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The Agricultural Revolution Index

Introduction to the Agricultural Revolution

The Industrial Revolution Index

Introduction to the First Industrial Revolution

The Second Industrial Revolution Index

William Murdock and the Gas Industry
Sir Humphry Davy
Michael Faraday
Thomas Edison
Sir Joseph Wilson Swan
The Development of Communications
Samuel Breese Morse
Guglielmo Marconi
Urbanisation and Public Transport
The Development of Flight
The Industrial Revolution and Warfare

History Chapters Main Index



Print : "Bicycling" 1887 © Library of Congress Prints
and Photographs Division Washington

Chronology of the Development of Road Transport 1730 - 1908


Turnpike roads are constructed



Cugnot invented a steam propelled vehicle



Murdock developed a road steam vehicle



Trevithick's passenger steam vehicle



Macadam developed a new type of road construction


First horse-drawn bus system operated


Telford's London to Holyhead road constructed



Dr. Gurney's steam coach operated



Lenoir's gas engine used in road vehicles


Véloe's péde bicycle introduced



Penny farthing bicycles introduced


Otto's four stroke engine developed



Benz's petrol-driven motorwagen developed



Rubber tyres used on bicycles


Michelin Brothers used air-filled tyres on cars


Motorised omnibuses used in Britain


Gear boxes used in Benz's cars



Model T Ford started production



John Davison Rockefeller (1839 - 1937)

John Davison Rockefeller

John Davison Rockefeller

Rockefeller was born in Richmond, New York. His family moved to Cleveland, Ohio when he was still very young and it was there that Rockefeller was brought up. He was only sixteen when he left school to become a book keeper. Seven years later he joined forces with Samuel Andrews as a business partner in his oil company. By 1870 Rockefeller had established the Standard Oil Company of Ohio.

In 1872 Rockefeller organised the South Improvement Company. This was an association of the largest oil refining companies in the US. This company made a deal with the railroads which forced smaller oil companies to sell out to it. Rockefeller's business tactics allowed him to control 90% of the US oil refineries by 1878.

In 1882 Rockefeller formed the first corporate trust, the Standard Oil Trust. Ten years later the Ohio Supreme Court declared this trust to be an illegal monopoly. However, the trust was not dissolved until 1899, by which time Rockefeller had set up the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey.



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The Second Industrial Revolution

From Horse to Horseless Carriage


Mineral Oil and the Development of the Motor Industry

As we have seen, the second Industrial Revolution was based on the development of new found fuel energy sources, such as gas and electricity. These energy sources were used to generate the power needed to drive industry. Among the emerging new fuel sources, mineral oil was also put to use.

In 1859, oilfields had been discovered in Pennsylvania, America. At first, the crude oil had been refined to produce kerosene, also known as paraffin. This was used in oil lamps as a form of lighting fuel. The oil lamp gave more light than a candle and, in its most refined state, remained in use in rural areas of Europe well into the twentieth century. It is still in use today in large parts of the Third World.

As well as kerosene, crude oil was also distilled to provide lubricants to grease and oil machines. Petroleum was another of the fractions given off during the distillation process. At first, petroleum was used, in its refined form, in medicine and as a cleaner and solvent.

In the latter part of the 19th century, the search was mounted for a truly independent, economic and reliable method of power generation for use in road transport. As a direct result of the Industrial Revolution, people were, for the first time, in the possession of leisure time and the money to spend on it. By the 1880's, many people were able to spend the leisure time cycling on the newly developed safety bicycle. This had been developed from the crude, wooden bicycle, with solid tyres, invented in Britain in 1839 by Kirkpatrick Macmillan. The "modern" bicycle of 1888 was running on pneumatic tyres, inflated by air, that had been invented by John Boyd Dunlop. Thoughts had already turned to a way of providing the bicycle with power other than human power.

In 1836, attempts had been made, by Pierre Michaux and Louis-Guillaume Perreaux of France, to produce a steam powered bicycle. Although the idea of steam engines for road use was now popular, these first bicycle engines were slow to start (since the user had to wait for the water to boil to provide the steam) and relatively bulky. However, despite these setbacks, development of steam powered vehicles was continued until after World War I, when petrol driven vehicles became more popular.

The research which eventually produced the petrol driven engine had its origins in the work of engineers, such as Jean Joseph Étienne Lenoir of Belgium. In 1860, Lenoir designed the first engine to be driven by internal combustion using gas as a fuel. In other words, the power was provided by gases expanding as a result of a reaction within the cylinder of the engine.

Lenoir had devised a method of driving an engine that was originally steam driven, by using the power of gas. The important difference between his engine and a steam engine was that gas entered the cylinder and was then ignited by a spark. The expanding gas then pushed the cylinder forward, in a similar manner to the steam engine cycle. Lenoir developed the engine and, in 1862, was the first person to fit an internal combustion engine to a vehicle. However, the vehicle lacked power, and gas was a difficult fuel to use.


Gottlieb Daimler

Karl Benz

Gottlieb Daimler

Karl Benz


Gottlieb Daimler, a German who knew Lenoir and had seen his gas powered vehicle, realised that a less bulky fuel was needed to make the idea a success. Daimler was working for Nickolaus Otto who, in 1876, had designed and produced a more efficient, four stroke, gas powered engine. Otto asked Daimler to investigate into the use of petrol as an alternative fuel. Daimler, seeing the potential of the new fuel, left to set up his own company. Within three years he had developed a light, petrol driven engine.

It was in 1885 that Karl Benz produced the first petrol driven motor vehicle. Benz's vehicle had three wheels, with the back wheel being driven by a rear, mounted engine. Power was transmitted from the engine to the wheel using a leather belt. Then, in 1886, Daimler built the first four wheeled vehicle. Because it was developed from a horse-drawn carriage, it became known as the horseless carriage. This term was used for a while, until the more modern term, motor car, came into general use.


Motorwagen Benz

Motorwagen Benz No. 2 © DaimlerChrysler AG


By 1891, René Panhard and Émile Levassor of France had produced a car with the engine at the front, so overcoming the problem of weight distribution. By 1895, Édouard and André Michelin of France had developed the first pneumatic, air-containing car tyres. By 1908, Henry Ford of America had developed the idea of the mass-produced car, a vehicle produced cheaply and speedily along a production line. The concept of the production line was later to become the very basis of the modern manufacturing industry.


Ford Model T Poster c. 1925

Ford Model T Poster c. 1925


At the outbreak of war in 1914, the motor car and the internal combustion engine were both sufficiently advanced to play an active role. Both developed at a very swift rate during the four years of war, so that by 1918, the motor driven vehicle and the internal combustion engine had become thoroughly reliable.

To cope with the massive increase in demand for oil by this time, nearly half a million oil wells had been sunk in America. The oil Industry rapidly grew into a huge industry employing many hundreds of thousands of people. Competition became cut-throat, and smaller oil companies were swallowed up in merger by bigger ones. John D. Rockefeller forced many smaller oil companies to merge with his Standard Oil Company. By 1879, he controlled 90% of the oil refining industry.

To avoid paying huge fees to railway companies for the shipment of oil based products, Rockefeller developed and built pipelines running from the oil wells to the refineries. He also built his own tanker fleet, made his own barrels to carry the oil, and even manufactured and sold his own brand of oil lamps.

From these methods, American big business and management techniques developed. These were later copied by the rest of the world. In America, huge corporations were founded and "the American Dream from rags to riches" became a reality.


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