Impact of the Industrial Revolution


Industrialism had a massive effect on industrial workers in the late 1800s. When people view the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s they think of wealth and peace, but that was far from the truth. New technology was one of many difficulties industrial workers faced. Most workers had to work 12 hour days, 6 days a week for wages that barely covered day to day living. And because of the new technology a lot of workers were unskilled and untrained in the tasks that they had to do. Most workers earned $400-$500 per year, when $600-$800 per year was required to live decently. A lot of the times families had to send their children to work.

Severe depressions (1873-1877 and 1893-1897) brought widespread business failure and high unemployment. The depression of the 1870s resulted in the loss of one million jobs and 50,000 businesses. The industrial workplace was very dangerous, yet another difficulty workers had to face. Between 1890 and 1900 35,000 workers were killed and 500,000 injured. Most injuries were because there were no laws in place to make workplaces more safe. Another difficulty was the rise in child labor. Between 1870 and 1900 the number of children working went up from 700,000 to 1.7 million. Children as young as seven worked long hours in dangerous conditions. Many states passed laws protecting children from working, but they were never enforced.

Most employers saws unions as threats to their businesses and profits. Many hired spies so they could expose labor organizers so they could be fired and put on blacklists, a list of workers that employers refused to hire. During strikes, employers would hire replacement workers and enjoy support from officials. To make matters worse, few unions had the resources to support strikers. Irish immigrants formed an organization called the Molly Maguire’s that went against foreman and managers through acts of violence and murder. This is why employers felt unions were very dangerous. Employers felt all unions did was bring about acts of terror and violence.

The benefits workers saw in unions are the partial protections that they gave to workers. Even though it was not much protection it did secure their wages to a point. Without the unions wages would have been brought and kept down to the starvation point, if workers accepted every reduction of wages. And workers felt it gave them power to fight for equal pay, stop child labor and for shortened work hours and safer work conditions.


Keene, Jennifer D., Saul T. Cornell and Edward T. O’Donnell. Visions of America: A History of the United States, Combined Volume, 3/e. Boston: Pearson, n.d.

20 thoughts on “Impact of the Industrial Revolution

  1. Its just amazing seeing how far we have came. Today most people work less and earn more money and they don’t have to go through the struggles and hard labor that these people went through. Meanwhile kids today are going to school and playing with there friends in class while these children are working hard job receiving little pay. It truly is just amazing seeing how far we have came and transformed since then.

  2. 400-500 dollars for a years worth of work is crazy! I make more than that in the 2 weeks/one check I get! I could not imagine living off of 500 dollars for a year! Thankfully the work place has come a long way since the late 1800’s. It is sad to see that by 1900 the estimated child labor had risen to 1.7 million. I am glad that these are no longer the working conditions that we are dealing with today!

  3. The effect that the industrial resolution had on businesses was that it marked the transition from agricultural to an industrial society. Laboring populations formally employed in agriculture moved to great urban factory centers to gain employment and it also lead to the rising of the middle class.

  4. It is interesting how far we have come. From inhumane conditions, to unions providing standards that are enforced. It is an interesting argument in whether we now over correct in fear of creating a world with these horrendous work conditions. I think as time goes on it will be interesting to see whether or not laws and regulations will continue to expand and further change the work structure.

  5. It’s really shocking to see how far we have come. I couldn’t imagine only living on $400-$500 a year! Even though kids were made to work in harsh working conditions, it still taught them that you have to work hard in order to survive in life. I wonder how strong unions were during that time? In today many people will tell you that they are not as strong as they used to be. In my opinion, in today’s society we are not as industrial compared to the late 1800’s. We are more of a technological based society. One big question that comes to my mind is, “What would society be like today if it wasn’t for the Industrial Revolution ?”

  6. I can’t imagine living on $400-$500 a year, now days you can’t even live a month on that. Try supporting a family. Working 12 hour days 6 days a week and having children as young as 7 working in dangerous jobs, there is sure to be accidents. How sad that the child laws were not enforced. The workplace has come a long way since the late 1800’s

  7. I think it’s so neat to see where the rules and regulations we now have for work came from. We learned from the past, like underpaying workers, dangerous workplace conditions that lead to so many injuries, and hiring children to work as an excuse to have workers, but not pay them enough. It really explains why there are such strict rules for jobs today. It is very unfortunate that American workers had to go through something as serious as this just to learn a lesson, however.

    1. I agree, unfortunately, I picture this time period as a trial and error session for our country as we went through this industrial boom. The poor work conditions and wages were examples of why we need such hour restriction and wage limits in the workplace today.

  8. That is crazy! When I was working I was making close to 700 every 2 weeks and I do not know how they lived off of 500-600 dollars per year. Rules and regulations are very important in the workplace. Having those dangerous conditions in a workplace is very unfair and uncalled for. People back then did not deserve to go through what they were going through but at the same time it taught America a cruel hard lesson for the future Americans. People work a lot less and still make more money then they did back then.

  9. It’s crazy to think that $600-$800 per year was required to live decently. I can’t even imagine living back then, especially with the dangerous work conditions. Our country has come a long way.

  10. Labor conditions were very bad back during the industrial revolution. Not only were the jobs extremely dangerous and hard, the work environments themselves were awful. Most factories were dirty, poorly lit, and poorly ventilated. Employees would be expected to work without breaks of any kind for long durations without question. Children for a long time actually had less rights than their adult counterparts and had to work longer days or in areas much more dangerous, such as fixing stuck machinery because they can reach into tighter areas.

  11. It really is amazing to see how far we have come just as a country with working rights and conditions. It is interesting to see how small changes made over time can make such a big impact. Today we look at these conditions are can’t even imagine such treachery and yet, I bet workers back then could never even imagine how nice we have it today.

  12. Its amazing how far we have come. Workers back then made $400-$500 a month, most people make that in a week, I’m blessed to make that in two days. The union has really help with working conditions for jobs in the factories these days and times. I couldn’t image working in the conditions people had to back in the 1800. It’s sad to know that employers in the 1900 didn’t want a union and they saw them as a threat. The union is a protector for workers rights and to make sure the employer is treating the workers right.

  13. It is amazing to me how low the quality of life must have been during this time due to the low wages and poor working conditions. Also, with shifts that were 12 or more hours, I wonder what people of this time period did other than work. I don’t know how any family would have been able to make it on a yearly income that less than needed to have a high quality of living. Although businesses didn’t think so, it really is a blessing that unions were finally able to be organized to protect the workers.

  14. The Industrial Revolution was a time that often gets overlooked due to it being this seemingly peaceful and happy time in history but it had seen several horrors that seem to have been forgotten with time. It’s terrible to think of the countless children who worked in the terrible conditions we saw back then and possibly even losing their lives due to both negligence and because their safety and education hurt the bottom line of their employers. I feel it’s important to realize just how important unions were during this time to establish a lot of the most basic rights to guarantee employees were treated humanely as people were treated with conditions that were, quite honestly, worse off than most animals.

  15. How unfortunate it must have been to work during the industrial revolution. Image yourself in those workers shoes and how miserable they must have been. The feeling of sending your child, at the age as young as 7, to work must have been heartbreaking, or being treated like dirt by employers whose only concern was making money. This was truly desperate times, but I agree that their efforts didn’t go to waste. Like others have stated, what happened back then shaped how workers today are treated. I think that, as unfortunate as it sounds, this harsh treatment would’ve happened eventually and we did right by learning from it and making it change for the better.

  16. To think that what I make in a couple days is what most people made in a month shows how much the workforce has come. There is a huge difference from then with the terrible work conditions and pay, to now with how much some people get paid and how their conditions can be luxurious. I’m glad that we get to work in the conditions we have now instead of what they were before.

  17. It’s amazing how far we’ve come since the 1800s! People were working in very poor conditions for barley enough money to even live their lives. I can’t imagine trying to live off of only $500 a year. Children were even sent to work which is thankfully now illegal. Today children go to school but in the 1800s they were forced to go to work. Today we have laws that create rules and regulations on the standard of the workplace, how old you have to be to work, and a minimum wage. We have changed for the better since the 1800s. I can’t imagine where we would be today without these changes.

  18. I loved your blog this week. You gave a lot of detail abut the unions laws and the work force in the late 1800s. I agree that the work force has come a long way since that 1800s. I am so grateful that it has, I don’t know what i would do only making $500 a year. I agree that the unions were sure a great thing for the workers, so they got the right pay and conditions to work in. Great job this week!

  19. It is crazy to me to think that during the time of the Industrial Revolution people were only making 500 dollars over the course of an entire year. Most times that much money only lasts a couple of weeks or less in today’s world if you are taking care of even an average size family. It also still blows my mind every time I think about the innocent children that were sent to work at all, let alone in such awful conditions. Kids never got the chance to simply be kids and go to school and use their imagines and I can’t imagine how tough life would be if I never got the opportunity to play in my free time during my childhood. I’m so thankful for the development of the unions as it made working a much safer bet today.

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