Railroads should be considered one of the most revolutionary economic developments of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Railroads needed to carry as much product as possible to make a profit. This lead to the construction of “feeder lines” that connected smaller cities to the main “trunk lines” that serviced the big cities. The growth of the railroads also increased steel production, coal mining, and technological breakthroughs like the air brake and Pullman sleeping car (Hawksworth, 2001). Unionization was one of the major social developments of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Unions were the workers response to big corporations. Early labor leaders pushed for an eight hour work day, an end to child labor, equal pay, and safer working conditions. Unfortunately these labor unions were not very successful.
Our text tells us that “Ultimately, it was the power of big business that prevented the workers from achieving their goals.” (Bowles, 2011). The government played both positive and negative roles in the social and economic developments of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. On the positive side it provided security from Native Americans as settlers moved west, it gave land grants to the railroads, it gave land to the settlers with the Homestead Act, and it aided higher education by establishing land grant colleges. On the negative side it did not impose any rules on big business regarding child labor, minimum wage, maximum hours, or working conditions.
Bowles, M. (2011). American history 1865–present: End of isolation. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education, Inc. Hawksworth, R. (Producer). (2001). The American industrial revolution [Video]. United States: Media Rich LLC. Retrieved from http://digital.films.com/OnDemandEmbed.aspx?Token=47596&aid=18596&Plt=FOD&loid=0&w=640&h=480&ref=