Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Julia Irwin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

K. Stephen Prince, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David Johnson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Peter Funke, Ph.D.


transnational, Crystal Palace, progress, Samuel Colt


While historians often point to the rise of the United States as a major global player and technological leader on the world stage in the 1890s and early 1900s, this study argues it was the 1850s, not the 1890s, that this transition occurred. It utilizes transnational methodologies to analyze European perceptions of the United States, American international businessmen, and new ways Americans thought and talked about their place in the world. During the 1850s, European travelers to the United States began to recognize the young nation was taking the lead in technological innovation, while American businessmen like Samuel Colt began to take mass-produced goods to Europe and the world. American politicians, infrastructure boosters, and the commercial press worked to reimagine the place of the United States in the world, not as peripheral to Europe but rather at the center of a global commercial system. These trends would only be amplified as the nineteenth century wore on, until Europeans like the British journalist William Stead announced the “Americanization of the world” in the early 1900s. This study analyzes the origins of this process in the United States of the 1850s.