Industrialization and the Urban Workforce

Rapid industrialization and the emergence of urban workforce in the late 19th century have occurred in the USA due to the availability of land and labor, climatic diversity, presence of a network of rivers, and other factors. As a result, the primary agrarian economy has developed into a powerful industry. As such, the first industrial revolution occurred in the United States under the influence of industrialization, technological innovations, and the development of urban workforce. It is a common fact that the modern American economy was created due to the achievements of the Gilded Era. Therefore, the Gilded Era and Progressive Era were the most productive ages in the US history, as industrialization, technological innovations, and urban workforce contributed to its wealth and power.

Early Gilded Era

The Gilded Era was the age of tremendous changes in the USA. It lasted from 1870 to 1900 and resulted in unprecedented achievements, such as the emergence of new industries, goods, inventions, wage and population growth. This made America the most developed economy in the world, which became the first country in the world by industrial production. Thus, during this age, many industries, such as coal mining, transportation, and agriculture had the enormous achievements. In turn, these achievements led to the urbanization, as rapid development of enterprises encouraged peasants to move to cities, where they could find plenty of jobs. On the other hand, the owners needed cheap labor force to increase their income. Therefore, industrialization opened new opportunities for the middle class workers.

The Gilded Era was accompanied by technological innovations. New approaches for cheaper steel production became the critical factors that contributed to invention and application of railroad tracks. Since that time, John Rockefeller came into the history of the United States as a pioneer of horizontal integration in oil business. He bought oil pipelines, railways, and oil refineries, and developed his company Standard Oil. Its oil pipelines connected oil wells in many American states. Standard Oil became the first trust company with significant incomes. However, the majority of its workers lived in very poor conditions. It was the time of the emergence of a large class of low-skilled workers with low salaries and hard working conditions. Nevertheless, their wages were raised over time.

Late Gilded Era

During this era, the US economy reached the profound changes. Due to unprecedented economic growth, the country generated the enormous wealth. It was the time for creation of railroads, telephone lines, new opportunities for businesses, and cheaper goods for consumers. All these changes were accompanied by rapid urbanization that divided the American society into rich and poor. Technological innovations of this era led to the invention of the car. Moreover, the electric motor was introduced into use to set the city’s traffic. These technological innovations contributed to further development of the USA.

Admittedly, workers still stayed poor and struggled for survival, while the industrial aristocracy lived in wealth and owned houses. At the same time, the late Gilded Age was the time of rapid economic, social, political transformations, as well as technological innovations. These changes led to development of the industrial society, which was at the top of the leading nations. Nevertheless, this period was also characterized by severe exploitation of workers, who had no rights and power. As a rule, whey worked long hours for living in the cities and often could not fulfill their daily necessities.

Progressive Era

During the Progressive Era, the United States overcame the rapid economic development. The transformations of the Progressive Era changed the American society and the direction of its subsequent development. This was the time of rapid emergence of industrial trusts and monopolies. Moreover, the richest deposits of coal, oil, iron, copper, and other minerals gave birth to development of numerous branches of industry, such as automobile, electric, oil, and chemical. By 1885, the United States had surpassed Great Britain, which at that time was the world’s largest industrial power, by the volume of manufactured goods. Indeed, it was the era of intense industrialization in the USA.

Technological innovations were also intensive during the Progressive Era. Oil was discovered in Pennsylvania, which allowed for expansion of the industry to the region. In addition, a typewriter, a telephone, a phonograph, and electric light were invented, and freezing railway cars began to be used. By the beginning of the 20th century, cars had replaced carriage, and airplanes became available for the public. Technological innovations also included the creation of super-markets, tow trucks, headsets, and traffic lights. Therefore, economic growth and innovations led to considerable profound changes that resulted in urbanization.

The pace of urbanization had increased significantly, which was primarily due to industrial upheaval and intense development of industrial production. Indeed, during this period the share of the urban population in the United States doubled. The great influence on the territorial distribution of cities was provided by the construction of railroads. At the same time, the cities themselves were large and compact centers with rather clearly defined borders. Many department stores, parks, sport stadiums, and general infrastructure were created during this era. Therefore, the American cities actively developed their infrastructure, which contributed to further migration of people.

The life of workers was characterized by the growing political activities and the expansion of the middle-class. However, property stratification, competition in the labor market by immigrants and black compatriots, and toughening of working conditions were still observed as negative side effects of accelerated technological progress. The labor movement in the country began to intensify. Besides, cities had a high cost of living. In addition, rural people were involved in criminal groups that made problems with justice.

The Challenges to Urban Workers in the Late 19th Century

At the end of the 19th century, the USA was a country of extraordinary contrasts and enormous property inequality. Lack of occupational safety was typical for most American enterprises. The study asserts that long working days combined with significant load and threatens, accompanied by low compensation, led to numerous accidents at factories and plants. The hard working conditions became the reason for the constant struggle against the bourgeoisie. In addition, the American workers were highly exploited, as it was estimated that productivity of two American workers was equal to five English workers. Therefore, working conditions in the USA were hard and unjustified, and thus, people tried to fight for their rights.

Mass battles of workers continued in the 90s of the 19th century. The biggest performance of these years was a strike at the Pullman wagon workers in 1894, which was really a national phenomenon that included over 150,000 persons. The entry of the United States into the era of imperialism led to an aggravation of class contradictions at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. Every year, the number of strikers increased and in 1913, almost one million people were trying to protect their rights. Thus, many American workers gave their lives for establishing proper working rights and conditions.


The Gilded Era and Progressive Era contributed to development of the USA and increase in its wealth and power. During this time, there was a rapid industrial growth, technological innovations, and urbanization. Thus, rapid economic, social, political transformations, as well as technological innovations contributed to development of the industrial society, which was at the top of the leading industrial nations. The leading force of these transformations were workers, who had no rights and were extremely exploited by entrepreneurs. Moreover, the enormous property inequality was observed in the society, as the workers lived in slum houses, while aristocrats had wealthy houses. Nevertheless, the Gilded Age and Progressive Era were the most productive years in the US history, which led the country into the world power.

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