Industrial Revolution In America

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The Industrial Revolution began in Europe during the late 1700s. Then, towards the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century, a similar movement started in America, often referred to as the Second Industrial Revolution. During this time, new inventions led to faster and increased production, as well as more efficient rail transportation. America became one, if not the leading industrial power in the world. Jobs were plentiful, and immigrants started flooding in by the millions. The American economy was booming.

One main factor leading up to this new peak in America’s industry was the new inventions. Many circular circumstances seemed to happen. For example, when inventions were able to increase weaving speed, the amount of yarn produced increased, as well as demand for it. More inventions like the Spinning Jenny were needed to keep up with the growing demand, making weaving and production even faster, which in turn increased demand, etc, etc. Another example is the steam engine, a machine of great importance in America. While it was invented in the late 17th century, the steam engine continued to be developed further during the Industrial Revolution and made more efficient. It was originally used to remove water from coal mines and actually ran on coal itself. Improvements on the machine lead a greater supply of coal could be extracted from the mines, also meaning more steam engines could be used, then more coal produced, etc.

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There were also newly invented farming tools such as the steel plow, seed drill, and the cotton gin, making what had previously been hard labor easy work. Fewer farmers were needed because of the increase in crop yield, and the population in the urban parts of America grew dramatically. Jobs were plentiful, so immigrants came, eager for work. More than 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island, an immigration station in New York. With plenty of people needing work, employers could get away with paying low wages. This cheap labor fueled industrial growth even more, as well as city population (especially in the North).

The Industrial Revolution also introduced a change in transportation. As steam engines were improved, so were trains. The Pullman Car Company was founded in 1867, and it featured luxury overnight train travel. However, working at the Company wasn’t near as luxurious as the cars. A political cartoon from 1984 depicts a worker being a fat man labeled Pullman crushing a man labeled “employee” in between a presser. The words “High Rent” and “Low Wages” are written on the presser along with smaller words monopoly, capitalism, plutocracy, and wage-slavery. The working class would be working long hours every day to pay their rent, transport, and provide for their families, but had to do so with low wages.

With such a demand for products, working hours stretched longer and longer. The Table of The Lowell Mills is a bell schedule for the mill, some days workers waking up as early as 4:30, the last evening bell ringing at 6:30. That’s an absurdly long day – fourteen hours! But working conditions didn’t need to be good because there weren’t rules enforcing standards. The people knew they were getting a bad deal. There were almost ten thousand strikes and lockouts in just the 1880s. Eventually, standards were set. The workplace became safer, children were more restricted, wages increased and hours got shorter. The Industrial Revolution in American not only strengthened the economy, but it spurred people on toward new ideas, methods, and jobs. They had to fight to get what they needed as workers while America became the leading industrial power in the world. 

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