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Free EssaysEconomics CategoryIndustrialization in the United StatesBuy an essay
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The rapid economic growth of United States during the industrial revolution made her become a world’s dominant, industrial, economic and agricultural power. The Industrial Revolution in United States was characterized by a change from home production to factory production thorough use of machines. There was a shift in sources of energy. Transportation improved significantly. There was influx of businesses, labor and capital.


Labor, capital, resources and technology were the factors necessary for industrialization of United States (Abramovitz and David 2000). Labor was mostly provided by immigrants. About 27.5 million immigrants entered United States between 1865 and 1918. The labor they provided led to the expansion of agriculture and industry. They also provided a section of the market for industrial and agricultural products. It is during the reconstruction, the progressive era and the Gilded Age when there was massive industrialization and influx of immigrants into United States. More than half of the workers in industries were immigrants and their children. Higher wages and better working conditions attracted immigrants to United States up to 1920s when the door to mass immigration was closed. Native born workers were massively recruited thereafter.

The 1807 Embargo Act made USA stop exportation of her goods and importation into United States. The embargo led to the 1812 war. It became apparent that United States needed more economic independence. As a result, there was expansion of the manufacturing sector.       

Technologies developed by the end of the nineteenth century included steel and the telegraph. The resources that made industrialization possible were coal, timber, and farmland. During the industrial revolution, bio fuels were substituted with coal. Eli Whitney’s invention of the cotton gin enabled planters to increase production in the Southern United States and therefore meet increased demand. It enabled a worker to remove many seeds from upland cotton in one day. Other inventions were in done in twisting, carding, spinning, and rolling processes of yarn so that its supply increased greatly. This fed the expanding weaving industry, which was then advancing with improvements in the frame and shuttles. The use of steam energy made it possible to increase productivity in the weaving and spinning of linen, wool and cotton. Output of workers greatly increased. In addition, the engine’s high power to weight ratio made it possible to transport it. It was therefore convenient. Furthermore, steam engines were adapted to rotary motion, making them suitable for transportation and industrial uses. Coke was substituted for charcoal, and this lowered wrought iron production. Coke enabled larger blast furnaces to be used, causing economies of scale. Steam engines were later used in powering cotton mills.

The United States used horse-power to in its earliest factories. The first cotton mill in United States was the Beverly Cotton Manufactory, founded in 1787. The losses it incurred as a result of inefficiency of horse-power served as a stimulant for innovation. Eventually, innovators invented water-milling machines and steam engines.  It was possible to organize and reorganize the assembly line with such inventions, for example in the textile sector. The inventions improved efficiency and helped design models for organization of human labor in factories. As a result, there was specialization and division of labor, i.e. a group of workers were trained and organized to do a particular task on a product, which then moved to the next worker. The number and quality of finished goods rose rapidly.

After United States had a decisive victory over the Southern secessionists in the 1865 civil war, the United States became a powerful nation united by a strong national government. The end of slavery was brought about by reconstruction. It also brought an end to citizenship of former slaves. However, they were later allowed to be second-class citizens in a segregation system known as Jim Crow system (Kennedy and Cohen 2012). The progressive Era saw the institutionalization of many social and political reforms. However, there were still manipulations by power brokers and state party organizations. When progressive workers fought against these tendencies, they gradually led to a review of some laws. For instance in 1920, they demanded and obtained prohibition of alcohol and votes for women (Kennedy and Cohen 2012).

Industrialization in the United States was boosted by the expansion of the transportation sector. The development of the railway network enabled transportation of workers, goods, raw materials and machines. It was also boosted by developments of methods of harnessing of electricity and improvements in refining processes. Manufacturers were also advantaged by protective tariffs.

The first major attempt to organize workers' groups nationally was the establishment of The Noble Order of the Knights of Labor. It was originally a secret, ritualistic organization formed in 1869 by garment workers from Philadelphia. It was open to all workers, and women, African American workers and farmers were allowed to join. The Knights grew gradually until it could challenge Jay Gould, a railroad baron. They started the first laborers’ strike. When the organization fell into decline, due to its thin leadership structure, its place was taken by the American Federation of Labor (AFL). AFL focused on skilled workers, thereby ignoring the socialist views that had been espoused earlier. It was led by Samuel Gompers, a former official of the cigar-makers union.

There were times when there would be wage cuts and layoffs, such as during economic depression. In 1877, all railroad workers in United States went on strike. They had been disgruntled by a 10% pay cut. In an attempt to break the strike, blood uprisings were witnessed. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was the most militant organization in the period 1905-1920. It had a revolutionary rhetoric and openly called for class warfare, rhetoric and failed to manage peaceful labor relations, causing many members to drop away.

Labor leaders greatly influenced the 20th century. They not only advocated for the rights of workers, but also led to change in government policy that allowed welfare representatives be part of decision-making processes of government. During the period of the First World War, Samuel Gompers was appointed to the Council of National Defense by President Woodrow Wilson. In the Council, he set up a War Committee on Labor. He encouraged young men to enlist in the military, a move opposed by the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). As head of AFL, he saw membership rise to 2.4 million in 1917. Many labor movements collapsed in the early 20th century, mainly because of lack of funding. The increased strikes during that period partly caused lack of funding. The great depression of 1929 caused their revival. Many of them turned into Civil Rights Movements in the 20th century. This is mainly because workers were mainly from minority communities and suffered from discriminative policies. Their unionization was not possible because of lack of leadership. Hispanics constituted a large fraction of farm workers in California. It was only after Cesar Chavez, a labor leader, that they were mobilized into the United Farm Workers organization.

The gilded age, 1877-1900, was characterized by massive wealth transfer. A super-rich class emerged in the society. The rich people were mainly white. They were referred to as ‘robber barons’, and controlled a network of social, family and business transactions. This resulted in dramatic social changes. Reformers complained that powerful parties controlled the third party system/the Gilded Age. Dissatisfaction with the system caused voter enthusiasm and turnout in the period 1872-1892 in a bid to change the corrupt administrations. The wealthy lived in affluence while the poor became poorer. Political corruption was a major issue, and reformers hoped to solve it through civil service reforms. The Civil Service Reform Act placed federal employees on the merit system, as opposed to the corrupt and manipulative ‘spoils system’. The ‘spoils systems’ were continued in municipalities, counties and states. Many progressives engaged in crusades against urban corrupt robber barons and political bosses. There were demands for a revived commitment to public service, effective regulation of business, and inclusion of welfare groups in the management of the country. President William McKinley election victory had solely depended on his support for economic growth, pluralism and prosperity for all. He was against immigration restrictions.

The Gilded Age is similar to the 21 century in that control of economy and society is at the hands of a few powerful individuals. In the third world, for example, dictatorial and autocratic leaders have ensured that their families, friends and lieutenants are awarded with tenders. Contracting is not done on basis of merit. There are times when companies, intending to cut labor costs, lay off workers. Strikes are often outlawed.

In the modern world, there is little social mobility. Few people lead affluent lives while many people are in the middle and lower income classes. Labor is not sufficiently paid for, causing governments, labor unions and employers make concessions. In many companies, a small group of individuals, known as the management team, is hired to ensure that businesses acquire massive profits. This is achieved through voluminous sales and reduction of costs. Labor costs are also included, yet employees often work extra time. Just like in the Gilded Age, politicians are getting into power on the promise of ensuring democracy and populism.


Labor, capital, resources and technology facilitated industrialization of United States.  Industrialization was also boosted by the expansion of the transportation sector. The development of the railway network enabled transportation of workers, goods, raw materials and machines. It was also boosted by developments of methods of harnessing of electricity and improvements in refining processes. Manufacturers were also advantaged by protective tariffs. The gilded age was characterized by massive wealth transfer that caused wide differences between social classes. Labor unions such as the American Federation of Labor (AFL) and The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) were formed during the industrial period.

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