Big Business and Labor in the Late 19th Century Essay

Pages: 3 (963 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Family and Marriage

Big Business and Labor in the Late 19th Century

19th Century Industrial Capitalism

In the wake of Reconstruction, all of America began to rapidly industrialize. It was no longer divided between an agrarian South and an industrial North -- now all of America was undergoing rapid economic change. On one hand, this shift opened up opportunities for many Americans. Americans could make money, not by relying upon family ties, but by using hard work and technology to make a profit. Of course, America had always been less hierarchical in nature than aristocratic Europe, a place where profits were there to be had, with the sweat and toil of one's brow. But before, farming was the main means available for individuals to make a small fortune in America -- hence the fascination with Westward expansion into the territories. Industrialism provided a new means and a quicker source of profit for Americans. Now industrialists could make massive profits unprecedented in history.

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Not only capitalists profited from industrialization. New inventions made America into a consumer society. Americans no longer had to rely upon handicrafts. They could purchase goods cheaply in stores, and theoretically this allowed for greater leisure time -- at least for the middle class industrialists and their wives and children. The incentives for profit also spurred on new entrepreneurial creativity on the part of inventors. Prepared foods, the sewing machine, the flush toilet, and department stores all flourished during this era. Edison's lamp illuminated people's lives and the streets, mass production enabled Henry Ford to make cars affordable for more Americans.

Essay on Big Business and Labor in the Late 19th Century Assignment

Yet conditions in factory were often oppressive and miserable -- and, with the creation of interchangeable parts, dull as well, as workers became nothing but a highly specialized pair of assembling hands, rather than an honored individual learning a skill, as was the case when individuals were apprenticed to learn trades. People no longer owned the fruits of their labor, but worked for others, often in faceless factories, and rented rather than owned and farmed a plot of land. While capitalism theoretically opened up doors of opportunity for many, it also closed just as many doors for the children forced to work in factories for long hours to enable their families to survive. These children often did not earn a rudimentary education, as they might have while working on the family farm. Few regulations existed at the beginning of the industrial era regarding hours workers had to toil, or specifying safety conditions in the factory, much less mandated compensation for workers who were injured. The Gospel of Wealth as preached by Andrew Carnegie said that earning wealth was a mark of one's inherent goodness as a person and one's industry. Charity made people 'soft.'

As Americans in factories grew increasingly dissatisfied with conditions, organized labor began to agitate. Workers spoke out against their low wages. They pointed out factory owners made… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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