The Industrial Revolution


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How did the American Revolution get its start? “The transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy took more than a century in the United States, but that long development entered its first phase from the 1790s through the 1830s.” (Economic Growth and the Early Industrial Revolution) Britain’s Industrial Revolution started in the mid-18th century but we fell behind. This is due to the abundance of land and scarcity of labor in the New World, which decreased interest in expensive investments in machine production. This, however, did not discourage a man named Samuel Slater. He opened the first industrial mill in the U.S. in 1790 with a design that nearly completely mirrored a British model. “Slater’s pirated technology greatly increased the speed with which cotton thread could be spun into yarn.” (Economic Growth and the Early Industrial Revolution) His technology, along with the factory system, rise of wage labor, and the market revolution are attributed to starting the American Industrial Revolution.

A lot of good and bad came out of the Industrial Revolution. The Industrial Revolution created many jobs and increased the standard of living. There were now opportunities that were beyond American citizens’ wildest dreams. People from the west could communicate with their families that they left behind back east. People could travel large distances through rail roads in a much shorter time than ever before. People started to acquire more of a consumerism mentality, in which they wanted to own more things. With more consumption comes more business and a better economy, but there were also negative effects to the Industrial Revolution. People like John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford, etc. grew their wealth and power by being ruthless. Andrew Carnegie, for example, used vertical integration, allowing himself to control every stage involved in steel production. John D. Rockefeller used horizontal integration to get rid of his competition. This allowed their businesses to become the some of the biggest monopolies of all time. This enabled these big corporations to drive their prices up. Between paying their workers very small wages and price gouging consumers, they became very rich.

Who were the workers? People of all ages, races, and gender worked in these big factories. Children as young as five years old worked in these terribly dangerous factories for sometimes as little as $1 per week, due to no minimum age limit. What affects did industrialism have on workers? Workers were required to work 12-14 hours per day 6 days per week. There were no sick days or vacation and no benefits. The factories were extremely dangerous and there were no employer liability in the case of injury or death on the work site. Men felt demasculinized and like they had no value. They felt that they had no control of their lives. There was also no set currency. Some workers were paid in store credit, “scrip”, which means that they couldn’t even choose where to buy their food. Foremen were permitted to beat the workers even without reason, which furthered their feeling of worthlessness.  Workers lives revolved around work. They felt like that was all there was to life, because they didn’t get free time. All of these factors led to the creation of labor unions.

How did labor unions benefit the workers? Labor unions gave workers a safe place to air their complaints and gave workers a sense of hope. One of the more well known labor unions was the Knights of Labor (KOL). The Knights of Labor’s main goals were equal pay, better safety conditions, child labor laws, shorter hours, benefits, and some sort of compensation for retired, injured, or killed workers. The KOL did use strikes and militant labor when necessary, but it was not their first course of action. “Most employers saw unions as threats to their profits and freedom to run their businesses as they wanted. Many hired spies to expose labor organizers so they could fire them and put them on blacklists.” (Visions of America, 487)  Labor union leaders were often arrested once they were discovered. “To overcome employer hostility, the organization (KOL) adopted a policy of strict secrecy that necessitated holding meetings in clandestine locations.” (Visions of America, 494) One unique and well thought out aspect of the KOL was that it welcomed all members. It welcomed women and African Americans unlike most other labor unions at that time. This was a method to stop employers from firing workers that were members of labor unions. The idea was that the more people that are in labor unions, the less potential workers employers have to choose from. With all things considered, the Industrial Revolution was very much a period of sinners and saints.

 

References

Amadeo, Kimberly. “5 Reasons Companies Go Vertical.” The Balance. Accessed January 19, 2018. https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-vertical-integration-3305807.

“Blacklist.” Dictionary.com. Accessed January 19, 2018. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/blacklist.

“Economic Growth and the Early Industrial Revolution.” Ushistory.org. Accessed January 19, 2018. http://www.ushistory.org/us/22a.asp.

“Price Gouging – Definition, Examples, Cases.” Legal Dictionary. January 14, 2016. Accessed January 19, 2018. https://legaldictionary.net/price-gouging/.
Visions of America – Jennifer D. Keene, Saul Cornell, and Edward T. O’Donnell

8 thoughts on “The Industrial Revolution

  1. Such an informative article, industrialism957624207! I loved the amount of detail and the different aspects you considered when writing this piece. One word you used to describe some of the most notable men of the Industrial Revolution was “ruthless.” Do you think that all of these men were inherently bad? Andrew Carnegie was a major philanthropist at the time, as seen in the Gospel of Wealth. Could it just have been “normal” at the time to give your employees minimal rights and benefits? Or should they have known better? Thank you!

    Shannon Johnson

    1. Thank you Shannon. I don’t think ruthlessness is always a bad thing. In some situations it is, but not always. I admire people that are driven and get the job done so to say. I don’t think they were inherently bad, but I do think they were selfish (less so with Carnegie than others). People are driven by all sorts of different things (money, power, influence, etc.). Businessmen of the time were driven by money, power, and greed. They always wanted more. To get more, you have to make more money. One way to make more money is to pay workers less.

  2. This blog post was very informative and well written, good job industrialism957624207! It seams you did some good research of your topic of the industrial revolution and whet in to grate detail over the subject. Reading thorough your post is like going over a quick detailed summery of the industrial revolution, such as how and when the industrial revolution started, to the negative and positive effects cause by such and the events to come after such as the labor unions. Back to the negatives part of the industrial revolution it seams there should be more negatives that should be mentioned instead of just ruthless wealthy business owners, such as pollution, or the poor housing workers had to live in. ether way its a good article. Thank you!

    Landon Martens.

  3. industrialism957624207, really great blog post regarding the rise of the industrial revolution in the States. The most interesting part for me was the ties between the lecture notes and that of the sources you used in creating the post itself. Overall, its was a very informative read, stretching throughout the period of growth, and concluding with what changes were made to make the revolution into a reality in the forms of some of the great geniuses of the time, Rockefeller, etc…Great Job on this and I hope to see what else the class has in store as long as they continue to follow the template you have worked off of.

  4. Hi Industrialism957624207, I thought your post was very informative and well done. I really like the background you provided on how the United States turned from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy. It is truly harrowing to think of what conditions the workers in those factories had to face. Your post perfectly summarizes the industrial revolution. Also I enjoyed how you ended it by saying “the Industrial Revolution was very much a period of sinners and saints.”

    Clayton Alma

  5. Wow! This Article was very informative! I loved how you tied in the agricultural economy with it, just because I love agriculture and it opened my eyes on how industrialism came about. I agree with Clayton on the ending you ended it with “sinners and saints” because that’s the truth! Its crazy to think they MIGHT have got paid $1 a week, but also working long hour days, and 6 days a week. Thanks for all the information.

    Kate Mikulak

  6. This was a very educated blog post! It’s interesting to know how different the standard for other people’s live were back then, even though the constitution was still relatively new. History seems to usually be spun in a way to make it seem like it wasn’t that bad, but it was. People take advantage of others in all timeframes of history, even now. It’s good to know that organizations like the Knights of Labor changed how certain people were being treated so our live could be the way they are today.
    Great post! Very well researched!

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