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Industrialization of the United States


Jonathan D. Brown
April 2014/Education 405



Industrialization of the United States

The Industrial Revolution was marked by the introduction of steam power
and the factory system. Coal and iron became key resources. Around the 1850s, the
Industrial Revolution entered a new phase, dominated by steel, oil, and a major
new power source - electricity. This second revolution had a distinctly American

The Civil War encouraged production, innovation, and expansion of the

railroads. The United States's ample natural resources including oil, fueled more
growth. New technology and innovative business practices spurred even more
growth, prompted the government create policies that encouraged investment in
business and new technology, and gave rise to big business and business tycoons.
Industrialization changed the way Americans worked and lived.

Immigrants willing to work for low wages flowed into the country providing
a growing workforce to meet the increasing demand for labor in the nation's
factories. The cityscape of America begins to grow and change. Many Americans
feared that these new immigrants would destroy American culture. Instead,
Americans begin to adopt parts of immigrant cultures, while the immigrants
adopted parts of the American culture.

Immigrants fueled growth, acquired citizenship, and helped the United

States to become a world power. Immigrants began to demand a voice, they
became active in labor unions and politics. They lobbied for for policies to protect
the poor and powerless and used their votes to elect favorable governments. The
political leaders they supported became powerful. Union leaders demanded
reforms that helped immigrants as well as all laborers. Immigrants expanded the
definition of American.



Cities begin to expand, this upsurge in urbanization both reflected and fueled
massive changes in the ways Americans lived. Urban people lived differently than
rural people. They worked on schedules, rode trolly cars, paid rents to live in
apartment buildings, and interacted with strangers. These urban values began to
become part of the American culture. As the cities swelled in size, politicians and
workers struggled to keep up with the demands of growth to provide water, sewers,
schools, and safety. American innovators stepped up to the task by developing new
technologies to improve living conditions.

Americans began to become consumers, more products became available

than ever before and at lower prices. All but the poorest working-class laborers
were able to do and buy more than they have in the past. Consumers began to
notice and buy brand-name goods. Americans began to measure success by what
they could buy. The rich were richer than ever before, and the middle class tried to
imitate their lifestyle. Americans all across the country became more and more
alike in their consumption patterns creating a mass culture of consumerism.

Newspapers began to circulate far and wide, both reflecting and helping to
create a mass culture. The job of newspapers became to inform people and to stir
up controversy; filled with exposes of political corruption, comics, sports, and
illustrations. They were designed to get the widest possible readership, rather than
report the news. Art and literature flourished as well, taking critical looks at
society, exploring the harsh realities, and capturing the starkness and squalor of
New York City slums and street life.

The newspapers and literature flourished, in part, because more Americans

could read. Public education had expanded rapidly. Grade-school education
became compulsory, many locales provided public high schools, and kindergartens
began to appear. Americas literary rate climbed 90 percent. Schools began teaching
courses in science, woodworking, and drafting; providing skills that workers
needed in budding industries. Urban leaders counted on schools to help
Americanize immigrants, teaching them English and shaping them into good



Americans began to enjoy new forms of entertainment. Clubs, music halls,

and sports venues attracted large crowds with time and money to spend. The
middle-class began to take vacations, and looked for opportunities to escape the
busy city. The first roller coaster was introduced in Coney Island, and similar
amusement parks began to be built around the country within easy reach of the

Outdoor events like such as Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show toured America.
In the cities Vaudeville shows offering musical drama, songs, and off-color comedy
began to spring up across the country. Movie theaters, called nickelodeons, soon
introduced motion pictures to Americans. Baseball, horse racing, bicycle racing,
boxing, and football become popular spectator sports.

New industries began to spread through the South, while railroads begin to
link cities and towns. Despite these changes the South continued to lag behind the
rest of the country. Farmers begin to band together, organizing and then negotiating
for lower prices on supplies. Black Southerners began to gain and lose, enabling
them to vote and serve in the government and military, and giving them access to
education, and learning to read and write. Unfortunately some white Southerners
began to focus their frustrations on trying to reverse the gains African Americans
had achieved during reconstruction.

Westward expansion begins leaving Native American culture irrevocably

changed. The government carried out a policy of moving Native Americans out of
the way of white settlers. Gold and silver had been discovered in Indian Territory
as well as settled regions farther west. Americans wanted a railroad that crossed the
continent. Native Americans and white settlers were on a collision coarse. Indians
fought to retain or regain whatever they could.

Hostilities intensified. The cost of human struggle drew a public outcry and
called the government's Indian policy into question. Indians were left to live in
confined areas as wards of the government; policy makers hoped Indians would
become farmers and be assimilated into national life by adopting the culture and
civilization of whites.


Settlers, ranchers, and miners permanently transformed millions of acres of
western land. Mining was the first great boom in the west, and gold and silver
attracted a vast number of people. As the west grew the need for railroads for
transportation grew, and a massive undertaking to complete a transcontinental
railroad was underway. Chinese and Irish immigrants were brought in to provide
labor for railway construction.

The effects of the railroads were far reaching. They tied people together,
moved products and people, and spurred industrial development. The railroads also
stimulated the growth of towns and cities. The demands for more Indian land
increased, more white settlers came; and even Mexican American communities
were overwhelmed. There was no turning back the tide as waves of pioneers
moved west.

Cattle ranching fueled another western boom. This was sparked by the vast
acres of grass suitable for feeding herds of cattle. Once the railroad provided the
means to move meat to eastern markets, the race was on for land and water.
Ranchers would hire cowboys to comb thousands of acres of open range to roundup cattle that had been roaming. These cattle drives would conclude in railroad
towns such as Dodge City, Kansas, where the cattle were sold and the cowboys
were paid.

The Great Plains were the last part of the country to be settled by white
people. The life of these homesteaders was hard. Windstorms, blizzards, droughts,
plagues of locusts, and heart rendering loneliness tested their endurance. There is a
very sharp contrast between the picture of the west depicted in novels and movies
and the reality of life on the Plains. The west was a place of rugged beauty, but was
also a place of diversity and conflict.

The last major land rush took place when the federal government opened the
Oklahoma Territory to homesteaders. The following year a national census
concluded that there was no longer a square mile of the United States that did not
have at least a few white residents. The country no longer had a frontier, which had


been considered uninhabited wilderness where no white man lived. The era of
western expansion had ended.

Segregation and social tensions begin to rise. Southern states reassert their
control over African Americans, enacting Jim Crow laws to keep blacks and
whites segregated. African Americans refused to accept second-class citizenry.
They established black newspapers, women's clubs, fraternal organizations,
schools and colleges, and political association with the goal of securing their

Chinese immigrants faced racial prejudice on the West Coast. California

barred cities from employing people of Chinese ancestry. Like African Americans,
brave Chinese immigrants challenged discrimination, and also turned to federal
courts to protect their rights. The courts ruled that individuals of Chinese descent,
born in the United States, could not be stripped of their citizenship.

Like African Americans and Asian Americans, Mexican Americans struggled

against discrimination, at the center of their struggle was property rights. Anglo
Americans used political connections to take away land from the Mexican
Americans. Whites got the federal government to grant control of millions of acres
of land in New Mexico. Mexicans resented the loss of land and formed groups that
aimed to protect the rights and interests of the people in general, and to protect the
culture and legal rights of Mexican Americans.

Women began to fight for their rights to vote, to own property, and to receive
education. The National Woman Suffrage Association fought for a constitutional
amendment that would grant women the right to vote, but failed to convince the
nation to enact a women's suffrage amendment. Women's rights activists did
succeed in increasing the number of women attending college, and by 1900, one
third of all college students, nationwide, were women. Women also played an
increasingly important role in a number of reform movements, and promotes social
causes such as public health and welfare reform.



Political corruption characterized the political scene during this time and
raised the question as to whether or not democracy could succeed in a time
dominated by large and powerful industrial corporations and men of great wealth.
Parties were so evenly divided that neither faction could gain control for any
period of time. This made it very difficult to pass new laws. Many government
officials routinely accepted bribes. Political cartoonists raised alarm and concern
about the damaging effects of corruption and big money. The spoils system
dominated the government, and the feeling that it corrupted the system prompted a
number of prominent figures to promote civil service reform.

Economic issues challenged the nation to address the tariff and monetary
policies, and independent parties disagreed with the commitment to the gold
standard. The high tariffs increased the costs of goods for consumers, and made it
harder for American farmers to sell their goods abroad. The debate over whether
to consider both gold and silver as money or only gold caused bankers and others
involved in international trade to fear that using silver may undermine the

Social and political revolt known as populism began after men and women
who moved west in search of the American dream became disenfranchised. This
movement solidified the dissatisfaction of millions of Americans - poor farmers,
small landowners, and urban workers - and produced one of the largest third-party
movements in American history. Populists advocated for an increase in the money
supply, graduated income tax, federal loan programs for farmers, government
ownership of the railroads, restrictions on immigration, and an eight hour work
day. Even though the Populist party fell apart many of the specific reforms that it
advocated became reality in the early twentieth century and the emergence of the
modern United States.


The study of immigration during the Industrial Revolution in the United
States relates directly to the "Culture" theme of the NCSS standards. As members
of an extremely diverse society, it is important that American citizens understand


that the immigrants who came to the United States during the Industrial
Revolution, to fill the labor needs, ultimately helped to shape the culture of
America we know today, and redefined what it meant to be American.


The NCSS strongly recommends that social studies programs offer a
substantial instructional program designed to develop deep understandings of
history. The study of the Industrial Revolution directly relates to the "Time,
Continuity, and Culture" theme of the NCSS standards. The study of the Industrial
Revolution in America helps to develop the American citizen's understanding of
how America came to be settled, how major cities came to be so heavily populated,
and how America came to be so ethnically diverse.


The NCSS recommends that social studies programs study people, places,
and environments to understand the relationship between human populations and
the physical world. The study of the westward expansion period during the
Industrialization of America directly relates to the "People, Places, and
Environments" theme of the NCSS standards. As members of society it is
important to understand how resources were a driving source for people settling
various areas west of the Mississippi River during the Industrialization period.
During this Unit we will examine how precious metals enticed many men and
women to move west. We will also examine the living conditions of ranchers in the
Southwest, and Farmers of the midwest. We will examine how many of the major
cities today became centers of population, because of resources, climate, and
geographic location.


The NCSS suggest that social studies programs include experiences that provide
for the study of individual development and identity. The study of the Industrialization



period in the United States directly relates to the "Individual Development and Identity"
theme of the NCSS standards. It is important for individuals in our society to understand
that they are heavily influenced by the environments and the components that make up
the world around them. In this unit students will see how the culturally diverse
immigrants transformed the ideal of what it meant to be American. They will see how the
each culture traded values, and beliefs that became the values and beliefs of America, and
will see how these beliefs help to mold each of our own views and values today as it did


The NCSS recommends that social studies programs include experiences that provide for
the study of interactions among individuals, groups, and institutions. The study of the
Industrialization of America directly relates to the "Individuals, Groups, and Institutions" theme
of the NCSS standards. It is important for members of our society to understand institutions play
an integral role in our lives. Through examining the Industrial Revolution in American, we will
examine how the courts, and certain ethnic groups help contributed to changes in the society that
we take for grated everyday such as labor laws, civil rights, and property rights. Also we will
examine the negative effects this can have on minority groups as in the case of the Native
Americans, and the Mexican Americans loss of land.


The NCSS strongly suggests that our social studies programs include experiences that
provide for the study of how people create, interact with, and change structures of power,
authority, and governance. The study of the Industrialization of America directly relates to the
"Power, Authority, and Governance theme of the NCSS standards. It is important for our citizens
to know and understand that people can influence changes within the authority and governance
of our society. In this unit we will be looking at how immigrants got involved in politics, and
used the strength in numbers to elect candidates that pushed for reform in laws to protect the
interests of the people. We will look at how certain ethnic groups fought through the courts to
change laws that protected their fundamental rights. Also we will look at how the government
tried to establish compromises with claims over landownership. We will see how big money, and
enterprise corrupted politics and persuade many reforms in government regulation of business.




The NCSS recommends that social studies programs should include experiences that
provide for the study of how people organize for production, distribution, and consumption of
goods and services. The study of the Industrial Revolution in the United States directly relates to
the "Production,Distribution, and Consumption" theme of the NCSS standards. It is important
the members of our society understand how goods and services are produced and supplied within
our society. In this unit we will look at how factories help to increase the production of goods,
and lower the cost of them on consumers. We will examine how the completion of railroads help
to increase the ability to transport and supply goods across the nation. As a result we will see
how both of these factors lead to the increase in consumption and the rise of our consumeristic


The NCSS recommends that social studies programs provide experiences that include the
study of the relationships among science, technology, and society. The study of the
industrialization of America directly relates to the "Science, Technology, and Society" theme of
the NCSS standards. It is important that citizens understand how breakthroughs in science and
technology help to create new ways of doing things that directly impact the culture of the society.
In this unit we will see how the invention of the steam engine and the factory system lead to a
change in the face of America, ethically, and in how we work and live. We will look at
technological advances made in cities to accommodate the increasing number of citizens. We
will see how the railroad aided in the settlement of all the territories under the United States.
Also we will look at transportation technologies, and even entertainment technologies that
altered our everyday living.


The NCSS recommends that social studies programs should include experiences that
provide for the study of global connections and interdependence. The Industrialization of
America directly relates to the "Global Connections" theme of the NCSS standards. It is
important for citizens to understand how the world has become connected, and how countries
depend upon one another for resources. In this Unit we will look at how the Industrial
Revolution helped America become a global power. We will see hoe the increase of goods gave



us the ability to export goods and produce more revenue. This ability produced relationships with
other countries that still exist today.


The NCSS recommends that social studies programs should include experiences that
provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship a democratic republic.
The study of the Industrialization of America directly relates to the "Civic Ideal and Practices"
theme of the NCSS standards. It is important that students acquire a historical and contemporary
understanding of the basic freedoms and rights of citizens in a democracy, and learn about the
institutions and practices that support and protect these freedoms and rights. In this Unit we will
look at the rights of equality for women, and non-white ethnic groups. We will learn how they
had to fight physically, and through court to receive equal treatment in many cases. We will look
at some of the advance made as well as some of the set backs experiences by many of these
groups during the Industrialization era.