America: A Concise History 3e

Capital and Labor in the Age of
Enterprise, 1877–1900
What factors led to the economic success of
industrial capitalism in America after 1877?
How were business practices organized and
new technologies harnessed in order to
maximize profits in American industry?
What were the working conditions of
American industrial laborers?
How and why did American workers seek to
improve their working conditions in the late
nineteenth century?
Industrial Capitalism Triumphant
The Age of Steel
The Railroad Boom
Large-Scale Enterprise
The Age of Steel
The introduction and ready acceptance of
new technologies such as the Bessemer
steel furnace.
Rapidly expanding markets.
An abundance of natural resources.
Available labor.
Available capital.
High profits.
Sir Henry
In October, 1855, Bessemer took out a
patent for his process of rendering cast iron
malleable by the introduction of air into the
fluid metal to remove carbon. Bessemer's
industrial process was similar to a Chinese
method to refine iron into steel, developed
in the second century BCE. They called this
process the "hundred refinings method"
since they repeated the process 100 times.
The Railroad Boom
Central Pacific Railroad
The Central Pacific Railroad Company
of California was organized on June
28, 1861 by the "Big Four" (Collis P.
Huntington, [Gov.] Leland Stanford,
Mark Hopkins, and Charles Crocker)
A practical mountain route for the rail line was
first conceived and surveyed by Dutch Flat,
California gold prospector and drugstore owner
Dr. Daniel W. Strong and engineer, Theodore
Dehone Judah, who obtained the financial backing
of the California group and won federal support in
the form of the Pacific Railroad Act, signed in
1862 by former railroad lawyer Abraham Lincoln.
CPRR Timetable
In 1872 Aaron Montgomery Ward
established the first mail-order business at
Clark and Kinzie Streets in Chicago, with
$2,400 capital. The first catalog consisted of
a single-sheet price list, 8 by 12 inches,
showing the articles for sale with ordering
instructions. By 1904, three million catalogs
weighing 4 pounds each were being mailed
to customers. Ward's early customers were
primarily from rural America, lured by a
large selection of items and a promise of
"satisfaction guaranteed."
In 1887, Sears hired watch repairman Alvah Curtis
Roebuck to handle many of the returns that needed
repaired. Roebuck was not only Sears's first employee,
but he later became co-founder of Sears, Roebuck &
Company. Roebuck's contribution to the corporation
was short-lived, however, and due to personal
considerations he sold his share of the company to
Sears in 1895 for $25,000. Sears himself clashed with
new business partner, Julius Rosenwald, and quit the
business in 1908. He later sold his portion of Sears
stock in 1913 and died that same year. To this day,
Sears's advertising and promotional skills remain
legendary, and today's most sophisticated marketer's
continue to employ the tried and true concepts that
Sears made famous.
Before Wanamaker invented the price tag,
most buying was done by haggling.
The World of Work
Labor Recruits
Working Women and the Family Economy
Autonomous Labor
Systems of Control
Taylor developed detailed systems intended
to gain maximum efficiency from both
workers and machines in the factory. These
systems relied on time and motion studies,
which help determine the best methods for
performing a task in the least amount of
The Labor Movement
Reformers and Unionists
The Triumph of “Pure and Simple” Unionism
Industrial War
American Radicalism in the Making
On May 4th, 1886, a rally of anarchists and
labor activists in Chicago's Haymarket
Square turned deadly. An unknown assailant
tossed a bomb into a throng of riot police,
killing one instantly. In the chaos that
erupted, seven policemen were killed, sixty
injured, and civilian casualties were likely
as high. The event marked the anarchist
movement as violent and made Chicago
world-famous as a hotspot of labor conflict.