How did the Industrial Revolution change the way Americans worked?
The Industrial Revolution had a major impact on American culture. America changed from an agricultural economy to an industrial economy. Many people moved out of the country and into the cities. Mass production of goods changed every aspect of American life. Items that were once hard to come by were now easy to find.
It also created many jobs for many people. Of course these jobs consisted of working in factories on assembly lines, etc. The problem with this is that most of the jobs were low paying jobs and the workers worked long hours. The people who really flourished financially during the Industrial Revolution were those that owned the companies.
One way that workers tried to get fair treatment was through unions but these were sometimes unsuccessful.
Industrial workers before the industrial revolution, usually learned how to manufacture a complete item, such as a wagon, or a rifle. They learned their trade from a master craftsman. They lived with this master craftsman in his household with his family while they learned their trade. For some trades, this period of apprenticeship lasted years. After the apprentice had fulfilled his contract to the master craftsman and had become good enough at his trade to set up in business for himself, he did so. Each worker could feel pride in what he made.
After the industrial revolution, workers did not learn how to manufacture a complete item, rather they learned a small part of the manufacturing process and repeated it over and over all day long. Each previous and subsequent step in the manufacturing process was done by a different person. Employers tried to break the steps down into such simple tasks that anyone they hired could perform one of them with very little training, consequently, very low wages were paid for this unskilled labor. Factory labor did not enstill pride, indeed it was often demeaning. The workers did not live under the supervision of the master, but on their own and so they went drinking and carousing more often and in a more public manner, sometimes makeing a nuisance of themselves.
The industrial revolution made the manufacture of labor-saving machinery for the farmer much cheaper so that more farmers could afford such machines. Now the farmers could do more work with fewer hired hands. The surpless hired hands had to go off to the city and find a job in a factory.
Before the Industrial Revolution, Americans worked mainly at home, and mainly at their own pace. You might work really hard for a long time one week when that needed doing, and then take it easy for a while. You were your own boss and you did what you needed to do.
After the Industrial Revolution, work started to look like the way things are now say, at a place like McDonalds. You go to work at some factory when your boss tells you to -- at a given time. You stay there for as long as they say you're supposed to. You work at the pace that they set. You can't work hard now so as to be able to blow off later.
So work got to be more regimented after the Industrial Revolution. People lost control over their work lives.
Here are the most important points
Assembly line production- created thousands of lower skilled factory jobs for immigrants and uneducated. Gave them an opportunity to make a living albeit a poor one.
Mass production- greatly lowered the costs of many items previously too expensive for many people to buy.
Negatives- Dangerous working conditions, long hours, tedious, low wages, no disability or health coverage. Management abuses of workers (children too). Overcrowding of cities.
Positives- Much better opportunities for immigrants than what they faced in their country of origin. Eventual formation of Unions to protect workers rights. New inventions to make life easier and products cheaper to produce.