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Compare and contrast of the 18th and 19th century in America

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Thesis: The 18th and 19th century were drastically contrasting eras of social and political evolvement but comparable in the successive mentality of economic expansion.

New advantages in natural resources in the United States brought striking transitions in the economic stance of the nation and developed into distinct eras. The coal era of the 18th century was marked by the usage of coal as a main source of energy, heat, and transportation. The 19th century brought the advantages of oil in transportation and heating and its integral fuse into daily life as well, but also new cultural aspects. The 18th and 19th century were drastically contrasting eras of social and political evolvement but comparable in the successive mentality of economic expansion.

The economic advancements were pursued for the purpose of profit, a factor seen in both eras with the advent of trusts, monopolies, and investment capital. During the coal era, the amount of factories increased across the country creating jobs and the first breed of multi millionaire tycoons like Carnegie and Rockefeller. But because of the monopolistic control of business and the labor force, wages were low leading to unrest, boycotts, and strikes. Similarly, the oil century lead the industries to use preventive measures against such resulting strikes. The answer was higher wages and worker benefits, which lead mass consumerism never seen before in the coal century.

The social aspects of both eras are easily derived from the economical constraints of the time period. In the coal century less money and long hours did not allow for free time spent shopping. The major social uprisings occurred during this era because of labor demands from the public against the economic monopolies’ stance against worker’s rights. The social aspects of the oil century contrasted drastically because of the availability of money and leisure time. Also the economic freedom of most middle class Americans allowed for investments in the automobile, a vehicle whose production alone, really marked the true distinction point. Run using oil, the automobile opened a major market for the oil industry, and was fervently purchased, when coupled with the popularity aroused by the public for owning one. Started by the technological advancements of Henry Ford, vehicles were mass-produced at cheaper prices. In contrast, the coal century’s methods of travel and social consumerism rested on the train and the steamship, which offered very little to the morale and social status of the middle class as the automobile. Therefore the coal century’s workers had little of the motivation for upward mobility compared to that of the next century.

The hysteria for automobiles and other mass-produced items fed consumer need to spend money in the oil century. But items like radios and television sets created new waves of social standards and political campaigns never seen in the coal century. Political campaigns of the coal century involved speaking tours that reached minimal amounts of people and concentrated on the use of political machines. This political system sustained itself throughout the coal age because the political machines like Tammany Hall offered their members job benefits, which were valued in neighborhood slums. But the economic affluence in the middle class along with the exposure to mass media gave politics a new meaning in the oil century. Politicians used social skills to captivate audiences like John F. Kennedy, and television appearances lead them to victory.

All three social, political, and economic aspects intertwined drove the progression of the 18th to 19th century. Though the two periods varied drastically on social and political grounds, the basis behind the economic aspect remained the same. The coal period was driven by the need for power and money and the oil century was even more so. This variation in economic abundance allowed for the drastic contrasts of social standards and beliefs, and political methods. Rather than a stark comparison, the two centuries progress into another as the wealth of the country grew. The oil and coal in turn play as the base source of energy that fueled their respective centuries.

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