Industrial Revolution History Essay Contests

Each year the Daughters of the American Revolution hold an essay contest for students with a specified topic relating to history or American life. This year, participants were asked to submit essays regarding World War I. We are proud to announce the winners are Kyle Wilburn and Jenna Critchfield. With their permission, we are glad to print their winning essays here in the Ledger Dispatch.

“World War 1: Remembering the War to End All Wars”

By Kyle Wilburn, 6th Grade, Pine Grove Elementary

Hello, my name is Arnold Smith, you just caught me watering the crops on my family’s farm in Kansas City in the great state of Kansas. Who are the members of my family you ask? My parents of course, and then I have one older brother and one younger sister. This garden once was part of my family’s war garden. My family used to help feed my community with the fruits and vegetables we grew here. Why isn’t my older brother helping me you ask? Well, my brother enlisted in the Army when America first joined The Great War. He was sent overseas and died soon after while fighting on the front lines of Germany at the young age of 18.

Since you’re here, do you want to learn about The War to End All Wars? In the War to End All Wars, many men were either drafted or enlisted on their own in the war. Many kids wanted to join the Army and help in the war but, were too young to join. Some kids lied about their age and said they were 18 so they could join. People had different reasons for joining. Some wanted to fight for the cause while others needed work and thought the military would be a good career. But all were willing to sacrifice their life to help their country. When my brother turned 18 he went to the recruiter’s office to join even though he was leaving his friends and family behind. Our family had to work harder to make up for him not being there on the farm.

Most older kids had to quit school and start taking care of their families by working the farms or taking up jobs because their fathers were fighting in the war. Many kids had to raise their siblings, work around the house and get odd jobs to pay for necessities.

Every farm, town, city, and economic sector helped the war effort. Tens of millions of parents took war jobs or joined voluntary organizations to help the war effort. Kids, like myself, were called on to raise money for the war efforts and had less time to spend with relatives because of that. Youth organizations like Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts greatly expanded helping raise money for the war effort.

Kids knitted clothes for the Army because the military clothing wore down quite often and needed during the cold winters. Kids also wrote letters to the men to overseas to comfort and support them during the war.

Many young men went to fight in the war so factories started hiring women and more African Americans. Women were working a lot to support their families and doing the jobs that men would normally do. Some women got the power to earn money for the first time. They learned new skills that helped them after the war. The money they earned gave them freedom to make decisions on how to spend their money. This freedom kept women going after jobs that were particularly held by men after the war was over. Many women, like my mother, worked in military hospitals, drove ambulances across battlefields, and recruited men for the war. Women also created war gardens, like this one, which produced extra fruits and vegetables so the Army and local communities could have more food.

Many of the men who survived the war and made it home, suffered nightmares from post-traumatic stress disorder because of the things they saw and heard. Things like the effects mustard gas, trench warfare and mechanical warfare, which traumatically effected many men when they returned home.

America participated in World War I for only 19 months because America joined well after the Great War started. After the war ended only one out of ten women had hopes of marrying or remarrying because most of the men died fighting the war. Lots of kids ended up being orphans because of the loss of both parents.

The Great War took a great toll on families, communities and our country. It was known as the War to End All Wars because of the damage it did to humanity.

“World War 1: Remembering the War to End All Wars”

By Jenna Critchfield, 5th Grade, Jackson Elementary

The U.S. was affected in many ways during and after World War I. Some changes were for the better and some were for the worse. Our economy grew, prices went up, women thought better of themselves, security increased, laws changed, and fear was everywhere. Fear that someone would attack, fear of your death or a family member’s death, and fear of the uncertain.

World War I affected people’s day to day lives in many ways. One of the ways was fear. Fear that another passenger ship, like the Lusitania, might sink, fear of death, and fear of you or a loved one being injured or losing someone. People were also afraid of the uncertain. There were many questions. Would the U.S. help the Allies? Would we win the war? Should we really join the war? These were just a few questions going through people’s minds before and during 1918. There were also disagreements. Disagreements about whether or not our country should join the war. There was also mourning. There was mourning over friends’ and family members’ deaths. People’s day to day lives were very difficult after World War I.

After World War I, the United States economy changed. We emerged from the was as a top industry leader because the other countries spent most of their funds on the war and factories and property in Europe were destroyed. During the war, however, prices went up. Even though prices went up, people made the same amount of money. The United States economy was one of the best worldwide.

World War I also had a big change for women. While the men were overseas fighting, the women took over the men’s jobs at home. Because of this, women saw that they could do the same thing as men and their goals for themselves were higher. This led to women’s suffrage. The women felt they should have the same rights as men and their voice should be heard.

World War I also put in to focus some laws that needed to be changed and people realized what an evil and bad government can do. Because of what Russia’s government was like, it sparked a fear of communism. Security increased also because people were more aware that things weren’t quite as safe anymore. Immigration laws changed too. Immigrants had to have some kind of learning before they came to the U.S. Laws changed for better and for worse after World War I.

As you can see, the U.S. changed for better and for worse during and after World War I. Our country emerged from the war as a world industry leader, laws changed, there was lots of uncertainty, and women’s expectations changed. The U.S. gained some and lost some because of World War I.

The Wealth of Nations: a Primer



Imagine living on a dollar a day. According to the World Bank, more than one fifth of all the world's population does just that, and half live on less than $2. Per capita income in the highest-income countries is more than 60 times the per capita income of the lowest income countries.

But why are the United States and other developed nations so wealthy while many other nations are destitute? This is among the oldest and most central questions of economics. Adam Smith, who many consider the father of economics, titled his most famous book "An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations."

There are many perspectives on this issue and trying to come up with a quick answer is daunting. Nonetheless, it is one of the most important issues facing humanity. The question is central to determining the quality of life for current and future generations, and in some cases it can be a matter of life or death. It is for these reasons that the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis has chosen to ask the following question for its 2004-2005 student essay contest:

"Why are some countries rich and some countries poor?"

In approaching this question, it will be helpful to use economic concepts. Essays will be judged in part by how well they adhere to the economic concepts listed in Economic Principles to Keep in Mind. These reflect some of the general points on which practically all economists agree.

While economists agree on these points, they approach the issue of the wealth of nations in different ways. For example, Robert Solow and others focus on technology as the key factor in economic growth and may consider most of the differences in national incomes to be accounted for by differences in productivity. Economists like Jeffrey Sachs and Paul Krugman, however, may focus more on geography and trade in accounting for these differences.

These differing perspectives are not in necessarily opposition, as academics tend to specialize in narrow fields so they can better understand the issues at hand. Economists studying this issue focus on different aspects. These different approaches can be complementary and should be understood together. The rest of this primer introduces four perspectives and the ways in which they can help explain why some nations are wealthier than others.

Technology and Productivity

One important factor contributing to the material wealth of a society is its productivity. Imagine two nations that were exactly identical in every respect—resources, population, culture, etc—except that one society had higher productivity. We would expect the more productive society to produce a greater output of goods. Productivity is not an aggregate number (like output), but a rate (like output per capita). Higher productivity means more can be produced for a given amount of people, raising the wealth of a typical person. For most of human history, productivity has changed very little. While history has seen important advances like the compass and the printing press, it wasn't until the industrial revolution, beginning in the late 1700s, that productivity really began to grow.

The source of productivity is technology. Advances in technology, like automation or telecommunications, make it possible to produce more with less. However, some elements in society resist adopting new technologies. Examples span from management at large companies that want to prevent competition, to labor unions that fear losing members to automation, to nations that prevent the spread of modern farming practices because they fear a threat to traditional culture. In these cases, groups can use their power to impede change. Doing so may be good for those groups in the short-run, but it can harm the long-run well-being of the society. We expect societies that are less resistant to change to end up being more productive, and therefore wealthier.

Institutions and Culture

Technology is as much about the way tools are used as it is about the tools themselves. The way we use tools is a consequence of our institutions, which effect how we organize our activity. The earliest advances of the industrial revolution were specialization and the division of labor. These developments are not mechanical, but organizational. Institutions—businesses, governments and other organizations—are another important factor in explaining why some nations are richer than others.

Governments play many roles in ensuring economic growth, the most prominent of which is protecting property rights. Political stability is also important for a healthy economy; crime, poverty, income disparity and armed conflicts can be both a cause and result of poor economic growth. Governments can help mitigate these problems. Government can also play a role in the economy by correcting for market failures: dealing with unwanted side effects of economic activity like pollution, and providing important public services like roads and other infrastructure. Countries that support research and development, education and scientific research are likely to improve their supply of technology.

There are many opinions an how large and what kind of a role government should play in an economy. What is uncontroversial is that government has the ability to help society by addressing market failures and by providing essential services that facilitate economic activity, but governments that are corrupt or overly bureaucratic often end up impoverishing their citizens. Beyond government and business, there are other institutions that shape economies. These include labor unions, civic organizations and schools. At an even more abstract level are what economist Kenneth Arrow called the "invisible institutions" of morals, customs and social norms.

Geography and Natural Resources

Even a nation that is open to trade and technological change, one that has strong institutions and growth-friendly policies, might have a hard time reaching the standard of living of wealthier nations, because not all nations are created equal in terms of geography and natural resources.

Consider the world's wealthiest country, the United States. There are many historical and social factors leading to this success, but the U.S. also has two large coastlines, thousands of miles of navigable rivers, millions of acres of fertile soil and huge deposits of minerals and other natural resources. All of these factors increased the potential for the U.S. to become the economic powerhouse it is today.

As importantly, the U.S. and Europe have temperate climates. Tropical countries must deal with diseases that flourish in their climates, soil and ecosystems that are less ideal for agriculture, and other problems like extreme heat and long rainy seasons. However, this point is tempered by the success of a number of nations with warmer climates, particularly those in Southeast Asia. Since there are other factors to growth, a country's fate is not sealed by its geography. This is a reminder that differing perspectives should be considered together.

Freedoms and Capabilities

Although freedom is an abstract concept that can be difficult to measure, it is hardly worth disputing that historically freer nations have also developed into wealthier nations. The "freedom" to which economists often refer is free enterprise. Freedom also refers to the many political and civil liberties that are central in modern democracies, and these too have economic benefits. A free press, for example, helps spread information vital to economic decision making, and makes government activity transparent.

Freedom can also be defined in terms of capabilities. A person may have freedom to pursue the creative end in which they are most interested or to which they are best suited. In this sense, public policy can enhance freedom through education, literacy campaigns, public health and poverty reduction programs. By promoting the capabilities of individuals, society as a whole can benefit from what that individual then produces.


This introduction has discussed a number of factors that influence economic growth. Now it is your turn to use resources available on the Internet, in libraries and your school and community to research and write this year's essay. Remember to consider the various elements that influence growth, and how they work together, or don't work at all, to determine whether a nation will be prosperous or impoverished. Don't forget, your essay will be judged partly by how well you apply economic concepts described in Economic Principles to Keep in Mind. You can join the ranks of economists around the world and throughout history who have spent centuries trying to answer the question: Why are some countries rich and some countries poor?

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