DBQ - The Industrial Boom, The Industrial Revolution
The United States of America… has a ring to it doesn’t it? Many immigrants during the 1860-1900 time period thought so. To them, the United States was a way to escape the hardships of their homelands and a place to start their highly sought after new lives. The United States, although looked at like a paradise from afar, had many problems just like the ones in any other country during that time. The “homes” for immigrants who had just entered the country had no running water, and even if it was running, it was unfiltered and undrinkable. There were often two, maybe three families living in one room, and worst of all no trash collectors, leaving families to wallow in their own waste! Then again, not everyone in the United States had to endure these hardships. Citizens who were already assimilated in that they had stable jobs and could afford utilities, often found themselves wanting easier, and more efficient ways of doing things. Near the turn of the 20th Century, the United States, along with the help of new inventions, advances in political strategies, new business practices and innovations in the communications field endured a harsh but necessary change which lead it to its current industrialized landscape.
Many industrialists and pioneers of the late 19th century, such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller helped to promote the harsh change acknowledged above. Their use of vertical and horizontal integration, along with the creation of monopolies and oligopolies allowed them to obtain inconceivable amounts of money with no real “red tape” to stop them. (Document 7) The only thing stopping them was the pleas and anguish shown by their workers, which would rarely; if ever reach anyone in a position to make a difference. Many workers, especially newly imported, glory-bound immigrants, worked almost twice as much, more than twice as hard, and in an environment that is twice as dangerous as the average Joe today. Working in steel mills, garment factories with terrible safety practices, or working on a construction project were difficult and physically demanding jobs. Because of their occupations, or just ongoing boredom with their lives, many people in the United States looked to sports, such as baseball and boxing, and amusement parks to unwind, or give their children a chance to play and interact with other children. Most of these activities, along with new and improved versions of them, can still be seen in society today. Baseball, often referred to as America’s Past Time, is still played and watched by millions all over the globe, we still enjoy the “Crack” you hear when watching a boxing bout, and amusement parks still offer a place for children and parents alike to scream and laugh in enjoyment all year round.
The computer on which I am writing this essay, the car I used to get to school this morning and even the ball-point pen used to grade this essay are all looked at as common items today, but in the late 1800s the closest thing to a computer was a typewriter, the car was a very primitive carriage with an undersized engine allowing it to travel at speeds of merely 10 to 15 miles per hour, and the ball point pen was not even invented yet! The invention of the railroad was a turning point in American industry. It allowed businesses to send and receive goods faster, safer, over much larger distances and in much greater quantities than ever before, which would explain its rapid popularity growth from 1880-1900. (Document 2) The invention of the streetcar in 1888 revolutionized inner-city travel by allowing passengers to tour and travel throughout the city with ease. At the beginning of the 20th century the automobile was a toy for the rich who never even considered its obvious potential. Most models were complicated machines that required constant repairing. Henry Ford was determined to build a simple, reliable and affordable car; a car the average American worker could afford. Out of this determination came the Model T and the assembly line which lowered the demand for human workers. (Document 5) Also out of Henry Ford’s determination came the quote that he has become so famous for saying: “You can have any color you like, as long as its black.” These two inventions, along with the free time people now had due to time saving inventions such as the telephone, the typewriter, and the streetcar made the rather impossible dream of working in the city, but not living in the city a very real part of American culture and is still a large part of society today. Today, nearly all the families and retirees in America live in suburbs of larger cities. Suburbs are smaller, usually rural cities outside the urban city that are intended to convey a more comfortable, less crowded place to live. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, suburbs were a getaway from the average, busy streets of the big city. They offered protection against crooks and thieves by using the buddy system or sometimes called the neighborhood watch system, this is where you watch out for your neighbors and they watch out for you. Suburbs were indeed the perfect solution to the inner city American’s claustrophobic existence.
Large business tycoons, immigrants, and the everyday American people were not the sole reason for our nation’s success. Political parties, along with the people who ran them, also had a hand in America’s rapid economical, technological, and social advancements. The Republican Party provided railroad companies with land grants and other essential supplies to build their railroads. As stated in the 1860 Republican Party Platform: “…a railroad to the Pacific Ocean is imperatively demanded by the interest of the whole country, the Federal government ought to render immediate and efficient aid in its construction.” (Document 3) This statement, along with many others written by Republicans and Democrats alike, were key factors in the building and effectiveness of some of our countries greatest achievements. (Document 4) The railroad, protection of big business through higher tariffs, creating of a national bank and currency, and the encouragement of building cleanup and new national harbors were only a few of the proposals brought up by the Republican Party in 1860 that turned out to be long term successes. A plank from the 1860 Republican platform stated: “the Republican Party is opposed to any change in our naturalization laws, or any stated legislation by which the rights of immigrants from foreign lands shall be abridged or impaired.” This statement, along with many others like it helped to preserve and create new laws for immigrants. In return, immigrants showed their support at the polls by voting for whomever would sympathize with their situation the most. These heroes, or thieves as we know them today, would often be a part of a commonly used political tactic called a political machine. A political machine is set up much the way a dictatorship would be, you have the leader, his captains, and their cronies. When misused, a political machine could rob the government of millions of dollars in one fell swoop. Although political machines did set back the country economically, the momentum of the overall revolution happening in the United States at this time was too much to be stopped.
The United States, alongside many other nations at the time, underwent a dramatic change that helped shaped our current reputation as the wealthiest, most innovative, and most powerful country in the world. Britain, Germany, and many other European nations also experienced a dramatic change during the late 19th century. They too were mostly rural countries who transformed themselves into an “industrial machine”. But if a number of countries experienced this sudden boom in industry, then what made the United States rise above the rest and transform itself into the most powerful industrial nation the world has ever seen? Was it our deep, burning desire to succeed? Was it just that we got lucky, or was it a combination of numerous factors? Our abundance of natural resources, free enterprise, and the fact that the best and brightest from dozens of counties all over the world wanted to immigrate to the United States gave us a workforce that was second to none in its innovation, determination and desire to make the United States the most productive country in the world. This combination of a cooperative government, strong business leadership, a simple frontier spirit, our wealth of natural resources and highly skilled laborers set us apart from every other country. The success of this period continued into the 20th century and no one can debate that the United States is still to this day the most powerful and successful industrial nation in the world.