As George Donelson Moss, author of America in the twentieth century states it; modern America emerged during the last thirty years of the nineteenth century. With most of the century consisting of farmers and smaller towns and country-like living, the later parts of the century brought industrialization and businesses. These changes forced Americans to view and live life differently.
Of the important elements that influenced America in the nineteenth century, industrialization and immigration are the most significant. Industry flourished in the 1800s causing changes to America’s every aspect of life. Manufacturing also increased during this time due to the many advancements and new inventions. Railroads, one of the most important advances of the 1800s, increased the growth and size of manufacturing and industrialization.
With railroads, widespread cities could connect to each other enabling companies to sell their products to other consumers besides the local merchants. This expansion of goods allowed more rural areas to flourish into larger, factory-dwelling cities. Andrew Carnegie became known as the steel master of America after inventors found a new way of mass-producing steel in the U. S. during the 1860s. America became the number one steel manufacturer in the year 1880. The petroleum industry grew in the 1860s also. Kerosene, used to bring light to houses after nightfall, became its most important product. John D. Rockefeller, who headed the Standard Oil Company, became the nation’s first billionaire with his involvement in this industry.
Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone in 1876 created another huge industry in the nineteenth century. From the 1880’s until the end of the century, Americans were using over 800,000 telephones. This aided in communication across the U. S. Another famous inventor, Thomas Edison, also helped the industrialization of the late 1800s by improving telephonic transmissions and the electric light bulb. He built the first power station in 1882 that supplied customers with the electric current for lighting. With the industries and businesses flourishing, a big problem with urban development arose. With new industries, workers and their families would flood the surrounding city looking for jobs and places to live.
This rapid expansion of people and cities caused many unfavorable results. The workers were forced to live in cramped and crowded housing. Problems arose with this lifestyle including the spreading of diseases, an increased crime rate, psychological stress and juvenile delinquency. These slums also caused problems such as decreased water supply, sewage, and the loss of police and fire protection. The conditions of these urban cities gradually increased leading to paved streets and adequate lighting after dark, decreasing the amount of crime. With the transportation improvements, the cities started to segregate into social classes with the immigrants staying in the poor areas and the middle classes moving away from the central area.
With the news of industrialization and economic growth in America in the later part of the nineteenth century, immigrants from mostly Europe began to rush into the U. S. These immigrants were made up of mostly low class peasants with little or no skills, training, or education. These newcomers would crowd the urban cities living in close quarters with other immigrants. The industries employed these people with jobs such as digging sewers, installing utilities, and paving the streets.
These people worked very hard for the little wages that they received just to live in our country. These immigrants would more than likely never overcome their social class but their children who were given the opportunity to go to schools and obtain training often achieved middle-class status. Jane Adams, who opened a settlement house in a slum in Chicago called the Hull House, was one of the most helpful in helping the immigrants overcome their poverty. She provided services such as medical care, counseling, schools, and employment referral to help these people adapt to their new ways of living.