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American Politics In The Years Following Reconstruction

In the late 19th Century men like Andrew Carnegie, Jay Gould, John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan changed how American industries conducted business. There was an obvious lack of regulations by the federal government during this era. These men, along with others such as business partners, were able to monopolize their business and those that could not compete went under, basically eliminating their competition. In order to create more capital and profits these men found creative ways to structure their corporations. They utilized pools, vertical integration, trust, horizontal integration and holding companies to create a monopoly system so they made more money. An example of a pool was when the railroad companies joined together. This created a system in which the prices of the railroad industry were set to one price and eliminated any competition. The railroad companies got so big that prices became unfair and outrageous. Vertical and horizontal integration occurred when companies acquired small businesses for production or shipping in order to be able to control the prices. The difference in vertical and horizontal is that vertical controls every aspect of production and horizontal controls the trust holders of stock which allows policies among companies to be the same. Holding companies and trust companies were similar, in that, either business partners or companies held stock in the company to share in the profits, but basically the profits still went back to the original company, creating monopolizing industries. Furthermore, because of the massive influx of immigrants coming from Europe these companies treated their employees as if they were disposable. If workers didn’t like the hours or working conditions there was always someone to replace them.

6.  Describe workers' responses to the low wages and poor working conditions they experienced in late-nineteenth-century industrial jobs. How did they try to improve their situations and what demands did they make? How did industrialists and the U.S. government respond?  Be sure to include the major strikes and how each influenced the relationship between labor and owners.

Government didn’t get involved with the labor issues because of political reasons; they used the excuse of the 14th Amendment—stating that the labor unions were a conspiracy in restraint of trade. (pg. 646) They tended to let local militiamen handle any problems, until the great railroad strike of 1877. Labor unions such as the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor came to help the West Virginia brakemen’s strike because of their wages being cut. Soon after that hundreds of thousands of railroad workers and other labors walked off of their jobs in protest. Soon after, violence broke loose and property was damaged and strikers were shot. On behalf of the railroad owners, President Hayes was asked to send federal troops to end the violence and the strike. The wealthy upper class and business owners were living in fear because of the violence. After The New York Times wrote an editorial on the situation with the factories and management, Americans were at odds with their feelings—they understood why the strike happened and understood that there were bad working conditions and the laborers were paid poorly—but they couldn’t excuse the violence and damage. The management and the wealthy corporate world thought that they were in the right and at this point could do whatever they wanted. Everybody below them were considered second class citizens (if even that) therefore, they could care less about their laborers. Further, because of all the immigrants coming over from Europe there was a surplus of help that were willing to work and probably for less wages. Laborers, on the other hand, were tired of the long hours and wages being cut just so the stockholders profits could increase. They were concerned about their jobs they took pride in being skilled craftsmen and felt threatened with the flux of immigrants coming over and knowing that an unskilled immigrant would be willing to take his job for less pay.

The Haymarket riot occurred because workers did not want to have to work longer than 8 hour days without added benefits. Basically, workers were being literally worked to death. The riot was a culmination of manufacturing industries rising up against management. People were supposed to gather in Haymarket Square to protest the 12 hour workday. John “Blackjack” Bonfield was known for his aggressive nature and led his men into the small crowd that had gathered and after a bomb was thrown at police they opened fire. Seven policemen and countless others died in this riot.

5.  Describe the ways in which immigrants after 1880 influenced the United States. Why were so many old-stock Americans apprehensive about the influx of new immigrants?  You will need to include how immigration influenced wages; growth and development of cities; and general attitudes toward immigrants.

By 1880, a ticket from London to the United States had dropped below $25.00 and the United State’s need for cheap, unskilled labors looked pretty good to the immigrants. Most of the immigrants came from southern and eastern Europe. The older immigrants, now known as the old pioneer settlers, saw the new immigrants as unskilled and lower class. There was a division in the work force between skilled craftsmen or trades people and those who provided physical labor. The differences didn’t end there—they used ethnic and religious differences to prevent employment. In 1882, the Chinese Act was passed, it excluded the Chinese from entering the United States, though through loopholes the families that were already here were able to bring other family members out of China to the United States. Soon there was a ban on keeping all Asians out. In the 1880s, the number of mill workers born in Europe doubled, management encouraged cultural and race problems to prevent employees from coming together to organize a labor union. As time went on those immigrants who chose to stay helped to build this country and took pride in fighting for it.

The new immigrants that were arriving were considered uneducated and unwilling to learn or be trained or fit in the American lifestyle. Senator Lodge of Massachusetts tried to organize an immigration restriction. Immigrants would be required to take a literacy test to stay in the United States and if they couldn’t pass it they would have to leave. Some affluential American’s thought that the quality of immigrants that were coming into the country were European scum. Even Terence V. Powderly head of the Knights of the Labor considered them to live like animals. There was an attitude that the immigrants coming in would interrupt the life style of the wealthier Americans. They would have to confront them when they would go out and they were afraid that they would trash up the streets and bring crime rates up.

When many of the immigrants arrived to America they had very little money and nowhere to go unless they had family or friends, so they stayed in the city also because of work and cheap places to live. In time, different nationalities started to colonize their areas making them seem more regional to where they were from. Soon they had markets specializing in their foods and places for them to go worship. As the immigrants arrived to America they ended up where the majority of their culture had migrated to. It seems to me that the immigrants had a lot to do with developing their part of the city be it good or bad.

Immigrants coming to America were eager for work—they would work long hours for little pay. This messed things up for those who were already employed fighting for better working conditions and better pay. They lost their bargaining power because they could be replaced and for less money and with new technical advances those that are skilled could be replaced by the unskilled.

Overall Immigrants were looked at as second class citizens or an evil necessity. Americans were upset that they came and stole their jobs, dirtied up the streets and brought crime. Corporations found cheap and disposable labor.

11.  Discuss the 1920s in terms of politics, economics and social aspects (including governmental attitude toward the economy, effects of the automobile, other innovations, social tensions,  the Harlem Renaissance, the Lost Generation, anything you can think of to give us a good overall view of the 1920s.)

In the 1920’s the Republican Party controlled the White House. The philosophy was less government in the business world, which worked fine for the rich, with tax cuts that benefitted them. President Coolidge’s philosophy was to run the government as a business, which at that time did not benefit the working class. What the 1924 election showed was that big business won, defeating the progressive principal and showing that they did not want labor unions or to be regulated by government. (Isn’t that kind of reminiscence of what is going on right now in politics? What I don’t get is how these people can pull the wool over so many of the sheep’s eyes…big business seems to have a history of convincing the working class that their way will be the best way when in reality it is only best for a few select at the top!)

Prior to the 20’s, many people saw the automobile as a luxury for the rich. However, with Henry Ford being able to identify with “the common folk” he created massive assembly lines and was able to reduce the cost of the automobile. People were now able to afford a car and loved the independence that it offered. With mass production, machinery and assembly lines being introduced, along with the advancements in technology a consumer culture was born. The radio and commercial marketing urged people to be consumers rather than just citizens of the US. People used to save and reuse products and would not purchase a product unless they had saved their money but now had the luxury of credit. Buy now, pay later.

During the 20’s, Prohibition was instated. Republicans led the charge to outlaw alcohol, with their main message being that alcohol caused domestic violence, low productivity and poverty. However, this only created a culture of breaking the law and also funded the underground mob activities.

Socially, there were so many things going on in society as a whole. For instance, women were enjoying a new role within society as working women and becoming educated, basically, taking control of their own lives in a way that had never been seen before. Some complained that there was even a change in morality of women. They stated that the newspapers and magazines were saturated with sexuality from the flappers, cigarette ads and even women shown drinking from hip flasks.

There was also a cultural movement in the African American communities. They had started to move north and many ended up in the upper area of Manhattan—Harlem. After World War I, many of the men that served in the war were not greeted with the same enthusiasm as the white soldier. Many of the African Americans remained hopeful that there was still that promise of a good American life. In the area of Manhattan, artists, poets and other creative minded people created a unique African American culture that they could take pride in. This distinct area in Harlem during this era became known as the Harlem Renaissance.

This decade has long been called the Roaring Twenties for many reasons. There were so many innovative machines and inventions. Everything, from consumer culture to products were both mass produced and mass consumed. Americans were bored with the political arena and wanted to find entertainment in other areas. People went to movies, listened to the radio, watched sports at stadiums or arenas and went out to nightclubs to listen to jazz. However, some of the young generation of intellectuals and creatives didn’t feel as if they fitted into the society. They felt that society had become shallow and materialistic. They found refuge and acceptance in European cultures. These select few were called the Lost Generation by Gertrude Stein, who was a famous author living in Paris. In Europe, they were able to create some of the most spectacular literature and art ever known in America.

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