemented in 1913, further automating car production by moving in-production vehicles to workers rather than requiring workers to move around them. This procedure made it possible to build a Model T in 90 minutes.


Foundation of Modern Business and Industry

These are just a few of the many innovations that came out of the Industrial Revolution. The inventors of the Industrial Revolution are true innovators. Their important work paved the way for modern production processes and ways of life, without which the world would be very different. Who the famous inventors will be in the next generation remains to be seen.

Incorporating invention ideas into kids' activities can help spur creativity in a future great inventor! Great inventions, like those of brilliant woman inventors, are all based on practical applications of scientific principles. The path to becoming an inventor begins with learning key steps in the scientific method. From there, the possibilities are endless. Explore more modern advances with 10 Elon Musk inventions.