Faraz KhanMidterm Inhigh school history class, I remember being told, “If you live anywhere besideson a farm, you can be grateful for the Industrial revolution.” I’m sure myteacher meant nothing against farm-living, I think he just meant to illustratethe significance of industries in the United states. The Industrial Revolution,which reached the United States in the 19th century, greatly reshaped Americanculture and had a significant impact on global history.
If the AmericanRevolution sparked the birth of a nation, the Industrial Revolution marked thatnation’s growth into maturity. The Industrial Revolution altered all aspects ofAmerican life, from the economy to politics and the fabric of society itself.Industrialization played important roles during history, especially during Reconstruction,The Gilded Age, and to the start of World War 1.Theera of Reconstruction The era of reconstruction was preceded by the Civil War. TheCivil War, also known as “The War Between the States,” was fought between theUnited States of America (the North) and the Confederate States of America (theSouth). The Confederacy was a group of eleven southern states that left theUnion in 1860 and 1861 and formed their own country to preserve slavery 1. Reconstructiontook place for most of the decade following the Civil War. Duringthis era, the “Reconstruction Amendments” were passed to expand civilrights for African Americans.
Those amendments included the ThirteenthAmendment, which outlawed slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment that guaranteedcitizenship for all people born or naturalized within U.S. territory, and theFifteenth Amendment that granted the vote for all men regardless of race. Whilethe Civil Rights Act of 1875 forbade discrimination in the service of publicfacilities, the Black Codes denied blacks certain privileges readily availableto whites 1. Industrialization played a big part of reconstruction inthe South after the civil war.
The destruction caused during the Civil War leftSouthern railroads totally destroyed, so many were rebuilt during the postwarReconstruction period. During reconstruction, the scale of industry grew asfactories employed big numbers of people compared to the small shops that hadearlier dominated manufacturing. In addition, the introduction of newtechnologies made production more efficient, thereby reducing costs andimproving output.Partof the reason for such growth during the late nineteenth century was theharnessing of the extensive natural resources of the nation. Agriculturalproduction, itself improved because of the introduction of labor-savingmachinery (such as steam-powered harvesters), dramatically increased as thenumber of landless industrial laborers who no longer grew their own cropscreated an important domestic market for agricultural products.Industrialchange affected the nature and organization of work after the Civil War. Themechanization, scale, capital investment, and other factors that shapedmanagerial capitalism during the late nineteenth century also undermined thecontrol that industrial laborers exercised within the workplace. Asmanufacturing became more mechanized, the demand for workers with lower skilllevels increased.
As a result, laborers had difficulty in sustaining the beliefthat workers would eventually become owners and began to realize that theywould experience limited socio-economic mobility. The terrible workingconditions, the long hours, the insufficient pay and low wages, the poorhousing and living conditions all contributed to a challenging and difficultexistence and to the formation of unions to protect their interests.Thereason that union movements are significant to U.
S. history is because it wasthe only way for workers in factories to get better working conditions. Theworkers of the 1880s had to petition for them and sometimes they even had toriot to get what they wanted (ex: Haymarket Riot, 1886). TheGilded AgeThe”Gilded Age” refers to the period following Reconstruction, when the Americaneconomy grew at its fastest rate in history.
Big businessmen, not politicians,controlled the new industrialized America of the Gilded Age. During this time,the United States experienced a population and economic boom that led to thecreation of an incredibly wealthy upper class. Because of thesuccess of the Western expansion, the gold rush in California and resources inWestern North America, the demand for railroads led the way for much of theGilded Age. The production of iron and steel rose dramatically because ofimproved technologies in factories and western resources like lumber, gold andsilver increased the demand for improved transportation. Due to the flourishmentof many industries, the country witnessed a flow of immigrants who came intothe country in search of better job and greater opportunities 1. WorldWar 1Industrializationalso played a major role in World War 1. Without industrialization, world warone would not have been possible.
It allowed for new machinery to be producedand at a much faster rate than ever before. Armored vehicles, tanks, missiles,war planes, and ammunition could be mass produced due to industrialization.Mass production in factories churned out not only large numbers of standardizedguns and bullets, but also boots, uniforms and tents. Withoutindustrialization, it would not have been a “world” war and would have probablyresembled battles against Native American Indians with bows & arrows, or,civil war style with inaccurate muskets & cannons.Conclusion One way I can think of how industrialization tookadvantage of Americans is that During World War 1, many factories were forcedto start producing war materials instead of their regular materials.
Farmerswere told to produce more agriculture & extra food to send over seas forsoldiers. After the war was over, the farmers weren’t able to continue producingwhich eventually snowballed into one of the causes of the Great Depression. To me, industrialization is more than copper factories,railroads, and heavy machinery. Its changed, and continues to change, our veryway of life. It changed how they managed waste, located drinking water, and acquiredclothing. I understood what my teacher was saying, however, I still would liketo live on a farm than a bustling city for a change.
References:1 Foner, Eric. Give Me Liberty!: an American History. W.W. Norton, 2017.