During the latter years of the nineteenth century, the United States experienced unprecedented industrial growth, resulting in an economy that was characterized by big business and ruled by monopolies. Technological invention and mechanization transformed farming and industry, and the transformation caused increasing tension between the corporate bigwigs and the laborers. Riots broke out in industrialized cities, and labor unions emerged to protect the interests of the workers. The US presidents during this period were divided in their beliefs about industrialization, and their policies reflected this ideological rift.
Rutherford B. Hayes took the oath of office in 1877 when the labor movement was just getting off the ground. Hayes was a republican and a supporter of big business, and during his term of office, large corporations became extremely powerful. Legislation supported these corporations and disregarded the conditions of the workers. James Garfield succeeded Hayes as president, and William McKinley, Chester Arthur, and Benjamin Harrison followed Garfield. While Garfield was assassinated just months after he was elected, McKinley and the others led the country during this time of transition, and while they promoted the growth of industry, they were faced with the challenge of balancing the interests of the wealthy industrialists with those of the organized laborers. The website below contains an overview of industrial progress during their presidencies and the contributions of these men to the growth of the American economy.