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Impact of Industrialization 2015

Page history last edited by Mr. Hengsterman 5 years, 6 months ago

The Impact of Industrialization on American Society 

“The average worker can never obtain more than a minimum level of living.  The worker is deprived of the  
wealth he himself created.  The state is a committee of bourgeoisie for the exploitation of the people




Questions to consider
1.  How did industrialization, mechanization, and specialization impact the work a day world for the American worker?

2.  What role did the state and federal government play in controlling the new industrial economy?

3.  What were the notable ideologies of the time?



A class of millionaires emerged for the first time ever. Tycoons like Carnegie and Rockefeller made fortunes. This type of wealth was championed by “Social Darwinism” where the strong win in business. Unfortunately, many of the mega-industries, like railroads, grew at the expense of the “little man’s” interest. As businesses, they were out to make money, and they did. But the working man cried foul. To right these wrongs, the beginnings of anti-trusts began (to bust the monopolies) and organized labor got a jump start (although they were still rather ineffective). 

The United States has always been stratified, but during the Gilded Age the gap grows 

All encompassing system that impacts people (slaves and masters) at all levels and relationships Impacts the human relationships beyond the work a day world...WHY?
It impacts how workers move around, how they work, with the new consumer market and how they spend their leisure time




The replacement of the producer by the employee

Most workers no longer were their own bosses. Instead, they were paid for time on the job.  Job and worker/boss relationship becomes more impersonal and detached - Image of old vs. new? 

Specialization and the devaluation of skilled labor: 
Workers in mass-production assembly lines found themselves doing the same mundane task over and over again instead of making their own decisions about techniques, starting and stopping times, etc.

Increased company control:
In and efforts to increase worker efficiency, employers tried to establish temperance/reform societies and control workers’ social lives. Other employers began paying per item produced rather than by hour.

Employment of women and children
As the need for skilled workers decreased, employers cut costs by hiring women and children for assembly lines. Women also worked in the service sector and in sales/secretarial positions. By 1900, some state laws limited the employment of children, but many companies still got away with it. 

Decreased independence: 
In addition to finding their actual jobs more constricting, workers found that their wages were largely beyond their control and were often unable to find steady work – i.e. they were trapped by the system.   

How is this reflected in the photography of the time?

Images of the Industrial worker 1908-1912 from the Lewis Hine collection 





Industry can create very different outcomes at the same time

Unifying elements

Makes country smaller,  drops travel time, and brings people into an integrated marketplace (same consumer goods)


Railroads 1870-1890 (MAP)


Middle class develops (white collar) staffing offices of huge companies to buy modern goods


Dis-unifying elements

Workers can not afford the new goods - WHY? 


They only avenue for participation is as an overworked and underpaid factory worker (IMAGES: the Industrial worker)


The leads to labor conflicts (MAP) 1880-1890 (Management  vs. labor) MAP


These conflicts will disrupt the entire economy  ZINN?





At the turn of the century, when the average worker earned $8 to $10 per week, Rockefeller was worth millions.  Annual wages of railroad workers, according to the report of the commissioner of labor in 1890, were:

$957 for engineers (the aristocrats of the railroad)

$575 for conductors

for brakemen

$124 for laborers. 

Railroad work was one of the most dangerous jobs in America;
 2,000 railroad workers were being killed each year, and 30,000 injured. The railroad companies called these "acts of God" or the result of "carelessness" on the part of the workers, but the Locomotive Firemen's Magazine said: "It comes to this: while railroad managers reduce their force and require men to do double duty, involving loss of rest and sleep . . . the accidents are chargeable to the greed of the corporation."  from A People History of the United States  - Robber Barons and Rebels   Industrial Accidents





Carnegie vs. the Railroad Workers  (Image)   
Industrial Wages 1890

Gilded Age Hourly Wage - Graphic

Gap Between the Rich and the Poor (Video Clip)





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