The Second Industrial Revolution

Download 16.95 Kb.
Size16.95 Kb.
1st Passage: “The Second Industrial Revolution”
From the ashes of the American Civil War sprung an economic powerhouse. The factories built by the Union to defeat the Confederacy were not shut down at the war's end. Now that the fighting was done, these factories were converted to peacetime purposes.

The growth was astounding. From the end of Reconstruction in 1877 to the disastrous Panic of 1893, the American economy nearly doubled in size. This period in time was known as the Second Industrial Revolution and it was distinguished by not just massive industrial output in steel and oil, but by new technologies --- such as the telephone and the light bulb --- and new sources of power such as petroleum and electricity. One new technological innovation, The Bessemer Process, created the steel industry. The Bessemer process was the first inexpensive industrial process for the mass-production of steel from molten pig iron prior to the open hearth furnace. These and other technologies and new ways of organizing business led a few individuals to the top. The competition was ruthless. Those who could not provide the best product at the cheapest price were simply driven into bankruptcy or were bought up by hungry, successful industrialists.

uncle sam killed by trusts.

The cartoon reads "One sees his (Uncle Sam's) finish unless good government retakes the ship"

The captains of industry became household names: John D. Rockefeller of Standard Oil, Andrew Carnegie of Carnegie Steel, and J. Pierpont Morgan, the powerful banker who controlled a great many industries. One individual, Henry Morrison Flagler led to the expansion and settlement of Florida when he invested in real estate, tourism and the expansion of a rail line through the state.

Realizing the need for a sound transportation system to support his hotel ventures, Flagler purchased short line railroads in what would later become known as the Florida East Coast Railway. He modernized the existing railroads for them to accommodate heavier loads and more traffic. Flagler originally intended West Palm Beach to be the end of his railroad system. But, after a severe winter, landowners in South Florida Julia Tuttle and William Brickell, convinced him to continue the rail track to the warm climate of Miami. For this reason, he is known as the father of both Miami and Palm Beach, Florida.

What role did the government play in this new growth led by these industrialists? Basically, it was pro-business. Congress, the Presidents, and the Courts looked favorably on this new growth and often sided with business during labor disputes. Furthermore, corruption spread like a plague through the city, state, and national governments. Greedy legislators and "forgettable" Presidents dominated the political scene.

Soon, the captains of industry justified their positions and tactics using the scientific language of the day. The popular conception of "survival of the fittest" was used to explain the status of both rich and poor. “Social Darwinists” as they were known believed that the humans who were the most fit became the most successful. Whatever people had the necessary skills to prosper — perhaps talent, brains, or hard work — would be the ones who would rise to the top. Why were some people poor? To the Social Darwinist, the answer was obvious. They simply did not have the required skills.

Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina

Some Americans tried to reconcile their Christian beliefs with Social Darwinism. To many like Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller, talents that some acquired had to be used for the benefit of society. In other words, Christian virtue demanded that some of that money be shared. These proponents of the “Gospel of Wealth” became philanthropists — wealthy citizens who donated large sums of money for the public good.

Source: Excerpts from
2nd Passage: “Labor”

Most Americans living in this Gilded Age knew nothing of the lifestyle of Rockefeller, Carnegie and Morgan. They worked 10 hour shifts, 6 days a week, for wages barely enough to survive. Children as young as eight years old worked also long hours. Those too old would often be released from employment without retirement benefits. Medical coverage did not exist.

unequal distribution of wealth
This 1899 political cartoon, published in The Verdict, represents the growing disparity between the rich and poor classes in America. This disproportion fomented the formation of anti-trust laws in the following decade.

Soon laborers realized that they must unite to demand change. Slowly but surely unions did grow. Efforts to form nationwide organizations faced even greater difficulties. Federal troops were sometimes called to block their efforts. Judges almost always ruled in favor of the bosses.

haymarket rioters

Chicago "Anarchists." In 1886, protesting for an 8-hour work day led to the Haymarket Riot.

The Knights of Labor was among one of the first organized labor unions. Begun as a secret society in 1869, the Knights admitted all wage earners into their ranks, including women and African Americans. The philosophy was simple: class was more important than race or gender. For such a group to influence the federal government, complete solidarity would be required. At the height of its membership in 1886, the Knights boasted 750,000 workers. But then disaster struck.

At a rally in Haymarket Square in Chicago on May 4, someone threw a bomb into the crowd. One police officer died and several crowd members sustained injuries. The American press, government, and general public blamed the Knights of Labor. Soon, Americans associated labor activity with anarchists and mob violence. Membership began to fall. Soon the Knights were merely a shadow of their former size. But labor leaders had learned some valuable lessons. The next national organization of workers would endure.

gompers poster

Poster announcing American Federation of Labor President Samuel Gompers' visit to Ouray, Colorado, in 1899

“Keep it simple.” That was the mantra of labor leader Samuel Gompers. He was a diehard capitalist and saw no need for a radical restructuring of America. Gompers quickly learned that that workers cared most deeply were "bread and butter" issues, such as higher wages and better working conditions.

In December of 1886, Gompers met with the leaders of other craft unions to form the American Federation of Labor (AF of L) The A.F. of L. was a loose grouping of smaller craft unions, so every member of the A.F. of L. was therefore a skilled worker. Gompers had no visions of uniting the entire working class. Gompers knew that the A.F. of L. would have more political and economic power if unskilled workers were excluded.

Although conservative in nature, The AFL was not afraid to call for a strike or a boycott. In 1892, its largest craft union, the AA went on strike in Carnegie’s largest steel plant at Homestead Pennsylvania after a series of wage cuts. After a bloody encounter between strikers and hired guards known as Pinkerton’s, the strike was broken. Like so many times, big business with the help of the Federal government won against labor.

Although the bosses still had the upper hand with the government, unions were growing in size and status. There were over 20,000 strikes in America in the last two decades of the 19th century. One strike, The Pullman Strike, was a nationwide railroad strike in the United States on May 11, 1894. It pitted the American Railway Union against the Pullman Company, the main railroads, and the federal government of the United States. Predictably, labor lost.

Source: Excerpts from

Topic 2: Questions

Passage 1

  1. What were some features that defined the second industrial revolution?

  2. How did Flagler lead to the growth of Florida?

  3. Compare and contrast the ideas of “Survival of the fittest” with the “Gospel of Wealth”.

Passage 2

  1. Name some obstacles that Labor faced during the period of the 2nd Industrialization.

  2. How was the Knights of Labor different than the A.F. of L.?

Download 16.95 Kb.

Share with your friends:

The database is protected by copyright © 2023
send message

    Main page