U.S. History Since 1865
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In the years following the Civil War the United States was transformed by the enormous growth of industry. Once, the United States was mainly a nation of small farms. By 1900, it was a nation of growing cities, of coal, steel, and of engines and fast communications. Though living standards generally rose, millions of industrial workers lived in crowded, unsanitary slums.

In the north, industrial violence was common and occurred on numerous occasions. The most violent confrontation between labor and employers was probably the Great Railway Strike of 1877. The nation had been in the grip of a severe depression for four years. During that time, the railroads had decreased the wages of railway workers by 20 percent. Many trainmen complained that they could not support their families adequately, and there was little that the trainmen could do about the wage decreases. At that time, unions were weak and workers feared going on strike; there were too many unemployed men who might take their jobs. Some workers secretly formed a Trainmens Union to oppose the railroads. In the last quarter of the century, the textile, metal, and machinery industries equaled the railroads in size. In 1870, the typical iron and steel firm employed fewer than 100 workers. Thirty years later, the force was four times as large. By 1900, more than 1,000 factories had work forces ranging from 500 to 1,000 workers. From 1860 to 1900 some 15 million immigrants from southern and eastern Europe came to the United States in search of a better life, and most of them settled in the north and northeast. With big cities and factories came big business and big government who profited greatly from the cheap work force of immigrants and washed out farmers. The working class comprised mostly of immigrants and farmers rebelled against the upper and middle class, and insisted on better living and working conditions.

In the late nineteenth century, Americans became the backbone of the nation. The Indian problem that plagued America for 200 years was ending but not without bloodshed. Indians that were not killed were forced onto reservations. White farmers brought Indian land into cultivation, modernized their farms, and raised bumper crops. Many lived in poverty and debt while others fled to the cities, where they joined the industrial work force. Between 1865 and 1900, the nations farms more than doubled in number as Americans eagerly migrated to land west of the Mississippi River. With the aid of modern machinery, farmers raised specialized crops and relied on the railroads to deliver their crop to market. Bankers and loan companies provided capital to expand farm operations, while middlemen stored and sometimes sold produce. Farmers increasingly desired and depended on improved machinery inventors and manufactures met the demand. In the 1970s large bonanza farms established the trend of large-scale agriculture. With mass farming came overproduction and falling prices. Railroads were becoming big business and attempts to regulate railroads failed. The Government was corrupt and big business did whatever they wanted with little resistance from politicians or elected officials. Cattle ranchers and shepherds had conflicts over land and barbed wire fences became popular. Gold was discovered in California, and strip mining for other precious metals environmentally damaged the land. Wild Bills Wild West Show was popular, and the Grange society was formed.

Of all the nations agricultural regions, the South was the poorest. In 1880 the yearly income of southerners was half that of the national average. The New South attempted to industrialize with textiles, steel, cotton, and farm animals. The New South argued that southern backwardness did not stem from the war, but from basic conditions in southern life and a rural economy based on cotton. Realizing too late that power and wealth came not from cotton but from factories, machines, and cities, southerners did their best to survive. In an attempt to attract manufacturing, southern state governments offered tax exemptments and cheaper labor based on leasing state prisoners for labor. Texas and Florida awarded railroads land grants, and cities mounted large industrial exhibitions as incentives for industrial progress. In the 1880s, northerners increased their investment in the cotton industry and financed the southern railroad. Despite the souths attempts to compete with the north, they made slow progress. In general, all workers earned lower wages and worked longer hours in the south than elsewhere. Blacks who made up 6 percent of the work force were excluded from textile work and usually had the worst jobs and the lowest pay. Cotton was king and large plantations were subdivided into smaller farms. The National Grange (Farmers Declaration of Independence) was formed and small farmers in both the west and the south organized for better living and working conditions. Some states outlawed railroad pools, rebates, passes, and other practices that seemed to represent discrimination and disorder. The Interstate Commerce Act was formed in 1887 and required railroad rates to be reasonable and just, and required schedules be made public. In 1890, congress decided to shelve a proposed act for protecting black civil rights and federal assistance for education. This left blacks vulnerable, and the republican party left blacks to fend for themselves as a minority in the south period. However in 1882 the courts voided the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871, deciding that the civil rights protection applied to states rather than to individuals.

Though most Americans are aware of the Great Depression which may well be “the most serious problem facing our free enterprise economic system”, few know of the many Americans who lost their homes, life savings, and jobs. In the 1920s, after World War I, danger signals were apparent that a great depression was coming. A major cause of the depression was that the pay of workers did not increase at all. Because of this, they couldnt afford manufactured goods. While the factories were still manufacturing goods, Americans werent able to afford them and the factories made no money.

A new plan was created called the installment plan. This plan was established because many Americans didnt have enough money to buy goods and services that were needed or wanted. The installment plan stated that people could buy products on credit and make monthly payments. The one major problem with this idea was that people soon found out that they couldnt afford to make the monthly payment.


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