The period at the end of the 19th century was marked by rapid industrialization, urbanization and immigration in the USA. Some writers like Mark Twain and his neighbor Charles Dudley referred to this period as the Gilded Age (Miller, 649). It is during the Gilded Age, 1870-1910 that the Second Industrial Revolution notably occurred in the America. There was a significant increase and emergence of new industries that employed hundreds of thousands of Americans. The industries needed workers to meet the production needs of the expanding market. This led to the growth of industrial cities where the workers lived and by the end of the revolution, about two thirds of Americans worked in city jobs in the USA. There are several factors that contributed to this Second Industrial Revolution such as:
- Increased railroads linkage led to improved transportation and communication.
- The growth of capitalism.
- New inventions and technology.
- Availability of natural resources.
- Availability of human labor force.
The railroads network by the year 1877 in the USA was well established and this was a major contributor to the Second Industrial Revolution. These railroads linked together different cities in different States and hence enabled efficient transportation all around America. There were freight trains that carried natural resources for the industries such as coal, iron and other minerals (Miller, 650). Also the railroad was linked with the telegraph and later the telephone line which tremendously contributed to efficient communication. The expansion of the railroads was a major contributor to the growth of the steel industry since it was used in the construction of the railway lines.
The growth of capitalism marked the Second Industrial Revolution. Capitalism is a social and economic system in which private owners control the industrial production of goods and services with the aim of making a profit. Dr. Gayle explains that there emerged a group of capitalist men who amassed great wealth using all means possible and they were referred to as Robber Barons. Some of these capitalists were: Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, and Andrew Carnegie who controlled a great percentage of the American economy. These Robber Barons controlled major resources that drove the economy like oil, steel and coal (Suarez-Potts, 401).
Industrialization was also largely influenced by innovations and improved technology. Among the inventions, electricity which was invented by Thomas Edison was a major boost to the industries as it provided lighting. Other important inventions were: the telephone- invented by Alexander Graham Bell, the radio- invented by y Nikola Tesla and the typewriter invented by Braille Typewriter among others. Another factor that led to industrialization was the availability of natural resources such as coal, iron, steel, copper and silver. These resources generated a lot of income that funded the industrial process. The other factor that promoted industrialization was the availability of the adequate human resource.
A large number of the workers in the industries was composed of Native Americans who had migrated from rural to the urban cities while quite a number was composed of immigrants from outside America. The number of foreign born citizens in America between the years 1880-1920 increased from 7 million to about 14 million (Suarez-Potts, 408). Many of these immigrants came from Southern and Eastern Europe, Italy and Russia while others were from Africa who had been captured as slaves. These immigrants mainly settled in cities like New York, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, San Francisco, Buffalo, Milwaukee, and Detroit (Miller, 650). This led to urbanization with about one third of the American population residing in cities by the beginning of the twentieth century. They largely contributed to the labor force hence industrialization.
Apart from industrialization, another sector of the economy which was affected in the late 19th century was agriculture. Earlier on before the Gilded Age, agriculture was the major backbone of the American economy. However with the onset of industrialization, many shifted their workforce from the farms to the new industries. The rate of agricultural production did not change all the same due to the numerous influx of immigrants who continued working on the farms.
The industrialization in America was also accompanied by few negative results new challenges. One of these was there was increased urban poverty levels. A Swedish immigrant photographer called Joseph Riis published a book titled- How the Other Half Lives- which captured the photos and explained the poor peoples plight in the urban settings (Suarez-Potts, 410). At these time, a majority of the people living in urban regions were living in poor conditions and were affected by several diseases. This was at the expense of the few rich due to the capitalistic nature of the economy.
Another challenge during the Gilded Age was the onset of a series of strikes. The strikes were mainly due to unemployment and the poor working conditions they were subjected to. In the year 1877, there was a countrywide railroad strike whereby they destroyed railway hubs in Pittsburgh, Chicago and Maryland (Suarez-Potts, 412). Many of the railroad workers were getting killed or injured while others were being mistreated while working. These among other problems had to be endured for the Second Industrial Revolution to take its course.
Miller, Carol Poh. "The Iron Bridge: Symbol Of The Industrial Revolution, 2Nd Ed. (Review)". Technology and Culture 45.3 (2004): 649-650. Web.
Suarez-Potts, William. "The Railroad Strike Of 1927: Labor And Law After The Mexican Revolution". Labor History 52.4 (2011): 399-416. Web.
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