- Adam Smith
- Andrew Ure
- Karl Marx
- Andrew Carnegie
Starting in England around 1750, the introduction of new machines powered by steam or by running water in streams and rivers changed the ways people had lived and worked for centuries. These changes, called the Industrial Revolution, were embraced by some people and rejected by others. The new machines, which were too big and too expensive for individual workers to install and operate in their homes, gave rise to factories, financed by a group of business owners who hired workers to run the machines. Some factory owners became very wealthy; industrialization was a new route to riches, along with international trade and owning land. At the same time, jobs once done by highly skilled workers, such as weaving, were transferred to factories, and the formerly independent workers became employees of the new factory owners.
The Industrial Revolution gave rise to a group of thinkers and writers who thought about the implications of these changes in work. Some writers, such as Adam Smith (1723–1790), writing in 1776, foresaw advantages for both...
(The entire section is 418 words.)
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Excerpt from An Inquiry into
the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations
Published in 1776
"The division of labor, however, so far as it can be introduced, occasions, in every art, a proportionate increase of the productive powers of labour."
Adam Smith (1723–1790) was one of the first people to write about what is now called economics, the way a people in a society make a living and spend money. Smith was a professor at the University of Glasgow in 1776 when he published his most famous work, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, usually called simply The Wealth of Nations. His topic was how the British government could increase the wealth of the country by adopting certain policies and avoiding others. Smith believed in laissez-faire (pronounced less-say-FAIR, a French term meaning "free to do") economics, relying on the free market to proceed without government interference. His book has been studied ever since, both by government officials and by economists (people who study how people and nations make a living).
One of Smith's concerns was how to improve the productivity of labor. (Productivity is the measure of how much value a person creates in a period of time, such as a week or a year. Smith thought the best way to maximize...
(The entire section is 3834 words.)
Excerpt from The Philosophy of Manufactures; or,
an Exposition of the Scientific, Moral, and Commercial
Economy of the Factory System of Great Britain
Published in 1835
"The grand object … of the modern manufacturer is, through the union of capital and science, to reduce the task of his work-people to the exercise of vigilance and dexterity."
By 1835 the Industrial Revolution—the process of introducing machines into manufacturing and of building new factories—was well established in Britain. Three years earlier, in 1832, a member of Parliament, Michael Sadler (see entry), had published a report documenting the abuse of children working in factories. Many factory workers had joined the Chartist movement, an effort to persuade Parliament to give more people the right to vote (at the time, only men with a minimum amount of property were allowed to vote) and to pass laws to guarantee a minimum wage and maximum number of hours people cold be required to work. (The Chartist movement lasted from 1838 to 1848, but it never persuaded Parliament to act.)
Despite the long hours and dangerous working conditions, the Industrial Revolution also had its positive aspects. Andrew Ure (1778–1857), a professor at the University of Glasgow in Scotland, laid them out in a book titled The...
(The entire section is 2287 words.)
Excerpt from The Communist Manifesto
Published in 1848; translation from
German into English by Helen Macfarlane
published in The Red Republican, June–November 1850
"Differences of age and sex have no longer any distinctive social validity for the working class."
Whether you agree with it or detest its message, there is little doubt that The Communist Manifesto is one of the most influential documents produced during the Industrial Revolution. It is the core document of communism, a form of government in which all the people own property, including both land and capital, in common. The tension between communisim and capitalist democracy was at the heart of the forty-five-year-long Cold War (1945–90) between the United States and the Soviet Union (now the Russian Federation). Communism, and the fight against it, was one of the major features of the twentieth century throughout the industrialized world, as well as in the developing countries of Africa and Asia.
When it was implemented in Russia as a result of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, communism resulted in a dictatorship that seemed in most respects much worse than the conditions that inspired it. Individual political freedoms were crushed completely, and the economic hardships of workers in...
(The entire section is 3917 words.)
Excerpt from "Wealth"
First published in the North American Review, June 1889
"In bestowing charity, the main consideration should be to help those who will help themselves."
Andrew Carnegie (1835–1919) was an outstanding symbol of the American dream: a poor immigrant who works hard and achieves astounding success and enormous riches. Carnegie had started on his path to success as a boy, working for low wages in a textile mill, and rose to dominate the steel industry.
At the same time that Carnegie was amassing his fortune, however, more typical immigrants were housed in squalid quarters, earning barely enough to live on. They worked for ten or twelve hours a day, six days a week; they received no vacations and were subject to dismissal at the whim of a supervisor.
In the 1880s the Socialist Party began appealing to such workers to back a profound change. The socialists (people who seek political and economic equality for all people) and other groups, such as the communists (people who believe in a government in which the people own property in common), advocated higher wages and other benefits for workers, which would come at the expense of wealthy owners like Andrew Carnegie. Consequently, Carnegie wrote an essay which he titled simply "Wealth."...
(The entire section is 3803 words.)
Technological Advances and Criticisms
- Thomas Savery
- The Workers and Merchants of Leeds
- The Luddites and Charlotte Brontë
- Newpaper Accounts Regarding the Telegraph
- J. D. B. Stillman
New machines driven by steam and water sparked the Industrial Revolution by substituting mechanical power for human and animal muscles. This was one of the biggest changes in society since human beings started raising crops for food instead of chasing wild game tens of thousands of years earlier.
Many machines were developed to solve specific problems. Pumping water from a coal mine was the problem Thomas Savery (c. 1650–1715) was addressing when he applied in 1798 for a patent on a device he called "the Miner's Friend"—the predecessor of the steam engine. Savery's device used steam to fill a chamber completely, pushing out the air and water; he then cooled the steam quickly, causing it to condense and leave a vacuum, which in turn sucked water from mines. Savery thought, however, that the power of steam could be used in many other ways; he was proven right about fifty years...
(The entire section is 350 words.)
Excerpt from The Miner's Friend; or,
An Engine to Raise Water by Fire
Published in 1702
"Then I say, such an engine may be made large enough to do the work required in employing eight, ten, fifteen, or twenty horses."
Around the year 1700, owners of British coal mines faced a problem common to mines of all types: how to get rid of the water that constantly seeped into the mine and threatened to flood the deep pits. The existing system, using horses and pulleys to lift buckets filled with water, was expensive and slow. As mines were dug deeper, the bucket system could not keep pace. The challenge of keeping mines dry provided the motivation for development of the steam engine, one of the first steps in a long process of introducing mechanical power alongside human and animal muscles to drive machines—a process called the Industrial Revolution.
Removing water from mines had been a problem for several decades when a British military engineer named Thomas Savery (c. 1650–1715) had an idea he called "an engine to raise [pump out] water by fire." Savery's invention was the first practicable steam engine, using the characteristics of steam to accomplish a task (in his case, to pump water).
Savery's invention started with a boiler (like a huge pot) sitting over...
(The entire section is 2564 words.)
The Workers and Merchants of Leeds
"Yorkshire Cloth Workers' Petition"
Published in the Leeds Intelligencer and Leeds Mercury, June 13, 1786
"Leeds Cloth Merchant Proclamation in Support of Machinery"
Published in the Leeds Intelligencer and Leeds Mercury, 1791
"But what are our children to do; are they to be brought up in idleness?"
The move by textile workers from home-based workshops into large factories was the first big social change brought about by the introduction of new machinery into the indus-try—part of the process known as the Industrial Revolution. Previously, skilled workers spun yarn from cotton or wool and wove it into fabric on smaller machines located in their houses; textiles were called a cottage industry for this reason. But newly invented machines could produce as much yarn or cloth as several individuals using old equipment. These machines, by virtue of their size and expense, were housed in factories, where the formerly independent tradespeople became employees of the factory owners.
This new so-called factory system made a big change in the relationship between a worker and the work. People operating the machines were paid on the basis of how long they worked, instead of on the basis of how much yarn they spun or how...
(The entire section is 2851 words.)
The Luddites and Charlotte Brontë
Various documents attributed to the Luddites
Delivered in 1811
Excerpt from Shirley, a Tale
Published in 1849
"Misery generates hate."
The introduction of newly invented water- or steam-powered machinery into England's textile industry, starting in the last quarter of the eighteenth century, had a major impact on workers right from the beginning. People skilled at making yarn or fabric with traditional hand-operated spinning machines or looms soon discovered that with the new equipment, one or two workers could produce the same amount of yarn or cloth as a dozen or more workers using the old machines. With fewer workers needed to produce the same amount of goods, jobs in textiles became harder to find. In 1811 near Nottingham, England, a group of workers who made knee-high stockings that were commonly worn with short trousers (called breeches) reacted to these changes by breaking into factories and wrecking the new machines. The vandals came to be known as "Luddites," a word that has come to mean people who reject technical innovation.
The original Luddites also criticized owners of the...
(The entire section is 4150 words.)
Newpaper Accounts Regarding the Telegraph
Articles published in the New York Herald and an untitled article from an unknown source
Published in 1844 and 1848
"The result is, that space and time are annihilated."
—New York Herald, 1848
It is hard to imagine the world of 1842, when Samuel F. B. Morse (1791–1872) was struggling to make a success of his invention, the electric telegraph.
Electric lights for reading this book? Not invented yet.
Utility poles carrying telephone, electric, and cable TV wires? Nonexistent.
News received minutes after it happens (or even as it's happening, via television)? Unimaginable.
Until 1844 long-distance communication in the United States relied on the U.S. Post Office, and even then letters were only delivered to towns and cities, not to the farms where millions of Americans lived at the time. Letters and news took days, or weeks, to arrive. Newspapers received copies of other papers from big cities, and reprinted stories days later. It was dramatically different from the world of the Internet and the World Wide Web, in which news from every part of the world is delivered in a matter of seconds.
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J. D. B. Stillman
Excerpt from "The Last Tie"
Published in Overland Monthly, July 1869
"Could I refuse to share in this triumph on the great day, long prayed for, that was to witness the finishing blow to the greatest enterprise of the age?"
The completion of a railroad linking the East Coast to the western United States, in Promontory, Utah, on May 10, 1869, was a famous event in the history of the expansion of the United States to include all of America. It was also an important symbol of how the Industrial Revolution—the process of incorporating machines and factories into manufacturing goods—was reshaping American society.
Dr. J. D. B. Stillman (1819–1888) of California recognized the importance of the new rail link in his eyewitness account of the ceremony that was held to mark the occasion, when a symbolic golden spike (nail) was pounded into the last tie, to hold that last rail in place and complete the railroad connection between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. ("Tie" has a double meaning here, as both a connection and the square timbers on which railroad tracks lie.)
Two months after the event, Stillman's article appeared in a San Francisco magazine, the Overland Monthly. In his article, Stillman recalled the first time he traveled from the East Coast to...
(The entire section is 4608 words.)
- Michael Sadler
- Samuel Gompers
- Émile Zola
- Upton Sinclair
- Jane Addams
- William G. Shepherd
- Camella Teoli
The new machines developed during the Industrial Revolution, beginning in the middle of the eighteenth century, used steam engines or running water (rivers and streams) to provide power. To house such machines, factories were built.
For most of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth, these factories, as well as the coal mines that supplied fuel for the steam engines, were the scenes of some of the most horrific working conditions ever known. In the absence of laws regulating the maximum work day or the minimum age of employment, men, women, and children toiled for twelve hours a day with barely a break. Conditions inside factories were often filthy and hazardous, and workers were often in danger of being maimed or killed as a result of industrial accidents.
(The entire section is 419 words.)
Excerpt from the Sadler Report
Transcripts of hearings held in 1831 and 1832 published in Paliamentary Papers in 1833
In January 1833 the British Parliament published transcripts of hearings conducted by one of its members, Michael Sadler (1780–1835), a year earlier. Sadler was a well-known author of pamphlets urging better treatment of factory workers, and in 1832 he conducted a parliamentary investigation into the condition of children working in textile mills. As chairman of a parliamentary committee, Sadler had interviewed eighty-nine child workers in an effort to persuade the British Parliament to enact new laws to safeguard the rights of child workers. In Britain at the time, children just eight or nine years old regularly worked for twelve hours a day in textile mills.
The Sadler Report, as the hearings were called, had a major impact at the time of publication and for many decades later. Although Sadler had lost his seat in Parliament in the election of 1832, his report was published and provoked a public outcry against the practice of requiring young children to work for eleven or twelve hours a day. It led to new laws that restricted how many hours young children could work (but did not outlaw the practice of employing children in the first place).
Even into the twentieth century, the Sadler...
(The entire section is 2605 words.)
Excerpt from "Tenement-House Cigar Manufacture"
Published in the New Yorker Volkszeitung, October 31, 1881
"For many years the system of tenement-house cigar manufacture has formed one of the most dreadful, cancerous sores in our city."
Samuel Gompers (1850–1924) is best known as the leader of the American Federation of Labor, a group of unions (organizations of workers) representing workers with special skills, such as weavers or carpenters. Before he came to national prominence as a leader of the labor movement, he was active in organizing a union of cigar makers.
In 1881, when Gompers was thirty-one years old, he wrote a series of articles in a German-language newspaper in New York City, the New Yorker Volkszeitung (New York Peoples' Newspaper), describing the living and working conditions of people who worked in cigar factories located in tenement houses. Tenement houses were narrow, run-down apartment houses built right next to one another; the houses Gompers describes were located in a neighborhood of Manhattan (in New York City) called the Lower East Side. Because they only had windows on two sides, the front and back, they were often dark and lacked good ventilation.
In these buildings, cigar makers worked in spaces that doubled as living...
(The entire section is 3606 words.)
Excerpts from Germinal
Published in 1885; translation from French into English by Havelock Ellis published in 1894
Coal was the first fuel that ran the Industrial Revolution, the period when machines and factories came into widespread use in manufacturing. The steam engine, which uses the expansive quality of steam to move machinery, requires fuel to heat water to the boiling point, and coal was the most common fuel used for this purpose in the nineteenth century; it continues to be widely used in the twenty-first century. After the first practicable steam engine was introduced in England, in 1772, by James Watt (1736–1819), the demand for coal soared, especially as steam engines were adapted to power trains and ships. For many decades it was also used to heat homes and buildings. Coal provided the basic energy that replaced human muscle power, making it essential to the Industrial Revolution.
Émile Zola (1840–1908) was a French novelist who wrote a series of twenty novels about everyday life in France. Germinal, first published in France in 1885, remains one of his best-known works for its representation of the life of the working class, specifically coal miners in northern France. Zola was also known as a social reformer. Working conditions for coal miners (and other workers) in France were not...
(The entire section is 4152 words.)
Excerpts from The Jungle
Published in 1906
"There would be meat stored in great piles in rooms; and the water from leaky roofs would drip over it, and thousands of rats would race about it."
Upton Sinclair (1878–1968) was among a group of writers in the first decade of the twentieth century who were known as muckrakers; the term refers to someone who clears manure from a stall. These writers specialized in writing articles (or, in the case of Sinclair, novels) exposing abuses and wrongdoing by the major business leaders and corporations of the era. They were given their nickname by Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919), himself a champion of corporate reform.
In 1906 Sinclair published what would turn out to be his most popular novel, The Jungle. It tells the story of a family of immigrants from Lithuania who come to Chicago, looking to achieve the American dream of a better life. Instead they find the American nightmare: poverty, death, and despair.
The principal character in the book is Jurgis (YOORghis) Rudkus, a young man from rural Lithuania. Jurgis and his extended family (wife, children, parents-in-law) settle in Chicago. There, the adults in the family get jobs in the city's huge packinghouse industry, where animals are slaughtered and butchered and sent out to...
(The entire section is 3976 words.)
Excerpts from Twenty Years at Hull-House, with Autobiographical Notes
Published in 1910
"Civilization is a method of living and an attitude of equal respect for all people."
Jane Addams (1860–1935) is regarded as the first social worker (someone who helps people with a variety of social problems, such as poverty) in the United States. As a young woman she graduated from Rockford College and afterwards decided to pursue a career. Going to college and having a career were both unusual events for women in her era. In the late 1800s, young women were expected to get married and stay at home, but this did not appeal to Addams.
In 1889 she and a college friend, Ellen Gates Starr (1859–1940), founded what came to be called Hull-House. Addams rented an old mansion at the corner of Polk and Halsted Streets in Chicago, a neighborhood filled with recent immigrants from Italy, Russia, Poland, Ireland, Germany, Greece, and Bohemia (a region of today's Czech Republic). She moved her own furniture into the house, and made it available to neighborhood residents, particularly young working-class women.
It was the first so-called settlement house, a place where workers new to the city could find a safe, clean place to stay and to gather. Chicago in the 1880s was in some respects a hostile...
(The entire section is 3339 words.)
William G. Shepherd
"Eyewitness at the Triangle"
Published in the Milwaukee Journal, March 27, 1911
"On the sidewalk lay heaps of broken bodies."
On the afternoon of March 25, 1911, Milwaukee Journal reporter William G. Shepherd was walking near the corner of Washington and Greene Streets in lower Manhattan in New York City when he noticed smoke coming from a ten-story building. Reacting with a journalist's instincts, he came closer to watch.
Shepherd picked up a telephone and dictated his story to United Press, which provided news stories via telegraph to newspapers around the country that did not have their own reporters in distant cities.
What Shepherd saw was a fire at the Triangle Shirt-waist Company, which manufactured women's blouses. The company took up the top three floors of the ten-story Asch building. There, about five hundred women, most of them young Jewish immigrants (as young as thirteen), worked at sewing machines. (A shirtwaist is a woman's blouse with a collar designed to look something like a man's shirt. It is worn above a separate skirt.)
Shortly after 4:30 in the afternoon, a fire broke out on the eighth floor, its cause unknown. The volume of loose
(The entire section is 2128 words.)
Excerpt from U.S. Congressional Hearings, March 2–7, 1912
Reproduced in Joyce Kornbluh's Rebel Voices: An I.W.W. Anthology, published in 1964
When Camella Teoli was in the seventh grade, she did not go to school. She went to work in a factory.
Children had been employed in textile factories ever since textile factories were first built in Britain during the last part of the 1700s. Children made ideal workers: they did not complain about low wages or long hours, they did not argue with overseers, and they were small and nimble—their tiny hands were ideal for operating textile machines.
As with adult workers, children were sometimes injured on the job. Sometimes their injuries resulted in death; other times, they were maimed or crippled for life. In both Britain and the United States, these incidents eventually led to laws barring very young children from working in factories. Most factory owners resisted such laws because it was highly profitable to employ children, who were paid less than adults were.
Child labor laws did not always stop factory owners from employing younger children, as was the case with Camella Teoli. She became known following a famous strike in Lawrence, Massachusetts, in 1913. Lawrence was an important
(The entire section is 2935 words.)
Politics and Law
- Northern Securities Co. v. United States
- Progressive Party Documents
For many years after the first steam- or water-powered machines were installed in English textile factories in the second half of the eighteenth century, most government leaders believed they had no legitimate business interfering with private individuals conducting their business.
But as the nineteenth century wore on, evidence mounted that many workers, especially children, were being abused in factories by being forced to work long hours for low pay and under dangerous, unhealthy conditions. Slowly, advocates of workers' rights succeeded in passing laws that regulated how many hours children could be forced to work, and established a minimum age for factory employees.
At the end of the nineteenth century, attitudes toward the business practices of some owners also came under scrutiny. The government of President Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) in particular advocated government action to make sure that a few large business owners did not stifle competition and raise prices for everyone. Roosevelt was part of what was called the Progressive movement, the notion that government regulation was required as a counterbalance...
(The entire section is 397 words.)
Northern Securities Co. v. United States
Excerpt from the United States Supreme Court decision
"The supremacy of the law is the foundation rock upon which our institutions rest."
In 1904 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the federal government had the right to break up a corporation called the Northern Securities Company. The company had been organized in November 1901 by Wall Street banker J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913) and railroad owner James J. Hill (1838–1916). The purpose of the new company was to acquire stock in two railroads, the Northern Pacific and the Great Northern. Both ran trains across the northern part of the United States, from the Great Lakes in the East to Puget Sound (near Seattle) in the West.
The government of President Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) filed suit to break up Northern Securities, on the grounds that such a company violated the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act. The government argued that simply by forming a company that owned stock in two competing railroads (one of which, the Northern Pacific, was bankrupt), Morgan and Hill would be acting to discourage competition in the railroad business in the northern part of the country. The Sherman Antitrust Act was designed to prevent that very thing. (A trust was a corporation whose purpose was to own stock in other companies within the same industry; by owning...
(The entire section is 4402 words.)
Progressive Party Documents
Excerpt from the Platform of the Progressive Party Excerpt from Address by Theodore Roosevelt before the Convention of the National Progressive Party in Chicago
August 6–7, 1912
"We progressives stand for the rights of the people."
In the summer of 1912, Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919) was the most popular politician in America. As a Republican, he had been president for seven-and-a-half-years, from the assassination of William McKinley in September 1901 until March 1909. Near the end of his second term, he decided not to run for another term.
But Roosevelt was not happy with his Republican successor, William Howard Taft (1857–1930). The two disagreed particularly over the issue of conservation of natural resources. Both men were dedicated "trustbusters" who favored government lawsuits to break up large monopolies (companies exercising exclusive control of a particular area of commerce) in industries such as railroads and oil. Roosevelt also took a more aggressive approach to issues of social reform, such as child labor and minimum wages.
In February 1912 Roosevelt declared that he would again be a candidate for the presidency, challenging Taft for the Republican nomination. But President Taft influenced many...
(The entire section is 3486 words.)