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The cause of America’s industrial revolution can be attributed to the creation of the first factories in the country, its westward expansion in the territory, the rise of the railroad industry as well as the arrival of millions of immigrants (Justman & Grandstein, 1999). However, this period also implemented practices that can be considered as “horrific” as seen in the treatment-experienced by women, children, and immigrant workers in factories. The problem with the American Industrial Revolution was that in its pursuit of wealth and expansion, it neglected to take into account its negative impact on the workers that helped to make it possible.
Creation of Factories
The rapid industrialization of the country from 1865 to 1920 can mainly be attributed to the introduction of the predecessor of the modern-day factory into the U.S market. Before its creation; products used to be made-to-order which limited the amount of time that particular goods could be made and shipped (Horrell & Oxley, 2012). Through the use of factories and a rough version of what we now know as an assembly line, products could now be created in bulk. This lowered their inherent cost which subsequently increased their demand resulting in even more factories being built to match the needs of the market.
Connection to America’s Expansion
Aside from the industrial revolution, another pivotal point that occurred from 1865 to 1920 was America’s Westward Expansion, which was encouraged by the Louisiana Purchase. These two crucial points are connected since the expansion in territory also came to the inevitable increase in the country’s economy (Hirschman & Mogford, 2009). Fueled by its western expansion and the arrival of millions of immigrants over several decades, America’s industrial capacity grew to match the ever-increasing demand for processed goods.
The Growth of the Railroad Industry
The railroad industry contributed immensely to the growth of the industrial revolution since it enabled goods to be transported in large quantities in an expedient fashion (Staudenmaier, 1990). This allowed various products to reach previously inaccessible locations resulting in the rise of overall market demand.
Groups Negatively Affected by the Industrial Revolution
During the industrial revolution, women, children, and immigrant workers bore the brunt of the negative practices that arose during this period. Children were required to help support their families by also working. Unfortunately, they were often used in dangerous jobs such as working in the machinery of a factory or coal mines. This resulted in numerous deaths due to the danger of the equipment and the potential collapse of tunnels (Gordon, 1989).
Women were often paid lower wages than their male counterparts and were placed in abysmal working conditions that endangered their health. Lastly, immigrant workers were abused by factory owners due to their limited amount of opportunities. They were paid substandard wages compared to American workers and were subjected to living in horrendous living conditions that compromised their health.
Impact on the Average Working American
While the average worker gained more job opportunities, it was often the case that safety protocols and standardized wages were not implemented in many factories resulting in the abuse and even death of employees (Ransom, 1999). The reason for this was a lack of sufficient government oversight over the practices of factory owners which allowed these cases of abuse to be endemic within many factories at the time.
The American Industrial Revolution brought about an unprecedented level of economic and social change to the country; however, in its pursuit of wealth and expansion, it neglected to take into account its negative impact on the workers that helped to make it possible.
Gordon, J. S. (1989). When our ancestors became us. American Heritage, 40(8), 106.
Hirschman, C., & Mogford, E. (2009). Immigration and the American industrial revolution from 1880 to 1920. Social Science Research, 38(4), 897-920.
Horrell, S., & Oxley, D. (2012). Bringing home the bacon? Regional nutrition, stature, and gender in the industrial revolution. Economic History Review, 65(4), 1354-1379.
Justman, M., & Grandstein, M. (1999). The Industrial Revolution, Political Transition, and the Subsequent Decline in Inequality. Explorations In Economic History, 36(2), 109.
Ransom, R. L. (1999). Fact and counterfact: The Second American Revolution’ revisited. Civil War History, 45(1), 28.
Staudenmaier, J. M. (1990). Engines of Change: The American Industrial Revolution, 1790- 1860. Journal Of American History, 77(1), 217.