Chapter 4 Response to Industrialization

Chapter 4 Response to Industrialization - THE RESPONSE OR...

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90 THE RESPONSE OR REACTION TO INDUSTRIALISM WHO IS RESPONDING? WHY DO THEY RESPOND? The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries. Winston Churchill (1874-1965) READINGS: Stranges, Chapter 4 Henretta, Chapters 17 and 18 I. INTRODUCTION The emergence of workers’ unions, the arrival of old and new immigrants, the rise of cities, the appearance of reformers, and the political and public reaction to big industry discussed in Chapter 3 are examples of different responses or reactions to industrialism. They are also examples of the forces that have shaped the United States, especially the forces of urbanization, immigration, and industrialization. These three forces have made the United States the nation it is today. II. THE STATE OF THE AMERICAN WORKER What were workers’ wages, their living conditions, and their state of well-being in the period 1870-1900? The average work week at the turn of the century was 60 hours. An unskilled worker earned 10 cents an hour, a skilled worker earned 20 cents an hour. An average annual wage was $400- $500. A family saved about $30 annually, spent about one-half of its income on food, about one- fourth on rent, and the rest on clothing, fuel, and light. Milk cost 4 cents a quart, meat 12 cents a pound, bread 2 cents a pound, herring 1-2 cents a pound. A kitchen table cost $1.00, chairs 35 cents each. About 25 people occupied an area of 2,000 square feet. Workers’ earnings increased 37 per cent from 1880 to 1914, but the cost of living increased by 39 percent. The richest tenth of the population received 33.9 percent of the nation’s income, the poorest tenth received 3.4 percent. For comparison of these costs with today’s costs, $1.00 in 1900 has the same purchase power as $20.97 in 2001, $1.00 in 1870 / $13.49 in 2001, and $1.00 in 1900 / $1.55 in 1870 ($1.00 in 1870 / 65¢ in 1900). The organization of labor: unionism or big labor organized to challenge big industry. The Knights of Labor established itself as a workers’ union in 1869 . The Knights permitted every kind of worker to join their union and organized their workers by industry, such as coal or steel, to include skilled and unskilled workers. Membership peaked at 700,000 in 1886.
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91 Terrence Powderly (1849-1924), a machinist, was the Knights’ second and most influential president (1879-93). Despite its large membership, the Knights declined for several reasons. They were too idealistic or utopian in their outlook, wanting to own the mines, factories, and railroads in which they worked. They adopted an antistrike policy, and they grouped together skilled and unskilled workers. Those two groups of workers did not get along with one another. The Knights also received the blame for several violent strikes that occurred during this period.
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This note was uploaded on 03/27/2008 for the course HIST 106 taught by Professor Smith during the Spring '08 term at Texas A&M.

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Chapter 4 Response to Industrialization - THE RESPONSE OR...

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