Expository essay on Industrialization
Table of Contents
The industrial revolution in America began in 1793 when the first cotton mill was brought to the US by Samuel Slater, however, the revolution never really took off till the Civil War ended. Following the end of the War, the US urgently focused on rebuilding the economy, propelling industrialization to move at a much quicker speed (Boyer et al., 2012). The US expanded into new territories that had numerous natural resources. Traversing through this territory was made possible by the construction of the transcontinental railroad which was constructed largely due to the Pacific railroad Acts that enabled railroad corporations to acquire land for every mile of railroad constructed. The other propelling force was the immigration to America which saw more than 14 million people migrate to America from 1860-1900. The migrants provided a solid labor force to the country (Boyer et al., 2012).
Following the end of the 1865 civil war, the innovations that came forth in technology, management, transportation and production changed the manner in which businesses were expanding. The rising population rate facilitated American enterprises to rise to unprecedented levels (Boyer et al., 2012). The fundamental features of the industrialization that occurred in America comprised speeding up technological innovation, workers got involved in the workforce, expansion of markets created monopolies, growth and expansion of transportation infrastructure on the basis of railroads, coal deposits explosion and significant drop in prices. Because of the fast growth of innovations in technology, the steel, railroad, coal and railroad industries greatly excelled. Moreover, rise of monopolistic competition led to significant drop in prices and creation of jobs for thousands of people (Boyer et al., 2012). Nevertheless, the power fuelling the expansion of the industrial transformation was in the labor leader’s hands.
This is best illustrated by the career of Andrew Carnegie which shows the close relationship between the expansion of railroad and the rise of management and business organization. It all started with the hiring of Andrew Carnegie in 1852 as a personal telegrapher and secretary of western division of Railroads. Carnegie successfully reduced expenditure while simultaneously doubling the railroads mileage and formed several networks across the industry leading him to form a private steel mill that enabled him manufacture top quality steel (Boyer et al., 2012). Carnegie first discovered the merits of vertical integration (controlling all manufacturing aspects). Carnegie was therefore capable of controlling each phase starting from mining, smelting to selling steel rails (Boyer et al., 2012).
The steel that Carnegie produced would become a principal example of the way novel technological innovations coupled with innovative management would result in a mass production system which not only raised production but also cut consumer prices. Carnegie Steel employed more than twenty thousand Americans and became one of the biggest corporations. However, due to this monumental growth, competition started worrying its dominance. With the steel industry dominated by Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller on the other hand dominated the oil industry. Just like Carnegie, Rockefeller was passionate about efficiency and cost cutting. Rockefeller in 1882 got rid of competition by coming up with a new kind of corporate firm, referred to as Standard Oil Trust (Boyer et al., 2012).
Thus the two industrialists eradicated competition by taking over two of the biggest industries in the 19th century. During this period, other factors proved to be similarly as significant, for instance new inventions, innovations in marketing and specialty productions (Boyer et al., 2012). Several inventions like the light bulb, telephone as well as the sewing machine were discovered during this time. Nevertheless, the most significant invention at this era was the light bulb that was designed by Thomas Edison, leading to the replacement of oil lamps. Thus, inventions had quickly become huge business with manufacturers dramatically expanding economic output (Boyer et al., 2012).
Unskilled labor demand shot up because of the growth of the factory system. Many of these laborers were known as “common laborers” and were only employed when there was a need. This employment was characterized by excessive hours and a below $1.5 wage. Moreover, the factory working conditions were very dangerous. This led to the formation of two groups; Knights of labor and National Labor Union whose core mandate was fighting for equal pay for both men and women, ending child labor and reduction of working hours. The industrialization thrust the US into the arena of the major powers in the world, reduced the cost of goods via mass production, created thousands of job opportunities in addition to producing a broad assortment of new products. Whereas not everything concerning US industrialization was perfect, nonetheless, it proved to be a key step forward into the transformation journey of America into the country it is currently (Boyer et al., 2016).
Mabel Barbee in 1958 published Cripple Creek Days, a story whereby a teacher narrates the experience of being brought up towards the end of 1800’s in a mining town. Johnson R. Barbee, the author’s father was an extremely respected man and was a miner in the Cripple Creek mountains. Mabel’s father migrated to Cripple Creek in search of gold, with the family following in 1892 (Lee, 1984). Mabel was sent to school by her father since he didn’t want her to become a housewife like his wife Kitty. Mabel would go to Colorado College, though her father passed on one year to her graduation. Upon her graduation, Mabel went to become a school teacher and would later marry Howard Shields Lee-a miner just like her dad. Following the death of her husband, Mabel went back to teaching and served as dean at Colorado College and afterwards at University of California (Lee, 1984).
Mabel depicts just how significant construction of railroads was to the immigrants of the West. Whenever an announcement was made that a railroad would pass through a certain town, everyone would get excited about it. Thus, when the mayor of Cripple Creek announced that his city would grow due to the new railroad, everyone was in agreement with him. Mabel’s memoir offers historians a glimpse of how life was like during that era. The major similarity between the industrial cities and mining towns was the allure of wealth which was always not there. Factory workers in industrial towns braved grueling hours, attempting to achieve wealth, and miners kept mining with the hope of striking it rich.
Nonetheless, much of the wealth was owned by a few individuals. Industrial cities were also known to attract immigrants from world over. Several individuals migrated westwards and settled in mining towns. Whereas there existed a lot of similarities, many differences also arouse. Industrial cities apart from having plenty of work were also big in size. Historians could utilize this memoir in understanding the way of life in the industrial era, more so the concept that the men of the day worked extremely hard, though many of them never got rich. Historians can also learn that the women during this time were left lonely as homemakers as exhibited in the story of Kitty and Mable who both claimed that miners’ wives lived lonely lives (Lee, 1984).
In conclusion, the characteristic existence for mining towns was frequently very short due to the fact that resources would soon dry up and people would abandon the town. Nonetheless, Cripple Creek was exceptional and was not only bustling but also prospered. When Mable returns many years later, she discovers that the town had transformed complete with new people and buildings. This is one of the traits of the western mining cities of that time. Many of them became ghost towns, while others thrived into western commerce centers (Lee, 1984).
Samuel Gompers was a renown immigrant sugar manufacturer who in 1886 headed the American Federation of Labor (AFL) until 1924 when he died. Gompers advocated for trade unionism and was of the opinion that there was need for higher wages to enable workers to live with dignity, respect and decently (Brands, 2011).
The Knights of Labor, formed in 1869, promoted the cultural and social fortification of the workers (both unskilled and skilled), rejected radicalism and socialism, asked for an 8 hour working day, and passionately encouraged the producers republicanism ethic. The movement had a diverse history of exclusiveness and inclusiveness, accepting blacks and women. The membership of the movement had peaked at an high time all of 1886 (Brands, 2011).
John D. Rockefeller hailed from Cleveland and was a renown merchant and co-founded Standard Oil Company and employed vertical integration and cost-cutting to transform the petroleum industry. He aggressively eradicated competition, owning over 90 percent of the US oil at some time. Rockefeller was the first man in America whose net worth surpassed a billion dollar mark. On seeing Rockefeller’s success, corporations in copper, tobacco, whiskey, lead and sugar all began trust agreements, forcing the government to abolish trusts as well as denouncing monopolies. It is Rockefeller who altered the course of running businesses in America (Zinn, 2010).
The Social Gospel
During the 1870s to 1880s, a number of protestant ministers were moved by the plight of slum dwellers in the US and through the application of Christian Ethics sought to end the prevailing social problems. The Social Gospel under the leadership of Washington Gladden was formed to apply his Christian convictions in fighting social problems like economic inequality, alcoholism, poverty, child labor, racial bias, labor laws and crime. The movement tried uniting all Churches to be part of the cause, however, in the end its only a few Protestant ministries that joined. Several of the members were convinced that Christ’s Second Coming would occur only if mankind eradicated social evils from its midst. The Social Gospel movement added to the rising number of dissenting voices against America’s urban woes of the time (Zinn, 2010).
Interstate Commerce Act
The act, passed in 1887 by the Congress with the aim of banning monopolies that dominated the railroad industries. Thus a 5 member commission formed regulated interstate railroads and kept rates “just and reasonable.” Nevertheless the law was not enforced since it did not grant the government the right of fixing rates, forcing the US government to develop new techniques for ending monopolies in different industries (Zinn, 2010).
- Boyer, P., Clark, C., Halttunen, K. (2016). The Enduring Vision, Volume II: Since 1865. New York: Cengage Brain.
- Boyer, S., Clark, C., Halttunen, K., (2012). The Enduring Vision: A History of the American People, Volume II: Since 1865 … New York: Cengage Learning.
- Brands, H. W. (2011). American colossus: The triumph of capitalism, 1865-1900. New York: Anchor Books.
- Keene, J. D., Cornell, S., & O’Donnell, E. T. (2017). Visions of America: A history of the United States.
- Zinn, H. (2010). A people’s history of the United States. New York : Harper Perennial.
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