Industrialization After the American Civil War Essay
Industrialization that occurred in the USA in the 19th-20th centuries changed the face of the country. Prior to the Civil War, the country was divided into an industrial north (where industries were developing very fast) and agricultural south (where slave labor in fields was used). Nonetheless, industrialization united these two different worlds and contributed to creation of the nation (Schultz, 2014). Industrialization after the American Civil War had a tremendous impact on the development of social, political and economic aspects of Americans’ life by creating a consolidated nation where people shared similar values but who had to face different challenges depending on their ethnicity, class and social status.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of industrialization was its geographic expansion. Schultz (2014) notes that development of steel and railroad industries changed the face of the USA and had a dramatic impact on Americans’ lives. Railroads connected the most distant parts of the country, which led to development of other industries and especially businesses. Americans were not confined to certain locations and could go to distant areas in the search of employment or opportunities (Norton, Kamensky, Sheriff, Blight & Chudacoff, 2014). Entrepreneurs could expand their businesses as their products were delivered within shorter time span and with lower costs. As has been mentioned above, the north and south as well as east and west were united by a series of railroads. Of course, this contributed greatly to the creation of the American nation where people shared similar values based on the idea of expansion, development as well as eternal motion.
This also led to some changes in the entrepreneurial sphere. Thus, social Darwinism acquired certain popularity among entrepreneurs and big businesses were evolving into monopolies (Norton et al., 2014). Carnegie and Rockefeller as well as many others monopolized the most profitable industries making lives of working people very hard and often intolerable. It is necessary to add that these entrepreneurs developed new revolutionary strategies in business. For instance, Carnegie employed vertical integration as he understood that the control over all processes can significantly reduce costs and increase revenue (Schultz, 2014). Rockefeller is known for his use of horizontal integration, which enabled him to “lower control, lower” costs and “maximize profits” (Schultz, 2014, p. 295).
It is necessary to note that such rapid development of the economy had a significant effect on the American society as it changed it quite considerably. The contemporary consumerist society is rooted in industrialization. Development of technology as well as development of new business strategies (including vertical and horizontal integration, advertising and so on) led to mass production. It is noteworthy that development of industries created a certain vicious circle. Thus, technological advances enabled people to produce more goods, which led to the need to develop effective selling strategies. Advertising was brought to another level. For instance, celebrities were using products of famous brands and people wanted to buy the same things (Norton et al., 2014). More goods were produced and the demand was also growing. People were taught to consume.
Industrialization affected lives of farmers. Thousands of farmers could not compete with emerging large farming companies that could produce and deliver their products to the consumer (Kennedy, Cohen & Piehl, 2011). Even though farmers had more opportunities to deliver their goods to more distant locations, as there were railroads, they often had no opportunity to do so as their products had short shelf life. To a certain extent, farmers were confined to their local markets (which were overloaded with famous brands heavily advertised). Farmers went bankrupts and had to travel to cities in their search for jobs. Whole families had to move to cities and these internal migrants joined the ranks of the working class.
Working class, which is the second group to be considered, was also affected. The development of technology led to the increase in demand for unskilled labor force, which led to lower wages (Schultz, 2014). Working conditions were also horrific as entrepreneurs focused on their profits rather than the wellbeing of their workers as there was no lack of labor force. People had to work in stuffy sweatshops long hours with no or a few breaks. Such catastrophes as the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire were quite common and many working people were killed during such accidents (Schultz, 2014). At the same time, development of business, unfair practices of entrepreneurs and various deadly accidents led to creation of working unions as working people had to unite to defend their rights.
Women can be the third group to be considered. Prior to industrialization, women rarely entered the labor market. However, the demand for low-paid unskilled labor force increased so women had to start working. Women (and children) were paid less than men, but they had to work as hard. Participation in the labor market led to women’s empowerment in the future, as they were able to justify their right to vote, to earn more and so on since they were also breadwinners (Vapnek, 2009). Women were also affected by industrialization, as they were becoming consumers.
It is possible to identify another group of people affected by American industrialization. Immigrants started coming to the USA after the news concerning the rapid development of the economy. First, industrialization had a great effect on this cohort as the number of immigrants increased significantly (Lockard, 2010). People from Europe were the most significant groups of immigrants at those times, though people from Asian countries and Latin America were also coming (Norton et al., 2014). Secondly, conditions immigrants were living in were horrible, as they had to work long hours for very low wages since they were unskilled workers. Their conditions were even more horrible than those of American working people, as immigrants often did not speak English.
Finally, the fifth group to be discussed is that of entrepreneurs. Those who had certain resources could quite rapidly multiply them in the period of social Darwinism. Apart from enrichment of business people, entrepreneurs created numerous strategies and understood that they can have a significant influence on politicians and the country’s policies. People like Rockefeller and Carnegie were introducing new business strategies that are still used in the contemporary business world.
It is possible to identify five ways industrialization affected the life of the average working American. Americans’ profits were decreasing significantly. Salaries were low and people often had to live in poverty. Many families had to live in working areas where conditions were inappropriate and even dangerous (Schultz, 2014). Many people died because of accidents during their working hours, because of numerous diseases (malnutrition was also one of these reasons).
At the same time, it is possible to note that living standards improved due to technological advances (electricity, transportation and so on) but their living conditions were still horrible due to impoverishment of the working class (Norton et al., 2014). Working conditions were also very poor, as people had to work in stuffy plants with high temperatures. Thus, on the one hand, there was electricity in many houses, people were driving cars and travelling across the country, and various goods made people lives easier. On the other hand, only the luckiest working people could afford these benefits of the new era.
Besides, working people were becoming consumers as well. Abundance of goods at quite low prices made people accustomed to values of the consumerist society. They worked hard and they developed a notion that they could afford certain goods and ‘luxuries’ to reward themselves and their families for their hard life.
Working people started uniting into trade unions, which had a significant impact on further development of the American society. People understood that they could make entrepreneurs change their ways and improve working conditions of American workers. People were also interested in politics as they saw politicians as people who are capable of changing something for better.
Industrialization shaped the very families as during that period women entered the American labor market. They did not pay that much attention to their households and child upbringing as they simply did not have time. More so, women started acquiring more rights within the family as they also brought money to their homes (of course, this process was not very fast).
In conclusion, it is possible to note that the industrialization after the Civil War shaped the US society or rather changed it almost completely. Americans developed new strategies in making business, developing technology, running household, affecting politics and so on. The society of consumerists was also created at that period.
Kennedy, D., Cohen, L., & Piehl, M. (2011). The brief American pageant: A history of the republic, volume II: Since 1865. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Lockard, C. (2010). Societies, networks, and transitions. Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.
Norton, M.B., Kamensky, J., Sheriff, C., Blight, D.W., & Chudacoff, H. (2014). A people and a nation, volume II: Since 1865. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Schultz, K.M. (2014). HIST: Volume 2: U.S. history since 1865. University of Illinois at Chicago: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.
Vapnek, L. (2009). Breadwinners: Working women and economic independence, 1865-1920. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.
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