becoming an industrial society study guide



becoming an industrial society study guide


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becoming an industrial society study guide



Objective 5.01 – Evaluate the influence of immigration and industrialization on urban life


How did immigration and industrialization shape urban life?
How did the rapid industrialization of the Gilded Age create economic, social, and political change in the U.S.?
Did immigration and rapid industrialization have a positive or negative impact on the

Arriving in America

  • 10 million immigrants between 1865 and 1890 from northwest and central Europe. These “old immigrants” were English-speaking and had a history of voting.
  • 10 million immigrants between 1890 and 1920 from southern and eastern Europe. Weree considered the “new immigrants”
  • Most immigrants came into the U.S. through “The Golden Door” – New York City at Ellis Island. A small number of immigrants (mostly from Asia) came through Angel Island in San Francisco.

Where Immigrants Settled

  • Immigrants often moved to urban areas previously established by settlers from their homeland.
  • Some immigrants moved west, but only 2% of immigrants moved to the South.
  • Ghettos, areas in which one ethnic or racial group dominated, formed in many urban areas. Immigrants found comfort in living in a community with a familiar language and traditions.

Chinese Excluded

  • A quarter million (250,000) Chinese immigrants came to the U.S. to work on the railroads.
  • Chinese immigrants accepted low wages, which made them valuable employees. American labor unions fought to exclude Chinese immigrants from the work force.
  • Congress responded to the demands of labor unions by passing the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. Until 1943, Chinese immigrants were not allowed to move to the United States.

Expanding Cities

  • Because of mechanization the need for labor on farms decreased. Between 1880 and 1920, 11 million Americans left their farms and moved to urban areas to seek out better opportunities.

How Cities Grew

  • In the late 1800s, motorized methods of transportation made commuting easier. Trains, cable cars, electric trolleys, and the automobile (1910) allowed people to live in suburbs and commute into a large city to work.
  • When cities couldn’t expand farther out, they started building up. Engineering advances and the invention of the elevator allowed buildings to stand more than 50 feet tall. In 1885 the first skyscraper was built. It was 10 stories tall.

Factory Work

  • In many industries, workers were not paid by the hour, but by how much they produced. This system of piecework meant that the fastest workers earned the most money.
  • Most piecework was performed in sweatshops, where employees worked long hours for low wages in poor conditions.

Urban Living Conditions

  • Some factory workers lived in housing specifically built for them by factory owners.
  • Tenements were low-cost apartment buildings housed as many families as the owner could pack in.
  • Poverty, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions were common. Fires were a constant worry. With so many buildings packed together, a small fire quickly spread.
  • Great Chicago Fire (1871) – 18,000 buildings burned, 250 people died, and 100,000 people left homeless.
  • Dumbbell tenements were created in order to let every room have a window and allow more air flow. The thought was that this would reduce the spread of disease in cities.

The Social Gospel Movement

  • A social reform movement developed by the churches which provided social services for the poor.
  • The movement focused on ideals of charity and justice and they fought for labor reform.

Settlement Houses

  • Led by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Star, young educated women and men would move into a house in the midst of a poor neighborhood. They would settle in, and then eventually offer social services.
  • Settlement house founders believed that money alone could not really help the poor. The houses offered cultural events, classes, child care, clubs, camps, job-help, legal help, and health care.

Inventions & Inventors

  • Indoor electric lighting was invented in 1865. (Thomas Edison later invented the light bulb)
  • Oil started being used for power. (Edwin L. Drake discovered oil in PA)
  • Samuel F.B. Morse perfected the telegraph and Morse code which grew with the railroad.
  • Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone in 1876. By 1900, 1.5 million telephones were in use.  
  • Typewriter created jobs for women.


  • Amusement Parks – Started with “trolley parks” and they often involved music, skill games, vaudeville productions, bathing beaches, exciting rides. Coney Island’s Luna Park.
  • Spectator Sports – By 1860, baseball clubs were starting in many cities. In 1869 the Cincinnati Red Stockings was formed. By the 1870s players were being paid. Football and basketball soon followed.

Objective 5.02 – Explain how businesses and industrial leaders accumulated wealth and wielded political and economic power

What characteristics were vital to the success of industrial leaders of the Gilded Age?
How did captains of industry accumulate wealth and power?
Should an individual be allowed to accumulate as much wealth as possible?

The Bessemer Process

  • The Bessemer Process made it possible to mass produce steel and remove the imperfections.
  • Steel is lighter, stronger, and more flexible than iron (which was previously used for building)

Robber Barons vs. “Captains of Industry”

  • Both are powerful industrialists who established large businesses in the 1800s
  • Robber Barons implies that someone got their money by stealing from the public – they ruthlessly drove their competitors into the ground. They paid their workers meager wages and live in unhealthy conditions.
  • “Captains of Industry”suggests that the business leaders served their nation in a positive way. It implies that they raised productivity, created jobs, and established museums, libraries, and universities.
  • John D. Rockefeller created the Standard Oil Company in 1870. His practices may have been questionable at first, but by the time of his death he had given over $500 million dollars to charities.
  • Andrew Carnegie was extremely successful in the steel business. He preached a “gospel of wealth,” that people should make as much money as they can, but then give it away. More than 80% of Carnegie’s wealth went to some form of education. As with Rockefeller, many people questioned and disapproved of his methods of gaining such wealth.

Social Darwinism

  • Carnegie suggested that the wealthy were the most valuable group in society. The idea came from Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution (natural selection, survival of the fittest). The theory that only the most wealthy and “fit” would succeed was deemed social Darwinism.
  • Most Americans believed that the government shouldn’t interfere with private business and as a result, the government didn’t tax government profit or regulate relations with workers. (When the government does not interfere with business it is known as laissez-faire“hands off” government.)

Oligopolies and Monopolies

  • A market dominated by just a few large companies is called an oligopoly (cereal companies, cars, etc.)
  • A monopoly is when a company has complete control over a market or service. A company is so big and powerful that it would have driven all competition out. Laws were passed in the late 1800s to prevent certain monopolistic practices.
    • Carnegie Steel became so wealthy and powerful that Carnegie decided to buy all of the companies that performed all of the phases of steel production, from the mines to the furnaces and mills. He even bought the shipping and rail lines for transport. Gaining control of all aspects of a product’s development is known as vertical integration (consolidation).
    • The Standard Oil Company, owned by Rockefeller, became so large and powerful that it decided to buy all of its competitors’ oil refineries. Bringing together many firms within the same business is called horizontal integration (consolidation).
  • In order to get around monopoly laws when integrating (consolidating) the Standard Oil Company, Rockefeller formed a trust. The trust allowed the companies to come together under a “board of trustees” who controlled operations, but not officially merge (which avoided the laws against a monopoly)
  • In an attempt to limit the control a business could have over an industry, President Benjamin Harrison passed the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890, outlawing any combination of companies that restrained interstate trade or commerce.  The act was not successful at first, as it went after labor unions instead of monopolies.

The Gilded Age

  • A term coined by Mark Twain to describe the post-Reconstruction era – “Gilded” means ‘covered with a thin layer of gold’ This was a golden period for America’s industrialists – the term suggests that a thin layer of gold covered the poverty and corruption in society.
  • The wealth of the industries helped to mask the problems faced by immigrants, laborers, and farmers, as well as the abuse of power in business and government.


Goal 5.03 – Assess the impact of labor unions on industry and the lives of workers

Why social, economic, and political factors led to the need for the formation of labor unions?
To what extent were labor unions effective in meeting the political, economic, and social needs of laborers?
How effective were labor unions in improving the lives of American workers?

Working Conditions

  • Factory workers were ruled by the clock and discipline was strict. Workers were fined or fired for things such as being late, talking, or not working hard enough.
  • Workplaces were often unsafe. The noise was deafening, lighting and ventilation were poor, workers were often fatigued, and equipment was not dept up with.
  • Child labor: By the end of the 1880s, 20% of children between age 10 and 16 were employed. Children often left school at the age of 12 or 13 to work (more often girls than boys). Children as young as 6 or 7 sometimes worked as well. 


  • In 1890, 9% of Americans held 75% of the nation’s wealth.
  • Some poor families became interested in the idea of socialism, a philosophy that favors public instead of private property and income. Socialists believe that society, not just private individuals should take charge of a nation’s wealth.
  • Most Americans opposed socialism because it threatened the deeply rooted ideals of private property, free enterprise, and individual liberty.

Labor Unions

  • Unions sprung up to organize workers in certain trades, helping them to express their demands, such as better working conditions, increased wages, and shorter working hours.
  • In 1869 The Knights of Labor formed to organize all working men and women (black & white). The Knights were able to pursue broad social reforms such as equal pay for equal work, an 8 hour workday, and an end to child labor. They often formed strikes to assert their demands.
  • The American Federation of Labor, a craft union, formed (by Samuel Gompers) allowing in only skilled workers devoted to a specific craft. The AFL attempted to force employers to participate in collective bargaining, a process in which workers negotiate as a group with employers. Workers acting as a group had more power than a single worker acting alone.
  • Most employers disliked unions and attempted to take measures to stop unions by:
    • Forbidding union meetings
    • Firing union organizers
    • Forcing “yellow dog contracts” – workers promised never to join a union or go on strike
    • Prohibiting collective bargaining

Strikes Rock the Nation

  • Railway workers began to strike 1877 when the B&O Railroad announced a wage cut of 10%. They clashed with the local militia and violence spread from West Virginia to Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, and other cities. This became known as The Great Railroad Strike.
  • Haymarket Riot (1886): A group of workers started a national demonstration demanding an 8 hour workday. Police had to break up a fight between strikers and scabs (workers who came in to replace strikers). A bomb was thrown and a police officer died. Unionists and anarchists (radicals who oppose all government) who participated in the riot became heroes to many union workers.
  • Homestead (1892): Andrew Carnegie’s partner Henry Frick attempted to cut the wages of workers at Carnegie Steel. The steel union called a strike and one anarchist attempted to assassinate Frick. The public saw this as too much violence and stopped supporting the unionists.
  • Pullman (1894): After the Panic of 1893, George Pullman (inventor of the Pullman sleeper railroad car) decided to lay off workers and cut pay by 25%. The American Railway Union (led by Eugene V. Debs) went on strike, and instead of bargaining, Pullman shut down his factory. By 1894 260,000 workers had joined the strike. The strike ended when president Grover Cleveland sent in 2,500 troops to regulate the union strikers.


Goal 5.04 – Describe the changing role of government in economic and political affairs

How did the government’s role in economic and political affairs change during this era?
To what extent did industrialization affect the relationships between government, business, and the worker?
How did technological advancement affect industrialization and the role of the government?
To what extent was the government’s changing role necessary and positive in this era?

Results of City Growth – The Rise of the Political Machine

  • Clashing interests between different community groups (the middle/upper class, immigrants, migrants from the countryside, workers, etc) led to the rise of the political machine.
  • A political machine was an unofficial organization set up to keep a particular group in power
  • Political machines were run by a “boss” and worked through an exchange of favors.
  • Jobs were given out to citizens in exchange for votes for the machines political candidates.
  • William Marcy “Boss” Tweed was one of the most notorious bosses in NYC. Boss Tweed and his associates once got access to the city’s treasury and illegally used the money for construction projects and then kept some for themselves.
  • Thomas Nast, a famous political cartoonist, helped bring Tweed down by exposing him to the public through political cartoons depicting Tweed as a thief and a dictator. Tweed’s followers were often uneducated and could not read, but they were able to understand Nast’s cartoons.

The Business of Politics

  • In the late 1800s, businesses operated largely without regulation. This laissez-faire (hands-off) approach is supported by the belief that if the government doesn’t interfere then the strongest businesses will succeed, bringing success to the nation as a whole.
  • In the Credit Mobilier scandal, stockholders in the Union Pacific Railroad Company created a construction company called Credit Mobilier. They gave the construction company a contract to build the Union Pacific’s railroad tracks at 2-3 times the price it would actually cost. The government was paying for the Union Pacific’s construction with grants and loans – so the stockholders ended up pocketing $23 million dollars.
  • Whiskey Ring Scandal – IRS collectors and other officials accepted bribes from whiskey distillers who wanted to avoid paying taxes on their product, which lost the federal government millions of dollars.

Civil Service Reforms

  • Rutherford B. Hayes was elected president (1877) and refused to follow the spoils system. Instead he appointed qualified leaders to the Cabinet and fired employees who were not needed.
  • These actions began to reform civil service, strengthened the government, and weakened Republicans. 
  • James A. Garfield was elected president in 1880, but his term was cut short when he was murdered by a lawyer who was expecting a job from Garfield. The murder caused an outcry against the spoils system.
  • After Garfield’s death, Vice President Chester Arthur became president and passed the Pendleton Civil Service Act, which created a Civil Service Commission. This classified government jobs and tested applicants’ fitness for them with a merit exam. The Pendleton Civil Service Act therefore ended the spoils system (as Jackson had created.)


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