high school history class, I remember being told, “If you live anywhere besides
on a farm, you can be grateful for the Industrial revolution.” I’m sure my
teacher meant nothing against farm-living, I think he just meant to illustrate
the significance of industries in the United states. The Industrial Revolution,
which reached the United States in the 19th century, greatly reshaped American
culture and had a significant impact on global history. If the American
Revolution sparked the birth of a nation, the Industrial Revolution marked that
nation’s growth into maturity. The Industrial Revolution altered all aspects of
American life, from the economy to politics and the fabric of society itself.
Industrialization played important roles during history, especially during Reconstruction,
The Gilded Age, and to the start of World War 1.
era of Reconstruction
The era of reconstruction was preceded by the Civil War. The
Civil War, also known as “The War Between the States,” was fought between the
United States of America (the North) and the Confederate States of America (the
South). The Confederacy was a group of eleven southern states that left the
Union in 1860 and 1861 and formed their own country to preserve slavery 1. Reconstruction
took place for most of the decade following the Civil War.
this era, the “Reconstruction Amendments” were passed to expand civil
rights for African Americans. Those amendments included the Thirteenth
Amendment, which outlawed slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment that guaranteed
citizenship for all people born or naturalized within U.S. territory, and the
Fifteenth Amendment that granted the vote for all men regardless of race. While
the Civil Rights Act of 1875 forbade discrimination in the service of public
facilities, the Black Codes denied blacks certain privileges readily available
to whites 1.
Industrialization played a big part of reconstruction in
the South after the civil war. The destruction caused during the Civil War left
Southern railroads totally destroyed, so many were rebuilt during the postwar
Reconstruction period. During reconstruction, the scale of industry grew as
factories employed big numbers of people compared to the small shops that had
earlier dominated manufacturing. In addition, the introduction of new
technologies made production more efficient, thereby reducing costs and
of the reason for such growth during the late nineteenth century was the
harnessing of the extensive natural resources of the nation. Agricultural
production, itself improved because of the introduction of labor-saving
machinery (such as steam-powered harvesters), dramatically increased as the
number of landless industrial laborers who no longer grew their own crops
created an important domestic market for agricultural products.
change affected the nature and organization of work after the Civil War. The
mechanization, scale, capital investment, and other factors that shaped
managerial capitalism during the late nineteenth century also undermined the
control that industrial laborers exercised within the workplace. As
manufacturing became more mechanized, the demand for workers with lower skill
levels increased. As a result, laborers had difficulty in sustaining the belief
that workers would eventually become owners and began to realize that they
would experience limited socio-economic mobility. The terrible working
conditions, the long hours, the insufficient pay and low wages, the poor
housing and living conditions all contributed to a challenging and difficult
existence and to the formation of unions to protect their interests.
reason that union movements are significant to U.S. history is because it was
the only way for workers in factories to get better working conditions. The
workers of the 1880s had to petition for them and sometimes they even had to
riot to get what they wanted (ex: Haymarket Riot, 1886).
“Gilded Age” refers to the period following Reconstruction, when the American
economy grew at its fastest rate in history. Big businessmen, not politicians,
controlled the new industrialized America of the Gilded Age. During this time,
the United States experienced a population and economic boom that led to the
creation of an incredibly wealthy upper class. Because of the
success of the Western expansion, the gold rush in California and resources in
Western North America, the demand for railroads led the way for much of the
Gilded Age. The production of iron and steel rose dramatically because of
improved technologies in factories and western resources like lumber, gold and
silver increased the demand for improved transportation. Due to the flourishment
of many industries, the country witnessed a flow of immigrants who came into
the country in search of better job and greater opportunities 1.
also played a major role in World War 1. Without industrialization, world war
one would not have been possible. It allowed for new machinery to be produced
and at a much faster rate than ever before. Armored vehicles, tanks, missiles,
war planes, and ammunition could be mass produced due to industrialization.
Mass production in factories churned out not only large numbers of standardized
guns and bullets, but also boots, uniforms and tents. Without
industrialization, it would not have been a “world” war and would have probably
resembled battles against Native American Indians with bows & arrows, or,
civil war style with inaccurate muskets & cannons.
One way I can think of how industrialization took
advantage of Americans is that During World War 1, many factories were forced
to start producing war materials instead of their regular materials. Farmers
were told to produce more agriculture & extra food to send over seas for
soldiers. After the war was over, the farmers weren’t able to continue producing
which eventually snowballed into one of the causes of the Great Depression.
To me, industrialization is more than copper factories,
railroads, and heavy machinery. Its changed, and continues to change, our very
way of life. It changed how they managed waste, located drinking water, and acquired
clothing. I understood what my teacher was saying, however, I still would like
to live on a farm than a bustling city for a change.
1 Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: an American History. W.W. Norton, 2017.