In the late 1800s, the American educational system started to split in a way into two separate systems. One of these was aimed at producing the managerial types that would be needed for all the big new companies. The other was aimed at producing the workers.
The number of public schools and the number of students attending them boomed during this time. There were about 800 public high schools in the country in 1880 and 6,000 at the turn of the century.
These public schools started out as college prep schools, but many of them, especially in poorer areas, became much more focused on providing vocational education.