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Industrialization: Economic and Social Impact
The “late nineteenth century was sandwiched between two great financial panics in 1873 and 1893” and yet, it is during this time that the “big businesses” started to appear in the US (Oakes et al. 512). The “big businesses” resulted in enormous wealth; an example of such business is the railroad industry as developed by Andrew Carnegie (Oakes et al. 517-524). The business did not only serve to enrich its owner: it spurred the development of steel manufacturing and banking that, in turn, allowed the Carnegie’s business to prosper. As a result of such businesses development, the economy of the whole country was changing rapidly, and a new elite social class was forming.
The major drawback of such industrial empires was the control of competition (Oakes et al. 521). From the social point of view, big businesses led to segregation that was emphasized due to the process of industrialization. Indeed, while successful craftsmen were still valued and could not be replaced, the “labor-saving machinery was increasing a far more dependent industrial working class” (Oakes et al. 523).
The immigration (a result of the crises) must have worsened the situation. By 1880, “forty percent of industrial workers lived at or below the poverty line” (Oakes et al. 584). The position of farmers could also be described as desperate, and the workers did not seem to trust the government to change the situation. As a result, they created labor organizations (the Knights of Labor) and participated in strikes (the Haymarket Strike) to draw attention to their problems and demand their solution. As a result of the industrialization, workers became a political force.
Cultural Impact: American Cities
The industrialization of the US has caused a radical change in all the aspects of the country’s life. The impact on the economy was to be expected; however, as it turned out, an industrial society favored different values. American cities were a quintessence of the change: they were the centers of both industry and the old and new entertainment types (for example, vaudeville); they attracted immigrants who brought along their cultures and were gradually assimilating. Cities were also the center of education and the cultural life of the US: the “high culture” ideas were mostly spread by them. The promotion of the high culture and the “social Darwinism” also reflected the social segregation tendencies of industrialization (Oakes et al. 542-562). The cities of the US, therefore, reflected the change that the country was subjected to in the process of industrialization.
Urban Log: from 1870 to 1915
From the “The Urban Log Cabin,” it is apparent that quite a number of immigrants (for example, from Russia, Poland, Germany) lived in 97 Orchard Street both in 1870 and 1915. The industrialization was barely visible in 1870: in the story of Gottberg Family it is pointed out that women still used to make lace by hand. The level of medicine could have improved (the insurance of the poor Berg family in 1915 might be an indication to that), but it still appears extravagant to a modern person: in 1915, Olga Chereska used cupping for the man who is supposedly down with tuberculosis. Still, the sanitation conditions have much improved since 1870 for the Orchard Street dwellers.
According to the information from the “Tenement” part of “The Urban Log Cabin”, in 1870, there was heat in the apartments, but no toilets; there were also problems with ventilation and light: only the front room in an apartment got them directly. It should be pointed out that this was a typical situation at the time: “after all, its owner chose to live within” (“The Urban Log Cabin” par. 20).
To compare, in 1915, there was still no electricity yet, but there was a WC for every two apartments; and the light and ventilation problems have been attended, for example, by installing ventilating skylights. The life of the common people, it appears, was improving along with the changes in the country (“The Urban Log Cabin” par. 11-34).
Oakes, James, et al. Of The People. Vol. 2. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014. Print.
“The Urban Log Cabin.” Thirteen WNET New York Public Media. WNET, n.d. Web.