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The Dawn of Innovation: The First American Industrial Revolution Hardcover – October 23, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: PublicAffairs; First Edition edition (October 23, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1586488287
  • ISBN-13: 978-1586488284
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.3 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #131,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

An unprecedented 3.9 percent average annual rate of economic growth—sustained for more than a century—propelled the U.S. to global economic leadership. Morris chronicles the remarkable story behind the remarkable number. To begin with, it is a story of American shipwrights frenetically attempting to match Great Britain in building warships during the War of 1812. Peace meant that American industrialists turned to making shoes, stoves, steam engines, and locomotives, yet they still strove to wrest world economic leadership from Britain. Readers soon realize that American capitalists who surmounted daunting technical challenges (through homegrown Yankee ingenuity and through industrial espionage) also solved a formidable social problem. Instead of building British-style Coketowns that enriched a few while immiserating the masses in the factories, America’s economic pioneers spread the benefits of modern productivity throughout a mass-consumption society. Morris concludes with a provocative comparison of the nineteenth-century duel pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and today’s rivalry between China and the U.S. Economic history freighted with social and political relevance. --Bryce Christensen

Review

A Daily Beast Favorite Book of the Year

A Wall Street Journal Best Business Book of the Year


Kirkus
“The author is at his best when he focuses on the people behind the technology…. Morris’ research is thorough…. Ambitious.”

Paul Steiger, editor-in-chief of ProPublica and former managing editor of the Wall Street Journal
“Charles Morris, fast becoming our leading narrative historian of economic success and scandals, tells how nineteenth-century America outproduced, outmarketed,  outdistributed––and stole technology from––the former No. 1 power, Great Britain, to displace it on the world stage. The fascinating tale also holds crucial lessons for Americans as China races to unseat the U.S. as the world leader.”

Charles H. Ferguson, director of Inside Job and author of Predator Nation                         
“A fascinating book that pulls together the strands of American development into a sweeping and vivid account of the nation’s rise to economic preeminence. Charles Morris has a special gift for making complicated subjects accessible and even entertaining.”

Booklist“An unprecedented 3.9 percent average annual rate of economic growth—sustained for more than a century—propelled the U.S. to global economic leadership. Morris chronicles the remarkable story behind the remarkable number… Morris concludes with a provocative comparison of the nineteenth-century duel pitting the U.S. against Great Britain and today’s rivalry between China and the U.S. Economic history freighted with social and political relevance.”

USA Today“Morris obviously possesses an inquiring mind…. [He] explicates … developments skillfully.”

PublishersWeekly.com“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.”

Tyler Cowen,  New York Times Magazine, One-Page Magazine“The early 19th century as a pep talk for today.”

John Steele Gordon, Wall Street Journal
“[A]n illuminating narrative that shows, among much else, what happened when Yankee ingenuity met the Industrial Revolution…. Post-Civil War industrialization had an important and largely overlooked predecessor in the first decades of the 19th century. It is a story well worth telling, and Mr. Morris tells it well…. The author's in-text illustrations and diagrams are very helpful in showing the cleverness and ingenuity of mechanisms designed by such forgotten giants as the clockmaker Eli Terry, the gun maker Thomas Blanchard and the steam-engine designer George H. Corliss. Mr. Morris's deft character sketches bring them to life as well. The steam engine powered the steamboat and the railroad, which knitted the country together into one huge common market, allowing industrial economies of scale that would, in the later 19th century, astonish the world….”

Civil Engineering“In an elegantly written assessment of how the current situation is like—and unlike—its 19th-century analogue, Morris flashes the knowledge and insight that landed him on the Council on Foreign Relations and crafts an effective coda for his paean to American innovation.”

Michael Lind,­ New York Times Book Review“To the often-told story of America’s initial industrial development, Morris adds fresh data and insightful revisions. He begins The Dawn of Innovation with a fascinating account of how the rivalry of the early United States and Britain to dominate the Great Lakes produced a ‘shipbuilders’ war’ that helped trigger industrial development here…. [Morris] is persuasive in arguing that America grew so rich so rapidly in part because it was largely born free.”

More About the Author

Charles R. Morris is a lawyer and former banker. He has written fourteen books, and is a regular contributor to Politico, Newsweek, Reuters, and many other publications.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Very educational and an enjoyable read.
Jim Altfeld
Morris explains that Great Britain was actually a gentle giant of an economic empire.
Alan F. Sewell
His writing is engaging, delightful, and informative.
Bruce Twickler

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

31 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Alan F. Sewell on November 20, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This book is written in two parts. The first 90% explores that remarkable period of economic growth in the 19th Century when the United States transformed itself from a nation of stone-fenced farms and backwoods log cabins into a continent-spanning urban/industrial economy almost as large as the rest of the world's economies combined. The final 10% is an analysis on how the lessons learned from our early economic rise might help us to manage our trading relations with China, which is currently in the same stage of explosive economic growth as we were then.

This book isn't an organized scholarly history of America's early economic growth (many books of that type have already been written). Rather it is a series of colorful vignettes exploring the development of various machine technologies intertwined with insights into the remarkable character of early Americans that expedited our rise as an economic powerhouse. Author Charles Morris weaves his vignettes into an interesting and comprehensive whole.

The starting point to understanding this book is that America might well have evolved into a poorer country with a less developed economy. Our richness in land, natural resources, and a benevolent climate might have lulled us into contented indolence. Instead our free economy and democratic ideals attracted some of the most talented mechanics, inventors, industrial engineers, and businesspeople from Great Britain and northern Europe.

Morris then explains how an early test of our industrial prowess occurred during the War of 1812, which began with the economic and political fortunes of the fledgling United States at low ebb.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By B. Zimmer on December 9, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
You must read this book if you have the least interest in American history, especially that of the Midwest and Northeast in the early 1800s. You might think that you're not interested in the manufacture of mass-produced furniture in Cincinnati in the 1820s or the development of canals in New York state or steamship travel on the Mississippi. But the details of American's world-shaking pursuit of producing manufactured goods in the early 1800s reinforces the stories we've always heard about the American psyche: We come from innovative, hard-working, creative, pushy ancestors who took full advantage of unlimited water, wood, and mineral resources to create unheard-of industrialization.

Partly as a reaction to the blockades and taxes of the English, England's almost complete control of the market for goods, and the War of 1812, this country rebelled, looked around, and discovered it could mass-produce its own goods. Water power was everywhere, forests were there for the taking, minerals were hiding beneath the top soil, slave power was available, and immigrants' energy and independence were bursting at the seams.

The first chapter, about the War of 1812 battles between English and American ships on Lakes Erie and Ontario, serves as an introduction to the marvels of shipbuilding in a country which barely had a navy. The following chapters jump quickly into the fascinating development of America's great experiment: mass-production.

(Of special interest if you're buying a digital book [Kindle]: I bought this book on Nov. 21 for $9.57. Kindle is now charging $15.94. The hardback edition is still $19.)
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Format: Hardcover
What we have in this volume is a remarkably comprehensive, consistently entertaining as well as informative examination of the early development of industrialization in the U.S. from the War of 1812 until the Civil War. Charles Morris (no relation) also provides an assessment of U.S. and China's current rivalry, one that bears at least some resemblance to U.S. and England's rivalry throughout much of the 19th century.

As Morris explains, "The political and cultural threads of this story have been unraveled many times, most recently in Gordon Wood's Empire of Liberty. I will concentrate on the nitty-gritty of the economic transformation -- the details of the machinery, the technologies, and the new processes and work organizations that underlie America's stunning record of growth." He uses two main thematic hooks to organize the story: "First, I frame it as an implicit competition between America and Great Britain...The second theme is to argue for a broader definition of what came to be called the American system of manufacturing...There was indeed s distinctly American approach to manufacturing in the nineteenth century: it was the drive to mass production and mass distribution in every field."

Here in Dallas near the downtown area, we have a Farmer's Market at which several merchants offer slices of fresh fruit as samples. In that spirit, I now provide a few brief excerpts that are representative of the thrust and flavor of Morris' narrative:

"Destructive though it was, the Civil War broke the slaveocracy's power to obstruct an American development agenda.
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