Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Industrialism in America

During the period of industrialization in the United States of America, life changed forever within the eyes of American citizens. The entire social structure changed with regard to religious views, views on the concept of meaning, education, the idea of social Darwinism, as well as the rise of woman in society.  In addition, the entire economic structure of America changed into the centralization of production and marketing because of the rise of industrialism, technological advances, and the rise of urbanization and megacities.  With the significant change in economics in the United States, there were many subsequent political changes because of differences that rose between the working class citizens and manufacturers and the industrial tycoons who held most of the industrial capital of America. 

During time period from 1885-1915, the social structure of America changed as a redirect correlation with Industrialism.  The change in culture and value during this period was known as modernization.    Americans views on religion, the concept of meaning, education, social Darwinism, as well as the rise of women in society all changed significantly during this time period.  A major element of change during this time was the concept of meaning.  The concept of meaning relates to ideas on the meaning of life, the meaning of the world, and how humans play a role in it.  These changes in thought came as a result of new scientific discoveries that grabbed the attention of society during this time.  Evolution paved the way for people to question ideas set forth by the church that had been set in place for many years.  Evolution brought on the notion that species changed over time to better themselves within their habitat which led to new types of animals.  This idea of evolution was a direct contradiction of the creation story in the Bible which said that God put all the animals on earth at one time.  “Darwinism and the higher criticism movement changed religious belief in the creation, or whether to take the Bible literally anymore.” (pg. 39)  By the late 19th century, religious culture began to diverge in to two streams: Modernism and Fundamentalism.  Modernism, which took place in the ever changing life of the city, was believed in the commitment to freedom of choice as Fundamentalism came off as more pessimistic and began to stress an orthodoxy base belief system which believed in Biblical literalism or belief in the Bible as it was scripted.  This idea was based mostly in the countryside where traditional ideas stayed implanted in society for much longer.

Education was also revolutionized during this time as family views on education changed.  “The diffusion of knowledge through education provided a background that encouraged greater individual choice.  There were two contexts in which education took place.  One was in the schools, the setting for changes in formal education, and the other in the realm of daily life, where privately organized lectures and institutes began to reach more people, where adults on their own began to read more widely and deeply.”(pg. 26, 27) This new excitement led people to expand their horizons outside that of the immediate family.  As a result, there was an increase in children entering public and private schools.  The amount of high school graduates increased as well.  Urban high school systems brought children from all over the city and surrounding areas to one school instead of small schools which enabled sociocultural mingling for the first time.  Families encouraged their children for the first time to better their education to enable them to compete for a life the cosmopolitan world.  “The general growth of scientific knowledge throughout the period provided wider options for the educational enterprise.”(pg. 28-29)  As museums and universities sent professors and scientists around the world to study new ideas in science, they brought back new knowledge that paved the way for new magazines such as Scientific American and Popular Science.  This wave of knowledge was capped by the Chautauqua Movement, an adult-education organization which went around the nation to teach this new scientific knowledge to thousands of curious Americans. 

This idea of progress, and the bettering of human life did not stop with education and other social reforms, as woman sought out to better themselves in this rapidly changing American society.  “The persistent enhancement of individual choice was also manifested in the changing role of women from work almost exclusively in the home to a gradual involvement in activities outside of it such as civic services.”(pg. 31)  As these social reforms continued woman played a role outside the house by getting jobs as nurses and teachers, and in 1894, the General Federation of Women’s Clubs was established in which women discussed issues from civics affairs, the treatment of children, and the beautification of communities.  By 1900, women could buy, sell, and own property.   The culmination of the women’s movements in the United States was the Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution which gave women the right to vote in 1920.

                During the era of Industrialization, America saw many changes in urbanization and economics occur as a result of Progressive Movement.  This movement saw changes in economic growth and development in places such as cities, the rise of urban areas around the cities, as well as an increase of transportation.  “Commercial places were centers of regional development, cultural life, and local government, and they organized the economic relationship between town and country as an interdependent whole.”(pg. 48)  As the Industrial boom took off, port cities such as New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore as well as Mid-West cities such as Cleveland, Chicago, and Pittsburgh became the central areas of business in the country.   “As a result, towns sought out state legislature to provide funds for transportation and other establishments to bring in employment and business.”(pg. 49)  As a result of this urbanization, private investors and developers brought new houses, factories, and transportation systems in outlying areas as individuals as well as whole cities poured in capital to make such changes.    

With these changes to American urbanization and industrialization, it led to many political and economic changes.  “In the 1870’s, “the pool” was formed, which was a gentleman’s agreement enforceable by law that was put in place to establish minimum prices, to control production, and allocate prices.” (pg. 71)  This idea of “the pool” did not work so, in turn, businesses initiated the trust, which was the ability for people to get dividends with their stock, but forgo their vote, which was left to a small group of trustees, but this too was abandoned because it interfered with common law and state statute.  This was superseded by a holding company, “a single firm that held a controlling share of the securities of subordinate firms.  This was passed by New Jersey Legislation in 1889, which then became home of a considerable portion of the nation’s industrial enterprise.” (pg. 71, 72)  The rise of the industrial economy also brought on Intercompany corporations which led to the rise of monopolization of manufacturing capital.  With this increased capital, many of the corporate heads were able to buy their way into government or give monetary support to sway government officials’ ideology.  Corporative groups also led to price fixing in products such as steel, tobacco, and coal as well price fixing in the transportation industry in regards to railroad fees.    As a result, manufacturers and merchants were seemingly unhappy and created an uproar which led to governmental intervening.   As a result of Supreme Court decisions, The ICC, or Interstate Commerce Commission, instilled the Hepburn Law, “which granted  the Commission power to establish new legal rates when it declared old ones void.”(pg. 77)  They also sought increased improvement in river improvement through government appropriations which were granted through the National Rivers and Harbors Congress in 1905.

Many organizations also sought out laws in regard to wages and labor.  “The National Consumers League used their influence to provide more humane labor conditions, the National Child Labor Committee worked for laws to abolish or limit child labor, and the American Association for Labor Legislation, an organization of lawyers and intellectuals, drew up humanitarian legislation.”(pg. 104) Labor Unions as well as collective bargaining became a significant topic during this time as well.  “Entrepreneurs feared organized labor because it constituted a factor in industrial production seldom easily manipulated.  Arguing that collective bargaining was illegal and un-American, business demanded wages and working conditions be determined by individual workers and the corporation, a situation that management could control far more easily than collective bargaining.”(pg.74)  Labor Unions and collective bargaining after many disputes, were recognized as the proper techniques of industrial relations.

During the 1900 census, the government saw a sharp decrease in the farm population.  As a result, many civic leaders initiated a program to help to promote a more profitable and attractive rural life.  “The movement received official sanction and considerable aid from Theodore Roosevelt in 1908 when he established the Country Life Commission.” (pg. 136)  Experts were sent in to help promote agricultural science and technology.  The Smith-Lever Act of 1914 provided grant-in-aide funds to bring permanency to the plan and make it available to every county in the nation.  They also sought out education reforms to schools to promote agricultural education through the Smith-Hughes Act of 1917. 

This time in American history came with great change in the social, economic, and industrial ideas.  The time period brought great rise in human thought which revolutionized the American economy from the rise of urbanization and industrialization, and as a result also brought great reform to the work environment as well the agricultural industry.  This thirty year span brought changes to the U.S. that are still instilled in today’s world.

Works Cited

1.       “The Response to Industrialism 1885-1914. Samuel P. Hays. Second Edition. The Chicago History of American Society. The University of Chicago Press. 1995.


  1. Very informative, keep it up!

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