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When tasked with the question of what the most important factors were, that contributed to America’s Industrial Revolution there are many possible answers. However in my opinion, of all the factors discussed in the video, the railroad industry, steel and oil industry, and the problems that arose with immigration stand out the most to me.
The railroad revolution was literally gigantic. Railroads moved large amounts of people and goods faster and more efficiently than ever before. The success of a town’s economy was dependent on owning a railroad station. Between 1870 and 1890 the railroad networks grew from 57,000 miles to 167,000 miles. However, this much growth over such a short period of time was very problematic. Problems with safety of the tracks occurred left and right because of developers caring solely about money rather than safety. Charles Francis Adams admitted that, “our method of doing business is founded upon lying, cheating, and stealing-all bad things.”(626)
By the 1880’s too many railroads were built and the economy could not support it. The steel and oil industry took off with the new railroads being built all over America. After William Kelly and Henry Bessemer found a way to render steel in 1859, steel became affordable and used for the production of many things.
The Pittsburgh company led by Andrew Carnegie was eventually sold to J.P. Morgan and is now, known as U.S. Steel. On the other hand, oil initially was not of much use. It wasn’t until the discovery of gasoline, kerosene, and distillate that people valued oil. John D. Rockefeller saw the potential in oil trade early on and controlled 90 percent of the trade overall, this led to him becoming the first oil billionaire. Immigration began to be a serious problem in 1882, when 800,000 new immigrants were coming to America annually. It created, inadequate living conditions, unethical working conditions, and for the first time pollution. Big businesses were unwilling to pay fair salary and would force their workers to work 18 hour work days, women and children were often found working in sweatshops. The owners of the businesses took the mentality that if one worker is unable to perform or does not like the conditions, they will be another waiting outside the door for their position.
The Knights of Labor were established during the 1880’s to address these issues and eventually outlaw child labor. Between 1880 and 1900 laws/acts were placed to help preserve natural resources, set land aside for forests, and bring an end to water pollution.
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