The Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, P.A. symbolized America’s quick transition into an industrial nation, showcasing items such as the Corliss engine. The flourishing economy and determination of investors and entrepreneurs catapulted the United States into the global market, even ahead of the leading European competitors of Great Britain, France, and Germany. Expanding markets and labor conditions grew the industry and government subsidies and lack of intervention allowed for unrestricted growth.
An Empire on Rails
“Emblem of Motion and Power”
Railroads allowed for vast expansion of markets, travel, and communication across the ever-expanding United States. Building the Empire
Local, state, and federal governments loaded millions of dollars into the railroad industry which led to much corruption including the Crédit Mobilier scandal of the Union Pacific Railroad and the Contract and Finance Company with the Central Pacific. Federal subsidies came with a catch; the railroad companies had to carry government freight, troops, and mail at substantially reduced rates, saving the federal government nearly $1 billion. The Pullman cars revolutionized distance travel.
Linking the Nation via Truck Lines
Four main truck lines categorized the Northeast:
The Baltimore and Ohio (B & O) reached Chicago,
The Erie Railroad (NY to Chicago),
The New York Central Railroad (Cornelius Vanderbilt)
Pennsylvania Railroad (J. Edgar Thomson and Thomas A. Scott) Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, to Cincinnati, Indianapolis, St. Louis, Chicago, NYC, Baltimore, and later Washington. Automatic couplers, air brakes, refrigerator cars, dining cars, heated cars, electric switches, and stronger locomotives categorized the South as it evolved. The American Railway Association divided the US into four time zones to distinguish scheduling difficulties.
Rails Across the Continent
The dream of a transcontinental railroad became a reality on May 10, 1869 when Gen. Grenville M. Dodge’s Union Pacific crew from Omaha met Sacramento’s Charles Crocker and his Central Pacific workers at Promontory, Utah. Others soon followed, including James J. Hill’s Great Northern Railway which connected Minneapolis-St. Paul with Seattle, Washington. Problems of Growth
Back-door dealings, rebates, and special interests promoted corruption and fierce competition between railroad companies. Managers like Albert Fink tried to alleviate these problems, establishing the Eastern Trunk Line Association (1877) dividing westbound transportation among the four truck lines. J. Pierpont Morgan was a brilliant New York investor who consolidated railroad companies like the New York Central and Pennsylvania into sharing traffic. Through efforts by J. P. Morgan and others, fixed costs and debt were cut, new stocks issued, rates stabilized, rebates and competition eliminated, and control given to a “voting trust” of handpicked trustees. A national transportation network was now in place.
An Industrial Empire
Henry Bessemer’s process of blasting air through molten iron burned off carbon and other impurities, strengthening the steel that revolutionized the iron industry, paving the way for mass production. Carnegie and Steel
Bessemer plants required expensive research departments, as do many later companies. The great steel districts in Pittsburgh and iron ore deposits near Lake Superior were just two examples of the massive industries that thrived in the U.S. during the turn of the century. Like rail companies, the steel industry was associated with secret agreements, pools, and consolidation, such as vertical integration which saw a single company owning and controlling all stages of production. Andrew Carnegie became immensely rich off of his self-built and self-named steel company which in 1900 produced more steel than Great Britain. Carnegie paid low wages and avoided unions, but was an established...