The Gilded Age, from the end of the Civil War to the turn of the century, is known as the time of the greatest economic, industrial and population expansion in America. New technology and the abundance of alternative natural resources were the force behind the industrial revolution. The industrial revolution had a big impact on different groups of people in the United States. Western farmers and factory laborers didn’t back down without a fight when they were faced with tough challenges and “bullying” from those in power.
High protective tariffs and the Depression of 1893 had disastrous effects on poor subsistence farmers in the Midwest and South. Many of these cash crop farmers, often deeply in debt, were unable to afford the unregulated railroad fares to send their products to the cities. As a result, over a million impoverished farmers organized the National Grange to fight for their livelihood. The Grange managed to win some key victories in several midwestern legislatures, supporting the Greenback Party in the 1870s and then the Populist Party in the 1890s.
As the system of factories shifted into assembly lines, jobs to unskilled workers skyrocketed. Before one skilled worker would be needed to create a whole product. But now one unskilled worker could make only one part of a product and send it down the line to the next worker. Assembly lines made factories more productive and in need of more laborers. Although there were more jobs to go around this also meant that the laborers would be paid less than the skilled workers. Overall, industrial workers were exploited, but they responded by forming the organizations that would gradually improve their wages and working conditions. Although early unions like the Knights of Labor, National Labor Union, and American Federation of Labor, failed they paved the way for future workers rights. Oppression itself inspired creative responses that helped to build modern America from both the farmers and... [continues]
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