General Impact of Industrialization
In the mid 1800s,
the development of new machines and tools led to an explosion
of factory construction, and a boom in mass production.
Immigration, a population shift from rural to urban areas, and
the expansion of the railroads led to the development of a
national market for finished goods. Shrewd businessmen
like Rockefeller, Carnegie and Morgan pushed these
revolutionary changes ahead.
The rapid influx of
people to cities placed a burden on urban areas with which
most municipalities could not cope. With people flooding
into cities in search of jobs and a better life, there was not
enough housing to go around, and far too little public
assistance available. The poor, tired and dirty workers
eventually organized labor unions to resist employer
exploitation, but that only led to a new round of difficulties
and problems for the urban poor.
economic transformations occur, the average standard of living
also tends to improve. In a market economy, such as the
United States, industrialization eventually led to greater
opportunities for most workers. Business growth often
leads to greater competition among manufacturers, and
increased interdependence of the society.
One negative aspect
of the combination of industrialization and urbanization is
the decay and disappearance of the extended family. In
the more costly city, most people just couldn't afford to have
large families, like those needed to keep a farm running.
The cost of living was too high.
Improved Transportation and
The completion of
the first transcontinental railroad in 1869 allowed farmers
and ranchers to get
grain or beef to markets much more easily. This advance
in transportation technology was a double-edged sword.
The ease with which one could ship goods was great for
business big and small, but the power of the railroads to set
artificially high prices, and, in effect, deny their services
could bankrupt a company.
On the other hand,
the completion of the first transcontinental railroad in 1869
allowed and encouraged settlers to move further and further
westward, into the Great Plains and to the West Coast. For
people, the railroad cut the journey form coast to coast down
to a few weeks. For the first time, the population was
shifting from rural to urban, and from east to west. For
many, the call of the frontier could now be answered.
Before the Civil
War, most people lived in rural areas. After World War
I, over half of the entire American population lived in
cities. Remember, the movement of people from rural to
urban areas is called urbanization. As cities
grew, many were incapable of keeping up with the building and
repair necessary to hold everyone. These areas often
lacked fire departments, police stations, schools, and
adequate sewers. Low wages kept working families living in
tenements, single-room apartment buildings, in areas that
were often crime-ridden, dirty, and very overcrowded.