Regents Prep: U.S. History: Human Systems & Society: Impact of Industrialism
General Impact of Industrialization
In the mid 1800s, the development of new machines and tools led to an explosion of factory construction, and a boom in mass production. Immigration, a population shift from rural to urban areas, and the expansion of the railroads led to the development of a national market for finished goods. Shrewd businessmen like Rockefeller, Carnegie and Morgan pushed these revolutionary changes ahead.
The rapid influx of people to cities placed a burden on urban areas with which most municipalities could not cope. WithClick To Download people flooding into cities in search of jobs and a better life, there was not enough housing to go around, and far too little public assistance available. The poor, tired and dirty workers eventually organized labor unions to resist employer exploitation, but that only led to a new round of difficulties and problems for the urban poor.
Overall, when economic transformations occur, the average standard of living also tends to improve. In a market economy, such as the United States, industrialization eventually led to greater opportunities for most workers. Business growth often leads to greater competition among manufacturers, and increased interdependence of the society.
One negative aspect of the combination of industrialization and urbanization is the decay and disappearance of the extended family. In the more costly city, most people just couldn’t afford to have large families, like those needed to keep a farm running. The cost of living was too high.
Improved Transportation and Western Migration
The completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869 allowed farmers and ranchers to get their grain or beef to markets much more easily. This advance in transportation technology was a double-edged sword. The ease with which one could ship goods was great for business big and small, but the power of the railroads to set artificially high prices, and, in effect, deny their services could bankrupt a company.
On the other hand, the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869 allowed and encouraged settlers to move further and further westward, into the Great Plains and to the West Coast. For people, the railroad cut the journey form coast to coast down to a few weeks. For the first time, the population was shifting from rural to urban, and from east to west. For many, the call of the frontier could now be answered.
Before the Civil War, most people lived in rural areas. After World War I, over half of the entire American population lived in cities. Remember, the movement of people from rural to urban areas is called urbanization. As cities grew, many were incapable of keeping up with the building and repair necessary to hold everyone. These areas often lacked fire departments, police stations, schools, and adequate sewers. Low wages kept working families living in tenements, single-room apartment buildings, in areas that were often crime-ridden, dirty, and very overcrowded.