What were working conditions like for Americans between 1800 and 1900?

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mkoren | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Working conditions changed for many Americans between 1800 and 1900. In the early 1800s, most Americans either worked for themselves or worked in very small-sized working environments. The working conditions were very good and the working environment was worker friendly. The workers and the owners knew each other. Their families often knew each other, too. Worker needs were more likely to be considered and requests granted. This all changed when the factory system developed.

When the Industrial Revolution began, workers no longer worked for themselves or in small-sized environments. Workers went to work in factories. Here there were hundreds or thousands of people working. Workers rarely knew each other, and they certainly didn’t know the owners. Families rarely got together outside of work. Working conditions also changed dramatically. The factories were dimly lit and poorly ventilated. Working conditions were often unsafe and unhealthy. Worker requests were rarely granted. Workers were easily replaced if they got hurt or asked for better pay or working conditions. Workers often felt demeaned and devalued. This treatment and these working conditions led to the development of labor unions to help workers try to improve their working situation. Working conditions changed dramatically for Americans between 1800 and 1900.

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