The Market Revolution, Industrialization, and New Technologies

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Describe the impact of the "second industrial revolution" on American business, workers, and consumers. Which technological and economic changes had the biggest impact on American society?

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The "second industrial revolution" had a major impact on American business, workers, and consumers.

While the initial phase of industrial development in the late 18th and early 19th century, driven by coal, steel, and the steam engine, was doubtless important, the second industrial revolution essentially led to our modern economy...

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The "second industrial revolution" had a major impact on American business, workers, and consumers.

While the initial phase of industrial development in the late 18th and early 19th century, driven by coal, steel, and the steam engine, was doubtless important, the second industrial revolution essentially led to our modern economy and way of life. Many American businesses built in the crucible of this late 19th and early 20th century era of innovation are now some of the largest in the world.

The second industrial revolution was driven by electrification and oil. It was a chemical and electrical revolution. This dependence on oil was a choice we still live with today, and it came to define many aspects of 20th century history. Imperialism, for example, was partly driven by the desire to secure access to resources, such as oil. Electrification changed the nature of the modern city forever, bringing convenience and literally lighting the way to a society where the difference between day and night became irrelevant. The automobile, which depended on oil, came about in this era, and the culture and infrastructure created by this technological device has significantly impacted America.

The automobile was produced on an assembly line, and the development of production lines and mass production is another important development of the second industrial revolution. For the lives of workers, who had to adapt to the exigencies of the machine, it was the most important. It also had a massive effect on the nature of consumption, creating the capacity for mass production.

It is difficult to say which technological or economic change was the most important in this era of innovation. One of the reasons for this is it created the framework of our modern world, and some of these impacts, for better or worse, are still being felt.

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The “Second Industrial Revolution” in the United States is generally defined as the changes in the economy that came about after the Civil War.  This “revolution” is often said to have lasted up until the time of World War I.  The Second Industrial Revolution had many impacts on the groups that you mention.

For example, the changes of this revolution helped some businesses and hurt others.  This was a time when a few businesses became huge.  It was the time when the “robber barons” figured out ways to make their businesses much more profitable and were, thereby, able to outcompete many other businesses.  The other businesses typically disappeared.  In other words, some businesses boomed while others were unable to compete and ended up dying off.

Consumers were also helped and hurt by the changes of this revolution.  In some ways, the revolution was very good for them.  The boom in railroads meant that any sort of good could be transported to any part of the United States.  This meant that more people could have more sorts of consumer goods.  On the other hand, the ceaseless search for lower costs meant that businesses cut corners.  This led to businesses doing things like selling foods that were impure or things that were unsafe.  Here, too, the impact was good in some ways and bad in others.

Finally, the impact on workers was also mixed.  We typically think about workers who were underpaid and who had to work in harsh conditions in the factories.  But this was also a time when a middle class started to thrive.  Some workers were being helped by the increases in productivity and the higher wages that came with them.  Thus, workers were also impacted in a variety of ways.

What all this means is that we cannot say that the Second Industrial Revolution impacted the US in just one way.  This was a revolution that brought both benefits and harm to various parts of society. 

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