Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The Spanish-American War

The late 19th century would see two wars--a circulation war between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst and a war between the United States and Spain. The Spanish-American War would result in the end of Spanish colonial rule in the Americas and the acquisition of new territories in the Pacific and Latin America by the United States.

In the early months of 1895, Cuba was struggling to gain independence from Spain. Spain was brutally repressive towards Cuba and this was played out in the American media. Newspaper editors, politicians, and regular American citizens wanted U.S. intervention on Cuba's behalf but there was not probable cause to enter the conflict at the time. William Randolph Hearst, the editor of the "New York Journal", sent a correspondent to Cuba in 1859 to draw pictures for the newspaper. The correspondent sent word to Hearst that there was no hint that war would break out; in his reply, Hearst famously replied, "You supply the pictures and I'll supply the war."

On February 15, 1898, an explosion occurred on the USS Maine, a U.S. naval ship sent to Cuba to monitor the rebellion. The explosion was completely unexpected and a large number of the crew, 260 men, were killed as a result. Although the cause of the explosion is still being debated by naval historians and naval archaeologists today (with the primary belief today being that the cause was an internal combustion issue after decades of research), the U.S. Navy believed through its investigations that the USS Maine was destroyed by a missile fired by the Spanish.

The phrase "Remember the Maine" became a rallying cry for the U.S. as civilian citizens, military members politicians, and even the president believed that the U.S. should enter into a war with Spain.

President Grover Cleveland wanted to avoid going to war with Spain during his term and was successful; however, President McKinley was not successful. After the incident with the USS Maine, President McKinley sent the Spanish a strongly worded letter demanding a truce and an end to the brutality against the Cubans. The Spanish refused and the U.S. Congress would declare war on April 25, 1898.

The events in Cuba would trigger the Spanish-American War but the first official events of the war would kick-off in the Philippines in Southeast Asia. In late February 1898 after the incident with the USS Maine, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Theodore Roosevelt had warned Commodore George Dewey to prepare for possible military action in the Philippines as these islands served as a base for part of the Spanish naval fleet. In the early morning hours of May 1, Commodore Dewey had launched a surprise attack on the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay. Most of the Spanish ships that were present would be destroyed. In July, American troops arrived in the Philippines and combined forces of the Americans and the Filipino rebels, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, would capture the city of Manila; on their own, the rebels would capture the island of Luzon and declare independence from Spain.

Back in the Caribbean, a Spanish fleet entered the Cuban harbor at Santiago on May 19. The American Navy soon blockaded the Spanish fleet, trapping them inside the harbor. About 17,000 American troops then came ashore while forces under Cuban general Calixto Garcia drove off the Spanish soldiers. As the Cuban and American forces advanced, heavy fighting followed.

As the war advanced, Theodore Roosevelt would resign from his position as the Assistant Secretary of the Navy and would join the war efforts as a commanding officer of the First Regiment of U.S. Cavalry Volunteers--known famously as the Rough Riders. On July 1, the Rough Riders charged up San Juan Hill, capturing the hill after intense fighting. Two days later, the Spanish fleet in Santiago Harbor was destroyed, bringing an end to Spanish colonial rule in Cuba. In late July, the U.S. then turned its sights on Puerto Rico and quickly took control of the island.

The Spanish-American War led to the acquisition of new territories to the United States, which included Puerto Rico and the Philippines; the U.S. also became a protectorate of Cuba via the Platt Amendment (1901) which granted Cuba its independence under the conditions that the U.S. could control the naval base at Guantanamo Bay and also intervene in Cuban affairs if the country's independence was threatened. In 1907 under the Jones Act, Puerto Rico became an official U.S. territory and all Puerto Ricans were granted U.S. citizenship; at that time, Puerto Rico wanted independence and to be its own sovereign nation whereas today many Puerto Ricans want the territory to be granted statehood.

The Philippines, however, would continue to fight for independence and would have support from anti-imperialist backers such as Andrew Carnegie, Mark Twain, and others. Imperialists Henry Cabot Lodge, Albert Beveridge, and others argued what they believed to be the benefits of American imperialism and in securing the islands--that the Philippines could be home to (another) Pacific naval base, that they could use the location as a trade hub with China, and that the U.S. had a duty to help "less civilized" peoples. The imperialists would win the argument and the Treaty of Paris would be ratified on February 6, 1899.

Rebellion in the Philippines would continue as the islands struggled for independence not from Spain but from the U.S. More than 4,000 Americans died in the conflict, but the Filipinos suffered much greater casualties with a death toll of 200,000 civilians and soldiers. In the summer of 1901, the U.S. transferred authority from a military government to a civilian government with William H. Taft at its head. In 1946, the Philippines would finally be granted independence.

Although the Spanish-American War was one of the shorter conflicts the U.S. was involved in, it has lasting impacts on the country today as far as international and national relations are concerned with the acquisition of lands. In 2017, Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria, leaving over one million people without electricity, communications technology, and their homes. Relief aid was slow to come, and many in the U.S. commonwealth are still left without homes and electricity. Today, many people don't realize that Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory rather than a sovereign nation and believe that they should be left alone to deal with the fallout and the cleanup of the hurricane on their own, which arrived in the midst of an economic downturn for the territory, further straining relationships with our own people.

The next post on the blog will examine U.S. international relations and the construction of the Panama Canal.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Progressive Era's Reform Movements: A Summary

The Progressive Era was a period of widespread social activism and political reform in the U.S. from the 1890s to the 1920s. The main objective of the Progressive Era was to eliminate the social ills caused by industrialization, urbanization, mass immigration, and government corruption. The top ten reforms of the Progressive Era were:

1. Civil Rights-- W.E.B. Du Bois published "The Souls of Black Folk" in 1903 which called for a more proactive approach to civil rights; in 1909, the NAACP was founded by a group of black and white activists.

2. Conservationism-- Millions of acres of land and mineral sites were set aside as national property during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt for conservation and reclamation; in 1906, the National Park Service was founded by the Organic Act.

3. Government Reform-- Wisconsin governor Robert La Follette implemented the "Wisconsin Idea" which reformed taxes, elections, railroad rates, and more; he also allowed voters to have a more direct control of their government, and other states would see his actions and would follow suit.

4. Health & Medicine-- After the 1906 publication of Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle", which examined the horrors of the meatpacking industry, reformers worked to create national food and drug regulations; today, we have the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to ensure our food and medicine is safe for consumption.

5. Labor Reform-- Theodore Roosevelt became the first president to support workers by intervening in the coal strike of 1902 on behalf of the miners. Reformers also advocated for legislation regulating child labor and workplace safety. Labor reform would lead to the rise of OSHA safety standards, workers compensation, and other measures.

6. Radical Trade Unionism-- Trade unions were established for the benefit of the workers; tools such as strikes and collective bargaining were used to receive things like worker safety measures and higher pay...including the fight for a minimum living wage.

7. Socialism-- Socialism is a dirty word in this country, but it would come to the U.S. in the 1900s. Socialist candidate Eugene Debs won 800,000 votes in 1912 for the presidential election, showing how popular Socialism was at the time. Some socialist measures continue to exist in this country--such as public schools, public libraries, public emergency forces such as police, firefighters, and EMS, and more.

8. Temperance-- Temperance groups blamed violence, poverty, and other social problems on alcohol. As a result of the work carried out by temperance groups, the Eighteenth Amendment forbidding the manufacturing, sale, transportation, and consumption of alcohol was ratified to the Constitution; later, this amendment would be stricken.

9. Trust Busting-- Theodore Roosevelt used the 1890 Sherman Anti-Trust Act to "bust" up powerful monopolies and corporate trusts like the Northern Securities railroad trust and the Standard Oil trust.

10. Women's Rights-- Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in Brooklyn in 1916. Birth control would allow women to space out their births and to limit the number of children they had. The infamous Comstock Laws would be passed, which severely censored information and materials considered "indecent" such as information on birth control; women of all social classes rallied against these laws, and would also rally for suffrage (which I described in a post in March for Women's History Month). The Nineteenth Amendment would be ratified in 1920 and women would be granted the right to vote.

This post was a summary of the many reform movements of the Progressive Era. These reforms by no means eliminated the social ills of the day, but the goal to set out to make a better country in the wake of industrialization was fought head-on by people of all social classes who saw that moving forward technologically was not positive for everyone.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Educating America

Before 1870, fewer than half of American children went to school. One-room schoolhouses with all age levels being taught together by one teacher was the norm. As industry grew, people realized that the nation would benefit from having an educated workforce; as a result, states would push to improve education at all levels. This post will examine how education reform swept the nation.

In 1852, Massachusetts would pave the way for compulsory education by law. Compulsory education is what we in the U.S. continue to have--children up to a certain age are required by law to attend school. Other states followed suit and most states would require children up to age 16 to remain in school, changing from no age requirement and no compulsory attendance. The public school would become popularized at this time. Due to the rise of public schools and compulsory education, more youths would stay in school and graduate. Higher education would expand as a result of increased availability to education; both state-funded universities and privately-funded colleges for both men and women would increase in number.

One major proponent of compulsory education was Horace Mann, who was the Secretary of the Massachusetts State Board of Education and a member of the U.S. House of Representatives. Mann believed that education should be universal, non-sectarian, free, and that it should aim to educate the child as a whole person--to teach them the reading, writing, and math skills they would need for everyday life but to also teach them civic virtue and character so they would be well-rounded, functioning members of society.

Education for adults would also rise during this time, usually in the form of libraries and religious education. Teachers also taught immigrants how to speak English and how to read, write, and perform necessary mathematic functions.

As education became more widespread, so too did literacy rates increase. As more people learned to read and write, they began to do these for pleasure. Low-priced paperbacks about the "Wild West" and "rags-to-riches" stories became popular; realistic fiction would become popular as well, propelling authors such as Upton Sinclair, Mark Twain, and others to fame.

Newspapers and their readership began to take off at this time as a direct result of higher literacy rates. However, newspapers were not always informational pieces; this time period saw one of the greatest feuds between editors--William Randolph Hearst and Joseph Pulitzer. Hearst was the editor-in-chief of the "New York Journal" and Pulitzer was the editor-in-chief of the "New York World"; both competed to be the best-selling newspaper of the later 19th century, and they did this via yellow journalism--sensationalizing and embellishing the stories (or making them up altogether). This will be covered in-depth in a future post, but I wanted to set up the information here first.

The growth of an educated populace would propel the U.S. and further push it to become the global superpower of the 19th and early 20th century.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

The Art of Doing Business: Captains of Industry, Robber Barons, and the Formation of Unions in the Second Industrial Revolution

The Second Industrial Revolution and the Progressive Era brought about new ways of doing business, and due to these new ways of doing business changes had to occur for the safety and betterment of the workers. These eras would lead to the rise of entrepreneurs in the forms of captains of industry and robber barons and would also bring about the rise of unions and health and safety standards.

The later 1800s and early 1900s saw the rise of corporations, or businesses owned by multiple investors. Corporations operated by raising large amounts of capital by selling stock in the business. Stockholders, in turn, would receive a share in the company's profits and could pick the directors to run the company. The corporations were seen as a benefit for a time because they limited the risk for investors; owners of non-incorporated businesses risked losing their homes, property, and livelihood if the business folded but investors of corporations only risked the amount of money they had invested. At this time, banks were loaning huge amounts of capital to corporations, which allowed for the growth of industry; bankers made major profits off of these loans as well. One such banker was J.P. Morgan, a name that readers should be familiar with if they have one (or more) Chase credit card. Morgan gained control of key industries such as railroads and steel via issuing loans to corporations; he and his colleagues would also buy stock in troubled corporations, run them in a way that eliminated competition, and made those corporations profitable again.

 The United States took a laissez-faire (hands-off) approach to business in the late 19th and early 20th centuries; Congress rarely made laws to regulate business practices, which led to a feeling of freedom and growth of industry at the time. This growth of industry and big business would lead to the rise of trusts and monopolies (more on these later in this post). The growth of industries also led to the rise of captains of industry and of robber barons.

Some famous captains of industry were: John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, the previously mentioned J.P. Morgan, and Cornelius Vanderbilt. These men expanded their industries, gave people jobs, and literally built America.

John D. Rockefeller came from humble beginnings as the son of a peddler in New York City. At age 23, Rockefeller invested in an oil refinery and he used the profits earned from his investment to purchase other oil companies. Rockefeller competed in industry by lowering his prices to drive out competition; this resulted in Rockefeller forming the Standard Oil Trust in 1882.

Andrew Carnegie came from humble beginnings as well; as a poor Scottish immigrant, he worked his way up in the railroad business then entered the growing steel industry. Carnegie slowly gained control of every step of the steel making process; Carnegie would come to own iron mills, steel mills, railroads, and shipping lines. In 1892, Carnegie would combine his businesses into the Carnegie Steel Company, which would produce more steel than all of the mills of England. Although Carnegie was a ruthless businessman he was also a philanthropist and believed that the rich had a duty to improve society, so he donated hundreds of millions of dollars to build and fund libraries and concert halls and other charities.

One final captain of industry this post will discuss is Cornelius Vanderbilt, who built his wealth in shipping and railroads. he cut his teeth in the shipping industry working with his father as a ferryman between Staten Island and Manhattan. Vanderbilt turned to the railroad business as some of the railroads of his day were built to connect with steamboats that ran to New York. Vanderbilt dominated the steamboat business on the Long Island Sound and successfully launched a campaign in the 1840s to take over the New York/Providence/Boston Railroad, also known as the Stonington. Over time, Vanderbilt would take over numerous railroad lines, most notably the Hudson River Railroad and the New York Central Railroad. In 1869, Vanderbilt had directed the construction of the Grand Central Depot on 42nd Street in Manhattan for the terminus of his lines. The Grand Central Depot was finished and operational in 1871 and was renamed the Grand Central Terminal in 1913. Vanderbilt, who had also grown up poor, put his wealth to use by establishing Vanderbilt University in Tennessee.

I used the term "captains of industry" while describing these men because the term generally has positive connotations--captains of industry often: served their nation in a positive way; raised productivity and expanded markets; created jobs that raised the nation's standards of living; boosted the supply of goods by building factories; and created museums, libraries, universities, concert halls, and more, many of which still exist today. The term "robber baron" that I used earlier in this post had and has negative connotations--robber barons were people who became rich through ruthless business practices. Robber barons often: drained the country of its natural resources; persuaded public officials to interpret the law in their favor; ruthlessly destroyed their competitors; made their workers toil under dangerous and unhealthy conditions; paid their workers meager wages; and built their fortunes by stealing from the public.

Before moving on to the experiences of workers and the rise of labor unions, here are some important definitions:

Corporations--businesses owned by multiple investors

Monopoly--a company that controls most of all business in a particular industry

Trust--a group of corporations run by a single board of directors

Changes in the Workplace

Prior to the Civil War, most factories were fairly small; however, as industries grew due in part to immigration, the workplace had to change as well. Most of the factory workers were immigrants, poor native-born whites, and African-Americans who left Southern farms. In some industries, the majority of workers were even women and children. For example, women outnumbered men in the textile mills of New England, the garment sweatshops of New York and the tobacco factories of the South. Children worked in bottle factories, in textile mills, tobacco factories, coal mines, and garment factories.

Factory life was by no means ideal at this time--employers were not required to pay compensation for injuries that happened on the job or even to pay employees a living wage. Robber baron factory owners often cut costs at the expense of their workers; children were often injured or killed in the factories and coal mines, and one of the deadliest fires occurred in New York City on March 25, 1911 due to unsafe work practices. On March 25, 1911, fire broke out at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory; the workers, most of whom were young women, rushed to the exits but found they had been barred to prevent the workers from walking off the job. Workers tried to escape the flames by jumping out the windows to their deaths. Nearly 150 workers lost their lives in the infamous Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire. As a result, New York workers pushed for safer conditions in a number of ways.

One such way was through organizing and forming labor unions so the voices of workers could be heard as a collective. One of the oldest of these labor unions was the Knights of Labor. The Knights of Labor was established in 1869 by a group of Philadelphia clothing workers. The Knights admitted women, African-Americans, immigrants, and unskilled laborers. The Knights was one of the largest labor unions of its day. However, whatever success the Knights had was undercut by the Haymarket Riot. On May 4, 1886, in Chicago, striking workers rallied in Haymarket Square. Suddenly, a bomb exploded killing seven policemen; police sprayed the crowd with bullets. As a result of the Haymarket Riot the Knights of Labor, present at the riot, lost much of their influence. In its place, Samuel Gompers formed the American Federation of Labor (AFL) in Columbus, Ohio in 1886. Unlike the Knights, the AFL only admitted skilled workers because Gompers argued that their skills made it costly and difficult to train replacements; he also believed that the most effective way to achieve improvements was through collective bargaining where the union would negotiate with management for workers as a group. By 1904 the AFL had grown to more than a million members.

Women also participated in the labor movement. One woman who rose to prominence at this time was "Mother" Mary Harris Jones. Mother Jones tirelessly traveled the country campaigning for unions, giving support to striking unions, and calling attention to the hard lives of children who worked in factories.

Today, unions don't play as major of a role for workers as they did in the past. However, from the labor movements of the 19th and 20th centuries we continue to maintain child labor laws (which vary from state to state), OSHA standards, HAZ MAT standards, and more meant to benefit the workers.

The Second Industrial Revolution would bring about the rise of urbanization and factory work, and would lead to the rise of workers standing up for their rights needs. The next posts on this blog will be about the rise in education in the United States and the reforms of the Progressive Era. 

Monday, May 21, 2018

Inventions and Innovations in the Second Industrial Revolution

Hello readers. The previous blog post was about immigration in the Second Industrial Revolution; now, we're moving into the inventions, innovations, and advancements made during the era.

In the late 1800s, numerous enterprising Americans created a flood of new inventions meant to make life easier for others. In 1897, the U.S. government issued more patents than in the decade before the Civil War and would become known the world over as the land of inventions and innovations.

This wouldn't be a post about inventions and innovations without mentioning Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison. Nikola Tesla was an inventor, electrical engineer, mechanical engineer, and physicist best known for his contributions to the knowledge of alternating current (AC) electrical supply system. Tesla emigrated to the U.S. in 1884 from Austria. He worked at Edison Machine Works in New York City for a time before going his own way; he would establish laboratories and companies where he would develop a range of electrical and mechanical devices such as his famed alternating current induction motor. Tesla was also famous for his experiments with wireless technology--from wireless lighting and wireless electrical power to wireless communication. Without Tesla's experiments, there would be no basis for cell phones or WiFi today. In 1876, Thomas Edison set up a research laboratory in Menlo Park, New Jersey where numerous scientists worked to produce products such as the electric light bulb, phonograph motion picture camera, and more. With most of the inventions produced by Edison's crew requiring electricity, Edison would open the first electrical power plant in New York City in 1882; soon, power plants would spring up in other cities all over the country, providing electricity to homes businesses, and schools. Today, the electrical inventions of Tesla and Edison, and the availability of electricity in the home are often taken for granted.

The period of the Second Industrial Revolution/Technological Revolution would lead to a rise in communications technology just as the Market Revolution had. In 1866, Cyrus Field had laid an underwater telegraph cable across the Atlantic Ocean between the U.S. and Europe. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell further improved communication with the successful invention of the telephone; by 1885 more than 300,000 telephones had been sold, mostly to businesses, and Bell would go on to organize the American Telephone and Telegraph Company (or AT&T today). Other devices would go on to make the work life and home life simplified. In 1868, Christopher Sholes invented the typewriter; George Eastman's Kodak Camera was introduced in 1888 and its light weight replaced the use of huge cameras and hundreds of pounds of chemicals; and the costs of the typewriter and the Kodak Camera were low enough that ordinary people could buy them and use them in their daily lives.

The time period also brought about a change in how people traveled. In the late 1800s, Europeans invented the automobile and it would make its way to the U.S. In 1902, only 8,000 Americans owned an automobile; in 1913, Henry Ford developed the assembly line, which allowed him to churn out vehicles at a quickened pace making the automobile more widely available to the American public in both quantity and price. Ford even began churning out his own automobiles such as the Ford Model A and the Ford Model T--both available in every color you could long as that color was black. Roadways were built and expanded upon and today the name Ford continues to live on.

One final mode of transportation that came about because of the Second Industrial Revolution was the aeroplane, or airplane as we say now. In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright tested a gas-powered airplane at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. On its first flight, the plane stayed in the air for 12 seconds and flew 120 feet. at the time, no one could see a practical use for these flying machines, and it wasn't until World war I broke out when their potential military use was realized. By the 1920s, travel by airplane began to "take off" and Boeing would begin the move from manufacturing military aircraft to commercial fleets.

Many of these inventions and innovations remain in use today while others have not stood the test of time and our modern technological revolution, but these inventions and innovations would propel America forward and make us known the world over as a technological powerhouse.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Immigration in the Second Industrial Revolution

The Second Industrial Revolution was well-known for the influx of immigrants who came from Europe to the United States. Between 1865 and 1915, some 25 million immigrants entered the U.S. There were many reasons for this increase in immigration--some European immigrants were escaping pogroms and political turmoil, others were seeking religious freedom, others were facing famine in their own countries, others were seeking spouses, and others were seeking employment and economic gain. The decision to leave one's country may have been difficult for some, and not all immigrants chose to stay in the United States for a variety of reasons. Many Americans were not pleased with the arrival of these Europeans coming to their country and made their opinions known. This post will examine the impact of immigration and nativism on the United States during the Second Industrial Revolution.

In the later 1800s and the early 1900s, immigrants arrived in the U.S. on ships. Ocean travel was very popular at the time, but it was a luxury for many people as it was expensive. The immigrants were crammed into large compartments below decks known as steerage, typically where cattle would be stored on a transatlantic voyage. To deal with the influx of immigrants into the U.S. there were multiple receiving centers in various parts of the country--in 1892 the most famous of these receiving centers, Ellis Island in New York, opened and took in European immigrants and at the same time Angel Bay, a receiving center in San Fransisco, California took in Asian immigrants.

The path to becoming an American citizen back then was much different than it is today. In order to become an American citizen in the 1880s, immigrants had to say they wanted to become citizens, study American history and the laws, pass a naturalization exam, and promise loyalty only to the United States. Finally, if everything was sufficient, the individual was given naturalization papers. This was not the case for many of the immigrants--many arrived in the U.S. as temporary workers, where they would work in the U.S. for a time to earn money and return to their home country to buy property and get married. For others, coming to the U.S. was a permanent move to escape political turmoil or famine. However, one-third of immigrants who had initially arrived in the U.S. had determined after a time that their situation in their home country was not as bad as what they experienced in the U.S. and would return to their home country.

Not everyone was pleased with the wave of immigrants coming into the country. Nativist, those who wanted to preserve the U.S. for native-born Americans citizens. They attempted to do this by creating "scientific" tests based on a series of measurements and physical exams to prove intelligence, strength, and other "worthy" characteristics. Nativists would also spread the beliefs that these newcomers would not assimilate to the culture of the U.S., that they would take jobs from "real" citizens, that they would bring rampant crime and violence, and that they would bring undesirable beliefs into the country such as anarchy, communism, and socialism to the country. Despite the exams and the spread of these xenophobic beliefs, millions of people were allowed entrance into the United States.

Immigrants would cause numerous changes in the country as they lived and worked their daily lives. Cities such as New York, Chicago, and San Francisco grew in population and immigrants took jobs in factories, as street vendors, as farmers, brewers, and as various skilled laborers such as masons and seamstresses/tailors who wanted to try their hand at their own businesses. While some immigrants would become extremely successful and their names are still known today--such as Frederick Pabst, Frederick Miller, Adolphus Busch, Eberhard Anheuser, Levi Straus, Andrew Carnegie, and others--many others would live a life of poverty that they were unable to escape. In the 1900s, the book The Jungle by Upton Sinclair described what life was like for many immigrants who lived in the meatpacking districts and were just trying to make a living for themselves and their families.

Immigration in the U.S. has always had a vexed history, and it is a history that cannot be stated in just one blog post as it played such a major role in the Second Industrial Revolution and the Progressive Era. Upcoming posts will be about the Second Industrial Revolution will include inventions and innovations; captains of industry, robber barons, and the rise of unions; and yellow journalism and muckracking.

Monday, April 16, 2018

Second Industrial Revolution/Technological Revolution

Hello readers! In recent days (and weeks...and months) this blog has seen some special posts to commemorate events like Women's History Month and the sinking of the RMS Titanic; however, we're going to be getting back on track with posts going in chronological order. Before I begin this post, the first of a series of posts about the Second Industrial Revolution, I would like to point out that I'm looking for guest bloggers. You can read the call for submissions here. I'll also be posting videos on The Half-Point Historian Facebook page again soon, so make sure to "like" the page to see content that doesn't make its way here on the blog. Okay, enough shameless plugging, let's get to it.

Over the course of the Reconstruction Era, technology began to change the way Americans lived and worked. The period of time from around 1830 to the end of the Reconstruction Era would lay the groundwork for the Second Industrial Revolution, which would span from around 1850 until the end of the First World War.

As the nation expanded westward in the mid-1800s, government policy began to favor industrial growth over an agrarian society; Congress gave generous land grants and other subsidies to railroads and other businesses and the government kept high tariffs on imported goods which made foreign goods more expensive to boost American manufacturing. Also at this time, vast deposits of coal, iron, copper, and lead were being mined and forests were being leveled for lumber; these raw materials would propel the United States into the Second Industrial Revolution, which would also be known as the Technological Revolution for its rapid growth and expansion of different forms of technology.

One of the most important factors that spurred the Second Industrial Revolution in the United States was the Bessemer process. Developed sometime in the 1850s, the Bessemer process allowed steel to be manufactured so it would be stronger, in larger quantities, and at a low cost to manufacturers. Steel would come to replace iron as a basic building material and is still used today. In 1859, workers near Titusville, Pennsylvania discovered oil; this oil would initially be refined into crude oil and used to lubricate machinery in various industrial plants. Later, this oil would be used to power automobiles much like today. Steel and gasoline would launch the Technological Revolution forward.

Due to the boom in steel manufacturing, the use of railroads began to increase over time. Trains were used to ship people and goods around the country and helped to fuel industrial growth. The railroad system allowed for raw materials to be shipped from the mid-west and the west to the northern east coast where those raw materials would be manufactured into various products; the railroad system would allow people to traverse the ever-expanding nation, which would, in turn, lead to the growth of towns and cities.

The manufacturing of steel, and the continued manufacturing of textiles from the era of the Market Revolution, would lead to the rise of urbanization, particularly on the east coast.

The rate of urbanization was astonishing during this era; in 1860 only one in five Americans lived in cities but by 1890 one in three Americans lived in cities. The reason for this rapid rate of urbanization was due to farmers, immigrants, and African-Americans from the South would migrate to cities like New York and Chicago for economic opportunities--cities attracted manufacturing plants and other industries, and industry attracted potential workers. The rise of urbanization and the growth of cities would also lead to the rise of public transportation and the suburbs; so if you really think about it, we have the Second Industrial Revolution/Technological Revolution to blame for reality T.V. shows like "The Real Housewives of"...wherever. In any case, the new suburban areas meant that people could commute to work in the cities and were not forced to live in the cities and suffer through tenement housing and other ills. In the 880s, such public transportation as elevated trains, electric streetcars, electric subway trains, and steel bridges were appearing in many of the cities of the era, with the most famous of these being the Brooklyn Bridge which opened in 1883 and linked Manhattan to Brooklyn.

The growth of urbanization would also mean cities had to find new ways to utilize the space they had available to them, so the skyscraper was created. In 1885, Chicago architects constructed the 10-story building and by 1900 steel-framed skyscrapers towering at 30-stories loomed over cities.

Rapid urbanization would bring countless problems. Fire was a huge threat to city life and to the tightly packed neighborhoods within. In 1871, the Great Chicago Fire leveled three square miles of the downtown area, killed 300 people, and left 18,000 people homeless. Rapid urbanization would also lead to the rise of slums and tenement housing, where people who were poor lived in small apartments without heat, windows, or indoor plumbing and were at great risk of contracting cholera and other diseases. As a result, settlement houses like Jane Addams's Hull House and organizations like the Salvation Army were established to help the urban poor.

The topic of the Second Industrial Revolution is a long one and would be better explained if broken up into multiple posts. This post was largely about the rise of the Technological Revolution and of urbanization; other posts in this series will include inventions and innovations, the transportation boom, the rise of businesses and unions, immigration, and education reform. So, make sure you follow along here at the blog or "like" the Facebook page for notifications of when new content gets posted for more information on American history!

The Spanish-American War

The late 19th century would see two wars--a circulation war between Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst and a war between the Unite...