• Unit Title

     Unit 2 Growth of Urban and Industrial America
    Supplemental Materials

    Resource 1:  US Industrialization Process in the Late 19th Century

    Adapted from:  Acuña-Alfaro,Jairo. US Industrialization Process in the Late XIX Century.

    The Natural Resource Endowment.



    “At the beginning the combination of the land, a great natural resource to be exploited, together with a rapidly growing, able population, gave Americans a history of unprecedented overall economic growth”.

    --- Hughes, Jonathan & Cain, Louis P. (1998). American Economic History. Fifth Edition. Addison-Wesley. United States. p.602.




    In what ways did the available natural resource base influence American economic growth in the nineteenth century? . . . .




    The exceptional rate of growth of the United States in the XIX century, which leads it to catch-up with the Europeans leaders, especially the United Kingdom, and subsequently, to position as a world leader, may be related with the rapid assimilation of modern machines and tools of production.  American economic growth was first devoted to the so-called ‘light industry’, as textiles, leather and foodstuff-producing.  Later on, with the advancement of transportation and communication, came the development of ‘heavy industry’, with the construction of railroads, steam-boats, and the parallel coal, iron and steel-making industries. The distribution and commercialization of goods soon followed.


    The direction of change in American manufacture is demonstrated by statistics. By 1913 the United States made 31.9 million metric tons of crude steel, compared with 35.5 for all Western Europe. The US also mined 517 million metric tons of coal, compared with Europe’s 493 million.  And, by the 1880s businessmen and politicians in Britain were already acutely aware that the economic prosperity and political status the first industrial nation had enjoyed for almost a century was being challenged with steadily increasing effect.


    In this case the United States was catching-up and forging ahead in the industrial lead, turning economic and political activities towards the new huge economy that emerged from the other side of the Atlantic.   For example, Edison’s invention of the lamp was accompanied by the development and promotion of an entire system of generating, distributing, consuming and measuring electric power. In that sense, Edison “directed a team effort that produced a working lamp in one year and an entire commercial electric system in four”.  It is an example of complete innovative process of research, development, manufacturing, finance, promotion, publicity and politics, to lay conduits in the first generating station in New York in 1882.  Edison’s innovation was vital in the American and world-wide industrialization process. It provided a source of lighting and power that “altered urban living and transportation; changed the ways of the workplace; and gave rise to new industrial methods such as electrolytic processes for producing copper and other materials.”



    There is no doubt the American economy had a privileged endowment of natural resources. If we compare the size of the country, it becomes clear.  While the US territory covers 9,629,091 square kilometers, together, the UK, France, Sweden and Germany hold just 1,594,808 square kilometers. In addition, in comparing the US with other countries, relative to population, the US had a usually rich resource base.  Indeed, it was short on labor and long on raw material. In that sense, the US industrialization process, especially, in the late 19th century, was confined mainly to its large access to natural resources and to the world’s largest domestic market.


    Another fact that explains the growth of the US in late nineteenth century is what has been called ‘the logic of managerial enterprise’. The technologically advanced and capital-intensive American industries were characterized by a dual economic principle. They operated as economies of scale and economies of scope.  Economies of scales refer to the economics principle that large plants can produce at a lower cost than smaller competitors, because the cost per unit falls as the volume of outputs rises. Meanwhile, economies of scope, refers when large plants can use many of the same raw and semi-finished materials and intermediate production processes to make a variety of different products. 


    The abundant natural resources of the country and the development of communication means, such as railroads, the telegraph and steamboats “made possible to speed goods and messages through an entire economy for the first time”. Furthermore, once precious metals were found they tended to dominate mineral extraction at the expense of everything else. 


    Finally, when thinking about American natural resource endowment, it is important to consider the ability of its citizens to innovate. Besides the large resources at their disposal, they chose industrial processes of scope, adding more value to the resources they inherited.   For example, to make a technology like steel production work, Americans got useful insights into seeing exactly how Europeans did it, but successful steel production required that European methods be altered to fit local American conditions (e.g. the precise chemical composition of local ores and coal, etc.).


    Early in the nineteenth century, Europeans knew what worked for their particular local resources, but did not know why. In contrast, by the end of the 19th century, the chemistry of steel making had been largely worked out and tacit knowledge of local conditions became less important. Thus Americans could know why things worked and could therefore tell what they could expect from any given inputs of coal and ore and how they could change production methods to suit what they had on hand.  In addition, it is important to note that in the case of wood (particularly abundant compared with other materials, for example) it was widely used for houses, tools, furniture and transport equipment. As a matter of fact, “in 1860 American per capita wood consumption was five times that of England and Wales”. In 1860, the lumber industry was second only to cotton textiles in creation of value added and market value, as figure below shows.

    Source:  Adapted from:  Acuña-Alfaro, Jairo. US Industrialization Process in the Late XIX Century. The Natural Resource Endowment. 12 Feb. 2009 <http://www.geocities.com/jaacun/USAIndustrialization.PDF> (citations to quotes omitted in adapted version).


    Industrial Revolution Research Sheet



    Topic of Research:  ___________________________________________



    Discoveries, Improvements, or Changes:












    Impact on American Industrialization:

    Research Websites


    A)    General (For All)

    ·        The New Industrial Age. US History.com. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://www.u-s-history.com/pages/h860.html>.

    ·         “Industrialization and Reform.” History of the United States. The USA Online.com. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://www.theuaonline.com/history/industrilazation.htm>.


    B)    Geography and Natural Resources

    ·         “History of Steel.” Steel Manufacturing. Ball State University. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://www.bsu.edu/web/acmaassel/steel.html#History_of_Steel>.

    ·         Introduction to Oil Industry. Oil Industry. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://www.petroleumhistory.org/OilHistory/pages/intro.html>.

    ·         Textile Industry History. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://www.textilehistory.org/>.


    C)    Post-Reconstruction technological innovations or inventions

    ·         Industrial Expansion 1865-1890. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://www.emayzine.com/lectures/indust~1.htm>.

    ·         Carnegie and the Era of Steel. Outline of American History. From Revolution to Reconstruction. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://odur.let.rug.nl/~usa/H/1994/ch7_p2.htm>.

    ·         19th Century Inventors. About.com. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://inventors.about.com/od/timelines/a/Nineteenth_3.htm>.


    D)    Changes in Transportation

    ·         “Railroads in the Late 19th Century.” The Rise of Industrial America. The Learning Page, Library of Congress. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/learn/features/timeline/riseind/railroad/rail.html>.

    ·         America on the Move. Smithsonian Institute. National Museum of American History. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://americanhistory.si.edu/onthemove/exhibition/>.


    E)    Immigration and Labor

    ·         “Immigration to the United States.” The Rise of Industrial America. The Learning Page, Library of Congress. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://lcweb2.loc.gov/learn/features/timeline/riseind/immgnts/immgrnts.html>

    ·         Eugene V. Debs, Union Leader.  Debs Foundation. 2008.  13 Feb. 2009 <http://www.eugenevdebs.com/pages/union.html>.

    ·         The Triangle Factory Fire. Cornell University. 13 Feb. 2009 <http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire/>.




    Industrial Revolution Graphic Organizer

    Topic of Research
    Discoveries,  Improvements, or Changes
    Impact on American Industrialization
    Geography and Natural Resources
    Post-Reconstruction Technological Innovations or Inventions
    Changes in Transportation
    Immigration and Labor

    Industrial Revolution Graphic Organizer

    Reference Guide

    Topic of Research

    Discoveries,  Improvements, or Changes

    Impact on American Industrialization




    Geography and Natural Resources


    Iron ore








    Iron Ore:  Used to create steel and pig iron. Also used for rails and spikes for the railroads, bridges, buildings, etc.

    Coal:  Replaced wood in fueling the steam engine and machinery; Used in various industries including the steel industry.

    Oil:  The ability to use a steam engine for oil drilling started an oil boom in the US. It also helped with the creation of the petroleum-refining industry. Transformed oil into kerosene and later gasoline for automobiles.

    Lumber:  Used to fuel the steam engines that were used on trains, steamboats, and in industry for the new machines being invented that ran on steam.

    Impact:  Created pollution in the atmosphere and the water system.




    Post-Reconstruction Technological Innovations or Inventions


    Incandescent light bulb


    Electrical Power Distribution System





    Incandescent light bulb   Perfected by Thomas Alva Edison in 1878  

    Electrical power distribution system in 1882

    This led to electric power to run machines in industry, 

    community, and homes such as electric street cars, fans, and printing press 

    Telephone - Invented by Alexander Graham Bell. It opened a new and more efficient form of communication that affected businesses and office work. Also created new jobs for women 

    Typewriter - Developed by Christopher Sholes. 




    Changes in Transportation




    Transcontinental Railroad


    Creation of the Transcontinental Railroad provided quick 

    transportation from the east to the west coast.  This allowed for expansion of farm land available due 

    to the railroad being able to get goods to market in a 

    reasonable time.  It also lead to the creation of time

    zones so travel time would be uniform (adopted by

    Congress in 1918). It influenced business and industry

    because of the need for natural resources including iron,

    coal, steel, lumber, and glass.  Government assisted in development of railroad system through a system of land

    grants to the railroads.

    Industrial Revolution Graphic Organizer

    Reference Guide (continued)

    Topic of Research

    Discoveries,  Improvements, or Changes

    Impact on American Industrialization


    Changes in Transportation










    Early Automobiles



    Airplanes - Wright brothers, pioneers in flight

    Early automobiles by Duryea brothers

    Impact - Changes in transportation stimulated growth of

    new businesses, created new markets, and resulted in the growth of towns. Food and manufactured goods could be distributed nationally. Railroads created new social, political,

    and economic ties among people spread across thousands

    of miles. To many Americans, a railroad connection promised new prosperity and new opportunities.



    Immigration and Labor











    Increased Immigration


    Growth of Labor Force




    Increased Immigration - Many immigrants came to the US in search of economic opportunities, facing crop failure, land and job shortages, rising taxes, and famine in their country of origin.  Others sought personal freedom or relief from political and religious persecution. Nearly 12 million immigrants arrived in the United States between 1870 and 1900. During the 1870s and 1880s, the vast majority of these people were from Germany, Ireland, and England.  The last two decades of the 19th century, however, saw increasing numbers of people coming from Italy and eastern Europe.  Some 70% of immigrants arriving from Europe entered America through the port of New York City alone.  Asian immigrants, primarily from Japan and China, arrived through west coast ports.  Many immigrants settled near the ports of entry but others moved farther inland.  They frequently had difficulty finding jobs and usually worked for less money than most other Americans.  Perceived as “different” they were often viewed with distrust if not outright resentment by their native born neighbors. 

    Labor Force – Increased immigration greatly expanded the number of skilled and unskilled laborers available.  Immigration also resulted in increased urbanization as these workers tended to cluster in cities where work was available.


    Business Attitudes, Practices, and Governmental Efforts

    Enabling Industrialists to Thrive


    Laissez-faire philosophy





    Social Darwinism





    Government assistance for railroads







    New forms of business organization










    Vertical Integration





                Horizontal Integration




    Economies of scale




    U.S. Western Railway Land Grants


    Source: Railroad Land Grants. American Memory. Library of Congress. 13 February 2009 <http://memory.loc.gov/award/mhsdalad/120000//120033v.jpg>.


    Millions of Acres

    Source:  Millions of Acres. American Memory. Library of Congress. 13 February 2009 <http://memory.loc.gov/cgi-bin/ampage?collId=rbpe&fileName=rbpe13/rbpe134/13401300/rbpe13401300page.db&recNum=0>.

    Dual Column Notes:  Rockefeller and Carnegie

    Information on Rockefeller
    What I Think About Rockefeller
    Information on Carnegie
    What I Think About Carnegie

    Ida Tarbell’s Writings on Standard Oil and Rockefeller

    Below are a few excerpts from the nineteen installments published by "McClure’s Magazine":

    Rockefeller’s rise:
    The strides the firm of Rockefeller & Andrews made after the former went into it were attributed, for three or four years, mainly to [his] extraordinary capacity for bargaining and borrowing. Then its chief competitors began to suspect something. Rockefeller might get his oil cheaper now and then, they said, but he could not do it often. He might make close contracts for which they had neither the patience nor the stomach. He might have an unusual mechanical and practical genius in his partner. But these things could not explain all. They believed they bought, on the whole, almost as cheaply as he, and they knew they made as good oil and with as great, or nearly as great, economy. He could sell at no better price than they. Where was his advantage? There was but one place where it could be, and that was in transportation.

    The South Improvement Company scheme:
    For several days an uneasy rumor had been running up and down the Oil Regions. Freights were going up. Now an advance in a man's freight bill may ruin his business; more, it may mean the ruin of a region. …

    On the morning of February 26, 1872, the oil men read in their morning papers that the rise which had been threatening had come; moreover, that all members of the South Improvement Company were exempt from the advance. At the news all Oildom rushed into the streets. Nobody waited to find out his neighbor's opinion. On every lip there was but one word, and that was "conspiracy."…

    For weeks the whole body of oil men abandoned regular business and surged from town to town intent on destroying the "Monster," the "Forty Thieves," the "great Anaconda," as they called the mysterious South Improvement Company. Curiously enough, it was chiefly against the combination which had secured the discrimination from the railroads--not the railroads which had granted it--that their fury was directed. They expected nothing but robbery from the railroads, they said. They were used to that; but they would not endure it from men in their own business.

    The aftermath of South Improvement Company scheme:
    No number of resolutions could wipe out the memory of the forty days of terrible excitement and loss which the region had suffered. No triumph could stifle the suspicion and bitterness which had been sown broadcast through the region. Every particle of independent manhood in these men whose very life was independent action had been outraged. Their sense of fair play, the saving force of the region in the days before law and order had been established, had been violated. These were things which could not be forgotten. There henceforth could be no trust in those who had devised a scheme which, the producers believed, was intended to rob them of their business.

    The oil boom:
    The oil men as a class had been brought up to enormous profits, and held an entirely false standard of values. As the "Derrick" told them once in a sensible editorial, "their business was born in a balloon going up, and spent all its early years in the sky." They had seen nothing but the extreme of fortune. One hundred per cent per annum on an investment was in their judgment only a fair profit. If their oil property had not paid for itself entirely in six months, and begun to yield a good percentage, they were inclined to think it a failure. They were notoriously extravagant in the management of their business. Rarely did an oil man write a letter if he could help it. He used the telegraph instead. Whole sets of drilling tools were sometimes sent by express. It was no uncommon thing to see near a derrick broken tools which could easily have been mended, but which the owner had replaced by new ones. It was anything to save bother with him. Frequently wells were abandoned which might have been pumped on a small but sure profit. The simple fact was that the profits which men in trades all over the country were glad enough to get, the oil producers despised. The one great thing which the Oil Regions did not understand in 1872 was economy.

    The hushing of the Oil Regions:
    The great human tragedies of the Oil Regions lie in the individual compromises which followed the public settlement of 1880. For then it was that man after man, from hopelessness, from disgust, from ambition, from love of money, gave up the fight for principle which he had waged for seven years. "The Union has surrendered," they said, "why fight on?" This man took a position with the Standard and became henceforth active in its business; that man took a salary and dropped out of sight; this one went his independent way, but with closed lips; that one shook the dust of the Oil Regions from his feet and went out to seek ‘God’s Country,’ asking only that he should never again hear the word ‘oil.’ The newspapers bowed to the victor. A sudden hush came over the region, the hush of defeat, of cowardice, of hopelessness.

    Rockefeller’s genius:
    With Mr. Rockefeller’s genius for detail there went a sense of the big and vital factors in the oil business and a daring in laying hold of them which was very like military genius. He saw strategic points like a Napoleon and he swooped on them with the suddenness of a Napoleon. Mr. Rockefeller’s capture of the Cleveland refineries in 1872 was as dazzling an achievement as it was a hateful one. The campaign … viewed simply as a piece of brigandage, was admirable. The man saw what was necessary to his purpose and he never hesitated before it. His courage was steady--and his faith in his ideas unwavering. He simply knew what was the thing to do, and he went ahead with the serenity of the man who knows.





    Source:  A Journalistic Masterpiece. The Rockefellers. American Experience. PBS/WGBH. 13 February 2009 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/rockefellers/sfeature/sf_7.html>.

    The Homestead Strike

    One of the most difficult episodes Andrew Carnegie's life -- and one that revealed the steel magnate's conflicting beliefs regarding the rights of labor -- was the bitter conflict in 1892 at his steel plant in Homestead, Pennsylvania. Carnegie's involvement in the union-breaking action left many men dead or wounded and forever tarnished Carnegie's reputation as a benevolent employer and a champion of labor.

    The conflict at Homestead arose at a time when the fast-changing American economy had stumbled and conflicts between labor and management had flared up all over the country. In 1892, labor declared a general strike in New Orleans. Coal miners struck in Tennessee, as did railroad switchmen in Buffalo, New York and copper miners in Idaho.

    Carnegie's mighty steel industry was not immune to the downturn. In 1890, the price of rolled-steel products started to decline, dropping from $35 a gross ton to $22 early in 1892. In the face of depressed steel prices, Henry C. Frick, general manager of the Homestead plant that Carnegie largely owned, was determined to cut wages and break the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers, one of the strongest craft unions in the country.

    Behind the scenes, Carnegie supported Frick's plans. In the spring of 1892, Carnegie had Frick produce as much armor plate as possible before the union's contract expired at the end of June. If the union failed to accept Frick's terms, Carnegie instructed him to shut down the plant and wait until the workers buckled. "We... approve of anything you do," Carnegie wrote from England in words he would later come to regret. "We are with you to the end."

    With Carnegie's carte blanche support, Frick moved to slash wages. Plant workers responded by hanging Frick in effigy. At the end of June, Frick began closing down his open hearth and armor-plate mills, locking out 1,100 men. On June 25th, Frick announced he would no longer negotiate with the union; now he would only deal with workers individually. Leaders of Amalgamated were willing to concede on almost every level -- except on the dissolution of their union. Workers tried to reach the Carnegie who had strongly defended labor's right to unionize. He had departed on his annual and lengthy vacation, traveling to a remote Scottish castle on Loch Rannoch. He proved inaccessible to all -- including the press and to Homestead's workers -- except for Frick.

    "This is your chance to re-organize the whole affair," Carnegie wrote his manager. "Far too many men required by Amalgamated rules." Carnegie believed workers would agree to relinquish their union to hold on to their jobs.

    It was a severe miscalculation. Although only 750 of the 3,800 workers at Homestead belonged to the union, 3,000 of them met and voted overwhelmingly to strike. Frick responded by building a fence three miles long and 12 feet high around the steelworks plant, adding peepholes for rifles and topping it with barbed wire. Workers named the fence "Fort Frick."

    Deputy sheriffs were sworn in to guard the property, but the workers ordered them out of town. Workers then took to guarding the plant that Frick had closed to keep them out. This action signified a very different attitude that labor and management shared toward the plant.

    "Workers believed because they had worked in the mill, they had mixed their labor with the property in the mill," explains historian Paul Krause. "They believed that in some way the property had become theirs. Not that it wasn't Andrew Carnegie's, not that they were the sole proprietors of the mill, but that they had an entitlement in the mill. And I think in a fundamental way the conflict at Homestead in 1892 was about these two conflicting views of property."

    Frick turned to the enforcers he had employed previously: the Pinkerton Detective Agency's private army, often used by industrialists of the era. At midnight on July 5, tugboats pulled barges carrying hundreds of Pinkerton detectives armed with Winchester rifles up the Monongahela River. But workers stationed along the river spotted the private army. A Pittsburgh journalist wrote that at about 3 A.M. a "horseman riding at breakneck speed dashed into the streets of Homestead giving the alarm as he sped along." Thousands of strikers and their sympathizers rose from their sleep and went down to the riverbank in Homestead.

    When the private armies of business arrived, the crowd warned the Pinkertons not to step off the barge. But they did. No one knows which side shot first, but under a barrage of fire, the Pinkertons retreated back to their barges. For 14 hours, gunfire was exchanged. Strikers rolled a flaming freight train car at the barges. They tossed dynamite to sink the boats and pumped oil into the river and tried to set it on fire. By the time the Pinkertons surrendered in the afternoon three detectives and nine workers were dead or dying. The workers declared victory in the bloody battle, but it was a short-lived celebration.

    The governor of Pennsylvania ordered state militia into Homestead. Armed with the latest in rifles and Gatling guns, they took over the plant. Strikebreakers who arrived on locked trains, often unaware of their destination or the presence of a strike, took over the steel mills. Four months after the strike was declared, the men's resources were gone and they returned to work. Authorities charged the strike leaders with murder and 160 other strikers with lesser crimes. The workers' entire Strike Committee also was arrested for treason. However, sympathetic juries would convict none of the men.

    All the strikers’ leaders were blacklisted. The Carnegie Company successfully swept unions out of Homestead and reduced it to a negligible factor in the steel mills throughout the Pittsburgh area.

    Carnegie found the upheaval and its aftermath a devastating experience. When British statesman William E. Gladstone wrote him a sympathetic note, Carnegie replied:


    This is the trial of my life (death's hand excepted). Such a foolish step -- contrary to my ideals, repugnant to every feeling of my nature. Our firm offered all it could offer, even generous terms. Our other men had gratefully accepted them. They went as far as I could have wished, but the false step was made in trying to run the Homestead Works with new men. It is a test to which workingmen should not be subjected. It is expecting too much of poor men to stand by and see their work taken by others. . . The pain I suffer increases daily. The Works are not worth one drop of human blood. I wish they had sunk.


    Carnegie would come back to Homestead six years later to dedicate a building that would house a library, a concert hall, a swimming pool, bowling alleys, and a gymnasium. However, the man who saw himself as a progressive businessman would always carry pain regarding the incident. "Nothing. . . in all my life, before or since, wounded me so deeply," he wrote in his autobiography. "No pangs remain of any wound received in my business career save that of Homestead."

    "It's easy to say that Carnegie was a hypocrite," states historian Joseph Frazier Wall. "And there is an element of hypocrisy clearly in between what he said and what was done. But it's a little too easy to simply dismiss the whole incident on Carnegie's part as an act of hypocrisy. There is this curious reason as to why Carnegie felt it necessary to even enunciate the rights of labor. Frick was the norm, not Carnegie, in management's relationship with labor at that time. And, one can only answer that, once again, it's being torn between wanting to pose as a great democrat and liberal and at the same time wanting to make sure Carnegie Steel came out on top."





















    Source:  “The Homestead Strike.” American Experience. PBS/WGBH. 13 February 2009 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/amex/carnegie/peopleevents/pande04.html



Last Modified on February 14, 2018