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American History Timeline - 1794-1956

The history of the 9 million square miles of America can be told through its inventions. Its independence was won with help from the increased accuracy of the Kentucky rifle. It ended the Second World War with the nuclear bomb and established itself as a superpower through the Apollo space race. Its Silicon Valley helped it dominate the new frontier of cyberspace.

The following are just some of the highlights.

1794 Eli Whitney patents the cotton gin ('gin' is short for engine). This machine speeds up the separation of the cotton making it a viable cash crop for farmers in the South. A single worker can now process 50 times more cotton a day. The demand for slave labour increases.

1850 The looms in cotton mills are automated with paper punch cards. The holes in the cards instruct the loom to use different coloured threads. Essentially, this is binary code and will be the basis of computer language.

1865 The 80,000kms of telegraph line (along with cipher codes that the Confederates never break) helps Abraham Lincoln win the Civil War. Production of clothing has doubled, as have the number of patents. All in an effort to supply the Northern war effort.

1873 On a kitchen table, an Illinois farmer invents barbed wire and a year later Joseph Glidden patents the invention that will tame the Great Plains of the new Frontier.

1879 Thomas Edison creates the first practical light bulb and later the first grid. The Industrial Revolution is no longer lit by candle-light.

1945 David Sarnoff, after working on Eisenhower's communication staff pioneers commercial television creating one of the biggest television networks in the world. By the 1970s, each American is consuming five hours of TV a day and over 70% watch the TV news every day on 60 million sets.

1946 Two million cars are manufactured heralding the age of the automobile.

1955 Americans are buying 8 million cars every 12 months and the country now produces 80% of the world's cars. With the freedom to travel, the suburbs are born.

1956 The Interstate Highway Act commits the federal government to spending $33,500,000,000 in fourteen years on building a national network of motor roads. It eventually costs $129 billion and takes over 2.4 billion man-hours. When Dwight D. Eisenhower was a soldier in 1915, it took him 62 days to drive across the nation. By the time he finishes his Presidency in 1961, the same journey can be done in four days.