Transportation in the Post-Industrial World


Arguably the technological advances achieved during the Industrial Revolution are among the most influential the United States has ever seen; so much so that we often take those inventors and inventions for granted. New transportation technologies that arose during this time yielded significant economic, social, and political changes. Furthermore, transportation served as a catalyst to unite Americans in ways they had never experienced before: farmers’ produce could now be transported across the nation, cars made it possible for workers to commute farther distances from home to work, and people could now visit far-off places via flight.

In examining this time period, we naturally associate the word “progress” with advances in technology. In some ways, we consider progress as positive as technologies can often make our lives more efficient and our actions more effective. But with change comes unintended consequences. For example, with the development of the automobile, urban dwellers could move further and further out from the city center. As people become more dispersed through suburbanization, some might argue that we loose a sense of community and connection with neighbors.

While there would be many areas of “progress” that student could examine, this documentary kit focuses on changes in transportation and its impact on society. Ultimately students grapple with the concept of “progress” and answer the following question:

Since the Industrial Revolution, have advances in transportation created progress?

Introduction to Kit:

The documents in this toolkit were primarily gathered from the Library of Congress, accessing a variety of exhibitions and digital collections. They were selected to provide a balanced portrayal of the inventions in transportation since the Industrial Revolution. Overall, students will find a variety of resources to help them answer the question “Since the Industrial Revolution, have advances in transportation really created progress?” The resources are divided into two categories: photographs and documents.



A partnership between the College of William & Mary School of Education, the University of Kentucky College of Education,
and the Library of Congress Teaching with Primary Sources Program