Industrialization And The American Mind Essay

1645 words - 7 pages

In the last three decades of the nineteenth century, the United Stated experienced an urban migration unlike anything seen in history up to that point. As factories began to spring up across the northern and Midwestern countryside, cities grew up around them. By 1900, one in every five Americans was a city dweller, and nearly seven million people inhabited just three cities: New York, Chicago, and Philadelphia. (Henretta, 523) Former soldiers and immigrants flocked to the cities in search of jobs, wealth, and new opportunities. Fueled by urbanization and immigration, the process industrialization in post-Civil War America relied upon poverty and a declining sense of intrinsic value within the work force for its success. Nevertheless, America, while rapidly losing its rural roots during the late nineteenth century, was moving further away from Thomas Jefferson’s vision of a yeoman society.
Prior to industrialization, America was primarily an agrarian, self-made nation, relying mostly on craftsmen and hand-made crafts. Artisans mostly made goods for nearby markets in relatively small quantities. The main unit of production was the family, typically owning all the tools needed for production. (Lecture) In pre-industrial American society, craftsmen worked the hours they pleased, with everyone working at their own pace. The pre-industrial work place was, for most Americans, an intimate setting, with artisans apprenticing pupils in discrete tasks with little, if any supervision. (Lecture) Most work in pre-industrial America was done in a face-to-face setting, and workers crafted their products from start to finish and were generally proud of the fruits of their labor.
As more and more factories being built in the mid-nineteenth century, the search for more efficient forms of power increased. With the discovery of new forms of power, most notably the internal combustion engine, inanimate power quickly replaced animate power. This shift from human and animal power to automated machines increased the scale of production. (Henretta,?) To enhance the increased ability to produce the goods in greatest demand, labor was systematically divided among many workers. In 1776, Adam Smith termed this the “division of labor” in The Wealth of Nations. The former farmers and immigrants flocking to the industrial cities no longer worked at their leisure but rather under the watchful eye of another product of the division of labor, the managerial class. At this point, once pleasurable work became drudgery and dehumanizing, as man’s labor turned into a commodity.
One of the main ingredients to industrialization was finding cheap labor to perform dehumanizing jobs. Industrial investors found this labor in a seemingly endless supply of immigrants. Immigrants came to America from across the globe in search of riches, but they soon found that wealth was not what they received. Immigrants, unlike Americans, had fewer problems taking the worst jobs and were...

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