Industrialization increased significantly between 1877 and 1920 in the United States. This development had momentous effects on standards of living and on the nature of everyday life.
II. Technology and the Triumph of Industrialism
A. Birth of the Electrical Industry
Thomas Edison founded the Edison Electric Light Company, perfected the incandescent bulb, and devised a power generation and distribution system.
Westinghouse’s use of alternating current made transmission of electric power over long distances cheaper than Edison’s direct current method.
C. Henry Ford and the Automobile Industry
Henry Ford’s use of assembly?line methods in the automobile industry made cars more readily available.
D. Technology and Southern Industry
Invention of a machine to roll cigarettes combined with the marketing techniques of James B. Duke made the American Tobacco Company a large nationwide business by 1900.
E. Southern Textile Mills
Industrialization also aided the growth of southern textile industry and led to the emergence of mill towns in the South.
F. Influence of New Machines
New machines introduced in the late nineteenth century altered the economy and everyday life. Technological innovations also led to the emergence of large companies that could take advantage of economies of scale.
G. Frederick W. Taylor and Efficiency
With industrialization, efficient production became crucial to profits. Frederick W. Taylor’s methods of scientific management greatly influenced American thinking.
III. Mechanization and the Changing Status of Labor
A. Employment of Women
Employers cut wages by hiring more women, particularly for clerical and sales positions. Consequently, the number of women in domestic?service jobs decreased sharply.
B. Child Labor
A larger number of children began working in nonagricultural jobs, performing light tasks at low wages.
C. Wage Work
Many employers believed in the “iron law of wages” which allowed them to pay their workers as little as possible.
D. Industrial Accidents
Repetitive tasks dulled concentration, often resulting in serious injury, and industrial accidents increased steadily.
E. Courts Restrict Labor Reform
The Supreme Court overturned most hour laws, but in Muller v. Oregon, it allowed limiting women to ten?hour days, citing their health as a matter of public interest.
F. Railroad Strikes of 1877
The year 1877 witnessed a violent series of strikes aimed at the railroads. Hard times precipitated the incidents, and the strikers enjoyed the sympathy of other workers.
IV. The Union Movement
A. Knights of Labor
The Knights of Labor accepted all workers and advocated a harmony of interests among its members. Because the union opposed strikes, it had little bargaining power.
B. Haymarket Riot
In 1886, a demonstration at Haymarket Square erupted into a riot that revived middle-class fears of unions.
C. American Federation of Labor
The American Federation of Labor emerged as the major union. A craft union, the AFL pressed for shorter hours and the right to bargain collectively.
D. Pullman Strike
In 1894, workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company went on strike. Grover Cleveland, to ensure mail deliveries, sent troops to put down the strike.
Like the Knights of Labor, the IWW welcomed all workers, but it also advocated socialism and espoused the use of violence and sabotage.
F. Women and the Labor Movement
Many unions denied the inclusion of women workers, leading female employees to organize their own unions.
G. Immigrants, African Americans, and Labor Unions
Unions excluded most immigrant and black workers. Tensions increased when these workers served as strikebreakers.
V. Standards of Living
A. New Availability of Products
Products once considered luxuries became increasingly available to middle-class Americans during the late nineteenth century.
B. Cost of Living
Wage increases meant little because the cost of living rose faster than wages. Many working-class Americans could not afford the goods and services that the age offered.
C. Supplements to Family Income
By sending children and women into the labor force, or by renting rooms to boarders, many families earned enough to buy newly available goods.
D. Higher Life Expectancy
Technological and medical advances extended life spans during this period. Nevertheless, more people died of cancer, heart disease, murder, and automobile accidents.
VI. The Quest for Convenience
A. Flush Toilets
The flush toilet, which became a standard fixture in middle-class urban homes in the 1890s, caused a shift in habits and attitudes.
B. Processed and Preserved Foods
Mass-production of tin cans along with the advent of refrigerated railroad cars made available a wider variety of foods to different areas of the country.
C. Ready?Made Clothing
Sewing machines led to mass-produced clothes at low costs and uniform sizes, sparking an interest in fashions.
D. Department and Chain Stores
Department stores fueled consumerism. Also, the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (A&P) became the first grocery supermarket.
As supply outpaced demand, advertising helped persuade large groups of people to buy a specific product. Advertisers, mostly through newspapers, were charged with creating consumers who were loyal to a particular brand.
VII. The Corporate Consolidation Movement
A. Role of Corporations
Corporations provided an effective means to raise capital and many saw them as a way to break boom?and?bust cycles. Courts defined corporations as individuals and protected them under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Consolidation swept the United States. Congress outlawed pools, one popular device, in 1887.
Rockefeller used a “trust” to achieve horizontal integration of the petroleum industry.
D. Holding Companies
The emergence of holding companies led to vertical integration within some industries.
Corporate growth brought the rise of experts in financial organization. These men sold stock and borrowed from banks, driving the trading of stocks to a feverish level.
VIII. The Gospel of Wealth and its Critics
A. Social Darwinism
Businessmen subscribed to Social Darwinism, turning the theory of natural selection into laissez?faire economics.
B. Government Assistance to Business
Paradoxically, businessmen wanted government help in the form of subsidies, loans, and tariffs. They argued, however, against government assistance for labor.
C. Dissenting Voices
Critics said that trusts and other devices interfered with the American tradition of independence and opportunity.
D. Utopian Economic Schemes
Some critics, such as Henry George and Edward Bellamy, offered economic ideas aimed at the creation of a utopian society.
E. Antitrust Legislation
A few state governments moved to limit monopolies, and in 1890 Congress passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act. The law was vague and had little immediate effect on trusts since the courts rendered pro?business decisions.