A year later, Gottlieb Daimler (DYM lur) introduced the first four-wheeled automobile. People laughed at the “horseless carriages,” but they quickly changed the way people traveled.

The French nosed out the Germans as early automakers. Then the American Henry Ford started making models that reached the breathtaking speed of 25 miles per hour. In the early 1900s, Ford began using the assembly line to mass-produce cars, making the United States a leader in the automobile industry.

The First Airplane

The invention of the internal combustion engine changed life and industry in other ways. Motorized threshers and reapers boosted farm production. Even more dramatically, the internal combustion engine made possible sustained, pilot-controlled flight. In 1903, American bicycle makers Orville and Wilbur Wright designed and flew a flimsy airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Although their flying machine stayed aloft for only a few seconds, it ushered in the air age.

Soon, daredevil pilots were flying airplanes across the English Channel and over the Alps. Commercial passenger travel, however, would not begin until the 1920s.

A Communications Revolution

A revolution in communications also made the world smaller. An American inventor, Samuel F. B. Morse, developed the telegraph, which could send coded messages over wires by means of electricity. His first telegraph line went into service between Washington, D.C., and Baltimore in 1844. By the 1860s, an undersea cable was relaying messages between Europe and North America. This trans-Atlantic cable was an amazing engineering accomplishment for its day.

Communication soon became even faster. In 1876, the Scottish-born American inventor Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. By the 1890s, the Italian pioneer Guglielmo Marconi had invented the radio, which allowed wireless communication over long distances. In 1901, Marconi received a radio message, using Morse code, sent from Britain to Canada. As Marconi had predicted, radio soon became a key part of a global communications network that linked every corner of the world.

Photo of a biplane aircraft flying on a beach, with one man piloting the airplane and one man watching nearby.

In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright tested their flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. By 1905, they had built an airplane that could stay in the air for 39 minutes.

The Rise of Big Business

By the late 1800s, what we call “big business” came to dominate industry. Big business refers to an establishment that is run by entrepreneurs who finance, manufacture, and distribute goods or services on a large scale. As time passed, some big businesses came to control entire industries.

Investors Form Corporations

The latest technologies required the investment of large amounts of money, or capital. To get the needed capital, owners sold stock, or shares in their companies, to investors. Each stockholder became owner of a tiny part of a company. Large-scale companies, such as steel foundries, needed so much capital that they sold hundreds of thousands of shares. These businesses formed giant corporations, businesses that are owned by many investors who buy shares of stock. With large amounts of capital, corporations could expand into many areas.

Monopolies Dominate Industry

Some powerful business leaders created monopolies and trusts, huge corporate structures that controlled entire industries or areas of the economy. In Germany, Alfred Krupp inherited a steelmaking business from his father.

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Table of Contents

World History Topic 1 Origins of Civilization (Prehistory–300 B.C.) Topic 2 The Ancient Middle East and Egypt (3200 B.C.–500 B.C.) Topic 3 Ancient India and China (2600 B.C.–A.D. 550) Topic 4 The Americas (Prehistory–A.D. 1570) Topic 5 Ancient Greece (1750 B.C.–133 B.C.) Topic 6 Ancient Rome and the Origins of Christianity (509 B.C.-A.D. 476) Topic 7 Medieval Christian Europe (330–1450) Topic 8 The Muslim World and Africa (730 B.C.-A.D. 1500) Topic 9 Civilizations of Asia (500–1650) Topic 10 The Renaissance and Reformation (1300–1650) Topic 11 New Global Connections (1415–1796) Topic 12 Absolutism and Revolution Topic 13 The Industrial Revolution Topic 14 Nationalism and the Spread of Democracy (1790–1914) Topic 15 The Age of Imperialism (1800–1914) Topic 16 World War I and the Russian Revolution (1914–1924) Topic 17 The World Between the Wars (1910–1939) Topic 18 World War II (1930–1945) Topic 19 The Cold War Era (1945–1991) Topic 20 New Nations Emerge (1945–Present) Topic 21 The World Today (1980-Present) United States Constitution Primary Sources 21st Century Skills Atlas Glossary Index Acknowledgments