Steam power and the Road to War

Changes for Australia, the USA and Great Britain

Australia becomes a Federation, a nation but still a part of the British empire.
Australia becomes a Federation, a nation but still a part of the British empire. | Source
Jazz and Ragtime are becoming popular in the USA.
Jazz and Ragtime are becoming popular in the USA. | Source
The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells was a sensation when it first came out.
The War of the Worlds by H. G. Wells was a sensation when it first came out. | Source
Balloon shows became popular in Europe.
Balloon shows became popular in Europe. | Source
It will be some time before smoking will register as a health hazard despite the fact that Grant died of throat cancer from smoking too many cigars.
It will be some time before smoking will register as a health hazard despite the fact that Grant died of throat cancer from smoking too many cigars. | Source
Punch and Judy remained popular British fictional characters. Punch magazine started up in 1841 and ended its run in 2002.
Punch and Judy remained popular British fictional characters. Punch magazine started up in 1841 and ended its run in 2002. | Source
A Frenchman crosses the English Channel in an airplane.
A Frenchman crosses the English Channel in an airplane. | Source

1900-1910 THE HIGHLIGHTS

This was a time of massive change throughout the Western world.

The east and west coast of the USA had been connected via railway tracks. The connection maintained by steam operated locomotives.

Steam meant that travel via ship was not only faster but safer. Neither America's fiftieth state, Hawaii, nor Australia are as isolated as they once were from the USA and Britain.

Migrants from Europe continue to flood into the USA. American factories will continue to benefit from this influx of workers. There will also arise the questions of what makes a person a good American.

German migrants are making their own beer in the USA and this beer is already proving to be popular.

The Bible and Christianity remain the focal point of life throughout much of the Western World.

Science Fiction is becoming popular in Britain, France, Australia and the USA. It is mainly dominated by British and French writers but that will change.

This interest in science fiction is touched upon in the movie Back to the Future number three.

With pulp magazines coming to the fore from 1912 onward, America starts to gather its own steam and by the 1930s there are American science fiction writers as good as any that can be found either in Britain or France. In fact in the 1930s the USA takes the lead in science fiction.

In 1900 USA trade with China intensifies.

In 1900 Great Britain the Prohibition of Child Labor Underground Act prohibits children under the age of thirteen from working in mines.

In 1901 the colonies of Australia join up and Australia becomes united, a Federation.

In 1902 the white women of Australia get the vote in the new Federation. Excluded from the vote in Federation politics are all Aborigines and Asians. Over time, however, this will change.

In 1902 Great Britain there is the launch of the Holland 1, the Royal Navy's first submarine.

In 1903 the first cowboy film, Kit Carson, premieres in America.

In 1906 Fred Marriott used a steam powered car, the Stanley Steamer, to go over 127 miles per hour.

In 1908 Henry Ford's Model T Ford motor car first rolls off the production line creating a sensation and changing the nature of motoring forever. Cars have suddenly become affordable to most people.

Americans being able to travel more easily in their own country drives sales of cameras up and also makes national parks in the USA and elsewhere a more practical idea.

In 1909 Louis Bleriot crosses the English Channel in his plane. He only just makes it. Planes are still seen as too flimsy to be taken serious.

A Time of Industrial Growth

BUILDING UPWARDS
BUILDING UPWARDS | Source
Great cities coming into existence.
Great cities coming into existence. | Source
growth through industry.
growth through industry. | Source
The American Civil War.
The American Civil War. | Source
Observation balloons were used to spot enemy formations during the American Civil War.
Observation balloons were used to spot enemy formations during the American Civil War. | Source
With the ending of the American Civil War you had the ending of slavery in the USA.
With the ending of the American Civil War you had the ending of slavery in the USA. | Source
The K.K.K.
The K.K.K. | Source
A safe way of lighting up a city at night.
A safe way of lighting up a city at night. | Source

The 19th Century

THE USA

The 19th Century was a time of great innovation and change.

A war that started out as a conflict to keep the united states united turned into something more noble. It became a fight against slavery.

The ending of the American Civil War, however, would not see the ex-slaves become American citizens. That would happen a decade or so later. It would also not see equal rights granted to the ex-slaves. The battle for equal rights would be won little by little and continue on well into the 20th Century.

The American Civil War was a glimpse into modern trench warfare and the use of weapons that were far more advanced than the tactics and strategies employed by the military leaders of the day.

It is a wonder that the British, the French and the Germans didn't take proper note of what happened in Atlanta and to Atlanta during the American Civil War. If they had it would have prepared them for the horrors of the Great War to come.

During the first battle of Bull Run the Confederates brought up reinforcement via rail. Trains were being used to move troops to where they are needed.

Submarines were crude and not very useful during the American Civil War. Even so, they were used. The Ironclads developed by first the South and then the North were the forerunners of the modern battleship.

During the war the Confederate vessel CSS Shenandoah sailed into what is now Melbourne Harbor. It created conflict between the people of Victoria, Australia who believed in the Confederate cause and those who believed the Blue Coats were right.

During the war the demand for iron and steel grew in the North and new foundries were created. In the South there wasn't the capital required for new foundries but there was the need.

After the war there was a financial crisis in both the North and the South. This was eased by government initiatives to open up the West for settlement on a large scale. Treaties with the Indians were broken. The Indian wars would be sporadic and end before the beginning of the Great War.

Throughout the century there was more poverty in the South than in the North.

To complicate matters, the Ku Klux Klan was formed in 1865 at Civil War's end. It came into being to protect white southerners from carpetbaggers (rip-off merchants from the North). They soon turned to harassing African Americans trying to get ahead.

By the end of the 19th Century New York had developed into a mighty metropolis with only one direction to go in for further growth - up.

The USA was not as yet a world power. Its navy was small compared to what the British had. It had already, however, the industry, the resources and the ability to become a strong player on the world stage.

1879 - Thomas Edison invents the electric light bulb.

The Age of Steam

From the kettle to the locomotive steam was most important
From the kettle to the locomotive steam was most important | Source
The small wars that cost lives but don't achieve much.
The small wars that cost lives but don't achieve much. | Source
There was poverty.
There was poverty. | Source
The humble tea bag.
The humble tea bag. | Source
The railways made a difference to people's lives.
The railways made a difference to people's lives. | Source
Crushing poverty in Scotland and Ireland.
Crushing poverty in Scotland and Ireland. | Source
There were Scottish and Irish that left their homeland for a better life in Canada, the USA or Australia.
There were Scottish and Irish that left their homeland for a better life in Canada, the USA or Australia. | Source
In the 19th Century there was cannibalism in Ireland.
In the 19th Century there was cannibalism in Ireland. | Source

GREAT BRITAIN

In Britain the 19th Century was a time of great highs and lows. The universities and colleges grew. Women were able to apply for courses and to enter professions they had previously been excluded from.

By the end of the century there were such things as female doctors and engineers. Even so, there was a lot of opposition toward women working outside the home in anything but simple, straightforward jobs. The opposition didn't always come from men.

There were a number of small wars that did little more than drain resources. The Boer War (1899 -1902) managed to damage the British Empire's reputation. It is true that the first modern concentration camps were set up by the British in South Africa.

The economic differences between the classes had grown. This led to tensions between the classes and the possibility of bloody revolution. Karl Marx saw it coming. The only thing is it didn't arrive. There were a few uprisings but cooler heads prevailed and there were parliamentary reforms.

Unions started up. First it was about safety issues especially in the mines. Pay was also a concern. It could fluctuate especially for those working the coal mines. When coal was in high demand wages were good or at least good enough. When coal was in less demand a lot of families found it hard going. This sort of thing is captured well in the American film How Green was my Valley (1941).

Tea became more plentiful and was sold as a packaged item. By the end of the century experiments at creating the tea bag as we know it were well underway. The bags, however, would not become popular till well into the 20th Century.

This was the age of steam. Trains powered by steam were joining the various parts of Great Britain together by providing cheap, fast transportation for all.

There was the locomotive connecting the great cities by rail and speed.

But there was also the Stanley Steamer that moved along the roads and could reach well over sixty miles per hour in safety.

Stream also powered heavy industry and provided ships with another source of energy other than wind power.

There was crushing poverty, especially in Scotland and Ireland. When the potato crops failed due to blight there was starvation in the Scottish highlands and also in southern Ireland.

Whereas the Scottish lowlanders organized successful relief for the highlanders, there was very little help offered to the Irish by the English. Wheat grown in the north of Ireland could have been diverted to aid the starving in the south but the English would not allow this to happen. The wheat instead went to England.

There were Irish who, in desperation, turned to cannibalism. Thanks to the big hearts of the lowland people of Scotland hundreds, perhaps thousands of highlanders were saved. Meanwhile thousands died in southern Ireland who might have been saved.

In the major cities of England life could be tough for members of the working class. Conditions did improve over the century but, by the end of it, many members of the working class were still eating bread and dripping (the cooking fat of the night before) for breakfast.

AUSTRALIA LEADING UP TO FEDERATION

THE SOUTHERN CROSS AND THE MOON
THE SOUTHERN CROSS AND THE MOON | Source
Inventions such as the box kite eventually led to the developments of planes such as this French World War One fighter.
Inventions such as the box kite eventually led to the developments of planes such as this French World War One fighter. | Source
Poverty and drunkenness.
Poverty and drunkenness. | Source

AUSTRALIA

During the last two decades leading up to the 20th Century the possibility of Federation was an on again off again issue.

One argument in favor of Federation was defense. All parties agreed that Australia should have a navy independent of Great Britain and that the cost of creating a navy would have to be shared. Not one of the colonies could have borne the cost alone.

Lowering or simply removing tariffs between colonies was another consideration. One sticking point was where to have the capital. Should it be Sydney or Melbourne? Eventually Canberra would be the chosen site.

Lawrence Hargrave invented the box kite in 1892. Later American inventor Samuel Cody improved on the original design.

Even so, it was Hargrave's original idea that gave the Wright brothers plane wings. Also, it should be noted that many of the planes flown during the First World War have wings not far removed from Hargrave's kite. Unfortunately, Hargrave doesn't always get the recognition he so richly deserves.

In Australia alcoholism and poverty tended to go well together. Also, Aborigines tended to live in the poorer areas and not have the job opportunities of white Australians. Their various cultures were not generally understood and they, strangely enough, were not as yet considered to be Australian citizens.

Trains and Cars pushed the USA and Australia Forward

Early pilots were seen as magnificent men in their flying machines.
Early pilots were seen as magnificent men in their flying machines. | Source
The First World War pushed the development of the airplane.
The First World War pushed the development of the airplane. | Source
Not all early plane flights were successful.
Not all early plane flights were successful. | Source
A German Taube plane from 1914. One was used to drop bombs on Paris.
A German Taube plane from 1914. One was used to drop bombs on Paris. | Source
Trains were uniting the USA.
Trains were uniting the USA. | Source
Despite attacks on certain churches, the KKK have always regarded themselves as being Christian.
Despite attacks on certain churches, the KKK have always regarded themselves as being Christian. | Source

THE USA 1900 - 1910

In 1903 the Wright brothers astounded first the local papers and then the world with the first powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA.

The Wright brothers would continue to improve upon their plane design but other outfits soon got into the game.

The age of motorized flight had begun. Even so, in the first decade of the new century it would take a far sighted person to see many possible military use in the new invention.

Balloons had been used successfully during the American Civil War for observation purposes. They would no doubt be used in a similar way in any future conflicts. There was also the possibility of building balloons capable of traveling long distances with bombs to drop on the enemy. Terror from the sky had already been visualized.

By the end of the decade, the train and the car were well on the way to replacing the horse as favorite modes of transportation.

Migrants from Russia, Italy, Germany and Poland were filling up the major cities. The frankfurter became a popular snack to have while watching a baseball game. When the USA got involved in the Great War the frankfurter became the hot dog. It no doubt still tasted the same.

Poverty still existed among the North American Indians and the African Americans.

In the South the Ku Klux Klan was still around.

For some North American Indians the building upwards in New York would be to their benefit. It seems that for some North American Indians fear of heights, such as experienced by most white men, did not exist.

The Kodak company was making photography cheap enough for the average person to afford. In 1900 the Brownie came into existence and the average person was now able to take happy snaps of family events such as birthdays and holidays.

It was a small, versatile camera that was inexpensive to buy and load and could be taken virtually anywhere. Thanks to the car and the camera, the national parks were doing a great tourist trade. All things considered, the future looked bright for the USA.

The Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905) and its outcome meant little to most Americans. The fact that for the first time in a very long time an Asian naval power (Japan) had defeated a European naval power (Russia) didn't seem important. Japan was modernizing rapidly.

Saint George, the Symbol of England, tarnished by the Boer War?

WAS ENGLAND, AND IN A SENSE SAINT GEORGE, TARNISHED BY THE BOER WAR?
WAS ENGLAND, AND IN A SENSE SAINT GEORGE, TARNISHED BY THE BOER WAR? | Source
In the 19th Century most British saw the Germans as another predominantly Protestant nation.
In the 19th Century most British saw the Germans as another predominantly Protestant nation. | Source
The breaking down of the good will between Germany and Britain would eventually lead to the First World War.
The breaking down of the good will between Germany and Britain would eventually lead to the First World War. | Source
At the beginning of the 20th Century Germany was gearing up for war.
At the beginning of the 20th Century Germany was gearing up for war. | Source
There was the hope that the various treaties would stop a major war in Europe from happening. The treaties, however, had the opposite affect and the light of reason was snuffed out.
There was the hope that the various treaties would stop a major war in Europe from happening. The treaties, however, had the opposite affect and the light of reason was snuffed out. | Source
A German style hand grenade.
A German style hand grenade. | Source

GREAT BRITAIN 1900 - 1910

The Boer War (1899-1902) proved unpopular for the British government both domestically and in Europe.

The Germans criticized the British disapprovingly over what the British were doing in South Africa. The British won the war but it would be a while before the English reputation for good dealings and fair play would be restored.

Certainly throughout much of the 19th Century British relations with Germany couldn't have been more amicable.

Growing up, young Willy (Wilhelm II) holidayed at Buckingham Palace and was popular with Queen Victoria and her offspring.

There was also healthy trade between what was basically two protestant nations. If we were to ask an Englishman in 1890 which country would Britain most likely go to war against, France or Germany, the answer would be France. So what went wrong?

It was more than just the Boer War. When the British launched the first Dreadnought class battleship it started an arms race.

The British, in terms of size and number of battleships, remained ahead of the competition, including the Germans, up to the beginning of the Great War.

Britain continued to claim sovereignty of the sea and the waves in general. Perhaps this irked the Germans.

During this decade treaties and alliances were made that would hopefully prevent any major conflicts between nations from erupting in Europe. Unfortunately, the complexities of these treaties and alliances was going to make war on a grand scale inevitable.

The unification of both Italy and Germany had only come about in the 19th Century. Germany began the 20th Century with steel production on the rise but with very few overseas colonies. Fatherland Germany wished to expand his interests.

Germany had the look of an eager young man wanting to flex his muscles and show the rest of the world what he is capable of doing.

Throughout much of this decade standards of living did improve among the working class of Britain but there were still slums where poverty was acute. Generally speaking, the Scottish, the Irish and the Welsh were not as well off as the English.

Clothing was still being manufactured overseas

Australians in general saw themselves as being a part of a great empire
Australians in general saw themselves as being a part of a great empire | Source
Australians living in big towns and in cities looked to the countryside as their ideal Australia.
Australians living in big towns and in cities looked to the countryside as their ideal Australia. | Source
In the 19th Century The Eureka Stockade flag was  to many a showing of a desire among some Australians to have less British rule.
In the 19th Century The Eureka Stockade flag was to many a showing of a desire among some Australians to have less British rule. | Source

AUSTRALIA 1900 - 1910

In 1901 Australia became a Federation and in 1902 women who were not Aborigines or of Asian descent could vote in Federal elections.

Despite having a healthy wool industry, the manufacture of clothing was still basically being done overseas.

Men from Queensland, Victoria and New South Wales had participated as soldiers in the 2nd Boer War on the side of Britain. The British government used their participation as evidence that the people of Australia were firmly in agreement with British policy in South Africa.

The truth was that many of the colonials from Australia who joined up to fight overseas for the empire did so in order to escape the effects of a crushing drought (It was most severe in 1902, ending its run in 1903).

It was better to put on a uniform and be paid by the British than see your farm or other business blow away in the dust. When the drought broke life improved throughout the new states which were so recently colonies and the desire to fight in a war away from home evaporated.

Empire Day was still celebrated and would be for decades to come. Loyalty to Britain except, perhaps, those of Irish descent remained strong. Questions of loyalty would not arise until the Great War and the desire by the government of that day to push through conscription. This issue of conscription would be raised twice and each time in the two referendums it would be defeated by the Australian people.

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Comments 2 comments

dahoglund profile image

dahoglund 5 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

This is quite an overview. It appears that events will continue to happen at a faster pace than in previous times.


Rod Marsden profile image

Rod Marsden 5 years ago from Wollongong, NSW, Australia Author

Thanks dahoglund. Yes events good and bad are bound to happen at a faster pace in the 21st Century than in previous centuries.

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