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American Industrialization and Reform in the 19th Century

In: Historical Events

Submitted By WillBui
Words 894
Pages 4
Nghi Bui
Professor Kern
History 1302 - 5055
Feb 2nd, 2015
Industrialization and reform (1870 – 1916)
After the Civil War, the United States owned an abundant amount of natural resource, an expanding market for manufactured goods, a growing supply of labor and availabilities of capital for investment. In addition, the federal government vigorously promoted industrial development which stimulated the American economy to change dramatically from the Gilded Age to the Progressive Era. However, the progress of the industrialization affected every aspect of the American society in either positive or negative way.
As the nation moved to the west, the United States was transformed by vast changes in technology and a large amount of natural resources which stimulated new industries. Particularly, steel came to be used in the expanding new railroads which contributed in linking the nation and created a national wide market. By the 1890s, there were five transcontinental railroads transported the raw material from the West to the Eastern markets and carried manufactured goods to the West (Foner 596).
Though, the government was not able to deal problems formed by the industrial revolution. Both parties came under control of powerful political managers with close ties to business interests. Republicans intensely supported a high tariff to protect America industry. During the 1870s, Republicans established a financial system based on reducing federal spending, which helped to repay much of the national debt. On the other hand, Democrats criticized the high tariff and resisted demands from debt-ridden agricultural regions for an increase in the money supply. In the book “Give me Liberty!” Foner states that: “In 1879, for the first time since the war, the United States returned to the gold standard – that is, paper currency became exchangeable for gold at a fixed rate” (619).
The expansion of industries mainly resulted from the growth of big businesses. Many business leaders in different industries consolidated to create huge corporations and absolute domination within the market. In the Gilded Age, the two single men became byword for massive wealth were Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller. Andrew Carnegie established a monopoly in the steel industry by using cost-saving technologies in hiring affected managers. On the other hand, John Rockefeller dominated the oil industry by buying out his competitors and fixing prices quotas. Hence by the 1880s, John Rockefeller himself controlled 90 percent of the nation’s oil industry (Foner 598-599).
The Gilded Age era also witnessed an unprecedented amount of wealth which made classes divisions became even wider. Despite the fact that corporations made huge profits each year, working condition for poor laborers were horrifying. Workers were forced to work long hours in dangerous conditions but just for very low wages. The pay was so low that all family members, including women and children, had to work in order to keep their families together. In order to improve their status, many workers founded unions using collective bargaining to improve their working conditions. In May 1886, an alliance of unions formed the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which became the first federation of labor unions in the United States. However, the government consistently supported big businesses over labor interests by sending troops to prevent unions’ strikes. In the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the fight between unions and federal troops stalled the national railroads for weeks. Up until the Triangles Shirtwaist Factory Fire of 1911 in which almost a hundred and fifty women died, the American public was so infuriated that throughout the 1900s, reformers pushed for a range of changes to society in a movement called Progressivism. This movement had four major goals: promoting moral improvement, protecting social welfare, reforming the economy and improving labor conditions (Foner 682-683).
In the Progressive Era, the American population grew from 40 million in 1870 to 76 million in 1900 and one-third of the growth was due to immigration. Industrialization changed the lives of many, including immigrants and the working class. Within the progress of industrialization, the increasing number of factories created more jobs, and intense need for labor, which draw more immigrants to the United States. Approximately more than 25 million immigrants entered the United States between 1970 and 1916. While immigrants were arriving in great numbers, anti-immigration organizations were on the rise. The idea of assimilation or the Americanization movement also proliferated. In 1882, the Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited all immigration of Chinese laborers. However, the other immigrants who did enter the United States moved to the nation’s cities to get work in the growing industrial economy (Foner 697).
The industrialization indeed brought more wealth, power and technology in the United States, but at what cost? The workers were forced to live in filth, work long hours and the children had to spend their childhood earning money? The industrialization did change each aspect of the American society to the opposite as it had been. However, these modern-day advances wouldn’t exist without the contributions of the Industrialization and reforms of the 19th century.

Work Cited
Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: An American History. 4th ed. Vol. 2. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013. Print.
TheUSAonline. "History of the United States Industrialization and Reform (1870-1916)." History of the United States, Industrialization and Reform. USA Center A.U.C, n.d. Web. 02 Feb. 2015.
<http://www.theusaonline.com/history/industrialization.htm>.

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