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Industrialization After the Civil War

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Assignment 1.2: Industrialization after the Civil War

History 105: Contemporary U.S. History

The Post Civil War marked an economic transformation of the United States. With the unprecedented surge in immigration and urbanization, American society was now in transition. A transition that included the most influential third political party movement ever.

Major aspects of industrialization during 1865 and 1920 that influenced U.S. society, economy, and politics

One key to the rite of the industrial economy was the expansion of railroads. The First Transcontinental Railroad in the United States was built in the 1860’s. Linking the well-developed railway network of the eastern coast with rapidly growing California. Construction on the first transcontinental railroad began after President Abraham Lincoln approved the Pacific Railway Act of 1862, a landmark that authorized the federal government to financially back the construction of a transcontinental railroad. Lincoln felt the transcontinental railroad was a necessity, an idea whose time had come (HUL 2014). With the development of the transcontinental railroad spurred a major economic growth. The true economic impact of the railroad may never be known, but one thing is for certain: It was dramatic. The flow of goods over the line after the first full year of operation was around $50 million in 1869 dollars (Friedman 2010). Individuals felt the joining of America, economically, geographically and totally was complete.

But with the development of the railroads came a rise in big businesses, it opened up the whole country for the development of new products, growing population and distribution and communication. Between 1865 and 1920, the nation’s population increased by nearly 200 percent, from 36 million to 100 million (Revolution by Railroad 2014). This came parallel to the expansion of the transcontinental railroad which increased its mileage by more than 1,000 percent. With the mileage increase came the development of over 7000 new cities, towns and settlements. Such development allowed farmers and ranchers to now ship their product to eastern cities. Communication also saw boost with every track being built, telegraph lines were being put in place which brought near instant communication. A vast different from the pony express.

Although growth during Post Civil War happened quickly, it was also sporadic. Passing through cycles of expansion (growth) and contraction (recession or depression). Periods of expansion was considered boom periods and companies advertised for labor and ran their operations at full capacity. When the demand for manufactured goods fell, companies reduced production, cutting hours of work or dismissing employees as they waited for business to pick up. This short run boom and bust nature of the economy finally took its toll. This lead America into a depression which began in 1873 which was both severe and long (History 2014). The depression gave way to the underlying corruption and ineffectiveness of the political system, this time became known as the Gilded Age. During the Gilded Age politicians were largely corrupt and ineffective, most Americans during the Gilded Age wanted political and social reform, but they disagreed strongly on what kind of reform. This need and want for reform over time involved into a political party, the People’s Party, better known as the Populist Party, which offered a radical alternative to the economic and political status quo (Industrial Revolution Research 2014). The Populist Party was considered one of the most radical political party movements ever.

Groups that were affected by industrialization

Industrialization had a major impact among many groups of people, specifically immigrants, farmers, the underprivileged, African Americans and women. Years after the American Civil War, large increases in immigrant populations prompted an interest in restricting immigration. Americans were particularly wary about large numbers of immigrants from China. Americans feared these unskilled workers would drive the wages of the work force down by accepting jobs for lower wages. The first major immigration law passed after the Civil War was the Immigration Act of 1875. The Immigration Act of 1875, also known as the Page Act, was the first immigration law to bar certain groups of people from entering the US (Politics of Immigration 2014). The Immigration Act of 1875 prohibited the importation of Chinese laborers without their consent and the importation “of women for the purposes of prostitution.” The unstated purpose was to prevent single Chinese women from immigrating and marrying Chinese men already in the US, since their US-born children would have been citizens under the 14th amendment. Unfortunately this exclusion eventually expanded to all immigrants with the Immigration Act of 1924. The Immigration Act of 1924 marked the largest restrictions placed on immigrants in American history. The restrictions affected all groups—not just Asians.

Farmers and the underprivileged also saw their fair share of hardships during industrialization. In the years after the Civil War Americans saw the death of rural and agricultural America which was dominated by farmers and the birth of an urban and industrial America dominated by bankers, industrialists, and city dwellers. But during this time of transition, farmers and the underprivileged did not share in the new prosperity that had evolved. The most vexing problem for farmers, although they refused to admit it was agricultural overproduction. As more and more crops were dumped onto the American market, it depressed the prices farmers could demand for their product. This made it hard for farmers to make a profit. Farmers also fell victim to tariff policies which forced farmers to buy all the manufactured goods they needed for survival on a market protected by tariff legislation at artificially high prices while selling what they produced on an unprotected and highly competitive market at depresses prices (McCarty 2003). Farmers felt their problem was not supply and demand but because they sold goods in a free market and purchase goods in a protected and monopolistic market.

The underprivileged who were mostly industrial workers also fell victim to industrialism. While economic and political elites capitalized on America’s rapidly expanding wealth, the underprivileged struggled to survive. Industrial wages were low and hours were long in factories that were typically dangerous and unhealthy. With the structuring of labor, this left many workers with few marketable skills and little optimism of occupational or social mobility.

African American and women also struggled with their place in society Post Civil War times. The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 freed African Americans in rebel states, and after the Civil War, the Thirteenth Amendment emancipated all U.S. slaves. This gave African Americans the opportunity to get out of the cycle of crushing rural poverty, but even with this opportunity came resistance. Such laws like the black codes which were established in 1865, were passed to control and restrict and constrain the lives of those freed, essentially rendering them basically bondsmen again under law (Reconstruction 2014). Other laws which were meant to restrict African Americans consisted of laws against educating black people, laws against their mobility and even vagrancy laws which prevented ex slaves from owning any property. These laws was a means to erode the gains for which many during the Civil War had died for.

In the years before the Civil War, the lives of American women were shaped by a set of ideals that depicted the American Woman as devoting their lives to the home, making it clean, comfortable and nurturing for their husband and children. Historians depicted this set of ideals as “Cult of True Womanhood” (History 2014). Many American women began to dislike this stigma feeling that it created a new way of thinking about what it meant to be a women and a citizen in the United States. In an effort to establish women’s rights woman-suffrage advocates began to fight for their right of citizenship. Believing they were entitled to vote and were just as patriotic as men. Activist pointed out that women proved their patriotism through their volunteer efforts during the war. On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, allowing women the right to vote.

Industrialization and the ways it affected the lives of the average working American

The industrial boom had major effects on the lives of the American people. The availability of jobs in industries drew people from farms to cities in record numbers. But the sharp contrast between the rich and the poor of American life stirred widespread discontent. Life for the middle and upper classes benefited from volume of factory produced goods that was brought on by the Industrial Revolution. However, life for the poor and working classes did not share in the benefits of the economic growth. The average adult worker worked quite often: five to seven days of the week, for more than half the day per shift with little pay (Industrial Revolution 2014). During this time child labor also began to increase, children as young as 6 years of age was put to work in mines, textile factories and even mills. Due to the high demands of the job, children would often become injured or get ill due to the various diseases that could spread around the housing projects and in the factories themselves (Industrial Revolution in America 2014). Not until after War World War 1 that laws prohibiting child labor would be developed and passed.

But as the Industrial Revolution progressed Americans were now being replaced by machines. This contributed to the low quality of life many Americans had to endure. Not having the ability to produce goods as fast machines Americans now had to accept lower paying jobs to make living. With the lack of jobs and money, this lead to cities being crowded into homes and living in unsanitary conditions. Many believed the Industrial Revolution was intended to make the standard of living much better for people in America but some also believe due to the rapid growth of Industrialization it had the opposite effect.

References

1. History.Com. (2014). The Fight for Women’s Suffrage. Retrieved February 8, 2014,

From http://www.history.com/topics/the-fight-for-womens-suffrage

2. The Politics of Immigration. (2014). Retrieved February 7, 2014, From

http://www.thepoliticsofimmigration.org/pages/chronology.htm

3. McCarty, Kenneth G., July 2003. Mississippi History Now, Farmers, the Populist Party, and Mississippi. Retrieved February 8, 2014. From http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/163/farmers-the-populist-party-and-mississippi-1870-1900

4. Reconstruction The second Civil War. (2014). Retrieved February 7, 2014. From

http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/reconstruction/activism/sf_rights.html

5. Revolution by Railroad. (2014). Retrieved February 7, 2014. From

http://paradoxmind.com/1302/Revolution%20by%20RR/1302_Unit_One_Intro.html

6. Immigration, Railroads, and the West. (2014). Harvard University Library. Retrieved

February 8, 2014. From http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/railroads.html

7. Friedman, M. (2010). Inflation Calculator. Retrieved October 02, 2010, From The

Inflation Calculator http://www.westegg.com/inflation/

8. Industrial Revolution Research, Industrial Revolution-Classes of People. (2014).

Retrieved February 8, 2014 From

http://industrialrevolutionresearch.com/industrial_revolution_classes_of_people.php

9. Industrial Revolution in America (2014). Child Labor in America. Retrieved February

7, 2014. From http://industrialrevolutioninamerica.com/864/social-effects/22769/child-labor-in-america.html

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