Analyze the factors and impacts of the Industrial Revolution in American society after the Civil War?

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rrteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the aftermath of the Civil War, the United States experienced a level of industrial expansion that was unprecedented. It impacted society in a number of different ways. Let us look at a few of them.

First, the rapid expansion of industry placed the United States among the world's leading industrial powers, rivaling Great Britain and the newly united Germany. American business interests became an important factor in world affairs, especially in the Western Hemisphere.

Second, the new capital requirements of heavy industry as well as the virtual nonexistence of regulations allowed for the expansion of large monopolies, or "trusts," as they were known in the late nineteenth century. Wealthy tycoons like Andrew Carnegie (steel), John D. Rockefeller (oil), James Buchanan Duke (tobacco) and many others each established a virtual stranglehold on their respective industries. This also had the effect of accumulating an extraordinary amount of money in the hands of a relatively small group of people. The benefits of industrial expansion, in short, were not equally distributed--the so-called "Gilded Age" featured an enormous degree of income inequality.

Third, a lack of regulation of business also allowed for very difficult, even dangerous working conditions for industrial workers. This, combined with low pay, led to the growth of a large working class, bolstered by the millions of "new" immigrants that poured into the nation from Eastern and Southern Europe. Working class people mobilized into labor unions, aimed at securing higher wages and better conditions, along with more radical reforms. The late nineteenth century was plagued by sporadic labor violence. While working class people made industrialization possible, but in many ways they found themselves worse off as a result.

Another change, among many others, was the emergence of a middle class. Massive corporations gave rise to "white collar" jobs that had never existed before, like office managers, foremen, researchers, and many others. These middle class jobs required a degree of education, and many universities, colleges, and technical schools popped up during the late nineteenth century to meet the demand. Advertisers also began marketing to these people, creating the beginnings of a new middle-class national consumer culture.

As you can see, there were very many profound changes resulting directly and indirectly from industrialization. 

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