Industrialization and the American Mind

1779 Words8 Pages
In the last three decades of the nineteenth century, the United Stated experienced an urban migration unlike anything seen in history up to that point. As factories began to spring up across the northern and Midwestern countryside, cities grew up around them. By 1900, one in every five Americans was a city dweller, and nearly seven million people inhabited just three cities: New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. (Henretta, 523) Former soldiers and immigrants flocked to the cities in search of jobs, wealth, and new opportunities. Fueled by urbanization and immigration, the process industrialization in post-Civil War America relied upon poverty and a declining sense of intrinsic value within the work force for its success. Nevertheless, America, while rapidly losing its rural roots during the late nineteenth century, was moving further away from Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a yeoman society. Prior to industrialization, America was primarily an agrarian, self-made nation, relying mostly on craftsmen and hand-made crafts. Artisans mostly made goods for nearby markets in relatively small quantities. The main unit of production was the family, typically owning all the tools needed for production. (Lecture) In pre-industrial American society, craftsmen worked the hours they pleased, with everyone working at their own pace. The pre-industrial work place was, for most Americans, an intimate setting, with artisans apprenticing pupils in discrete tasks with little, if any supervision. (Lecture) Most work in pre-industrial America was done in a face-to-face setting, and workers crafted their products from start to finish and were generally proud of the fruits of their labor. As more and more factories being built in the mid-ni... ... middle of paper ... ...rom industrialization and its subsequent problems in that they found a practical political platform in the Progressives, and massive strides were made in the way of better social organization by the social reformers W.E.B. Du Bois and Ida B. Wells. Yet Carnegie, Gould, and the other ‘captains of industry’ profited handsomely and forever changed the American city, workplace, and psyche while providing little more than a job to their poverty-stricken workers. One product of industrialism proven to workers and entrepreneurs alike was that people have preferences and desires and the government should be used to ensure consumer protection. Ultimately, the process of industrialization may be considered a ‘revolution’ in that, unlike previous generations, people began to see themselves as well as their government as intrinsic instead of instrumental.
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