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Lecture #2

American Society Adjusts to Industrialization


Immigration and urbanization changed the US dramatically. During the late 1800s: 1) a prosperous middle class developed 2) cities became crowded and workers lived in unhealthful conditions 3) immigrants arrived from eastern Europe and Asia 4) women and other workers became a larger part of the workforce and 5) settlers continued to move westward.


Industrialization and new building technologies triggered an explosion of urban growth that brought social changes, both good and bad. A prosperous middle class emerged, while urban crowding and disease took a heavy toll on the working poor, many of whom were immigrants. New arrivals came in waves, first from western Europe and Africa, then from eastern Europe and Asia. A growing US population and demand for new lands and resources lured Americans westward, reducing the Native American population and forcing them into ever-shrinking parcels of land. Western land was gobbled up by miners, ranchers, and a growing force: farmers.


  1. Change: What effects did industrialization and urbanization have on American culture, work life, and family life?

  2. Immigration and Migration: How did patterns of immigration change from colonial times through the early 1900s?

  3. Places and Regions: What types of land, resources, and economic opportunities caused Americans to move farther and farther westward?


John Dewey, Jane Addams, Frederick Jackson Turner, William Jennings Bryn, William McKinley


-Cities offered the best and the worst of life for newcomers from the countryside and from abroad. The dazzling skyscrapers and bustling streets were symbols of the new opportunities for prosperity in America. Yet behind the dazzle grew a darker side of city life. Industrialization and the growth of cities went hand in hand. Cities offered large numbers of workers for new factories. Cities provided transportation for raw materials and finished goods. As more plants were built, more workers moved to cities seeking jobs. In 1880, about a quarter of Americans lived in cities. By 1900, 40% did. By 1920, it was over 50%. This shift from rural to urban life had was +/-.

A. Negative (-) Effects of City Growth

-Some of the negative effects of urbanization included crowded, unsanitary living conditions for workers, as well as corrupt city politics.

1. Housing

2. Health

3. Politics

B. Positive (+) Effects of City Growth

-Urbanization was aided and improved by new technologies in transportation, architecture, utilities, and sanitation. In addition, cities offered new cultural opportunities.

1. New technologies

2. Cultural advances

3. Community Improvement

C. The Urban Mixture

-The people of these growing cities generally could be divided into 3 broad groups.

1. Workers and the poor

2. The middle class

3. The wealthy

D. Changes for Women, Families, and Work

-Industrialization and urbanization brought changes to the lives of women in all the classes. Many Americans had long held the view that the ideal women devoted herself to home and family (home and hearth), instilling in her husband and children high moral values. In fact, usually only wealthy women could dedicate themselves full-time to such tasks. In the late 1800s, more women began taking jobs outside the home, some out of economic necessity and other out of a desire for a larger role in society. These jobs provided added income and personal fulfillment but sometimes produced added stress for family members. For example, women who worked outside the home also were expected to continue performing most of the jobs in the home, and children often had to be care for by relatives or neighbors during the work day.

1. New employment opportunities for women

2. Other groups of workers


-The US has always been a nation of immigrants. After the Civil War, however, industrialization, drew an even greater flood of immigrants. From 1865 to 1900, some 13.5 million people arrived from abroad. Not until the 1920s would the numbers begin to dwindle. Immigration to the US can be divided into three stages.

A. Colonial Immigration

-This period lasted from the arrival of the first people from England through the Declaration of Independence. The following features characterize this period of immigration.

1. Colonial immigrants

2. Reasons for immigration

3. Areas for settlement

4. Difficulties they faced

5. Contributions

B. Old Immigration

-The old immigration covered the years from the establishment of the US until around 1850. Most immigrants came from northern and western Europe, especially Ireland, German, and Scandinavia.

1. Reasons from immigration

2. Areas of settlement

3. Difficulties they faced

4. Contributions

C. New Immigration

-The new immigration covered the time from roughly 1850 to 1924. This period was marked by a shift in sources of immigration to southern and eastern Europe, especially the nations of Italy, Poland, and Russia. In addition, substantial numbers of Japanese and Chinese arrived.

1. Reasons for immigration

2. Areas of settlement

3. Difficulties they faced

4. Contributions

D. Reactions Against Immigration

-The flood of immigration in the late 1800s brought with it a new wave of nativism. This was the belief that native-born Americans and their ways of life were superior to immigrants and their ways of life. In the late 1800s, descendants of the old immigrants were often among the nativists protesting the arrival of new immigrants (irony?/see: Gangs of New York). Nativists believed that immigrant languages, religions, and traditions would have a negative impact on American society. Nativist workers believed that the many new immigrants competing for jobs kept wages law. A series of downturns in the economy added to fears that immigrants would take jobs from native-born Americans. Immigrants thus often met with prejudice and discrimination. Jokes and stereotypes about the newcomers were common. Nativists also tried to influence legislation against immigrants.

1. Political and Legislative Reactions:

a. Know Nothing Party

b. Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

c. Gentleman’s Agreement of 1907

d. Literacy Tests of 1917

e. Emergency Quota Act of 1921

f. National Origins Act of 1924

E. Immigrants and American Society

-Over the years, sociologists and others who studied immigration developed different theories on how immigrants were absorbed into the larger society.

1. “Melting Pot” Theory

2. Assimilation

3. Pluralism


-In 1893, Frederick Jackson Turner wrote in his paper The Significance of the Frontier in American History that the frontier “and the advance of American settlement westward, explain American development.” Turner claimed life in the West had given rise to inventiveness, independence, and unique American customs. (While other historians would argue instead that other factors, such as the nation’s European heritage, isolation behind 2 major oceans, or its economic abundance, were the key influences, Turners’ thesis has had lasting influence.) In 1890, the government had announced that the “West was closed.” Industrialization had aided the settling of the West.

A. Native Americans and Westward Expansion

-The westward expansion of the late 1800s continued to create problems for the Native Americans who stood in its path. By the 1840s, only scattered groups of Native Americans still lived in the East. Most lived west of the Mississippi on lands that few whiles wanted. The California gold rush, the building of the transcontinental railroad, and the discovery of rich farmland in eh Great Plains, and Gold in the Dakotas, changed this situation. Now white people began to move onto (more) Native American land in the West.

1. Indian Wars (1850s-1890)

2. Changing government policies

B. The Economy of the West

-New technologies helped people who moved onto Native American lands exploit the wealth of the West. Railroads brought people and carried western crops and products to eastern markets. Barbed wire aided the growth of both farming and ranching. Steel plows cut tough prairie soil. Windmills pulled water to the surface of dry western lands. Mechanical reapers and farm tools allowed a smaller number of workers to plant and harvest larger crops.

-The riches of the West, like the land itself, took many forms. In the Rocky Mountains, miners dug millions of dollars in gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc ore. In the Great Plains, ranchers turned cattle raising into big business, as cow hands moved huge herds across the open ranges to rail lines. Farmers, too, were attracted to the Great Plains because of its rich topsoil and overcame heat, blizzards, droughts, insects and occasional conflicts with ranchers to raise corps. Many settled lands claims under the Homestead Act and later built huge farms. (Through the Homestead Act, as well as government land grants and other aid to large railroad companies, the federal government played a significant role in encouraging development of the resources of the West.) By the late 1800s, American farmers were raising enough to feed the nation and still export wheat and other crops. Spurred by the expansion of mining, ranching, and farming, cities like Omaha, Denver, and San Francisco became some of the fastest growing in the nation.

C. Farmers, Populists, and Politics

-Farmers gained more influence and power through two organizations: the Grange and the Populist Party

1. The Grange (1867)

2. The Populist Party (1891)

3. Election of 1896

*Adapted from and courtesy of Prentice Hall’s Brief Review of USHG

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