155 Industrial Age



Industrial Age

In the decades after the Civil War, the U.S. underwent a dramatic economic transformation. Prior to the war, the U.S. had primarily been an agricultural nation largely populated by farmers, merchants, artisans, and slaves. After the war, business owners took advantage of favorable conditions to expand already existing enterprises and industries, create new ones, as well as experiment with new methods of organizing the work process and conducting their business affairs.

Many factors combined to bring about this economic transformation. Among the most important was the nation's abundant and accessible supply of natural resources, an accelerating pace of technological innovation, and a favorable business climate.

Politically, there were many government policies that encouraged the development of

American industry. This included government protection of patents, generous subsidies, and legal protection to certain industries, such as railroads. The U.S. maintained, with few restrictions, an open immigration policy, and immigrant workers came by the millions to supply inexpensive labor. Business also had support from government when labor disputes broke out -- the government either remained uninvolved or sided with business owners.

Business owners discovered that large companies had an economic advantage over small ones. To raise capital (money) for business expansion, many entrepreneurs incorporated their businesses and sold shares of stock.

The most successful entrepreneurs were called "captains of industry." They greatly expanded their businesses by buying out other businesses or combining with them. Some of these "captains" were Andrew Carnegie (steel manufacturing), John D. Rockefeller

(who formed the giant monopoly Standard Oil Trust), and Henry Ford (who became the world's largest automaker).

Due to effective business and government practices, workers' unions remained weak, and employers were usually able to set wages and working conditions as they wished.

Despite hardships, America's factory workers labored on and helped build the U.S. into an industrial giant.