The Industrial Revolution brought about a greater volume and variety of factory-produced goods and raised the standard of living for many people, particularly for the middle and upper classes. However, life for the poor and working classes continued to be filled with challenges. Wages for those who labored in factories were low and working conditions could be dangerous and monotonous. Unskilled workers had little job security and were easily replaceable. Children were part of the labor force and often worked long hours and were used for such highly hazardous tasks as cleaning the machinery. In the early 1860s, an estimated one-fifth of the workers in Britain’s textile industry were younger than 15. Industrialization also meant that some craftspeople were replaced by machines. Additionally, urban, industrialized areas were unable to keep pace with the flow of arriving workers from the countryside, resulting in inadequate, overcrowded housing and polluted, unsanitary living conditions in which disease was rampant. Conditions for Britain’s working-class began to gradually improve by the later part of the 19th century, as the government instituted various labor reforms and workers gained the right to form trade unions.
A person had to have a lot of capital to buy machines and open a factory. Those who were successful made huge profits with which to buy more machines, put up larger buildings, and purchase supplies in greater quantities at enormous savings. Thus capital increased far more rapidly than it ever had before. Much of it was invested in building canals, railroads, and steamships and in developing foreign trade. The men who controlled these enterprises formed a powerful new class in England--the industrial capitalists.
Cartwright’s invention took many years to refine because it was difficult for the loom to weave quickly and mechanically without the thread slackening or the shuttle moving too slowly or too rapidly. The first power looms were installed in a factory in Manchester, where they suffered a similar fate to the first spinning jennies. Some Manchester craft weavers, worried that they would lose their skilled jobs, threatened the first power loom factory and soon afterwards a fire mysteriously destroyed it (239). But the genie was out of the bottle—no other loom could compete. Like the spinning mule, the power loom and the steam engine that powered it could not fit into a cottage. All these big, heavy machines would need to be brought under one large roof. The cottage industry had died, but factories were just beginning to house industry. And these larger machines and factories led to enormous growth in other industries, especially those of coal and iron.