US Industrial Revolution Slide Lecture Notes
I. The Rise of Industrialism – a change in production from hand craftsmanship to machine
Toward the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, the US became
industrialized almost a hundred years after England.
More goods began to be produced by machines.
By 1880 the value of industrially manufactured goods exceeded that of farm production.
By 1900 the US ranked 1st in the world for industrial goods.
Sweeping technological developments brought about major societal changes, ushering American
society into the modern age and the realm of international relations.
II. Key Factors
Abundant supply of natural resources
* Coal in Pennsylvania and the West
* Oil reserves in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas and California
* Iron Ore near Lake Superior and across Minnesota.
* Approx. 150,000 miles of railroad tracks were laid from 1865 to 1900
* Opened trade coast to coast and internationally
Abundant Labor Supply
* Between 1865 and 1910 the number of people living in urban areas increased from less than
25% to over 50%
* Moved for economic opportunity / get away from the isolation of farm life
* New immigrants, mostly from southern and eastern Europe with others coming from Mexico
and China poured into cities in the late 19th Century.
III. Government Support for Industrialism
Provided loans and minimally regulated industry
Maintained laissez-faire – hands off – approach, imposing few regulations on private enterprise.
Viewed labor organizations with suspicion – there were few regulations requiring businesses to
protect worker safety, and employers paid no Social Security or unemployment compensation.
Taxes on personal incomes earned by the businessmen were not required until 1913, and tariffs
on imports were held high to protect domestic industry from foreign goods.
Imposed no environmental controls on industries, allowing timber cutting, land grabbing, coal
mining and cattle grazing on public domain.
Governments approach allowed unimpeded industrial growth, but workers and the environment
often suffered as a result.
IV. The Spirit of Innovation
Between 1860 and 1900, the US Patent Office granted over 676,000 patents to inventors of
machines, techniques and tools.
Urban centers and universities such as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology became
magnets for scientists, engineers, wealthy business entrepreneurs and skills artisans, many of
whom were filled with enterprising optimism.
inventors hoped to improve the life for individual Americans through better communication and
V. Steel is King
No single innovation affected technological change more
Henry Bessemer (Englishman) perfected the cold air pressure method for transforming iron ore
into steel, making steel both easy and cost-effective to produce. By the end of the 19th century
steel replaced iron as the master building material.
Railroads now had durable steel rails to carry heavier cars and powerful steel locomotives to
As cities became crowded there was need for more space – thus the skyscraper was born. Steel
girders in beams supported buildings many dozens of stories high.
Bridges resting on steel rather than iron, held greater and greater loads..
VI. Electricity Becomes Widespread
The introduction of electricity for widespread commercial and domestic use spurred innovation
Samuel F. B. Morse’s telegraph and Alexander G. Bell’s telephone successfully transmitted
speech across electrical wires
Businesses installed the newest electrical technology – escalators, elevators, doors with electrical
“eyes” and central heating appeared in many cities’ department stores.
Thomas A. Edison’s work with electrical lighting systems led to other inventions – incandescent
lamp filaments, generators and underground conductors that allowed city life to operate round
VII. Machines Increase Production
Elias Howe patented a sewing machine in 1846 that made it possible for seamstresses and tailors to
greatly increase garment production. Leading the mass production of “ready to wear” clothing.
Bicycle and automobile manufacturers took mass production a step further, using the assembly line
technique to speed up production even more. Machines such as those at Henry Ford’s automobile
production plants made single-task assembly lines a profitable production method.
VIII. Industrial Giants – changed concept that wealth was a birth status.
John D. Rockefeller and Oil
Andrew Carnegie and Steel
Other Industry Leaders
* Cornelius “Commodore” Vanderbilt = railroads
* Swift and Armour = meat-packing industry
* Guggenheim = copper
* McCormick = International Harvest Company
* Duke = Tobacco
* J. Pierpont Morgan = banking
IX. “The Gilded Age” 1890 – 1918
*Name given (by Mark Twain) to this era because of the extravagant lifestyle that the newly rich
lived. To him it seemed that the open displays of wealth among American elite society seemed like a cheap
picture frame – golden on the outside, but rotting on the inside.
X. Trusts and Government Corruption
The Rise of Industrial Trusts
By 1904, 319 industrial trusts had swallowed 5,300 previously independent manufacturers. 127 utility
trusts had taken over 2,400 small companies.
Trusts Influence Government Affairs
City Government Corruption
XI. Criticism and Defense of Big Business
Wide gap between the wealth and power of industrialists and average Americans
A few individuals controlled the majority of America’s natural resources, industries and utilities.
In 1900 the material worth of 1% of the population was greater than that of the 99% combined.
Industrialists Defend Big Business
Taken the greatest risks and entitled to profits
Carnegie’s “The Gospel of Wealth” – wealth was a sign of divine approval, but the wealthy should
be a “trustee for his poorer brethren”.
XII. The Impact of Industrialism
Industrialization Benefits the Middle Class
National wealth and income grew significantly between the late 1800s and the 1920s
New jobs for managers and technical workers, clerical and sales positions (mostly filled by women)
Some skilled workers were able to save money, move to better locations, buy property or send their
children to college.
Life for the Average Americans – Turn of the Century
Majority = candlepower, no indoor plumbing or heating, cooked on wood-fed stoves and could not
afford a telephone.
¼ of the population owned property
7% of Americans had a high school diploma -0 93% = No Diplomas
Did not enjoy the modern social organizations – country clubs, university alumni networks and other
exclusive social clubs
Industrial Working Conditions
10-12 hours, 6 days a weeks
Carnegie’s mills operated 24 hours a day, so there were 2 shifts – once a month laborers worked 24
hours when they exchanged hours.
Steel mill floors were so hot water sizzled, the furnace room belched fire and sparks – 100s of men
were killed working with the molten steel.
Repetitious work evoked the feeling of becoming a machine – very dehumanizing and demoralizing
– dreaded their destiny - to “become a hand – not a brain – not a soul – deadened into a part of a
Take home pay = $5 a week or $.8 an hour. Steel workers were paid $.16 an hour – keeping 1000s
of families at poverty levels.
Low Pay and Reasons to Stay
Despite hardships most workers grateful for employment
Having left extreme poverty in rural America, southern and eastern Europe, China and Mexico, most
workers sought to keep jobs long enough to return home richer, rejoin a wife or husband or buy land
in the US.
Job competition – new immigrants, soldiers returning from war
XIII. Change and Discrimination in the Work Force
Industrialism and Women
Secretarial and sales positions in city department stores and “white collar” offices.
Immigrant women (Jews in NY and Chicanos in LA) – gainful employment was crucial to families
economic stability. By 1910 over 70% of all Jewish girls 16 and older were working.
Women were paid less than men in comparable positions
1.75 million Child laborers joined the work force in the late 1800s.
Ages = 10-15, some were as young as 6
15 hour days in coal mines, canning factories, tobacco plants and garment factories.
Injury or death common Poorly ventilated and dimly lit workrooms
Minority and Immigrant Laborers
Mostly unskilled labor which paid low wages
Blacks entered the work force after the Civil War – unskilled factory workers or domestic servants.
Competed with Mexicans and Chinese for menial jobs
Accepted the lowest pay and the toughest jobs often working 7 days a week.
1889 - 92% of the cigar workers were Chinese in SF making $287 a year. White laborers = 91% of
SF’s jobs as seamstresses and tailors making $588 a year. The Chinese became motivated to set up
their own businesses such as laundries and restaurants.
Business managers recruited various ethnic labor groups and then pitted them against each other –
mainly to bust unions
XIV. Organized Labor
Labor Unions Emerge
a collective group they could influence big business
1897 – 400,000 union members / 1904 – 2 million
The Knights of Labor, leader - Terence Powderly,
American Federation of Labor (AFL), leader – Samuel Gompers, founded in 1886,
Industrial Workers of the World “Wobblies” – founded after the Knights of Labor dissolved. Led by
Daniel De Leon and Eugene Debs, socialist agenda.
Business Response to Labor
Fought the unions fight for more money and power
Government sided with the owners
Spread rumors about the unions
Strikes and Violence
1877 Pittsburgh – railway workers
1879 Chicago - Pullman
Succeeded in raising the morale of workers and commanding the respect and attention from big
Most industries set maximum work hours and provided workers’ compensation for injuries
By 1912 38 states had child labor laws in place as well as health standards
XV. Food Contamination and Muckrackers
Food and Drug companies were not regulated and there was no safeguard against poor-quality
products or misleading advertising. “Snake oil” drugs – containing dangerous ingredients. Canned
foods – dangerous chemical additives
The Meatpacking Industry
Upton Sinclair – writes “The Jungle” Went for their minds and landed in their stomachs. Meat
inspection laws passed after US soldiers died from tainted meat during the Spanish-American War.
XVI. The Toll on the Environment
Non-renewable or polluting fuels
Horded natural resources
Abused land-use laws
Mining and Deforestation
Native American lands
Timber and Stone Act 1878
Corrupt government officials
Clear-cutting = deforestation
Cattle and sheep ranchers overgrazed their livestock – reducing the land’s vegetation.
Air and Water Pollution
San Francisco and LA manipulated natural water sources through CA deserts and even the entire
Yosemite Valley to supply their own cities.
The water of the Chicago River near meatpacking plants was “a great open sewer a hundred or two
Industrial waste also contributed to cities smog levels and air pollution.
Environmental Reformers – Gifford Pinchot – American Conservation Movement = scientific
forest management, John Muir = total preservation