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American Industrial worker between 1865 and 1900

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I. Background information on industry and workers

A. Between the period of 1865-1900, industry exploded in growth

B. There were many contributors that included government action, labor unions, immigration, and technological changes.

1. Government action tried to help the workers by decreasing corporations’ control over employees

2. Labor unions tried to increase benefits and make working easier

3. Immigration helped by having a cheap, abundant labor source for businesses to use

4. Technological changes both helped and hurt workers by making it easier to work but making it harder by causing a need for skilled labor.

C. All of these affected workers, but in some more than others, however, labor unions and technological changes had the greatest effect on the American Industrial worker in both beneficial and detrimental ways.

II. Information on labor unions

A. Labor unions were created for the advancement of the workers.

1. Unions tried to change aspects of their workday through strikes.

(a) Some notable changes included the 8-hour workday for Federal workers and other benefits.

B. Labor unions tried to increase wages and decrease working hours to make working easier.

C. One of the most well known labor unions of this time was the Knights of

1. Uriah Stevens founded the Knights of Labor in 1869.

2. The Knights of Labor were well known for allowing anyone to join, white or black, skilled or unskilled.

(a) They achieved a membership of over 750,000.

(b) However, in the Haymarket Square incident, the Knights of Labor were blamed for the bomb thrown into the crowd.

(c) The Knights of Labor officially disbanded afterwards.

3. After the Knights of Labor was the American Federation of Labor, AFL.

(a) Samuel Gompers founded the AFL in 1868

(b) The AFL was a federation of skilled labor unions that was against unskilled workers taking the place of skilled workers in industries.

(c) The AFL advocated legislation that restricted unskilled workers in the workplace.

III. Information about technological changes

A. During the period from 1865 to 1900, technology changed greatly and greatly affected the worker.

B. Inventions like the Bessemer process, railroads, and the production plant all affected jobs and the economy.

C. The Bessemer process allowed steel to be created at a much faster rate.

1. This called for more workers in order to maximize production

(a) Most workers were immigrants that worked two 12-hour shifts, seven days a week.

2. The Bessemer process greatly affected the worker by providing more jobs, but at a lower wage, lower benefits, and higher hours, a negative effect.

D. In the 1860’s, the government finally commissioned the first transcontinental railroad.

E. Then from the 1860’s to about 1893, four more transcontinental railroads were created.

1. These transcontinental railroads stimulated industry greatly, creating more jobs in both industry and working on the rails.

F. The invention and development of the production plant affected the worker greatly.

1. There were now more jobs due to the openings in factories.

(a) Machines replaced skilled workers in factories

G. Technological changes often replaced workers, however, it often created more jobs in the long run.

IV. Summarizing the effects of labor unions and technological changes

A. Both labor unions and technological changes greatly affected the Industrial worker in the period of 1865-1900.

B. Labor unions tried to provide greater benefits for workers and mostly positively affected workers.

1. They were mostly successful in providing short term goals for workers

(a) Some successes were the 8-hour workday for federal workers and wage increases in some businesses.

C. Technological changes often replaced workers and mostly negatively affected workers.

1. Technological changes had a mostly negative effect on workers.

(a) Machines often replaced workers in factories

2. New processes and inventions reduced the need for skilled workers

(a) There were many immigrants and unskilled workers that took the spots of skilled workers

3. Technological changes also provided new jobs

(a) New inventions and processes, the Bessemer process, helped to create more jobs to increase production.


Kennedy, David, Lizabeth Cohen, and Thomas Bailey. The American Pageant. 13th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2006.

“History of Labor Unions.” The Labor Union Movement in America. The Social Studies Help Center. 19 Mar. 2006 .

“American Federation of Labor.” American Federation of Labor. 11 Mar. 2006. Wikipedia. 19 Mar. 2006 .

“Trade union.” Trade union. 19 Mar. 2006. Wikipedia. 19 Mar. 2006 .

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