Aftermath and Impacts of the Civil War

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What fueled the growth of the economy after the Civil War?

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Industrialism took off and fueled the economy after the Civil War. Industrialists invested in factories. They also invested in infrastructure, especially railroads, to connect markets across the continent. The US also had abundant natural resources in gas, coal, wood, and steel, and could use these to build a huge industrial...

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Industrialism took off and fueled the economy after the Civil War. Industrialists invested in factories. They also invested in infrastructure, especially railroads, to connect markets across the continent. The US also had abundant natural resources in gas, coal, wood, and steel, and could use these to build a huge industrial capacity.

In the earlier part of the nineteenth century, many middle-class Britons had become vastly wealthy through industrialism, building factories that outpaced any others in the world in productive capacity. However, these wealthy people in Britain, which was then the world's superpower, increasingly scaled back their innovations in the latter half of the nineteenth century in order to enjoy the leisurely lives of wealthy gentlemen. This left an opening for eager and ambitious Americans to invest in technology, innovate, and outpace their British rivals.

Adding to ability to profitably industrialize was the huge and unregulated surge in European immigrants arriving in the country in the latter half of the nineteenth century. There were no labor laws, no minimum wage laws, and no child labor laws, so the new immigrants became a very cheap pool of workers fueling the industrial revolution in this country.

By the end of the century, though it was unwilling to take on the mantle of a superpower, the United States was clearly the country ascending fastest in wealth and power.

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Many things fueled the growth of the American economy after the Civil War. First, the war proved that railroads were quite valuable in moving materials. After the war, railroads handled civilian needs. The nation developed more new rail lines, especially in the North and West. The first transcontinental railroad was finished in 1869 and more branch lines soon linked the West with the East. The growth in railroads also fueled a growth in the steel industry. Andrew Carnegie was able to take advantage of new technology in order to make inexpensive quality steel. This allowed factories to grow vertically, especially in cities such as Chicago and New York. As factory jobs increased, housing needs increased for workers, thus giving rise to the tenement and more need for steel.

Another thing that fueled economic growth in the period after the Civil War was a sharp increase in immigration. Railroads received lands along the right-of-way and often sold this land to immigrants. Economic and cultural tensions in Southern and Eastern Europe also fueled the immigration boom. These workers came to the United States with little and they served as cheap labor for the factories. While they experienced xenophobia as native-born whites worried that they would lose their jobs, it is hard to imagine the postwar economic boom without this ready source of cheap labor. The increased population of the United States also served to buy an increasing amount of American consumer goods made in factories. Before the turn of the century American politicians would also be looking to create new markets for American consumer goods in Asia.

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There were several factors that led to the growth of our economy after the Civil War. One factor was the development and completion of the transcontinental railroad. This made it easier for people to move to the West and to the South. It also made it easier and quicker for products to be shipped to and from these regions. Additionally, the process of building the transcontinental railroad provided jobs for people.

A second factor was the development of industries. The North always had plenty of industries. After the Civil War ended, the South became more industrialized. New industries formed in the South. As people began to move to new areas, especially in the West, industries also expanded to these regions.

After the Civil War, the South had to be rebuilt. This created economic opportunities for people who were willing to help rebuild the South. It also gave the South an opportunity to diversify its economy.

The government encouraged settlement of the West with the passage of the Homestead Act. This law gave people 160 acres of land for free if they lived on the land for at least five years. This led to additional economic opportunities for farmers. It also gave businesses a reason to expand since more people were moving to the West.

Our economy grew after the Civil War for several reasons.

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The main thing that fueled the growth of the post-Civil War economy was industrialization.  Specifically, the growth in heavy industry was behind this boom. 

The most important two parts of this boom were the boom in railroads and the steel boom that allowed it to happen and fed off of it.  After the Civil War, a new process for making steel became widely used.  It made steel quicker and cheaper than had previously been possible.  This helped allow the huge boom in railroads as the transcontinental lines were being built.  The boom in railroads helped to create a national market that allowed for rapid growth in the US economy.

Thus, railroads and steel were the main drivers of this economic growth. 

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