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Workers and their struggles

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Within the span of a few decades from the late 19 th  to the early 20 th  century, the United States was transformed from mostly rural agricultural society to an industrial economy centered in large cities. Prior to the American industrial revolution, most Americans were reared in largely isolated agricultural households and small towns.

Industrialization refers to the development of machine production of goods and new energy resources. Like anything in life industrialization had many positive and negative effects in the 19 th century. The creation of power machines and factories created many job opportunities.

New machines increased production speed and gave the ability to transport materials.

Industrialization lead to urbanization, movement of people into cities. Urbanization occurred in the second half of the nineteenth century in the U.S. Citizens/workers wanted and needed to live closer to the factories that they worked at. The new electric lights and machinery made factories to run twenty-four a day all week. Workers unwillingly were forced to work twelve-hours a day making them live close to their work. Even though work was dangerous Americans were living the agriculture in hope for better pay days. That lead to an increase in Immigrants from Europe.

They found work near the cities. Immigrants found comfort from other immigrants who shared the same language and the same cultural resources. Innovations like the electric lightening, communication improvements like the telephone, transportation and the skyscrapers were the key to a successful urban life.

Despite the many positive effects industrialization brought to the U.S it also left a bittersweet taste for Americans. Urban areas doubled, tripled or quadrupled in size which lead to overcrowded cities. Sometimes a large population would be a good thing, but in this case, it lead to many health problems and people living in poor areas or living on the streets. Living conditions were dirty and un healthy, cities were unsanitary. There were no sanitation codes in the cities. Factory work was harmful and dangerous. Bosses disciplined their employees and treated them without respect. The workers were underpaid and overworked. Their hours at work were very long because factories can run twenty-four hours and the government did not have regulations over the treatment of employees or regulations for the work space. Businesses hired children because they were small and could fit in tiny spaces but they also were treated badly.

Even though the industrial growth helped the U.S in many ways, it also hurt the people living in it.

Early Gilded Era was known for the intense industrialization. Mark Twain came up with¬†the name ‚Äúgilded age‚ÄĚ for his book. What Twain was trying to say in his book was that the¬†United States in this period wasn‚Äôt experiencing a golden age like prosperity and happiness but¬†rather a Gilded Age. People like Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan and John D. Rockefeller got very¬†wealthy by being the titans of Industry. Unfortunately, they got rich through political corruption.

Jacob Riis a photographer in the 1890’s that captured the cheap accommodations of immigrants, narrow tenement buildings in dark, crowded, unpleasant and unhealthy living conditions in Manhattan. To battle these poor conditions that the workers faced unions were created like the Knight of labor. The KOL battle for the eight-hour work day, that later was approved. Then the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was created, they were more liked by the workers but also failed to keep fighting for their workers.

The Progressive Era from 1890s to the 1920s is known for political reforms and the spread of social activism. The goal of the progressives was to eliminate corruption in the government and work towards a better society. The Progressive Movement took place as a response to the negatives effects of the industrialization. The progressives pursued issues like female suffrage, education, working conditions and child labor. Famous Progressive leaders like Jacob Riis, John Dewey, Robert La Follete and Theodore Roosevelt worked day and night to make society better. Roosevelt was the most influential of all. While urban areas benefited from electricity and running water, rural farmers struggled to maintain their farms as they battled increased competition, costly machinery, and falling  prices. One of the mayor accomplishment of the Progressive movement was the passing of the 19 th Amendment that gave the women the right to vote. Another big accomplishment was the laws passed to protect the citizens health and welfare.

An ‚Äúboom‚ÄĚ of technological innovation in the late 19 th century made the economic¬†growth. Urbanization occurred rapidly in the second half of the nineteenth century in the United¬†States for a number of reasons. The new technologies of the time led to a massive leap in¬†industrialization, requiring large numbers of workers. New electric lights and powerful¬†machinery allowed factories to run twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Workers were¬†forced into grueling twelve-hour shifts, requiring them to live close to the factories. While the¬†work was dangerous and difficult, many Americans were willing to leave behind the declining¬†prospects of preindustrial agriculture in the hope of better wages in industrial labor. Immigrants¬†got comfort among others who shared the same language and cultural resources.¬†

Industrial expansion and population growth radically changed the face of the nation’s cities. Noise, air pollution and health problems became common. Commuters, those who lived in the suburbs and traveled in and out of the city for work began to increase in number. Many of those who resided in the city lived in rental apartments or tenement housing. The growth of cities led to horrible living conditions. The wealthy lived better than the industrial workers because they could afford to live in the suburbs on the outskirts of the city. However, for most of the factory workers, cities were dirty, crowded places where epidemics frequently broke out. The sanitary conditions in early industrial cities were filthy as well. Since the municipal governments did not concern themselves with cleanliness at the time, the cities did not have proper waste disposal systems, and people threw trash and sewage directly into the streets. The burning coal of the industrial factories coated cities in a layer of grime and polluted the air, and water supplies were polluted by waste.

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