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Development of the Industrial United States
1870-1900

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From Reconstruction to the end of the 19th century, the United States went through a dramatic shift in its economic landscape. Industrialization changed not only the nature of business, but also brought technological advances and demand for an ever-increasing workforce. A rapid expansion of the power of big business was countered with the rise of labor movements, and often resulted in conflict, sometimes violent in nature. In contrast to the positive outcomes of technological developments, there were ecological effects not understood at the time, and unhealthy working conditions that often sparked labor disputes and strikes. This shift was felt not only in the industrial big cities of the North and Midwest, but also in the realm of farming, where the United States was now put into the role of the world’s premier food producer.

This era is defined largely by migration of African Americans from the South to the Midwest and North; immigration to the U.S. from other countries; and growing urbanization, all of which fed the industrial system. The rapid influx of Black southerners heightened racial tensions as they fought for equality and opportunity. Immigrants, for the first time, were less likely to come from Western Europe, but rather from Southern and Eastern Europe, Asia, Mexico, and Central America. Along with the need for expanding educational systems, which were often structured to push assimilation, the rise in immigration also led to religious tensions as Protestantism was no longer the dominating faith of those immigrating to the United States.

Learn more in the National U.S. History Content Standards.

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