Effect of Industrialization on the United States


The Industrial Revolution was an era of major changes in all the life areas of many countries. Beginning in England, the industrial revolution quickly spread throughout Europe and to the United States. The best description for the notion would be a period of change, which led countries to transform from agrarian cultures to industrial ones. Industrialization is followed by an increase in manufacturing and a decrease in labor work needs. Industrialization not only affected the economic states of the country but also transformed life socially, culturally, and politically. Therefore, it is essential to acknowledge all the changes caused by the industrial revolution in the United States. The period of 1865 to 1910 is distinguished as the Second Industrial Revolution, also commonly called the Technological Revolution.

Main body

The economic sector received the most significant impact of industrialization in the mid-nineteenth century, as the overall economy of the country took a different direction and permanently changed. The United States focused on technological advancement and growth as their primary goal at the time. The United States experienced the most significant economic growth in the 20 years from 1870 to 1890 (“The Industrial Revolution” 1), which is historically the biggest advancement in such a short time. Due to the new technological upgrading, the productivity of manufacturing severely increased, which consequently boosted the number of products and decreased the price on them.

Moreover, the number of capital investments on workers grew exponentially during industrialization. Because of such economic changes, the standards of living for Americans were substantially raised. However, industrialization also left millions of people without jobs and caused unemployment because the demand for manual work in most industries was no longer needed in such great amounts. Economic disparity significantly influenced the citizens of urban areas, and they were compelled to look for any work just to be able to feed their families. Nevertheless, the building of the first railroad in 1869 gave the country new opportunities for transporting people and products (“The Industrial Revolution” 1). Railroads, steamships, and canals became highly used for commercial purposes as the country could now expand its global marketplace and ship products on long distances without an old bartering system.

The agricultural sector also experienced major changes, and in case of crop failure in areas where transport infrastructure was built and connected to the markets, famine was no longer highly possible. Steam engines took over the industry, and by 1870 they completely exceeded manual human work (“The Industrial Revolution” 2); however, animal work in agriculture stayed important until the invention of tractors in the early twentieth century. Lastly, American industrialists took advantage of industrialization to expand their businesses. In that manner, John D. Rockefeller merged many large companies and formed Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust that significantly limited competition for smaller enterprises as it monopolized 90% of the business (“The Industrial Revolution” 2). Such monopolies were highly controversial as they took a hit on less major firms, which lost the ability to function correctly.

Economic changes in industrialization contributed to significant transformations in the social lives of Americans. Due to the high intensity of the manufacturing field development, many young people relocated from rural areas to the cities, which started the process of urbanization. However, such fast development of the new social class caused the disparity between people. Similar to rural residents moving, many immigrants also saw the opportunity of new life at the peak of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. Moreover, with such sudden arrival of new citizens, the country faced a lack of housing for them; therefore, many immigrants and newcomers would end up living in impoverished urban slums (“The Industrial Revolution” 2). The creation of new jobs led to the lack of experts in certain fields; unqualified people worked at high-responsibility positions, which reflected poorly on quality and productivity. Therefore, in order to eliminate such issues, engineering colleges were created, which significantly increased the expertise level and simultaneously formed the new American middle class. Another effect of industrialization is the disparity between classes in the early 1900s, which was distinct between Northern and Southern parts of the United States population and was especially noticeable in the employment rates.

As a result of unbearable working conditions, a new socially responsible notion like labor unions emerged during the industrial revolution. Caused by unsafe working conditions, extreme hours, low wages, and disturbing child labor, the creation of unions was inevitable. The first union founded in 1886 was the American Federation of Labor (AFL), which presented itself as an association of trade unions (“Samuel Gompers “). With a strong leader like Samuel Gompers, AFL’s ultimate goal was to pursue the smaller gains for bigger achievements. Among the primary goals of the American Federation of Labor, they demanded higher wages for workers and the improvement of conditions people work in; however, the main demand from the Gompers was the official recognition of the unions, hiring of union members only, and a stable eight-hour workday.

Another historically significant union was the Women’s Trade Union League, established in 1903 (“National Women’s Trade Union League”). WTUL was the first organization that was devoted to resolving labor issues concerning women. The organization consisted of women of all social classes; participants fought for equal rights like an eight-hour workday and the creation of minimum wages; they also stood up to fight for the abolishment of child labor. Women’s Trade Union League significantly influenced societal changes during the Industrial Revolution and opened new prosperities for working women.

At the time of the Second Industrial Revolution, all citizens’ classes experienced major cultural changes; it affected civil war veterans, Native Americans, immigrants, and new urban residents. Undoubtedly, industrialization had a significant impact on the culture of the United States, however, one of the biggest cultural changes Americans experienced was with the wave of immigrants that came to the country upon the Industrial Revolution. Many long-term citizens did not meet the newcomers with warm embraces, vice versa, people saw the immigrants as a threat to their working conditions. Such an attitude to the foreigners created the feeling of nativism – a severe dislike for the immigrants by the native citizens.

As 14 million immigrants came to the country during industrialization, Americans demanded the limitation of the incoming people (“The Industrial Revolution” 1). On such grounds, big anti-immigrant organizations were created in the North and the Midwest of the United States, which called themselves the American Protective Association. Aside from a hostile attitude toward the immigrants, they also were against Catholics, as many of the newcomers were of this faith. Established in 1887, APA conducted major campaigns and conventions to attract people to their organizations; the participants strongly believed that major urban cities face a threat of Catholic takeover in the political sphere (Moore). Similar organizations significantly influenced the cultural change during industrialization and put immigrants in the position of the nation’s enemies.

Additionally, as the demand for products rose, workers had to spend most of the day at the factories without seeing the daylight, their families, and friends. Such changes surely marked the cultural aspect of Americans, sadly in a negative way. The previously idealized American freedom and independence were replaced by the routine, boredom, and exhausting work at the manufacturing. People no longer had the time or desire to do what they loved and to enjoy their free time because of the draining of everyday factory jobs.

The most devastating injustice during industrialization was the use of child labor; some children worked no less than grown-up men and were deprived of simple kid joys, as well as education. At the time of the industrial revolution, the lack of proper education was at the level of concern. Factory jobs left most children without the ability to learn and hope for a bright future; however, even those who attended school had it for only 80 days a year, which is certainly not enough, compared to 180 days nowadays. Moreover, the children that were lucky to receive education had a high possibility of leaving it due to reasons of economic matters. Only a small percentage of teenagers would manage to graduate from school, not even knowing about higher education like colleges, which was unacceptable. Therefore, during the industrial revolution, cultural changes are mostly associated with something depriving, exhausting, and inhuman.

Political changes that arose at the time of industrialization were significant and influenced the future course of history. Economic changes are closely tied with the political reforms of the time because industrial magnates came to political stands and held considerable power over the government. Development of the industry and urbanization required new laws and policies; therefore, the U.S. government-supported big businesses and created many opportunities for them. Among the novelties, the government granted land to the companies for the railroads’ construction; however, the areas were mostly taken by force from the Native Americans, who lived there for centuries, which caused a heated political conflict. The promotion of industrial development was also supported by the high taxes, which protected the country from competition overseas.

The number of conflicts and strikes with the government concerning labor policies peaked during the late 19th century. Thousands of workers struck every day to achieve more cooperative labor laws, especially those who worked on the railroad constructions in the mining and steel industries. The government was forced to use the army to break up the violent conflicts, yet did not take any action to change the policies. The previously mentioned unions also had an impact on political changes during industrialization, mainly because of the numerosity of its members. These unions achieved the goals, and as both republicans and democrats wanted to reach alignment with the worker class, the government had to consider workers in new policies, all by virtue of the labor unions. The disparity between employers and working people divided the country, and the government was not able to find peace between the two.


Concluding, the major changes that the United States of America faced during the Second Industrial revolution became historical, with some still having a lasting effect on the population. It was easy to notice that many changes from different spheres were frequently influenced by one another. For example, social changes impacted the change in political life, as well as cultural differences, affected economics. America overcame many challenges during industrialization, learned from its mistakes, and as a result, adopted better policies, habits, and traditions.

Works Cited

“The Industrial Revolution in the United States.” Library of Congress. Web.

Moore, William V. “American Protective Association.” Immigration to the United States. Web.

“National Women’s Trade Union League.” Social Welfare History Project, 2019. Web.

“Samuel Gompers and the American Federation of Labor.” Digital History. Web.

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