Industrialization and Immigration

Topics: Industrial Revolution, Labor, Wage Pages: 6 (2288 words) Published: August 14, 2005
An outburst in growth of America's big city population, places of 100,000 people or more jumped from about 6 million to 14 million between 1880 and 1900, cities had become a world of newcomers (551). America evolved into a land of factories, corporate enterprise, and industrial worker and, the surge in immigration supplied their workers. In the latter half of the 19th century, continued industrialization and urbanization sparked an increasing demand for a larger and cheaper labor force. The country's transformation from a rural agricultural society into an urban industrial nation attracted immigrants worldwide. As free land and free labor disappeared and as capitalists dominated the economy, dramatic social, political, and economic tensions were created. Religion, labor, and race relations were questioned; populist and progressive thoughts were developed; social Darwinism and nativism movements were launched. The influx of immigrants created availability for cheap labor, which in turn led to corrupt business practices, urban political machines, and "white slavery". To curtail these "evils" present in society, progressivism was developed. The goals of progressivism were simple: to decrease poverty levels, to establish local charities, to fight for social justice, and to bring back good government practices.

Between 1870 and 1890, in just 20 years, the population increased from 40 million to 60 million. Part of this increase was due to the high birth rate, but a significant portion of the increase was due to immigration. A handful of capitalists and entrepreneurs saw profit from heavy industrialization. However, the success of their companies resided in the availability of a working class. Immigrants to the United States, willing to do anything to set a foothold in the nation, accepted cheap labor as employment.

Large corporations used this to their advantage. Profit oriented leaders did little to make suitable working conditions. With the aid of Muckrakers, journalists who exposed the underside of American life, the nation began to understand the "evils" of industrialization (599). More and more did Americans escalate their concern for reforms. The reformists promoting the ideals of Progressivism were moralists and championed the ideals of human rights. Progressivism embraced a widespread, many-sided effort after 1900 to build a better society (598). Some of the reforms include the New York State Factory Commission developing a remarkable program of labor reform: 56 laws dealing with fire hazards, unsafe machines, industrial homework, and wages and hours for women and children (608). Likewise, the government began to play an active role as there was a burst of enthusiasm for scientific investigation. Statistical studies by the federal government of immigration, child labor, and economic practices; social research by privately funded foundations delving into industrial conditions; vice commissions in many cities looking in prostitution, gambling, and other moral ills of an urban society (598).

Not only did a big portion of the urban working class experience unsuitable working conditions, but their pay and skill level was often not enough to promote them out of industrial employment. Employees found themselves trapped with employers and earning low wages, with many hovering in the poverty range. Reform was necessary to help the poor. Now, with the strife-torn 1890s behind them, reform became an absorbing concern of many Americans (597).

As the nation came to grips with what mechanization had done to the labor force, the progressivists took an active approach to correct problems they encountered. They began a tax on corporations (612). Roosevelt was troubled by the threat posed by big businesses to competitive markets (615) and showed disdain for those who sought profit by betraying the public (613). They aimed to strip power of the employers and sought to advance the undermined working class in their work environment...
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