Coming to America
Millions of newcomers to the United states left
their countries of birth for better lives.
From the 1880s to the 1920s immigrants from
Western and Eastern Europe came in huge
numbers to the U.S. through the Ellis Island
immigrant transfer station in New York Harbor.
Immigrants’ criminal and health records were
checked in reference to their countries of origin.
Immigrants deemed too sick or had deadly
diseases were sent back to their home countries
or quarantined [isolated] until they were well
enough to join the rest of the population.
Immigrant Labor and Work
Many of the new immigrants from Western and Eastern Europe were from
the peasant classes [uneducated, unskilled] and often encountered
discrimination and a language barrier.
Immigrant children often assimilated quickly but often spoke broken
Public school helped immigrant children with adjustment and assimilation.
Laborers often did piece work for local businesses manufacturing textiles
sewing [most often women and children]. Each item or “piece” was paid a
Women also worked outside the home in sweatshops in unsafe conditions
for very long hours at low wages.
Urbanization and City life
Populations of major U.S. cities such as New York, Chicago and Philadelphia
doubled from about 40 million in 1870 to about 80 million by 1900. Big cities
were often very crowded [densely populated].
Streets were filled with vendors and domestic animals [chickens, horses,
pigs] causing filthy and unsanitary conditions. High crime was rampant.
Urbanization of the United States concentrated large populations of people
New immigrants such as Western Europeans [Italians and Jews] were drawn
by the lure of industrial type jobs in factories.
New Immigrants vs. Old Immigrants
Old immigrants-From the 1600s to early 1800s most of the people who
arrived as immigrants to the United States were from English speaking
countries such as England, Scotland and Ireland. Many Germans and
French came to the U.S. as well. The dominant religion was Protestantism.
New immigrants from the mid-1800s to early 1900s did not speak English
and were mostly Catholic and Jewish.
The differences between the two groups caused resentment and conflict.
The Old immigrants wanted to preserve their language and culture and
preached nativism [favoring and maintaining original America].
Jane Addams and Settlement Houses
Hull House was a community center in Chicago that was created to help
newly arrived immigrants, especially women, transition to the New World.
Helped new comers cope with big city life and to learn English.
Provided cultural activities such as block parties, rent parties and street
festivals to raise money for the center and needy families.
Jane Addams provided free simple health care and job training for women.
Addams also advocated against child labor and sweat shops.
Living conditions of city dwellers
Cramped living conditions and poor sanitation facilities were common.
Dumbbell tenements were designed to maximize space by using a vertical
design [multiple floors] with long, narrow construction.
Communal bathrooms often used by multiple families increased the chance
of disease transfer and also created a lack of privacy for residents.
Early tenements also had poor ventilation [causing respiratory ailments]
and poor natural lighting due to a lack of windows throughout [one room
had window] the apartments.
Prior to introduction of fire escapes deaths due to fire were common.
Electric trolleys were used to transport people through city streets on top of
metal tracks similar to those used by railroads.
Mass transit lines were expanded in major cities such as Chicago and New
York [powered by overhead electric power lines].
Electric trolleys were eventually replaced by underground subways at the
turn of the 20th century.
Public transportation allowed easy and cheap transportation to work for poor
Inventions and Innovations
transport people vertically
within multi-story buildings in
major cities such as Chicago
and New York.
Alexander Graham Bell it
gave people the ability to
over long distances.
ability to write text in a faster
and more efficient manner.
Newspaper and magazine
writers, as well as book
authors, used these machines
to share the written word.
Bare-knuckled Irish-American brawlers such as John L. Sullivan and
“Gentleman Jim” Corbett fought as prize fighters during the mid-late 1800s.
In 1892 the two pugilists [boxers] fought before more than 10,000
spectators in New Orleans.
Corbett defeated Sullivan handing the legendary Irish boxer his first and only
Championship boxing matches were enormously popular in the early
Team sports became wildly popular with the advent of “basket ball” by Dr.
James Naismith in 1891 at Springfield, Massachusetts and baseball by
Alexander Cartwright in 1845 at Hoboken, New Jersey.
The popularity of the two sports sprang from the expansion of leisure time
among young American men. The desire to be competitive and physically fit
yet group oriented greatly enhanced the appeal of these sports. The two
“games” remain highly regarded to this day.
Jacob Riis and How the Other Half Lives
Jacob Riis was an immigrant from Denmark.
He was a photo-journalist [photographer who
told stories with photos] for New York City
He published thousands of photos showing how
immigrants lived in squalor [horrible poverty],
unsafe and unsanitary conditions.
In 1890 he published a collection of his photos
titled How the Other Half Lives showing how the
poorest of the urban poor lived.
Chinese Exclusion Act
Because Chinese workers were willing to work for extremely low
wages [lower than other immigrants] lots of resentment was
directed towards them.
Violent attacks on Chinese workers by white immigrants and poor
whites took place in San Francisco and other cities
The U.S. Federal Government passed a law called the Chinese
Exclusion Act in 1882 that banned Chinese immigration.
Frederick Law Olmstead
City life was stressful because of overcrowding, filth and crime.
Landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead was hired to design public
parks in large cities such as New York, Detroit and Chicago.
The purpose of public parks was to provide open spaces for recreation,
exercise and escape from the stress of city life.
New York City’s Central Park and Prospect Park were designed by Olmstead.
Entrepreneurs [business owners] created parks with exciting attractions
such as rides and strange acts to attract people to pay admission fees.
The most famous early American amusement park was Coney Island in
Brooklyn, New York. City residents could escape from city life for a time.
The park contained rides, restaurants, hotels, circus acts, freak shows,
beach and boardwalk [wooden road overlooking the seashore].
The most influential and
famous of all American
He patented hundreds of
inventions so he could
His most famous inventions
were the light bulb,
phonograph and movie
His inventions [especially
the light bulb] improved the
quality of life for Americans.
Time period from 1870-1910 when a small number of Americans became
extremely wealthy due to their exploitation of Laissez Faire policies of the
Railroads, The Steel industry and Oil companies controlled their business
sectors with complete control.
Competition between businesses was limited and prices of goods were very
There was a huge disparity [difference] between the rich and poor.
Captains of Industry
These were business owners who were ruthless and did everything they
could to be financially successful by controlling their types of business.
They were called captains of industry as a result of their tactics.
These men became very wealthy and powerful because they controlled
huge amounts of money.
Robber barons were business owners who sometimes broke the law
or twisted rules to their advantage in order to make huge amounts
They controlled the wealth of the United States by “stealing” money
from citizens with exorbitant pricing.
Drake was the first American to
successfully drill for and find
significant oil in the United States.
He discovered oil in Pennsylvania and
refined it into kerosene.
Kerosene was originally used for lamp
Because of his discovery other people
later drilled for oil and eventually also
became very wealthy.
John D. Rockefeller and Standard Oil
Rockefeller built on the success of Drake
and went into the oil business.
Because of the invention of cars and the
use of gasoline Rockefeller became
Rockefeller used a business strategy
called horizontal integration to
consolidate other businesses by taking
He was then able to create a monopoly
and charge whatever he wanted to.
Andrew Carnegie, Bessemer Process and U.S. Steel
Carnegie was a Scottish immigrant who was
very poor when he arrived in the United States.
He worked his way up to owner of U.S. Steel
Corporation which later became a monopoly in
the steel business.
He was shown the Bessemer process by a
chemist who demonstrated how to create high
quality steel for military weapons.
The Bessemer process enabled him to make
super strong steel in a quick manner using
oxidation [air blown through molten steel].
He also used a business strategy called
vertical integration which combined every
part of the steel business in order to make
Railroad and banking tycoon who
financed numerous businesses
and formed banking trusts
He cleverly acquired ownership
in companies that were often
He purchased U.S. Steel
Corporation from Carnegie for
He often forced companies to
dissolve when profits were
siphoned off [workers lost jobs]
The Vanderbilt family of New York dominated the railroad industry.
The ruthless Vanderbilt family was well known for charging high fees for
They were also well known for bribing members of the U.S. government
in order to get laws passed that would favor their business interests.
The Interstate Commerce Act greatly reduced the power of the railroads.
Westinghouse was an inventor from New York.
He made a fortune selling his railroad air brake.
He later made millions of dollars organizing the
Westinghouse Electric Company that used the
principle of AC [alternative current].
Electricity became very popular in many American
homes to power lights and appliances.
Some people believed the reason people
were rich was because they were
Nature favored much as the British
Naturalist Charles Darwin thought it
favored stronger creatures.
Poor people deserved their poverty
because they were inferior according to
the theory of Social Darwinism.
This concept of Social Darwinism was
used by the Robber Barons as
justification of their wealth.
Horatio Alger wrote a
series of inspirational
novels telling various rags
to riches tales.
The stories focused on
how kids from
were able to pull
themselves up by their
Very few of these stories
were real but they offered
hope for future success.
The Gospel of Wealth
Not all wealthy business owners were bad!
Andrew Carnegie, a robber baron, gave away almost all of his money
before he died.
He believed dying wealthy was a type of crime according to an essay
written by Andrew Carnegie.
His financial gifts funded public libraries and museums across America.
Therefore, according to Carnegie, the wealthy had a responsibility to do
good with their money through philanthropy.
The Workplace and workers
During the late 1800s and early 1900s places people worked were often
The risk of serious injury and death was always present.
Poor and dangerous working conditions such as faulty equipment, long
work hours and low pay often made working in factories unbearable.
Very low wages [the amount of pay workers received] forced people to
work many hours which made them very tired, angry and ineffective.
Because many families in large cities were often poor they sent their
young children [age 3 to teenagers] to work. Their lack of strength and
experience put them at high risk of injury.
Eventually many workers got smart and
united together to fight for better
working conditions and higher wages.
The groups of workers called
themselves labor unions.
Unions usually organized themselves by
the type of work they did such as
carpenters and shoemakers.
Trade unions and craft unions were
types of unions that were specific to
types of industries to protect those
types of workers.
For example a carpenters’ trade union
would protect the rights of carpenters.
Conflicts and labor leaders
Even with labor unions there were still problems
between workers and business owners.
Businesses often forced workers, as a condition of
employment, to sign yellow dog contracts which
forbade them from joining labor unions.
Labor union leaders such as Eugene V. Debs
encouraged members to go out on strike [walk out of
work] when they believed they were being treated
unfairly by employers.
Debs led the Pullman Strike in 1894 which led to
over 100,000 workers walking out on their railroad
Debs was jailed for his participation in the strike
because the effect of the strike was too negative.
Gompers learned from the failures of
Gompers led the American Federation of
Labor [A.F.L.] for over 40 years.
Federation=Group of separate entities [in
his case unions] that combines.
His most important strategy was to pool
the resources of different types of
The funds were used to support workers
during prolonged strikes.
He also championed closed shops which
did not allow non-union workers to work
in union dominated jobs.
Labor Strife and Unrest
Business/Labor conflicts were not always peaceful.
On May 4, 1886 rioting in Chicago’s Haymarket Square led to
multiple deaths and a bad reputation for unions.
The greatest mistake by the Knights of Labor [labor union with
different types of workers] was including skilled and unskilled
workers under one unified group.
Unskilled workers could be replaced by strike breaking scabs while
craftsmen [skilled workers] were not.
Skilled workers believed their jobs were unprotected.
Sherman Anti-Trust Act
The U.S. Government in 1890 tried to rein in the power of business trusts.
The shrewdest of businessmen hired lawyers who were able to find
loopholes in the law and avoid compliance.
Trusts were sometimes forced to break up into separate companies.
The best example of a corporate break-up was the 1911 break up of
Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Corporation.
The U.S. Government was bent on Trust busting after passage of the law
Homestead Strike and Steel Company tactics
Workers at Carnegie’s steel company wanted better working conditions and
The steel labor unions went on strike at the Homestead Steel Works.
Because the workers refused to agree to Carnegie’s terms they were
locked out [not allowed to work by the company].
Violence was threatened from both the Steel company and their workers.
After much negotiation, fighting and legal battles most of the striking
workers were blacklisted by U.S. Steel and not allowed to work in the
Political machines-strong political parties that control who
comes to power by using bribery and tight political organization.
Tammany Hall-The name of the New York City Democratic party
headquarters. Was well known for corruption led by party
leader William Boss Tweed.
Boss Tweed-Leader of Tammany Hall who used bribery and
extortion to rule New York City politics.
Graft-a technique of using bribery or stealing money by an
Civil Service System-a system of using tests to decide who gets
Pendleton Act-a federal law created to prevent corruption by
using merit instead of patronage and graft.
Thomas Nast’s cartoons
A New York City cartoonist named Thomas Nast criticized the
corruption and illegal activities of Tweed and other government
His cartoons were so effective because readers did not have to
know how to read to understand what Nast was describing.
Eventually the pressure applied by Nast led to Tweed’s arrest,
prosecution and imprisonment.
Scandals, Corruption and ways to stop it
Crédit Mobilier scandal-An example of government officials taking
bribes from railroad companies,
Whiskey Ring scandal-Terrible example of corruption by U.S.
Government officials who stole Whiskey taxes.
Secret ballot (Australian)-Type of voting system that protected
privacy of voters [ex. Voters did not reveal who they voted for].
Initiative-A type of vote started by the citizens [usually to get
something changed] such as raising the drinking age.
Referendum-A type of law passed by the citizens of a country
instead of a legislature.
Recall-A vote to fire an elected official before his term is over
because the voters do not like his performance.
Group of people who rebelled and
left the Republican party because
they were tired of corruption.
James Blaine ran for president in
1884 but lost the elections
because he was considered too
A criticism of the Mugwumps was candidate James
that they had a holier than
thou toward morality as if they
were above criticism themselves.
Sherman Anti-Trust Act
Federal law passed by Congress
to break up Trusts.
The trusts formed monopolies
that controlled prices of goods
such as oil and steel.
This legislation broke up the
Standard Oil company.
The law gave the U.S.
Government more power to
regulate businesses and protect
U.S. v. E.C. Knight, Co.
This U.S. Supreme Court case was important because it ruled
against the federal government on the key issue of Big Business.
The U.S. government wanted to break up sugar trusts.
The Court ruled that Big Sugar did not pose a significant enough
threat to the United States because sugar was not essential.
What is Imperialism?
Root word is Empire.
An empire is a powerful nation with
powerful leadership that seeks to
acquire and control weaker nations.
Sometimes the more powerful nations
allow the weaker nations to rule
themselves [ex. Ancient Rome].
Most of the time the Empire
assimilates the weaker nation into the
Empire and forces it into submission
[ex. Soviet Union].
Some Americans believed it was
the U.S. government’s duty to
save foreign countries from
themselves [religiously and
Reverend Josiah Strong
preached that “we must
Christianize them,” by spreading
our values to the “backward”
people of the world.
Former U.S. Navy officer Alfred
Mahan believed the U.S. should
build and maintain a powerful
navy to assert world dominance. Admiral Alfred T. Mahan
Mahan gave many examples of
world powers who used such a
Emboldened by American war hawks
and sensationalist newspapers
America became more aggressive
America entered into a policy of
jingoism that stressed U.S. military
power and territorial expansion
The immediate result was the
acquisition of Puerto Rico, Cuba,
Guam and the Philippines from
the Spanish-American War.
What was the problem with this
The U.S. created more enemies and
envious foreign competitors.
There were many Americans who believed white people
were “better” than non-whites.
Because of superior standard of living and Christian
beliefs many people believed Americans were justified in
taking over less developed or civilized countries.
The White Man’s Burden
Building on what Josiah Strong preached many Americans believed it
was the responsibility of white Americans to spread Christianity,
democracy and American goods to foreign countries.
If white America did not do it no one else was capable of doing it
according to this way of thinking.
In 1867 [2 years after the end of the U.S. Civil War] Secretary of State
William Seward was able to get the U.S. Senate to agree to a treaty
with Russia to buy Alaska for $.02 per acre [totaling $7.2 million].
The U.S. increased its size by about 20%. Eventually massive oil
deposits were discovered which the U.S. still uses today.
A major result of this acquisition was that it wetted the appetite
[influenced] of the United States to become imperialist.
Annexation of Hawaii
Americans such as Sanford Dole
whose families had moved to
Hawaii in the 1830s and 1840s
were initially welcomed warmly
by Hawaii’s monarchy.
Fruit Planter Sanford Dole
After newer larger plantation
owners came to Hawaii in the
1870s and 1880s they pushed to
remove the Queen.
Rich fruit company owners led
by Dole’s descendants convinced
the U.S. military to dethrone and
remove Queen Liliokalani.
Hawaii was officially annexed
[taken over] by the U.S. in 1898.
It later became the 50th state in
Hawaii’s Queen Liliokalani
A U.S. warship was sent to Havana Harbor in Cuba to protect U.S. interests
Cuba at the time was still a Spanish possession.
There was tension between the U.S. and Spain because Spain held
territories within the United States’ sphere of influence.
Aboard the USS Maine were tons of explosives that were not tightly
guarded or secured.
A huge explosion occurred killing at least 266 U.S. personnel.
U.S. newspaper articles speculated that Spain had sunk the ship. The U.S.
declared war on Spain and defeated her within 113 days.
Splendid Little War
Due to the aggression and strong naval
power of the United States it was able
to defeat Spain with 113 days.
Secretary of War John Hay wrote a
short letter to President Teddy
Roosevelt from London stating that he
thought the Spanish-American War had
been a “Splendid Little War.”
He most likely believed this because:
[a] it was short and the United States did
not suffer large numbers of casualties
[b] the U.S. acquired several territories.
The spirit of Jingoism throughout the United States had spread as the war
with Spain spread to Asia.
Commodore [High ranking U.S. Navy officer] George Dewey was in
charge of the invasion of the Philippines which was also a Spanish colony.
To make the invasion easier and more successful Dewey reached out to a
Filipino rebel named Emilio Aguinaldo to help fight the Spanish.
Within weeks of the invasion the Philippines was captured by the U.S.
The Rough Riders
Due to the destruction and low morale created by the U.S. Civil War the
U.S. Military [especially the army] had very low numbers.
In order to field a force able to battle Spain in the so-called Spanish-
American War more than 1,000 volunteers were called to serve by
Former NYC police commissioner and state legislator Theodore Roosevelt
was selected as second in command of the 1st Cavalry Brigade.
The Rough Riders
Many of the soldiers were very
Veterans of the U.S. Civil War and
Western Indian Wars were eager to
see action in Cuba.
The group included gamblers, army
veterans, hunters, Buffalo soldiers,
Native-Americans and college
students. Lt. Colonel Roosevelt
Within weeks of their arrival in Cuba
the Rough Riders were triumphant in
key battles including the famous and
decisive Battle of San Juan Hill.
Their exploits enabled the U.S. to
defeat Spain and liberate Cuba.
The Panama Canal
The Panama Canal was completed by
the U.S. after a long and dangerous 10
France had earlier failed miserably in its
attempt to build the Canal.
Many people died during the long,
tedious and dangerous construction.
THE PURPOSE OF THE CANAL WAS TO
ENSURE THAT MARKETS IN SOUTH
AMERICA AND ASIA WOULD BE
OPENED TO THE UNITED STATES.
The Panama Canal shortened shipping
time and distance between the U.S. and
Latin America as well as Asia.
The Teller Amendment and Cuba
President McKinley sought authority [War Message] from Congress to
attack Spain as revenge for the USS Maine.
Senator Teller of Colorado added an amendment to the war
declaration that would forbid the U.S. from establishing a permanent
colony in Cuba.
Cuba would be liberated and allowed to be an independent nation.
Both new immigrants and long standing Americans had a “hunger for words.”
Inexpensive newspapers were common in every major city and most people at
least read the Front Page Headlines. Most people believed anything that was
written in the newspapers
Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst competed for readers and
lucrative advertising dollars by publishing sensational and scandalous stories.
Crime, corruption, sex and scandal attracted readers to the daily newspapers.
The money and influence gained by these newspapermen struck fear in the
hearts of their enemies and the government.
Treaty of Paris in 1898
of State John
In order to end the Spanish-American War Spain and the U.S. met in Paris
to sign a peace agreement called the Treaty of Paris [several earlier
treaties were also called that].
The most important part of the agreement was the transfer of Puerto Rico,
Guam and Cuba to the U.S. [Cuba was later given its independence]. The
Philippines was later purchased for $20 million by the U.S. The U.S.
Senate ratified the treaty 2 months later.
The Platt Amendment
The Platt Amendment was added to a federal law in 1901.
The purpose of the Platt Amendment was to ensure that Cuba would
remain tied to the United States [even after independence].
The following conditions were placed on Cuba:
[a] Cuba must not make treaties that would weaken its independence.
[b] Cuba must allow the U.S. to buy or lease the Guantanamo Bay naval
[c] Cuba must keep debts low to avoid foreign conflicts and wars.
[d] The U.S. reserved the right to involve itself to maintain order and
President Wilson’s Mexican problem
Mexican rebel leader
After territorial acquisitions in Latin America and Asia the United
States had a “reputation” to maintain.
The Monroe Doctrine and Roosevelt Corollary set precedents for the
U.S. to show force in its sphere of influence.
In the 1910s corruption and political unrest led to a revolution in
The Mexican Army overthrew its corrupt dictator Porfirio Diaz and
replaced him with General Victoriano Huerta.
The U.S. was not pleased with the situation and with military force
[naval bombardment] installed a new president that Mexican rebels
hated Venustiano Carranza.
The Elusive Pancho Villa and General Black Jack Pershing
Mexican forces led by rebel Pancho Villa would not accept President
Carranza and as a result conducted raids [swift, violent military invasions]
into U.S. areas such as New Mexico and Arizona.
U.S. President Wilson sent General Pershing into Mexico to capture Villa to
end the raids.
Pershing was never able to find and capture Villa who to many Mexicans
became a symbol of independence and defiance of the United States.
Other people simply called Villa a lawless bandit.
U.S. Army General Jack Pershing Mexican rebel leader Pancho Villa
After the Spanish-American
War several prominent U.S.
citizens, especially intellectuals,
opposed American imperialist
People such as John Dewey,
Mark Twain, Jane Addams and
Andrew Carnegie believed
imperialism especially in Asia
[the Philippines specifically]
was an abrogation of the
republican principles the U.S.
was founded on.
Open Door Policy
From 1898-1900 the United States and European countries competed for
spheres of influence throughout China.
After the United States acquired the Philippines after the Spanish-American
War it wanted to expand its Asian markets.
Although there was much apprehension and constant mistrust among
China’s guest countries Chinese ports were open to foreign trade.
In response to perceived exploitation by foreign countries young Chinese men,
many of whom were martial artists, rebelled against Western nations with the
tacit approval of the Chinese empress.
Off and on for roughly 2 years battles between the Boxers and foreign nations
occurred in many provinces throughout China.
Western nations convinced China’s empress that ending the war was beneficial
to her and the nation.
China executed many Boxers by beheading and paid reparations to Western
The Roosevelt Corollary
Roosevelt built onto the foreign
policy established by President
The Monroe Doctrine asserted
the U.S. would respond militarily
if European powers interfered in
the Caribbean and Latin America.
Roosevelt added that the U.S.
would intervene by force, if
necessary, into the affairs of
Caribbean nations if they could
not pay debts or posed a threat
to U.S. interests.
Big Stick Diplomacy
To assert and maintain control of the American sphere of influence
President Teddy Roosevelt used what he called Big Stick Diplomacy.
His motto [borrowed from ad old African proverb was “speak softly and
carry a big stick.”]
The metaphor was meant to clearly state his intent to carry out a foreign
policy based on strong military action when needed to support U.S.
interests. Echoing Alfred Mahan’s opinion that a strong navy would aid
this mission the U.S. Navy was essential to projecting U.S. power.
Roosevelt decided not to run for re-
election in 1908.
His protégé William Howard Taft won the
Taft decided to maintain U.S. foreign
policy influence by using financial
resources to bribe, loan or prop up failing
The use of military force was minimized
compared to the Monroe Doctrine and
President Woodrow Wilson proposed and supported alternatives to the
Monroe Doctrine and the Roosevelt Corollary.
Instead of using violence and military force Wilson promoted American
idealism and threatened non-recognition of foreign countries [especially
Latin American nations].