Up to 1860, although the mainstay of the American economy was agricultural, it had still not become commercialized and most farming was on a subsistence level, with 90 per cent of the population relying on it for their livelihood. In 1860, the agricultural revolution began with the number of farms tripling and areas farmed doubling between 1860 and 1910. Science meant that rust and drought resistant wheat were first cultivated in 1862, and rapidly accounted for half the wheat market. Agricultural machinery replaced hand sickles and mechanical planters and huskers began to appear. In 1860 America was on the eve of agricultural commercialization but still relied, in the South, on slave labour to create agricultural mass production. Thousands of slaves worked on southern cotton plantations and made cotton the mainstay of the South’s economy. It has been argued that the South resisted industrialization prior to 1865, as slave labour was free.
— OR —