"Query XIX: The present state of manufactures, commerce, interior and exterior trade?" Excerpt from Notes on the State of Virginia
First written in 1780 as a set of responses to questions from French diplomat François de Barbé Marbois. Published in book form in 1785
Reprinted in The Life and Writings of Thomas Jefferson
Published in 1944
American statesman Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826) was one of the founding fathers of the United States. The founding fathers are the members of the Constitutional Convention that drafted the U.S. Constitution in 1787. A man of many interests, Jefferson played a central role in shaping the new nation. He strongly supported the movement toward republicanism, or rule by an elected government that represented a population of citizens all seen as fairly equal in the eyes of the law. (This equality, however, was limited to white males). His goal was to eliminate the kind of class structure that existed in England, where the wealthy upper class ruled the poor lower class. For Jefferson, an economy based on agriculture was important to the new American republicanism. He did not believe the promise of freedom and liberty in the new nation would be fulfilled if industrialization (the development of industry) became widespread. He feared the abuse of workers by...
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Congressional Report on Manufactures
Excerpt from Report to Congress on the Subject of Manufactures
Presented to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, December 5, 1791
Published in the Annals of the Second Congress, Appendix, 1791–1793
Alexander Hamilton (1755–1804) was the first secretary of the treasury of the United States and one of its founding fathers. The founding fathers are the members of the Constitutional Convention who drafted the U.S. Constitution in 1787. Like his opponent in government, Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826), Hamilton greatly affected the shape of the new nation.
Hamilton was raised in the West Indies. He was the illegitimate (born of parents not married to each other) child of an aristocratic but unsuccessful Scottish trader who abandoned the family when Hamilton was about ten years old. When Hamilton's mother died in 1768, her relatives recognized his intelligence and arranged for him to attend preparatory school in New Jersey. After finishing his undergraduate studies, Hamilton then enrolled at King's College (now Columbia University) in 1773. As a student Hamilton wrote and published three highly praised pamphlets that brought him to the attention of General George Washington (1732–1799) just as the American Revolution (1775–83; the American colonists' fight
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Cotton Gin Petition
Cotton Gin Petition
Written by Eli Whitney on June 20, 1793
Reprinted in The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, Vol. 26: 11 May to 31 August 1793, 1995
Eli Whitney (1765–1825) was one of the great inventors of the early Industrial Revolution in the United States. Whitney perfected the cotton gin, a machine that separates the seeds from the fibers of cotton. Although his cotton gin transformed the Southern economy and changed history, Whitney experienced little financial gain due to problems in the patent system of the new nation. A patent is a legal document issued by a government granting exclusive authority to an inventor for making, using, and selling an invention.
Whitney showed a strong interest in mechanical work from his early boyhood in Westboro, Massachusetts. Although he worked on his father's farm, he preferred his father's shop, where by the age of fifteen he labored part-time making nails for sale. As much as he enjoyed working as a mechanic, he decided to obtain an academic education. He attended Yale College, graduating in 1792. Whitney then traveled to Georgia to study for a law degree. He stayed with Catharine Littlefield Greene, the widow of American Revolutionary War (1775–83; the American colonists' fight
(The entire section is 2269 words.)
Loom and Spindle
Excerpts from Loom and Spindle: or, Life among the Early Mill Girls
By Harriet Hanson Robinson
Originally published by T. Y. Cromwell in 1898
Revised edition published by Hawaii Press Pacific, 1976
During the early nineteenth century, the country's first factories were being established in New England. In 1814 Francis Cabot Lowell (1775–1817) built the first complete cotton factory—with both spinning and weaving processes in one building—in Waltham, Massachusetts. By 1823, after Lowell's death, his business associates had built larger mills in Lowell, along the Merrimack River. The mills used power looms that required workers with quick hands for smooth operation. The mill workforces were made up mainly of young women, many from the farms of New England. Bright, eager, and willing to work for less money than men, the "Lowell girls," as they came to be called, filled the mill owners' needs and became the first industrial workforce in the United States.
Mill work was appealing to many young women. The biggest attraction was that it paid more than women could make elsewhere. In the Lowell mills in the 1830s women earned $2.40 to $3.20 a week plus room and board. This amount was one-half to one-third the wages paid to men for similar work, but it was still more than...
(The entire section is 2926 words.)
The Lowell Offering
"A Second Peep at Factory Life"
By Josephine L. Baker
Article from the Lowell Offering
Published in Vol. V: 97-100, 1845
In the 1820s the textile mills in Lowell, Massachusetts, began operating successfully using a workforce made up largely of young, unmarried women. For these daughters of northern farmers and laborers, the factory life was temporary and they would only labor for a few years before returning to their homes to marry and raise families. It was not an accepted practice for young women to work for wages in factories at that time, but the growth of industrialization was changing social standards. From their writings, it is apparent that the Lowell "mill girls," as they called themselves, were taking full advantage of the opportunities offered them through their employment in the factories. During their free time they sought to educate and improve themselves, and they often wrote about their lives, including their experiences in the mills. In later years, when the mill girls began to protest against poor working conditions, they learned to organize, speak in public, and challenge bosses.
Many of the Lowell workers were eager to experience independence for the first, and perhaps the only, time in their lives. They worked up to fourteen hours a day, and...
(The entire section is 3515 words.)
The Canal Boat
Excerpt from "The Canal Boat"
By Nathaniel Hawthorne
Originally published in the New England Magazine, 1835
Amended version available online from the University of Rochester, Department of History, Erie Canal Library
When the Industrial Revolution began in the United States in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, it was extremely difficult and expensive to transport goods across the country. In the early 1800s the Allegheny Mountains (a range in the Appalachian system extending through Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia) formed the western frontier of the nation. Beyond the Alleghenies lay the Old Northwest (the modern states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin), a land rich in natural resources such as timber, minerals, and fertile soil. However, there were few roads, and those that did exist were muddy and filled with boulders and tree stumps. For the country to continue to grow and prosper under the development of industry, more efficient transportation systems were needed. This problem eased slightly in 1807 when steamboats were first used on some of the country's major rivers, but it still remained difficult to transport materials across...
(The entire section is 3881 words.)
The Education of Henry Adams
Excerpt from The Education of Henry Adams: An Autobiography
Privately printed in 1907; published after Adams's death in 1918
Reprinted by Time Inc. in 1964
A merican journalist, historian, and novelist Henry Brooks Adams (1838–1918) is best remembered for writings that captured the essence of the changes that occurred during the Gilded Age, the era of industrialization from the early 1860s to the turn of the century in which a few wealthy individuals gained tremendous power and influence. He was born into one of the most well-known political families in the United States. His great-grandfather was John Adams (1735–1826; served 1797–1801), the second president of the United States; his grandfather was John Quincy Adams (1767–1848; served 1825–29), the sixth U.S. president; and his father, Charles Francis Adams (1807–1886), was a diplomat and U.S. senator. As a child, Henry Adams sat at the dinner table with some of the most important statesmen in the nation. His family's experiences and attitudes gave Adams a sense of history and taught him the traditions of the early American leaders.
After graduating from Harvard University in 1858, Henry Adams left the United States to study law in Berlin, Germany. He then went on a lengthy tour of Europe before returning
(The entire section is 3149 words.)
Memorial of the Chinese Six Companies
"Memorial of the Chinese Six Companies to U.S. Grant, President of the United States"
Written in 1876
Reprinted in The Power of Words: Documents in American History, vol. II: 35-37, 1996
In the mid-nineteenth century, industrialization began to spread across the United States at a rapid rate, and factories began searching for large quantities of new workers to help meet the production demands. In the 1840s businesses started recruiting workers from European countries, and by the end of the decade immigrants began to form a significant part of the industrial workforce. Life in the United States was difficult for these newcomers, and they were often the victims of discrimination by their employers. They were paid the lowest wages and were forced to work in jobs that Americans did not want. After a few generations in the country, however, most immigrants from Europe found acceptance in American society. This was not the situation with the Chinese, who began arriving in small numbers on the West Coast around the same time as Europeans were arriving on the East Coast. The Chinese workers were essential in the building of railroads and roads and they supplied the necessary workforces for many U.S. industries. Despite this, some of the worst anti-immigrant discrimination was directed at them, and this situation did not...
(The entire section is 3810 words.)
The Concentration of Wealth
Excerpt from "The Concentration of Wealth: Its Economic Justification"
By William Graham Sumner
Written in the 1880s
Reprinted in Social Darwinism: Selected Essays of William Graham Sumner, 1963
William Graham Sumner (1840–1910) was one of the leading social philosophers during the period of the Industrial Revolution known as the Gilded Age, which began in the early 1860s and extended to the turn of the century. The Gilded Age was marked by a rapid growth of industrialism and big business throughout the United States. Many Americans objected to the political and financial power the industrialists and big corporations gained during these years and were concerned that some businessmen were becoming very wealthy while a large number of workers were barely able to live on their wages. By the 1880s citizens were demanding the government regulate big business in order to lessen the influence of the giant corporations and their leaders. Sumner spoke with passion and intelligence against this call for reform. He strongly opposed government intervention in the economy and workplace. He believed that the possible effects of such interference were not understood by those requesting it and could damage the progress of the nation through a lack of understanding of possible consequences....
(The entire section is 2880 words.)
How the Other Half Lives
Excerpt from How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York
By Jacob A. Riis
Originally published in 1890
Reprinted in 1957 by Hill and Wang
Newspaper reporter and photojournalist Jacob Riis (1849–1914) was one of the earliest social reformers to use his work to document the effects of industrialization on the lower-class citizens of the United States. Riis's articles, books, and photographs helped focus public attention on the unhealthy living and working conditions experienced by many of his fellow New Yorkers, and he was credited for bringing about many governmental reforms in the city.
Riis was born in Ribe, Denmark, and received most of his early schooling from his father, a teacher who also worked for a local weekly paper. As a young man Riis trained to be a carpenter, but at the age of twenty-one he decided to immigrate to New York. He arrived in the city in 1870, a period when jobs were hard to find and competition for them was fierce. For years Riis was forced to take any temporary job he could find, including farm work, brickmaking, and peddling. He even tried mining in Pennsylvania for a short time. Riis was so poor that several times he was forced to stay in the police department lodging houses of the city—filthy, crowded, noisy...
(The entire section is 3861 words.)
Excerpt from Random Reminiscences of Men and Events
By John D. Rockefeller
Published in 1909
John D. Rockefeller (1839-1937) was the founder and driving force behind the Standard Oil Company, one of the largest corporations of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The company's spectacular rise to domination of the oil industry in a few short decades was largely the result of Rockefeller's foresight and vision, his hard work, his demand for efficiency, and his mission to cut out competition by whatever means was available. It was Rockefeller's goal to control every aspect of the oil business, from taking it out of the earth to shipping it, refining it, selling it, and even delivering it to its end users. During Rockefeller's years as the company's president, Standard Oil was often criticized by the public for being a monopoly, which meant that the corporation had almost exclusive control of the nation's oil refining business, making it nearly impossible for other businesses to compete in the industry.
Standard Oil developed a bad reputation early in its rise. The press frequently printed stories about the underhanded tactics used by the company to squash its rivals and force small business owners to sell or give way to its
(The entire section is 5167 words.)
The History of Standard Oil
Excerpt from The History of the Standard Oil Company
By Ida M. Tarbell
Published in book form in 1904
Writer and editor Ida M. Tarbell (1857-1944) was one of the first great female journalists in the United States. Her best-known work, The History of the Standard Oil Company (1904), exposed the questionable business practices of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust, which had been formed when Rockefeller combined all his corporations in an attempt to reduce competition and control prices in the oil industry. When Tarbell began researching the enormous company in 1902, it had already survived more than thirty years of criticism, state and federal investigation, and legal actions against it (see Chapter 11). The publication of her book helped result in a 1911 Supreme Court decision to dissolve Standard Oil and altered the future course of business in the country, surprising many who had underestimated her influence since she was a woman reporter and a newcomer in the field.
Tarbell was born in 1857 in Hatch Hollow, one of the oilfield towns of Erie County, Pennsylvania. During the 1850s vast numbers of oil wells were being built across the county, transforming the poor, rural region into one of the centers of
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Antitrust Political Cartoons
"A Trustworthy Beast"
Originally published in Harper's Weekly (October 20, 1888)
William A. Rogers, artist
"A Trust Giant's Point of View"
Originally published in The Verdict (January 22, 1900)
Horace Taylor, cartoonist
In the latter part of the Gilded Age (the era of industrialization from the early 1860s to the turn of the century in which a few wealthy individuals gained tremendous power and influence), a growing number of the American population became alarmed about the increasing power of big business. Of particular concern were the giant trusts, which were groups of companies within an industry that joined together under one board of directors—called trustees—in order to reduce competition and control prices. As the trusts got bigger and stronger, they were able to buy out more and more of their competition, and the wealth became concentrated in just a few huge corporations, especially in transportation and heavy industry (industries that manufactured on a large scale with the use of complex and expensive machinery). To most people it seemed that there was no law or organization strong enough to break the trusts. Though many state governments tried to regulate business, the trusts could avoid the state...
(The entire section is 3419 words.)
Federal Antitrust Legislation
Excerpt from the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887
Public Law 49-41, February 4, 1887
Enrolled Acts and Resolutions of Congress, 1789–
General Records of the United States Government, 1778–1992
Record Group 11
Excerpt from the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890
U.S. Code, Title 15, Chapters 1-7
Published by the Office of the Law Revision Counsel of the U.S. House of Representatives
In the second half of the nineteenth century, the largest industries in the United States enjoyed tremendous growth under the direction of a few very rich and powerful men. Financial investors J. P. Morgan (1837–1913) and Jay Gould (1836–1893), oil businessman John D. Rockefeller (1839–1937), railroad chief Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794–1877), and steel boss Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) all built huge, highly profitable corporations that were more extensive and complex than any that had previously existed in the country. These men exercised a great amount of influence over the business world and national affairs, and the American public opinion of them was strongly divided. Those who applauded the manufacturing advances the wealthy...
(The entire section is 4205 words.)
Letters to Michael and Hugh
Excerpt from Letters to Michael and Hugh [Owens] from
P. M. Newman
By P. M. Newman
Written in May 1951
Located in the International Ladies' Garment Workers'
Union Archives, Kheel Center for Labor-Management
Documentation and Archives
Available online at http://www.ilr.cornell.edu/trianglefire/texts/letters/newman_letter.html
Labor organizer Pauline M. Newman (c. 1888–1986) and her family immigrated to New York in 1901 from Lithuania. Although she was only thirteen years old and did not speak English, Newman immediately began to look for work so she could help with the family's expenses. She held temporary jobs for a couple of months before getting hired at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory, where she worked until 1909. Labor conditions at the factory were dangerous and unhealthy, which was typical of the garment industry during this period. After she left the Triangle factory, Newman spent the rest of her life fighting so that others would not be forced to work in similarly poor environments.
Around the turn of the twentieth century, an estimated eighteen thousand immigrants arrived in New York City each month. Newman's family was among the...
(The entire section is 3323 words.)
Words by I. G. Blanchard; music by Rev. Jesse H. Jones
Originally published in 1878
Reprinted in American Labor Songs of the Nineteenth Century, 1975
Of the many job-related complaints of industrial workers in the late nineteenth century, the most widespread and passionate was over long working hours. In the early days of industrialization, many Americans had expected the new technology would make jobs easier, leaving more leisure time for all. However, in 1890 laborers in manufacturing companies worked an average of sixty hours per week, and it was not uncommon in some trades for workers to put in as many as 100 hours a week at their jobs. In 1900, 70 percent of the nation's industrial laborers worked ten hours or more each day. Some worked seven days a week. Laborers usually took jobs in their teens and continued working until they died or became too ill to continue. Because they spent so much of their lives at work, they were unable to enjoy time to relax with their families, participate in community activities, or express themselves through arts or other pastimes.
From the time the earliest U.S. factories were established, the issue of shorter working hours was one of the major points addressed by every labor movement. In the 1830s workers called for a...
(The entire section is 2399 words.)
Excerpts from Ragged Dick, or, Street Life in New York with the Boot-Blacks
By Horatio Alger
Published in 1868
During the Gilded Age (the era of industrialization from the early 1860s to the turn of the century in which a few wealthy individuals gained tremendous power and influence), many Americans became fascinated by the possible riches that could be made in the new economy. The American dream—the belief that anyone willing to work could live in middle-class comfort in the United States—was expanded to include rags-to-riches stories in which Americans born into poverty could overcome their circumstances and become millionaires. In fact, many real success stories occurred during this time. Oil industrialist John D. Rockefeller (1839–1937), steel businessman Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919), and railroad executive Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794–1877) had all been born in humble homes and yet went on to become some of the richest men in the nation. Novelist Horatio Alger Jr. (1834–1899) was one of the first writers to capture this rags-to-riches theme in fiction, and his dime novels for boys became so popular they were found in almost every American home in the late nineteenth century.
(The entire section is 3969 words.)
The Rise of Silas Lapham
Excerpts from The Rise of Silas Lapham
By William Dean Howells
Originally published in 1885
Reprinted by Signet Classic in 2002
William Dean Howells (1837–1920) was a journalist, a well-known literary critic, and a popular writer of novels, poetry, travel essays, plays, and short stories. His most famous book, The Rise of Silas Lapham (1885), captured the changes taking place in the social world of Boston in the 1880s, when the "new rich"—people from humble backgrounds who had made a fortune in the industrial era—were entering the once-exclusive circles of the city's old ruling class of wealthy and elite. The novel presents Howells's vision of a more democratic and tolerant, if less cultured, American society of the future and introduced business and industry as an essential subject in fiction writing during the industrial age.
Howells was born in Martin's Ferry, Ohio, and was the second child in a family of eight. His father, William Cooper Howells, was a printer for several small Ohio newspapers. When William Dean was three, the family moved to Hamilton, Ohio, where his father was the editor of a weekly journal. According to his memoirs, Howells learned to set newspaper type before he could read. (In the nineteenth century typesetting, or preparing text...
(The entire section is 4261 words.)