|STANDARD 11- The student will be describe the growth of big business and technological innovations after Reconstruction
The modern United States was created by social changes associated with the growth of
big business and advances in technologies. After Reconstruction, railroad companies and
the steel and oil industries expanded and major inventions changed how people lived.
Questions about this standard will measure your knowledge of these changes and the
factors that brought them about.
a. Explain the impact of the railroads on other industries, such as steel, and on the organization of big business.
The modern United States was created by social changes associated with the growth of big business and advances in technologies. After Reconstruction, railroad companies and the steel and oil industries expanded and major inventions changed how people lived.
Questions about this standard will measure your knowledge of these changes and the factors that brought them about.
The growth of American railroads helped expand the industries that supplied the railroad
companies’ need for steel rails laid on wood ties, iron locomotives burning huge
quantities of coal, wooden freight cars, and passenger cars with fabric-covered seats and
glass windows. The railroads were the biggest customers for the steel industry because
thousands of miles of steel track were laid. In turn, the railroads had a great impact on the
steel industry. To supply their biggest customers, steel producers developed cheap,
efficient methods for the mass production of steel rails. These low-cost methods enabled
more industries to afford the steel companies’ products.
The rapid rise of the steel and railroad industries between the end of the Civil War and the early 1900s spurred the growth of other big businesses, especially in the oil, financial, and manufacturing sectors of the economy. These big businesses acquired enormous
financial wealth. They often used this wealth to dominate and control many aspects of American cultural and political life, and by the beginning of the 20th century, as a consequence of these practices big business became the target of government reform
movements at the state and national levels.
b. Describe the impact of the railroads in the development of the West; include the transcontinental railroad, and the use of Chinese labor.
The federal government granted vast areas of western land to railroad owners so they would lay train track connecting the eastern and western states. To complete this heavy work, the owners relied mainly on Chinese labor. These Asian immigrants accepted lower pay than other laborers demanded. The work was dangerous. Many Chinese died in the explosive blasts they ignited to clear the path across the railroad companies’ land.
Many others died under rock slides and heavy snowfalls before the first transcontinental railroad was completed in 1869.
The railroad companies contributed to the development of the West by selling low-cost
parcels of their western land for farming. Settlers traveled west on the trains to farm on
the fertile soil. Western farmers used the trains to ship their grain east and western cattle
ranchers shipped their steers to eastern butchers. Both farmers and ranchers sold their
goods to people they could not easily reach without railroads. The railroads earned
money by transporting the settlers west and the goods east.
c. Identify John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company and the rise of trusts and monopolies
Oil companies grew swiftly in this period, most notably the Standard Oil Company founded by John D. Rockefeller. Standard Oil was the most famous big business of the era. Rockefeller also gained control of most other oil companies and created what is called a trust. By means of a trust, Rockefeller came to own more than 90% of America’s oil industry. Standard Oil thus became a monopoly––a single company that controlled virtually all the U.S. oil production and distribution.
d. Describe the inventions of Thomas Edison; include the electric light bulb, motion pictures, and the phonograph, and their impact on American life
The effects of technological advances made after Reconstruction forever changed how people lived. The most famous inventor of the period is Thomas Edison. He invented the
Light bulb, the phonograph, motion pictures, a system for distributing electrical power, and
many other technologies powered by electricity. Edison also established the concept of industrial research and founded a research laboratory staffed by engineers and technicians in New Jersey.
Edison’s technological achievements were used by other inventors as evidenced by the development of long-distance electricity transmission that enabled Edison’s electric light to illuminate buildings, streets, and neighborhoods across the United States. Electricity soon replaced steam as the source of power for factories. It replaced horses as the means to power streetcars. Of greatest impact, perhaps, was electricity’s replacing humans as the source of power for household appliances. Edison’s inventions eliminated much manual labor that had been associated with everyday household activities and improved Americans’ quality of life.