American History and Technology

The advertisement sheet for Muller’s “Alpha” Patent Gas-Making Machine
provides much insight into the state and orientation of American technology
in the 1870s.From the advertisement, we can discern a United States at
the dawn of its rise to an industrial power, using technology to hold its
own against the more advanced industrialized European countries such as
The advertisement shows a rendition of a gas-making machine, a devise
that could produce fuel for “lighting all places out of reach of coal gas.”
The sellers further touted a machine that would provide fuel for household
activities such as lighting and heating, though paradoxically, the machine
The advertisement most likely was published between the 1870s and the
1880s, a time that saw much research into various gas-making machines.
During this time, much of the industrialized nations were dependent on coal
gas, a by-product of the distillation of coal.Coal gas was often used for
gas lighting and was also alternately referred to as “town gas.”
The downside, however, was the expense.The price of canned coal made
the production of coal gas too expensive for many would-be manufacturers.
England and Germany were the leading producers of coal gas oils, which were
vital to manufacturing as well as for household uses.In the United
States, coal gas was also important for the railway industry, the vital
spine that held together a fledgling union that had just emerged from Civil
To rise to the level of industrialization already enjoyed by its
European counterparts, the United States thus turned to technology.
The period from the 1860s to the early 1900s were thus years of
extraordinary technological invention in the United States.This era saw
the invention of the telephone, telegraph, the cotton gin and other
techniques of mass production.Though obviously created b