At the same time that pioneers were migrating to the Illinois prairies in the early 1800s,New Englanders were developing a distinctive system of manufacturing that emphasized massproduction, low cost, and interchangability of parts.
In the 1850s, several Europea delegations came to investigate the American System of Manufacturing and copied some of its elements. This system of manufacturing created many products, some of which were used on farms to increase the productivity of each laborer, in harvesting, planting and cultivating fields.
Advances in textile manufacturing equipment increased the demand for cotton.
Manufacturing also created a demand for labor.
An increasing percentage of the population would find employment in the manufacturing sector and fewer in agricultural production.
In 1800, approximately 75% of the population were directly engaged in agricultural production.
By 1850, it was less than 60% and by 1900, less than 40% were engaged in agricultural production.
As farms became increasingly mechanized, one family could farm more acres.
In 1900,the number of Illinois farms reached its maximum at 260,000, averaging about 125 acres in size.
The number of farms declined gradually at first to 200,000 in 1950, and then droped pedprecipitously to 82,000 in 1990.
Correspondingly, the average size of a farm increased from 150 acres in 1950 to 340 in 1990.
Although located in the center of the "cornbelt" the percentage of people employed in farming in Illinois was about half of the national average from 1910 to 1950.
Southern states had the highest percentages of population on farms, due primarily to large numbers of relatively poor share croppers. The percentage of Illinoisans living or working on farms is in the 1990s is about equal to the national average, which is less than 2%.
As both farming and manufacturing became more productive, this remarkable transitiongradually provided people with a broad range of career options, in such fields as medicine, law, science, government and entertainment.
However the transition was not always smooth.
At times the increased productivity of farm workers led to surpluses of agricultural products and thus low prices, which were beneficial to urban workers, but challenging to farm workers. At times the supply of available labor exceeded the demand, resulting in unemployment and under employment.