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Industry Changes the Country


During the late 1800s and early 1900s, new industries developed more quickly than at any other time in the history of the United States. Read the time line below. During this period, many immigrants also came to the United States in search of freedom and opportunity. They settled in cities in the Middle West and the East. And in such places as Cuba, the United States began participating in world events.




Focus Activity


How did the way people worked change in the late 1800s?






labor union



Thomas Alva Edison

Alexander Graham Bell

Lewis Latimer

Elijah McCoy

Andrew Carnegie

John D. Rockefeller

Mary Harris Jones

Samuel Gompers


Menlo Park



One of our country's greatest inventors once said, "There is no substitute for hard work." Thomas Alva Edison was speaking about himself, but he was also describing the achievements of the inventors you will read about in this lesson. Because of their toil and dedication, many amazing inventions were about to change forever the way Americans lived and worked.


You have read about how the Industrial Revolution and the transcontinental railroad helped our country to grow. New inventions continued to appear throughout the 1800s. The sewing machine, invented by Elias Howe of Massachusetts in the 1850s, is one example. Between 1891 and 1895, over 108,420 new inventions were created in the United States. The United States soon became known as the "invention capital of the world."

The new technologies of the late 1800s made many people's lives easier. New inventions created great wealth for some people. These inventions also created major changes in the way work was done in the United States. For example, they led to the development of new businesses and new jobs. In this lesson you will read about some of the most important inventions of this time period and the changes they helped bring about.



Two inventors were especially responsible for helping to move our country into the modern age. They were Thomas Alva Edison and Alexander Graham Bell

Thomas Alva Edison

The young Thomas Alva Edison was fascinated by how things worked. By the time he was 11 years old, he had built his own telegraph set. A year later he became partly deaf. As an adult Edison once claimed that this helped him pay better attention to his work.

At his workshop in Menlo Park, New Jersey, he produced over 1,000 inventions, including motion pictures and the phonograph. The Menlo Park workshop was one of the world's first research laboratories.

In 1878 Edison began working on the problem of how to change electric current into light. "The electric light has caused me the greatest amount of study," he wrote. For two years Edison searched for the right material to use for the wire in his light bulb. Finally, he settled on a cotton thread. Later, Lewis Latimer found a way to make this wire, or filament, out of carbon, which lasted longer. By 1900 many cities in the United States were using electric lights.

Alexander Graham Bell

The man chiefly responsible for inventing the first telephone was Alexander Graham Bell, a teacher of the deaf. In order to help his students, Bell set out to invent a machine that could transmit the human voice. The plans were drawn by Lewis Latimer.

On the morning of March 10, 1876, Bell set up one part of his machine in one room and the other part in a room far away. The two parts were connected by wires. While tinkering with his part of the machine, Bell called to his assistant in the other room, "Mr. Watson—Come here—I want to see you." Having spoken softly, he had not expected to be heard. To his amazement Watson appeared. Watson had heard Bell through the machine. By 1900 over 1.5 million telephones were in use.

These plans (left) are for the electric light bulb, Thomas Edison's most important invention. As a boy, Edison worked in his bedroom and a basement laboratory.


Andrew Carnegie (right) built steel mills like the one in this painting (above). These mills provided work for many immigrants.


In 1872 Elijah McCoy invented an "oil cup" that allowed locomotives and other machines to oil their parts while they were running. McCoy's product was so good that people insisted on buying only the "real McCoy."

McCoy organized McCoy Manufacturing Company to make and distribute his product. Edison's invention led to the formation of the General Electric Company, and Bell's to the Bell Telephone Company. Companies such as these that made use of new technologies would make the United States an industrial giant by the end of the 1800s.

The Steel Industry

One of the largest and most important new industries in the late 1800s was steel making. Although people had known how to make steel for centuries, producing it was costly. As a result, iron was used to make most machines in the United States, even though steel was stronger.

Then in the 1850s a method of making steel more cheaply was discovered. A young businessman named Andrew Carnegie saw how important this new money-saving method could be. In 1873 he built a steel mill near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to put this new technology to work.

In 1870, before the introduction of the new steel-making process, the United States produced 68,000 tons of steel a year. By 1900 it produced more than 10 million tons a year. Much of that


steel was produced by the Carnegie Steel Company.

By 1900 Carnegie, who had come to the United States as a poor immigrant from Scotland, was one of the richest men in the world. Carnegie never forgot what it was like to be poor. After retiring in 1901 Carnegie spent the rest of his life using his money to build universities, hospitals, libraries, parks, museums, and concert halls throughout the United States. These were places most poor people could not otherwise afford to visit. Indeed, Carnegie is often remembered for having said, "The man who dies rich dies disgraced."

The Oil Industry

Like Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller had come from a poor family. In the 1860s Americans were beginning to drill for petroleum (pih TROH lee um), a fossil fuel found in the earth. Rockefeller learned that a way had been found to make kerosene (KER uh seen), a type of fuel oil, from petroleum. He believed that because kerosene was cheap to produce, it would soon replace animal fat as a source of fuel. So in 1865 Rockefeller went into the oil-refining business.

Because competition was fierce, Rockefeller set out to make his refineries the most productive in the industry. By 1879 his company, Standard Oil, controlled about nine-tenths of the oil business in the United States. It had become a monopoly, or a company that controls an entire industry. A monopoly can charge higher prices for its goods or services because there is little or no competition. Customers must choose whether to buy these goods at such prices or to do without them.

The Rise of Corporations

At this time, many businesses became corporations. A corporation is a large business that is owned by people who invest their money in that company. Investors are called shareholders because they own a share of the company. Some corporations, such as Standard Oil, became large and powerful.

The development of new technology and the rise of large corporations changed the lives of workers. Some workers continued to work in small businesses. Others worked in sweatshops. These small factories are often unsafe buildings with unhealthy working conditions. However, by the late 1800s, more people worked in large factories or mines run by corporations.


What other "big businesses" began in the late 1800s?

Many of the big businesses of today began in the late 1800s. In 1888 the Box Camera, the first Kodak, was introduced by George Eastman. Customers mailed the unopened camera to the manufacturer after they had taken 100 photographs. There, the film was taken out and developed.

The first version of the modern typewriter was manufactured by E. Remington and Sons in 1874. Because this model did not allow the user to see what was being typed, it did not sell very well. By 1880, however, the inventors had corrected this problem.

Many products still used by children were invented in this era. These include animal crackers, Jell-O, cones for ice cream, and Crayola crayons.



Many of the industrial workers during this time period were immigrants. People had come from other countries eager to work in the country's growing industries. Many immigrants were used to a lower standard of living in their homeland. As a result, they were often willing to work for lower wages than native-born Americans.

Long Hours, Low Pay

Still, both immigrants and native-born laborers often worked 12 to 14 hours a day, 6 days a week. Holidays and vacations were rare. Many workplaces were hot in summer and cold in winter. The air was often full of harmful fumes. Workers were often injured on the job. In 1911 a fire in the Triangle Shirtwaist factory in New York City took the lives of 146 women and girls. The sweatshop owners had refused the workers' demands for fire escapes and unlocked doors.

Thousands of children, some ten years old or younger, worked long hours in coal mines and in other businesses. Many never went to school. Boys who worked in cotton mills had only half the chance of reaching the age of 20 compared to boys outside the mills.

Women who worked outside the home made only about half as much as men. One female worker wrote, "It took me months and months to save up money to buy a dress or a pair of shoes."

Workers Organize Unions

To help solve these problems, workers formed organizations called labor unions. By uniting to fight for better wages and working conditions, labor union members had a greater chance of being heard.

Most business owners fought against unions. People who joined unions were often fired. Sometimes labor unions called a strike. In a strike, all the workers in a business refuse to work until the owners meet their demands. In response, owners often hired men called strikebreakers to beat up strikers. Owners also hired nonunion workers to replace those on strike.

One of the most famous labor union leaders was Mary Harris Jones, known as "Mother" Jones. When the coal

In the late 1800s, many workers put in long hours for low pay at large factories like this one in Michigan.


"Mother" Jones organized coal miners and helped end child labor in the United States.

miners went on strike in Pennsylvania in 1900, "Mother" Jones organized a group of women to drive away strikebreakers. In 1903 she led a march of children who worked in mines to protest child labor. As a result of her efforts, the Pennsylvania legislature passed a law in 1905 forbidding children under 14 years of age from working.

American Federation of Labor

In 1886 a cigar maker named Samuel Gompers founded the American Federation of Labor, or AFL. A federation is an organization made up of several groups that have a common goal. Gompers believed that the strike was an important weapon in the struggle for workers' rights:

I regard the strikes as the sign that the people are not yet willing to surrender every spark of their manhood and their honor and their independence. It is the protest of the workers against unjust conditions.

The AFL won many victories for workers. It helped to get laws passed that shortened work hours, ended child labor, and required employers to pay workers for injuries received on the job.


We do not often think about how the inventions of the 1800s were created. Imagine what life would be like without the telephone and the electric light. The growth of new technologies—aided by our free enterprise system—has continued up to the present day. The

twentieth century has seen the invention of the automobile, the airplane, and the computer. Industry has continued to grow and change in response to new technology.

Industry has also changed in response to the struggles of the labor unions. Workers in most industries today work eight hours a day, five days a week. Many also receive paid vacations other benefits.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• In the late 1800s inventions such as the electric light bulb and the telephone changed how Americans lived.

• New technologies also resulted in the growth of large and powerful new industries and corporations.

• Workers organized unions to fight for better wages and working conditions.


1. Why were Thomas Edison's inventions so important?

2. How did John D. Rockefeller gain a monopoly in the oil refining industry?

3. FOCUS Beginning in the late 1800s how did the way people work change?

4. THINKING SKILL What generalizations can you make about the development of big business in the late 1800s and early 1900s?

5. WRITE Describe something you think ought to be invented. Explain why it would be useful.




Focus Activity


What was life like for immigrants in cities?




Great Chicago Fire

settlement house


Jane Addams


Ellis Island

Angel Island


Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

This poem, written by Emma Lazarus, is engraved on a tablet inside the building on which the Statue of Liberty stands. Lazarus's ancestors were Jews who had come to the colonies in the 1600s. They were fleeing persecution in Portugal. Today the Statue of Liberty remains a symbol of the freedom that millions of immigrants have found in our country.


Between 1870 and 1924 nearly 26 million immigrants entered the United States. By 1920 about 1 out of every 4 people in the United States was an immigrant. The new immigrants were different from those who had come earlier. First, there were far more of them. Second, most were from southern and eastern Europe. Italians were fleeing drought, disease, and economic problems at home. Jews from eastern Europe were fleeing religious persecution and poverty.

Some immigrants spent their life savings to come to the United States on dirty, overcrowded ships. Once they arrived they were examined at such places as Ellis Island in New York City or Angel Island in San Francisco before being allowed into the country. What challenges did they face in the United States?


New York's Lower East Side was an important immigrant community by 1900.


American cities grew rapidly after the Civil War. In 1860 about 15 million people lived in cities. By 1900 over 30 million Americans were city-dwellers. This increase was partly due to the large numbers of immigrants.

Most immigrants headed directly for cities in the Northeast, where jobs were plentiful. In these cities they formed their own communities where they could live with others who spoke their language and followed their traditions.

How They Lived

In America is a home for everybody. . . . An end to the worry for bread. . . . Everybody can do what he wants with his life in America. . . . plenty for all. Learning flows free like milk and honey.

This is what writer Anzia Yezierska (ahn ZEE uh yez YAIR skah) wrote of her new country before she came here from Russia. What she found in New York was very different. "Where are the green fields and open spaces in America? Where is the golden country of my dreams?" she asked.

Many immigrants faced lives of great hardship in the United States. Still, they hoped for a better life, especially for their children. The vast number of immigrants arriving created a housing shortage. As a result, immigrants often wound up living in slums. A slum is a poor, crowded section of a city with run-down and unsafe housing. Often immigrants lived crowded together in tenements. A tenement is a building that is carved up into small apartments. Some tenements lacked heat and hot water. Bathrooms were often in the hallway and shared by several families.

Often families of six or seven people lived together in one or two rooms. Under these crowded conditions diseases spread rapidly.

To house the large numbers of immigrants in Chicago, small wooden buildings had been built quickly without regard for fire safety. In 1871 a terrible fire broke out. One story says that a Mrs. O'Leary's cow had knocked over a kerosene lamp, but no one knows for sure how the fire started. With all of its wooden buildings, the fire spread quickly. By the time it was finally put out 24 hours later, the Great Chicago Fire had killed hundreds of people. Nearly 100,000 people were left homeless. A third of the city of Chicago had been destroyed.



The Immigrants, 1870-1924

Between 1870 and 1924 about 25,763,000 immigrants came to the United States from Europe and Asia. The bar graph below shows the year of the greatest number of immigrants to the United States during this time period. From what country did most people come during that year?


The photograph (above), taken about 1900, shows European immigrants arriving in the United States at Ellis Island, New York. Some had family members waiting for them. Some were arriving on their own. Many immigrants also had to learn a new language—English. The "McGuffy Reader" (below), as this textbook was called, was one way that they taught themselves.


Immigrant children in the early 1900s often played in tenement alleys (left). Jane Addams (below) founded our country's first settlement house.


Most immigrants who came to the United States before the Civil War had an easier time of fitting in. The immigrants from Ireland already spoke English. Many Germans had money to buy land or start businesses. In contrast, nearly all of the new immigrants were poor. Few spoke English. Their languages, religions, and other traditions seemed foreign to many Americans.

Jane Addams Founds Hull House

In the 1900s the Thorek family fled Hungary to escape the killing of Jewish people there. In their new home in Chicago, they had a hard time making ends meet. Young Max Thorek dreamed of going to medical school. Many immigrants shared his despair:

Only the greatest resolution enabled me to hide from my parents the despair in my heart. . . . Medical education—I might just as well hope for the moon!

In the late 1880s, a young Chicago woman named Jane Addams decided to share her knowledge of art and literature with the poor. In 1889 she and a friend moved into an old house once owned by Charles Hull. At Hull House they held readings, slide shows, and teas for the neighborhood women. They soon realized that their neighbors had more important needs.

Help with Basic Needs

Hull House was the country's first settlement house. A settlement house is a community center that provides child care, education, and other services to the poor. Soon Hull House was offering classes in a variety of subjects. It helped immigrants learn English, find jobs, and become American citizens.


Hull House sponsored lending libraries, summer camps, and playgrounds. By 1900 there were over 100 settlement houses in cities throughout the country.

Many immigrants also founded organizations for people who had come from the same community in their homeland. They provided help to members in times of hardship.


As the number of immigrants increased, a growing number of Americans wanted the flood of newcomers stopped. Some Americans believed that immigrants were taking jobs away from native-born citizens. From 1882 to 1943, a law kept Chinese immigrants from entering the United States. In 1924 Congress passed a law limiting the number of immigrants from Europe. This law ended 300 years of free immigration from Europe. The number of immigrants dropped to a trickle.

Most immigrants today come from Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean islands. They face many of the same challenges as earlier immigrants.

Immigrants to the United States came from many different cultures, bringing new traditions and skills. They helped our country to meet the growing demand for labor created by the Industrial Revolution. They worked hard on the railroads and in the factories and mines. The contributions made by immigrants have helped our country to grow even stronger.

Reviewing Facts and Ideas


• In the late 1800s the number of immigrants to the United States increased greatly. Many of the newcomers were from southern and eastern Europe.

• Most of the immigrants settled in cities because of job opportunities. As a result, the cities grew rapidly in the late 1800s.

• Jane Addams founded the first settlement house in 1889. Settlement houses helped immigrants meet their basic needs and improve their lives.


1. Why did immigrants from southern and eastern Europe come to the United States?

2. What opportunities did immigrants find in the United States?

3. FOCUS What was life like for immigrants in cities in the late 1800s?

4. THINKING SKILL Compare and contrast the immigrants who came in the middle 1800s with those who came during the early 1900s.

5. GEOGRAPHY Look at the Infographic on pages 548-549. List the five countries with the most immigrants. Using the Atlas map on pages R14–R15 create a map to illustrate your list.

Today many immigrants come from such Asian countries as China and Korea.




Play Ball!

Was it the crack of a bat hitting a small leather-covered ball out of the park? Or was it the breathless wait for an umpire's call? Perhaps no one can explain the popularity of baseball or how it came to be our country's "national pastime."

The game was first played by farm people in country fields and immigrants on city streets. The first professional league was formed in 1876. By 1900 large crowds came to stadiums to see their favorite players.

Some of the great players who helped establish the legacy of baseball appear on these pages. Yet it is the fan who lives to see the next pitch, the next run around the bases, and the next great player that keeps the game alive today.

With so many men fighting overseas in World War II, there was a shortage of male baseball players. In response, in 1943, baseball team owners formed the All-American Girls Baseball League. A female player (above) catches a fly ball.


Some of our greatest baseball players, such as Sandy Koufax and Roberto Clemente (above, center), were immigrants or from immigrant families. A Joe DiMaggio autograph (right) or one by Babe Ruth (top of page 552) were prized by fans.

Because of segregation, African Americans played on teams such as the 1911 Lincoln Giants (left) in the Negro National League. In 1947 Jackie Robinson (top right) became the first African American to play in the major leagues.


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