GEOG 597i
Critical Geospatial Thinking and Applications

Assignment 7

During the 19th and early 20th centuries, the economic power of the United States emerged from a state of relative unimportance to become the most powerful industrial nation on earth.  When the first census of the United States was completed in 1790, ninety percent of American adult males listed their occupation as “farmer”.  Only a century later, those who farmed were outnumbered by those who worked in the nation’s giant, rapidly growing industrial complex. 

Starting with the observations of Alexis de Tocqueville, numerous pundits and scholars (including historian Frederick Jackson Turner) have (over the years) attempted to explain the nation’s prosperity and success as the result of American exceptionalism. In the eyes of these authors, analysts, scholars, politicians, and leaders, the United States was able to emerge from its status as a primarily agricultural backwater to become an industrial giant in less than a century because of the superior values, attitudes, and beliefs of its people.  

Over the years, a plethora of what have been described as uniquely American attributes have been advanced to explain the rapid climb of the USA to the status of a world super power. Among the positive traits cited are the nation’s puritan values and roots, the moral purity of the population, the free-enterprise system, individuality, a competitive spirit, the frontier experience, individual initiative, informality, and a republican system of government. In short, many Americans believe that the United States became a great industrial power because its people possessed the cultural attributes needed to recognize the opportunities presented by the nation’s magnificent resource base, as well as the initiative, ambition, and drive needed to successfully exploit it. It is not as common, however, to hear politicians and pundits refer to the advantageousness of the nation’s site and situation, or the benefits of the positive covariance of its natural resources and its natural transportation arteries. Moreover, the fact that many 19th Century immigrants to the USA came from the industrial nations of Europe is often overlooked  In fact, the American Industrial Revolution was enhanced by the knowledge and skills of immigrants from the United Kingdom and Western Europe who worked in American factories. Additionally, it is important to remember that many of the laborers used to build the massive American rail system upon which the Industrial Revolution depended were poorly-paid immigrants from a variety of non-industrialized places such as China. 

Although it is true that the USA is an immense storehouse of  natural resources, other far less prosperous nations also have massive deposits of natural resources. In fact, the United States and other modern industrial countries (e.g., China and Japan) often import raw, unprocessed resources from nations in places such as the Middle East, Central America, and South America. 

Whereas the Industrial Revolution did not begin in the United States, no other people on earth embraced it with as much vigor, enthusiasm, and success as did the Americans. 


Using the maps available on the Internet, and relying on course lectures and reading assignments, your assignment is to develop a detailed description of the geographic/spatial factors, concepts, principles and realities that help explain the rapid transition of the USA from a primarily agricultural nation to a great industrial power. Do not forget to include major concepts that help explain the comparative advantage of the USA compared to other industrializing nations during the 19th and early 20th centuries. Please limit the length of your discussion to around four pages (single spaced, standard font).  In other words, write a concise, well-organized essay.

Use maps that show the natural resource base, river systems, and ports, especially east coast and great lakes. You may find the following websites helpful:

Data and Statistics about the United States

United States Energy Information Administration

United States - State Profiles and Energy Estimates


Geography - States

Geography - Maps

Geography - International

United States Department of Agriculture

USDA Census of Agriculture

USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service

USDA National Resources Inventory

Some old resource maps for Reference Maps etc.

Due Dates

Check your syllabus, the Modules page, or the Course Calendar for due dates.

The Deliverable

Develop a detailed description of the geographic/spatial factors, concepts, principles, and realities that help explain the US transition from a primarily agricultural nation to a great industrial power. Your assignment should be no more than four pages of text, single spaced 12-point Times New Roman font with one inch margins. Please add a title and your name to the paper. 

Submitting Your Assignment

Submit your paper using the Lesson 7 Assignment in the Canvas.

Grading Information and Rubric

This assignment is worth 7 points.

Grading Rubric
Criteria Full Points Half points No points
Mastery of Subject Matter Demonstrates substance and depth; is comprehensive; shows mastery of material Covers topic; uses appropriate sources; is objective Does not give adequate coverage of topic; lacks sources
Clarity of Thought Addresses the topic with clarity; organizes and synthesizes information thoughtfully; and draws logical conclusions from available information; reader can easily follow the line of reasoning Addresses the topic; lacks substantive conclusions; sometimes digresses from topic; reader may struggle at times following line of reasoning Presents little to no clarity in formulating conclusions and/or organization
Accuracy of Interpretation and/or Computation Shows a high level of accuracy when interpreting and/or computing data; presents the correct response Shows an acceptable level of accuracy when interpreting and/or computing data; answer may not be completely correct, but shows understanding Inaccurately interprets and/or computes data resulting in incorrect answers
Clarity of Presentation Is free or almost free of errors (grammar, spelling, and writing mechanics); appropriately documents sources Has errors, but they don't represent a major distraction; documents sources Has errors that obscure meaning of content or add confusion; neglects important sources or documents few to no resources