The Impact of the American Industrial Revolution
Graeme H. Nelson
Pd. 7- Axe
CHS Amer. Hist. II
The Industrial Revolution, although not perceived as a single event, but rather a string of events, inventions, progressions, and improvements to society, ushered in an era of unprecedented growth. The turn of the century brought with it rapid progress never before seen in American history. The Industrial Revolution itself caused the turning of a new page for Americans, after the horrors of the Civil War and Reconstruction ravaged much of the country. The effects of the Ind. Revolution reverberated into every aspect of American life, and had profound effects on the growing politics of the maturing nation, the economic infrastructure, and the social events of the time.
The rapid industrialization and growth of cities and labor forces in United States due to the Industrial Revolution caused a great transformation in the politics of the time. Cities were growing at such fast rates that governments did not have the capacity to solve all the problems required of them at the time. Homes were simple shanty-houses, with poor insulation and structure; waste was not pumped to sewage, but rather thrown in the street; children were allowed to play outside in the streets, next to dead horse carcasses. Politics of cities and urban areas were often run by corrupt politicians, or political machines, which were influenced by large businesses, corporations, or single parties. Social groups were also in turmoil, causing outbreaks of violence and destruction. The dissatisfaction with the economic conditions in factories also caused a number of riots and strikes, which needed to be dealt with. Thus, problems were amassing, and the government needed ways in which to deal with them. As an answer to this plea for help, a new political ideology known as “progressivism” was born, and grew from the Industrial Revolution. At this time of unprecedented and wild outgrowth of industry, progressives believed that society was able to overcome the obstacles set before them, in the form of child labor, fair wages, class structure, political machines, etc. However, progressivism was not the only ideology that grew from the bosom of the Revolution. The rapid industrialization of the East called for the influx of raw materials, and workers. To answer that call, the United States adopted a foreign policy of imperialism, or the policy of extending the rule or authority of an empire or nation over foreign countries, or of acquiring and holding colonies and dependencies. The adoption of this policy marked the beginning of the United State’s crusade to acquire more land. After several conflicts, and excursions, Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, and several other territories were put under U.S. control.
The Industrial Revolution is most well-known for its obvious effect on the growth of the United States economy, but it, in fact, had a more profound effect than simply nurturing the economy. Historically, the Industrial Revolution caused the single greatest change to the economic structure of the United States. As various industries and departments of the economy sprouted across the nation, the business of each usually fell into the lap of one corporation, or company. With one company, or corporation receiving all the business in a certain field, a monopoly formed for that company, and the owners of such companies became unfathomably wealthy. Thus, the “rise of the wealthy” began, with such people as John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, and Collis R. Huntington ruling their respective fields, holding complete control of every aspect of that business, including wages, employee base, and competition.2 At the same time, these great men’s employees began becoming poorer. With millions of immigrants and countryman flocking to cities and factories for...
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