United States Studies: 1865 to the Present
Standard 5-3: The student will demonstrate an understanding of major domestic and foreign developments that contributed to the United States becoming a world power.
The Industrial Revolution, urbanization, and access to resources contributed to the United States becoming a world power in the early twentieth century. At the same time, discriminatory practices abounded.
5-3.4 Summarize the impact of industrialization, urbanization, and the rise of big business, including the development of monopolies; long hours, low wages, and unsafe working conditions on men, women, and children laborers; and resulting reform movements.
It is essential that the student should know:
The growth of Big Business was both a cause and an effect of increased immigration. Big Business encouraged the United States government to continue an open immigration policy so that the workforce would be plentiful and cheap. Immigrants were attracted to jobs created by Big Business and enabled the businesses to grow bigger because they worked for low wages and therefore the businesses made greater profits. Big Business was also caused by the availability of natural resources (land), new inventions and technologies, capitol for investments, and the role of entrepreneurs. Men like Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller developed business practices that allowed them to create monopolies. Carnegie controlled the steel industry and Rockefeller controlled the oil industry. These monopolies kept wages low and kept labor unions from being effective.
As industries grew, the United States shifted from an agrarian economy based on agriculture to an industrial economy based on manufacturing. Farmers were able to produce more crops because of mechanization. As a result, the prices they got for their crops fell (supply and demand). Unable to pay mortgages on land and equipment because of low profits, many farmers lost their farms to foreclosure and moved to the cities in search of jobs in industry. In the late 1800s, many African American sharecroppers and tenant farmers left the South for cities in the Midwest and the Northeast in search of jobs in factories and to escape Jim Crow laws. By 1920, the majority of people in the United States lived in cities.
As cities grew due to the increase in immigration and movement from the farm, middle class Americans were concerned about the living conditions and the corruption of city governments. Crowded conditions led to problems providing sanitation. Issues related to water and housing contributed to opportunities for corruption among city officials who were often supported by their ethnic constituents. Middle class Americans lived in the cities too and paid taxes for city government. Progressive reformers advocated the establishment of city parks, beautification projects, safer housing, and sanitation. They also promoted teaching immigrants to adapt to their new country by establishing settlement houses where immigrants were taught social skills.
Progressives were also very concerned about unsafe conditions in factories and about the long hours that workers, particularly women and children, were expected to work. They did not support labor unions’ actions such as collective bargaining and strikes to address these issues. Instead they advocated the passage of laws. Conditions in the factories were publicized by the increasingly popular newspapers and magazines, illustrated with photographs showing the unsafe working conditions. Writers of exposes about corporate power and unsafe working conditions were called muckrakers, a term first used by President Teddy Roosevelt, because they exposed the corruption of the system. Reformers advocated restricting child labor and passing laws requiring that children attend school. This was in direct opposition to the wishes of many working class families who needed the income provided by their working children. Workers sometimes resented the interference of reformers in their lives. Some compulsory school attendance laws were passed at the state level, but a federal child labor law was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. The federal government did not successfully enforce child labor laws or minimum wage and maximum hours laws for workers until the New Deal reforms following the Great Depression.
Progressives were more successful at the federal level in addressing the problems associated with Big Business. Progressives feared that Big Business not only had too much control over the economy but also that trusts had too much influence over the American government. During the late nineteenth century, Congress passed a law declaring monopolies, or trusts in restraint of trade, to be unlawful [Sherman Anti-Trust Act, 1890]. However, this law did not end monopolies because the Supreme Court limited its effectiveness. When Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901, there was an assertive progressive in the White House. The president was encouraged by muckraking writers such as Ida Tarbell, who exposed the oil trust, and Upton Sinclair, who exposed the meat-packing trust. Roosevelt began to use the old law to successfully break up trusts and earned the name “trust-buster.” Roosevelt also protected the rights of the consumer by pushing for the passage of the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act and he promoted the regulation of railroads. Presidents William Howard Taft and Woodrow Wilson continued this work and are known, along with Roosevelt, as the progressive presidents.
Progressives were also concerned about improving society by controlling the moral behavior of all Americans and particularly of the immigrants. The movement to limit the consumption of alcohol [the temperance movement] had been going on since the time of the American Revolution and got a popular boost as a result of the influx of immigrants in the late nineteenth century. Some states passed prohibition laws and others passed blue laws to limit the sale of alcohol. When World War I started, propaganda against the Germans, who were known for their beer drinking and the voluntary rationing of grain, helped progressives push through Congress a national prohibition amendment that was then ratified by the states. The eighteenth amendment outlawed the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages. However, it could not stop people from drinking thus promoting illegal activities such as bootlegging and speakeasies until repealed by the twenty-first amendment in the 1930s.
5-3.5 Summarize the reasons for the United States control of new territories as a result of the Spanish American War and the building of the Panama Canal, including the need for raw materials and new markets and competition with other world powers.
It is essential that the student should know:
As a result of the economic development of the late nineteenth century, the United States became a leading industrial producer and this contributed to the nation’s rise to world power. Economic growth led many Americans to advocate for a larger role in the world in order to secure sources of raw materials and markets for the finished products from American factories. Many people in the United States believed that they had a God-given right to expand across the seas as they had done across the continent. This new Manifest Destiny was also motivated by the missionary spirit and the idea of American superiority [Social Darwinism] as well as by economics. All of these motivations played a role in the United States’ declaration of war against Spain, in the American involvement in the Panamanian revolt which led to the building of the canal, and in the American involvement in World War I.
In order to understand the annexation of lands as a result of the Spanish American War, students must also understand why the United States went to war with Spain over Cuba. Although the explosion of the battleship Maine is often cited as the cause of United States involvement, it is important for students to understand that the decision to go to war was much more complicated. The declaration of war against Spain in 1898 is an ideal time to help students understand the constitutional role of the president and the Congress in declaring war. Yellow journalism prepared the American public for this decision. Yellow journalists appealed to the sentiments of the reading public to save Cuba from the harsh rule of colonial Spain. The explosion of the Maine was widely covered by newspapers that exploited any angle that might lead to wider circulation and greater profit for the papers. It alone did not cause Congress to declare war. The decision of President McKinley to ask the United States Congress to declare war on Spain and Congress’s willingness to do so were based on American economic interests in Cuba, humanitarian concerns for the Cuban people, and a desire to demonstrate American power in the world.
The outbreak of the Spanish American War led to the annexation of territories by the United States. At the start of the war, the United States declared that it had no intention of annexing Cuba. However, the United States quickly annexed Hawaii, where a revolt led by American businessmen had already overthrown the Hawaiian queen . Hawaii was an ideal fueling stop on the way to the markets of China. The Spanish American War started with the takeover of Manila harbor in the Spanish colony of the Philippines by the American fleet stationed in the Pacific . The Philippines provided an ideal location from which to access the markets of China. Students should be able to locate Hawaii and the Philippines on a map in order to understand the significance of their geographic location for trade. The Spanish in Cuba were quickly defeated and a treaty was negotiated by the executive branch and ratified by the Senate that granted the United States control of formerly Spanish territories including Guam, the Philippines, and Puerto Rico. Despite the armed protests of Filipinos who sought independence, the United States continued to control the Philippines as a territory until the end of World War II. Cuba was occupied by American forces off and on for more than thirty years. The United States secured a permanent naval base on the island of Cuba. Eventually Hawaii was admitted as our fiftieth state. The United States continues to control Guam and the territory of Puerto Rico today.
The United States also played a significant role in a revolution in Panama. Since the time of the California Gold Rush, it was evident that Americans wanted a quick ocean route from the east coast to the west coast. The desire to expand trade with the Far East intensified this desire. President Theodore Roosevelt offered Colombia, which controlled the Isthmus of Panama, money for the right to build a canal. Colombia rejected the offer. A few Panamanians organized a bloodless revolution that was supported by American gunboats and later signed an agreement with the United States allowing the United States to lease the isthmus and build the canal. The building of the Panama Canal allowed American commercial and war ships to travel from the Atlantic to the Pacific more quickly and contributed to America’s commercial and military might and to its image as a world power.
5-3.6 Summarize the factors that led to the involvement of the United States in World War I and the role of the United States in fighting the war.
It is essential for students to know:
At first, the United States tried to maintain a neutral role in World War I. It is important that students understand that America became involved in the war reluctantly as a result of a multitude of factors. Wartime propaganda, similar to the yellow journalism of the Spanish American War period, traditional sympathies, and commercial ties with and loans to Great Britain strained neutrality. Most importantly, the unrestricted submarine warfare declared by the Germans on the high seas and waged against neutral ships trading with Britain and France led President Woodrow Wilson to ask the Congress for a declaration of war to “make the world safe for democracy.” The sinking of the Lusitania  was not the direct cause of the United States’ declaration of war . It was only one incident in a series of sinkings. The interception of the Zimmerman telegram by the British and its publication by sensationalist press in the United States led the American public to support going to war. American troops, known as doughboys, were instrumental in repelling the final assaults of German troops on the western front and breaking the deadlock of trench warfare. The Central Powers (Germany, Austria,Hungary, and the Ottoman Empire) agreed to an armistice with the Allies (Great Britain, France, and the United States) on the condition that peace negotiations would be based on Woodrow Wilson’s Fourteen Points. President Wilson played a significant role at the peace negotiations, although many of his Fourteen Points were ignored by the other nations. Wilson helped to redraw state borders in Europe so that they better reflected nations, groups of people with the same language, religion and ethnic heritage. The Treaty of Versailles included an international peace-keeping organization, the League of Nations, which Wilson hoped would put an end to war. The United States Senate refused to ratify the treaty because many Senators thought that the League of Nations would compromise Congress’s constitutional right to declare war. Despite their refusal to join the League, the United States continued to be involved in world trade in the 1920s. In the 1930s, the Congress limited American involvement in world affairs in a series of laws called the Neutrality Acts. These acts attempted to keep the United States out of the war that was brewing in Europe by addressing what Americans thought were the causes of American involvement in World War I. When the United States finally became involved in World War II, the United States allied with Great Britain, France, and others. This alliance became the basis for the creation of the United Nations after World War II, which replaced the League of Nations with a more effective peace-keeping organization.]
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