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The United States Of America, Part Five

This is the story of how the American Republic developed from colonial beginnings in the 16th century, when the first European explorers arrived, until modern times.


History of the United States: Continued, Page Five

In the 1870s Republican rule in the South faltered. After 1872, membership in the Republican Party fell, as terrorist groups used violence and intimidation to diminish black votes and curb Republican support. Mobilizing white votes, Democrats sought to regain control of state governments. "Redemption," the Democrats' term for their return to power, followed swiftly, as the Republican coalition collapsed.

Once in office, Democrats dismantled the changes that Republicans had imposed. They rewrote state constitutions, cut state budgets and social programs, and lowered taxes. They also imposed laws to curb the rights of sharecroppers and tenants and to ensure a powerless black labor force. One such law forced debtors to work the land until their debts were paid.

By the fall of 1876, Democrats had returned to power in all Southern states except South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. The presidential election that year ended in a dispute over the electoral votes of these three states. Each party claimed victory. A special electoral commission gave the contest to Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. But the commission’s decision had to be ratified by Congress. To secure the election of their candidate, Republican Party leaders struck a bargain with Southern Democrats. Republicans vowed, among other promises, to remove federal troops from Southern states. Democrats promised to accept Hayes and treat blacks fairly. Under the Compromise of 1877, Hayes became president, the last federal troops left the South, and the era of Reconstruction ended.

The 1877 bargain ended federal occupation of the South and Northerners’ efforts to ensure the rights of Southern blacks. "Today…the Government of the United States abandoned you," the Republican governor of South Carolina told his African American supporters, as the last federal soldiers departed. The Southern Republican Party virtually vanished. Black voting was not completely extinguished, but violence and intimidation caused it to decline.

Southern Democrats had triumphed. They remained in firm control of Southern states without Northern interference. Ex-Confederates, although humiliated by defeat in the Civil War, regained power. But the South was now tied to racial oppression and economic backwardness.

The Republicans’ ambitious plan for Reconstruction failed, although it did leave two positive legacies: The 14th and 15th Amendments ensured black rights and gave the vote to black men. To maintain the rights of Southern blacks, however, would have meant a far longer period of military rule—which both Republicans and Democrats of the 1870s wished to avoid—and postponed any hope of national reunion. Only in the 1960s would the nation begin to confront the consequences of failing to protect the rights of black citizens. In the last third of the 19th century, Americans turned to their economic future—to developing the nation's vast resources, to wrestling profit from industry, and to the settlement of the trans-Mississippi West.

After the Civil War, hope of economic opportunity lured migrants and immigrants west to the Great Plains and Rocky Mountain region (see American Westward Movement). Settlers battled Native Americans for desirable lands, carved out farms, and built mines and ranches. By the end of the century, the Western territories had turned into states, and their residents had become part of a rapidly industrializing economy.

Native Americans Living on the Plains  
The Native Americans of the Great Plains included diverse tribes—among them the Blackfoot, Sioux, Dakota, Cheyenne, Comanche, Arapaho, Navajo, and Apache. After the Civil War, the Native Americans confronted a growing stream of settlers—prospectors, ranchers, and farm families. The newcomers brought with them new diseases that ravaged the tribes. The settlers also killed off the buffalo and thus damaged the Native American economy.

The Plains peoples defended their land and their way of life from the oncoming settlers. Fierce battles took place in the 1860s and 1870s between the Plains peoples and federal troops. Ultimately, disease and conflict reduced the population and power of the tribes. Displacement by settlers and concentration on Indian reservations, mainly in Oklahoma, Wyoming, and the Dakotas, challenged the traditional Native American way of life.

In the late 19th century, Congress developed a new policy toward Native Americans. Instead of isolating them on reservations, as had been done in the mid-1800s, the new policy sought to assimilate Native Americans into the cultural mainstream. Congressional policymakers responded to pressure from two different groups. First, some people sought to suppress Native American culture by converting Native Americans to Christianity and turning them into farmers. Second, land-hungry settlers and speculators wanted the Native Americans removed from desirable land in the reservations.

The Dawes Severalty Act, passed by Congress in 1887, addressed both concerns. The law broke up reservations and encouraged private farms. Native Americans families received individual plots of land, carved from reservations, as well as farm equipment. These families were to give up their communal way of life on the reservations and become independent farmers. But few Native Americans profited from the Dawes Act; the greatest beneficiaries were land speculators, who under the law were able to buy the best pieces of reservation land.

In 1890 at the Battle of Wounded Knee federal troops fired on a group of Sioux and massacred from 150 to 370 men, women, and children. The Battle of Wounded Knee marked the end of Native American resistance to settlement. For more information, see Native American Policy.

The building of the railroads spurred western settlement. In 1862 Congress authorized construction of two railroads to link the Midwest and the West Coast. The Union Pacific Railroad extended westward from Nebraska; the Central Pacific Railroad went eastward from the Pacific Ocean. The meeting of the two railroads at Promontory Summit, Utah, in 1869 signified a new era in Western history.

Federal and state governments had long encouraged the growth of railroads. When Congress authorized building the transcontinental railroad in 1862, it agreed to loan hundreds of millions of dollars to the two corporations to construct it. Congress also gave the railroad companies millions of acres of Western land, which the railroads sold to repay their loans. In effect, major railroad companies, with federal support, became colonizers of the West.

To attract settlers who would establish farms and become paying customers, the railroads advertised in the East and in Europe. They provided free trips west and offered long-term loans to settlers. Once the settlers had set up farms, they depended on the railroads to ship their produce. Farmers often became deeply in debt to the railroads, and to repay these debts they frequently relied on a single cash crop—typically wheat. Reliance on a single crop made their incomes dependent on fluctuating world markets and thus precarious.

The railroads became very powerful. They established monopolies in specific locales, cut off service, fixed prices, and discriminated among customers. A railroad might offer rebates to favored customers or charge more for a short haul than a long one. Aggrieved by such practices, farmers soon tried to curb the power of railroad corporations.

Federal land policy attracted settlers and land speculators. The Homestead Act of 1862 provided land, originally 160 acres, at no cost if the settler agreed to cultivate the land for at least five years. As settlers moved into arid areas farther west, however, the 160-acre plots proved insufficient, so the size of land grants increased.

As farmers settled more western land from 1870 to 1900, the nation's agricultural production doubled. Several factors increased productivity. New farm machinery included the steel plow, which could slice through the heavy soil of the plains, and the twine-binder, which gathered bundles of wheat and tied them with string. New varieties of grain, such as drought-resistant sorghum, enlarged harvests. Barbed wire, patented in 1874, enabled farmers to protect their property from roaming livestock. Finally, the railroads made it possible for Western farm produce to be sold in Eastern cities.

However, pioneers who established farms in the plains—in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and the Dakotas—faced difficult and isolated lives. They also lost much of their independence. By the late 19th century, farmers had grown increasingly dependent on large businesses. Railroads transported their crops, banks loaned them money, manufacturers sold them farm machinery, and unstable international markets for wheat and corn determined their income. Overproduction, meanwhile, drove prices down. Farmers were frustrated by sagging prices, rising debt, high interest rates, and such railroad practices, as fixed prices or discrimination among customers. Farmers no longer felt in charge of their own fates.

To try to address some of their problems, farmers joined together in 1867 and founded the National Grange of the Patrons of Husbandry, or the Grange, which established cooperative stores and urged laws to curb railroad abuses. In a number of states, including Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and California, the Grangers supported the passage of laws that regulated railroad rates and practices (see Granger Movement).

In 1887 Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Act, which sought to deal with some of these problems. The law required railroad companies that transported passengers or goods to establish reasonable rates, to publish those rates, and to adhere to them. It also banned unfair practices, such as rebates to favored customers. Finally, it created a new agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC), to supervise railroad operations. The new law, however, did little to curb railroad power. Railroads gained control of the ICC, evaded the law, and won repeal of the Granger laws that regulated rates; farmers’ protests grew.

Miners and Ranchers  
Starting with the California Gold Rush of 1849, a series of mining booms spurred settlement in the West. When gold prospects in California dimmed, thousands of prospectors moved eastward into the Rocky Mountains, seeking gold, silver, copper, and other minerals. Spectacular gold rushes of the late 19th century drew prospectors to mining camps in Boise, Idaho; Helena, Montana; and the Black Hills of South Dakota. Some mining towns became cities, such as Denver. Others, such as Virginia City in the Sierra Nevada mountains, boomed while prospectors worked the mines, only to become ghost towns when the prospectors left. The era of individual prospectors was limited; by the end of the century, they had been replaced by large mining companies in the Western states.

In the 1860s and 1870s the railroads transformed the cattle industry, just as they had transformed farming—by transporting cattle to urban markets in the East. When a rail line reached Abilene, Kansas, in 1867, Texas ranchers began to drive their cattle north to Abilene. The cattle then traveled east, destined for packing houses. The cattle industry began to grow rapidly as railroads made the business more profitable.

Large-scale ranchers profited though the cowboys who drove the herds contended with dull lives and difficult jobs. By the 1880s, the open-range cattle industry extended from Texas to the Dakotas. Then the cattle boom peaked. The disastrous winter of 1886-1887, which followed an unusually dry summer, wiped out herds and forced ranchers into bankruptcy. Those ranchers who remained in business raised smaller herds of high-grade cattle, grew crops to feed them, and to conserve this food supply, fenced in their livestock with barbed wire. The open range, in which cattle grazed freely, ended. Some ranchers moved further west, to Wyoming and Montana.

Multicultural West  
Races and ethnicities mingled in the late 19th-century West. Immigrants from Scandinavia and ethnic Germans from Russia settled farms in Minnesota and Wisconsin. Irish, Cornish, and Slovak miners moved to the mountain states. Other Europeans went west as speculators, adventurers, and prospectors, and some remained as residents. Chinese immigrants, over 90 percent men, arrived in California in the 1850s. They formed communities in Western cities, labored on the transcontinental railroad, and moved eastward with the railroad and mining booms. Japanese immigrants reached California in the 1890s and settled mainly in rural areas in the Pacific Northwest. Among African Americans who migrated to the West, a small number worked as cowboys; some founded all-black communities such as Langston, Oklahoma, and Nicodemus, Kansas. When the United States acquired Texas, New Mexico, and California at the end of the Mexican War in 1848, it incorporated many Mexicans who lived in what had been the northern border area of Mexico. Clusters of Native Americans lived everywhere.

The mixture of peoples in the West spurred competition and antagonism more than harmony. Virulent anti-Chinese sentiment in California pitted native-born workers against immigrants. The growth of the cattle industry affected land ownership in the southwest, to the detriment of Mexican Americans. The United States had promised Mexico to protect the freedom and property of Mexicans who remained in the area ceded to the United States, but American ranchers and other settlers took control of territorial governments and forced Hispanic settlers off their land.

Antipathy and violence, moreover, pervaded much of Western life. Hostilities flared not only between settlers and Native Americans, but also between ranchers and farmers, sheepherders and cattle ranchers, Mormons and non-Mormons (in Utah), and labor and management. Yet despite all these tensions, Americans and new immigrants poured into the West.

By the 1890s, the western half of the continent was linked firmly to the nation's industrial economy. Huge meat-packing plants in Chicago and big corporations determined the profits of ranchers. Indebted farmers on the plains, who felt oppressed by railroads and dependent on distant markets, voiced their grievances through farmers' alliances. Mining became a big business. Finally, cities arose from mining towns, from cattle depots, and as "gateways" on the borders of the plains. West or east, the nation was becoming more urban and industrial.

From 1870 to 1900, the United States became the world's foremost industrial nation. It emerged as the leader in meatpacking, in production of timber and steel, and in the mining of coal, iron, gold, and silver. Overall, the nation experienced a stunning explosion in the scale of industry and in the pace of production. By the turn of the century, industrialization had transformed commerce, business organization, the environment, the workplace, the home, and everyday life.

Many factors fueled industrial growth in the late 19th century: abundant resources, new technology, cheap energy, fast transport, and the availability of capital and labor. Mines, forests, and livestock in the west provided raw materials for major industries, as did iron in Ohio and oil in Pennsylvania. Railroad expansion enabled businesses to move raw materials to factories and to send products to urban markets. A steady stream of immigrants arrived to work in America's mines and factories.

Technological advances transformed production. The new machine tool industry, which turned out drilling, cutting, and milling machines, sped up manufacturing. A trail of inventions, including the telephone, typewriter, linotype, phonograph, electric light, cash register, air brake, refrigerator car, and automobile, led to new industries. Finally, business leaders learned how to operate and coordinate many different economic activities across broad geographic areas. Businesses were thus able to become larger, and the modern corporation became an important form of business organization. For more information, see Industrial Revolution: The Industrial Revolution in the United States.

Corporations and Consolidation  
In the 19th century, states reduced the requirements for businesses to incorporate. A corporation is a form of business partnership; it is a legal entity that is distinct from the individuals who control it. The corporation (not the individual partners) is responsible for repaying the corporation’s debts; this is known as limited liability. The corporate form of business organization made it possible for entrepreneurs to finance large-scale enterprises because corporations issue stock, certificates representing shares of ownership in a corporation. By issuing stock, a corporation can enable thousands of individuals to pool financial resources and invest in a new venture.

Businesses also grew by combining into trusts. In a trust, a small group of business people, called trustees, acquire enough shares in several competing firms to control those companies. The trustees are then able to manage and direct a group of companies in a unified way, in effect, creating a single firm out of competing firms. The trustees could prevent competition among the firms that were part of the trust. A leading example was the Standard Oil Trust, formed in Ohio in 1882 by John D. Rockefeller and his associates. Within a decade, trusts dominated many industries.

States tried to regulate trusts, but big businesses eluded state control. Afraid that trusts would destroy competition, Congress in 1890 passed the Sherman Antitrust Act. The act banned businesses from joining together in ways that controlled markets, as trusts had been doing. It also outlawed monopoly, in which only a single seller or producer supplies a commodity or a service. But the law defined neither trust nor monopoly and was poorly enforced. The courts threw out cases against the trusts and used the law mainly to declare unions illegal combinations in restraint of trade. For instance, the court declared unions that organized boycotts or strikes impeded the flow of commerce and thus violated federal law. Standard Oil, however, continued without interference. In 1892, to avoid Ohio laws, Standard Oil incorporated in New Jersey as a holding company, a corporation with only one purpose: to buy out the stock of other companies.

Corporations introduced new styles of management, or business organization. The railroads, which needed to manage crews, fuel, repairs, and train schedules over large areas, were the first to develop new management techniques. The railroads also developed standard time, which the United States adopted in 1883. Steel industry tycoon Andrew Carnegie, who continually sought less costly ways to make steel, also introduced new management techniques. The Carnegie Steel Company used precise accounting systems to track the costs of all processes and materials involved in making steel. To do this work, Carnegie hired middle managers and encouraged them to compete with one another.

New business practices led to larger corporations. Andrew Carnegie practiced vertical integration; he bought companies that sold supplies to the steel industry, including coal and iron mines and a railroad line. Carnegie thereby controlled every stage of the productive process from raw materials to marketing. Finally, he engaged in horizontal consolidation by acquiring his competitors. He priced his products so low that competitors could not compete and make a profit. Then he bought them out. By 1899 Carnegie's company was the world's biggest industrial corporation and produced one-fourth of the nation's steel. However, vertical integration and horizontal consolidation helped concentrate power in a few giant corporations and limited competition.

According to business magnates such as Rockefeller and Carnegie, their huge enterprises provided new products at lower costs and enriched the nation, as well as themselves. Stressing the value of competition, captains of industry argued that it ensured the survival of the most competent. Business leaders also endorsed a policy of laissez-faire. Government, they believed, should leave business alone. In fact, the federal government adopted policies to benefit big business. Congress passed high tariffs (taxes on imported products) that impeded foreign competition; federal subsidies to railroads enriched investors; and courts penalized labor more often than business.

The trend toward large-scale production changed the structure of the labor force and the nature of work. From 1870 to 1900, as the industrial work force expanded, the unskilled worker replaced the artisan or autonomous craftsperson. The typical workplace was more likely to be a large factory than a small workshop. Striving for efficiency, employers replaced skilled labor with machines and low-paid workers. Factory tasks became specialized, repetitive, and monotonous. The need for unskilled labor drew women and children into the industrial work force. Some performed piecework, work paid for according to the amount produced rather than the hours worked, in crowded tenements; others operated machinery in textile mills and garment plants. Industrial labor in the late 19th century was often hazardous. Workers lacked protection against industrial accidents, long hours, wage cuts, layoffs, and sudden bouts of unemployment.

As the industrial work force grew, tensions increased between labor and management. They disagreed over issues such as wages, length of the working day, and working conditions. Labor unions emerged to protect the rights of workers and to represent them in negotiations with management. Most employers vigorously opposed trade union activity, and struggles between workers and employers often became violent.

The first national labor organization, the Knights of Labor, organized in 1869, tried to include all workers. The Knights reached their greatest strength between 1884 and 1885, when railroad strikes raged, and then declined. As the Knights of Labor faded, a new federation of local and craft unions, the American Federation of Labor (AFL) was organized in 1886. Led from 1886 to 1924 by Samuel Gompers, an immigrant cigar maker from England, the AFL welcomed skilled workers, almost all of them men. The AFL focused on hours, wages, working conditions, and union recognition by management. It also favored use of economic weapons such as strikes and boycotts.

Late 19th-century unions attracted only a small portion, perhaps 5 percent, of the work force, but strikes involved far more workers. In the last quarter of the century, thousands of strikes aroused public concern, and several large, violent events evoked fear. The great railroad strike of 1877 was a wildcat strike (a strike by a union local without consent of the national union to which it belongs) set off by wage cuts on a single railroad line. It became a nationwide protest that almost ended rail traffic and led to scores of deaths. Only the arrival of federal troops ended the strike.

In the 1880s, a decade of 10,000 strikes and lockouts, workers often succeeded in averting wage reductions and winning shorter hours. Most strikes concerned local grievances but some closed down entire industries and incurred reprisals. The Haymarket Square Riot in Chicago in 1886 grew out of a strike against a company that built agricultural machinery. Union leaders called a protest meeting at which police intervened and a bomb exploded, causing many deaths. Eight people were convicted of murder, and four hanged. Repelled by the violence, the public blamed the labor movement for the casualties at Haymarket Square, and the Knights of Labor lost influence.

At the end of the 19th century, business often defeated workers’ demands. In the 1890s, at employers’ requests, federal troops crushed strikes at Idaho silver mines, Carnegie’s steel plants, and Pullman railway works. The Pullman strike began when workers for the Pullman Palace Car Company protested wage cuts. The protest led thousands of workers to join the American Railway Union, led by Eugene V. Debs. But employers, who united to break the union, called for an injunction, a court order for workers to return to work, and attained it under the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. Federal troops arrived to enforce the injunction against the union, riots ensued, the strike was crushed, and Debs was arrested, convicted, and imprisoned. The injunction was a powerful tool for business to use against labor.

Besides the injunction, union organizers faced other obstacles, such as blacklists (lists of union activists circulated among employers) and attacks by Pinkerton detectives (agents of a private detective firm that guarded factories, protected railroads, and battled labor). In some instances, employers forced workers to sign "yellow dog contracts," in which they promised not to join unions. Management retained the upper hand.

Industrial workers of the late 19th century were often foreign-born. From 1865 to 1885, immigrants arrived mainly from northern and western Europe, as they had before the Civil War; the largest groups came from England, Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia. From the mid-1880s until World War I began in 1914, the number of newcomers from southern, eastern, and central Europe increased. Many new immigrants were Slavs—Poles, Czechs, Russians, Ukrainians, Croatians—and others, including Jews, from the Austro-Hungarian and Russian empires. Among the new immigrants were also Greeks, Romanians, and Italians, mainly from southern Italy or Sicily. Record numbers of immigrants arrived in the United States, some 9 million from 1880 to 1900, and 13 million from 1900 to 1914. For more information, see United States (People): Growth through Immigration and Immigration: From 1840 to 1900.

Late 19th-century immigrants left their European homes to escape economic problems—scarce land, growing populations, and the decline of subsistence farming. They came to the United States in hope of economic gain. Most settled in the United States permanently, but others came only to amass some capital and then return home. Immigration dropped off during depressions, as in the 1870s and 1890s, and again during World War I, with smaller downturns in between. Immigration was encouraged by new technology such as steamships, which reduced the time needed to cross the Atlantic from three months to two weeks or less.

Where immigrants settled depended on their ethnicity and on when they arrived. In the post-Civil War decade, for instance, Scandinavian immigrants used the Homestead Act to start Midwestern farms. Two decades later, immigrants usually moved to industrial towns and cities, where they became unskilled laborers in steel mills, meatpacking plants, and the garment trade. In Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where population increased tenfold from 1850 to 1890, large numbers of Poles and Eastern Europeans found work in rolling mills and blast furnaces. By 1910 immigrants and their families constituted over half the total population of 18 major cities; in Chicago, eight out of ten residents were immigrants or children of immigrants.

Immigrants’ lives changed dramatically after they arrived. Uprooted, usually from rural areas in Europe, immigrants had to adjust to industrial labor, unfamiliar languages, and city life. Clinging to their national identities and religions, immigrants prepared ethnic foods, read foreign language newspapers, and celebrated ethnic holidays. At the same time, they patronized urban amusements, found community support in local political machines, and adapted to the new environment. Men outnumbered women in new immigrant communities because men often preceded their wives and families.

Immigrants' huge numbers, high concentrations in cities, and non-Protestant faiths evoked nativist or anti-immigrant sentiments. To native-born Americans, the newcomers often seemed more alien and more transient, less skilled and less literate than earlier groups of immigrants. Some strains of nativism rested on belief in the superiority of Anglo-Americans or Nordic peoples over all others. Other types of nativism reflected economic self-interest: Native-born workers feared competition for jobs from new immigrants; they feared also that immigrants would work for lower wages, which might mean less pay or even unemployment for them.

Both types of nativism arose on the West Coast, where immigration from China had been heavy since the 1850s. Responding to anti-Chinese sentiment, especially among California workers, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. The law curbed Chinese immigration for ten years, a period that was subsequently extended indefinitely. A small number of immigrants from China continued to arrive, but the number of Chinese entrants slowed to a trickle. In the 1890s, meanwhile, Congress tightened immigration laws to exclude polygamists, contract laborers, and people with diseases. Nativist groups such as the American Protective Association (1887) urged immigration restriction.

Growth of Cities  
As immigration exploded, urban populations surged from 6 million in 1860 to 42 million in 1910. Big cities got bigger: Chicago tripled in size in the 1880s and 1890s. By 1900 three cities contained more than a million people: New York (3.5 million), Chicago (1.7 million), and Philadelphia (1.3 million).

In the late 19th century, industry invaded the cities. Previously, cities had served as commercial centers for rural hinterlands and were frequently located on rivers, lakes, or oceans. Manufacturing occurred outside their limits—usually near power sources, such as streams, or natural resources, such as coal. As industry grew, cities changed. Chicago, for instance, had been a railroad center that served the upper Midwest as a shipping hub for lumber, meat, and grain; by 1870 it had taken the lead in steel production as well as meatpacking. Post-Civil War Atlanta, another railroad hub and commercial center, also developed a diverse manufacturing sector. Cities quickly became identified with what they produced—Troy, New York, made shirt collars; Birmingham, Alabama, manufactured steel; Minneapolis, Minnesota, produced lumber; Paterson, New Jersey, wove silk; Toledo, Ohio, made glass; Tulsa, Oklahoma, harbored the oil industry; and Houston, Texas, produced railroad cars.

Population changes also transformed the city. Urban growth reflected the geographic mobility of the industrial age; people moved from city to city as well as within them. The new transience led to diverse populations. Migrants from rural areas and newcomers from abroad mingled with wealthy long-time residents and the middle class. Immigrants constituted the fastest growing populations in big cities, where industry offered work. Urban political machines helped immigrant communities by providing services in exchange for votes. For immigrants, boss politics eased the way to jobs and citizenship. Most, but not all, city machines were Democratic.

Just as industrialization and immigration transformed the city, new technology reshaped it. Taller buildings became possible with the introduction of elevators and construction using cast-iron supports, and later, steel girders. The first steel-frame skyscraper, ten stories high, arose in Chicago in 1885. In 1913 New York's Woolworth tower soared to a height of 60 stories. Taller buildings caused land values in city centers to increase.

New forms of transportation stretched cities out. First, trolleys veered over bumpy rails, and steam-powered cable cars lugged passengers around. Then cities had electric streetcars, powered by overhead wires. Electric streetcars and elevated railroads enabled cities to expand, absorbing nearby towns and linking central cities with once-distant suburbs. For intercity transport, huge railroad terminals—built like palaces, with columns, arches, and towers—arose near crowded business hubs.

Late 19th-century cities were cauldrons of change. In commerce, they became centers of merchandising with large department stores, which developed in the 1860s and 1870s. As city populations grew, the need for safe water, sanitation, fire control, and crime control also grew. These needs led to new urban services—water reservoirs, sewer systems, fire and police departments. Reformers attempted to enhance urban environments with parks and to improve poor neighborhoods with urban missions. Urban religious leaders of the 1880s promoted the Social Gospel, under which churches concerned themselves with social problems such as poverty, vice, and injustice.

The New South  Industrialization and urbanization also affected the South. Southern merchants, manufacturers, and newspaper editors of the 1880s led the campaign for a "New South," where Southern industrialism would break the cycle of rural poverty. States provided special breaks for new businesses and promised cheap labor. Birmingham, Alabama, became a railroad and steel center where mills hired black workers.

Southern textile mills opened in the 1880s in the Piedmont region from central Virginia to Alabama. Mill owners depended on low-skilled, low-paid white labor, and their mills attracted workers from rural areas. Workers settled in company towns where entire families worked for the mill. The South replaced New England as the nation's leading locale for textile mills.

Overall, however, the campaign to industrialize the South faltered. As late as 1900, only 5 percent of the Southern labor force, most of it white, worked in industry. Furthermore, Southern industry did not enrich the South. Except for the American Tobacco Company, located in North Carolina, Southern industry was owned mainly by Northern financiers.

For African Americans, the New South of the late 19th century meant increased oppression; race relations deteriorated. Black voting was not quickly extinguished; in the 1880s, some African Americans continued to vote in the upper South and in pockets elsewhere, but black officeholders and voting majorities vanished, fraud and intimidation were common, and black votes often fell under conservative control. Between 1890 and 1908, starting in Mississippi, Southern states held constitutional conventions to impose new voting regulations, such as literacy testing—regulations that registrars could impose at will on blacks and not on whites. Southern states also introduced a "grandfather clause," which exempted from literacy testing all those entitled to vote on January 1, 1867, (before Congress gave black men the right to vote) and their male descendents. This enabled most illiterate whites to go to the polls but stopped illiterate blacks from voting. Some states imposed stringent property qualifications for voting or poll taxes, which meant that each voter had to pay a tax in order to vote.

Increasingly, Southern blacks (the vast majority of the nation's African Americans) were relegated to subordinate roles and segregated lives. Segregation laws, or Jim Crow laws as they were known, kept blacks and whites apart in public places such as trains, stations, streetcars, schools, parks, and cemeteries. The Supreme Court confirmed the legitimacy of Jim Crow practices in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), which upheld segregation in railroad cars. In the 1890s, finally, the number of lynchings of African Americans rose markedly. Between 1890 and 1900, more than 1,200 lynchings occurred, mainly in the Deep South. At the end of the century, the New South remained an impoverished and racist region, with the nation's lowest income and educational levels.

Farmers’ Protests and Populism  
Beset by crop failures in the 1880s, Midwestern farmers dealt with falling prices, scarce money, and debt. To cope with these problems, farmers began forming farmers’ alliances, which multiplied in the Great Plains and spread to the South, where white and black farmers formed separate alliances. Working together in these cooperative organizations, farmers hoped to lower costs by buying supplies at reduced prices, obtaining loans at rates below those charged by banks, and building warehouses to store crops until prices became favorable.

In 1889 the Southern and Northwestern alliances merged and in 1890 became politically active. In the early 1890s, alliance delegates formed a national party, the People’s Party, whose members were called Populists, and decided to wage a third-party campaign. The delegates nominated James B. Weaver as the party’s candidate for president in 1892. Although he lost, the party won several governorships and legislative seats. Populism inspired colorful leaders, such as lawyer Mary E. Lease of Kansas, a powerful orator, and Tom Watson of Georgia, who urged cooperation among black and white farmers.

Populists supported a slate of reforms. These included calls for the government to issue more silver coins and paper currency; such inflationary measures, Populists hoped, would raise farm prices and enable farmers to pay off their debts. They wanted the government to regulate closely or even to take over the railroads in the hope of lowering farmers’ transportation costs. The Populists also supported a graduated income tax to more equitably distribute the costs of government as well as tariff reduction, abolition of national banks, direct popular elections of U.S. senators, and an eight-hour workday for wage earners.

Economic collapse in the 1890s increased agrarian woes. The panic of 1893 was followed by a depression that lasted until 1897. Businesses went bankrupt, railroads failed, industrial unemployment rose, and farm prices fell. The depression increased doubts about laissez-faire economic policies.

The money question, an issue since the 1870s, dominated the election of 1896. Populists supported the Democratic candidate, William Jennings Bryan, who called for free silver, or free and unlimited coinage of silver. Bryan electrified the Democratic convention with a powerful denunciation of the gold standard. But Republican William McKinley, with a huge campaign chest and business support, won the election. With McKinley, Republicans gained a majority of the electorate that lasted, with only one interruption, until the New Deal in the 1930s.

The corporate elite was now empowered in national politics. The influence of the Populist Party declined after the election, but the massive protest stirred by Populists did not completely fail. Many of the reforms that agrarian protesters endorsed were eventually enacted in the Progressive Era. But Populists had been unable to turn back the clock to a time when farmers had more autonomy, or to remedy the economic problems of the new industrial society.

The Impact of Industrialization  
Three decades of industrial progress transformed American life. By 1900 the United States had an advanced industrial economy, dominated by big corporations. The corporation harnessed ingenuity, created unprecedented wealth, and spurred the growth of new cities such as Chicago, Atlanta, Minneapolis, and Dallas. It increased foreign trade. The value of exports doubled from 1877 to 1900; imports rose, too, but less rapidly. Industrial progress revolutionized the marketing of goods and transformed the office world, now filled with clerical workers, bureaucrats, and middle managers. It also transformed homes by introducing indoor plumbing, electric lights, and household appliances. Overall, industrialization made available labor-saving products, lower prices for manufactured goods, advances in transportation, and higher living standards.

Industrialization had liabilities as well. It brought about vast disparities of wealth and unreliable business cycles, in which overproduction and depression alternated. The economy lurched between boom and panic, as in the 1870s and 1890s; bankruptcy became a common event, especially among indebted railroads that had overbuilt. For laborers, industrialization meant competition for jobs, subsistence wages, insecurity, and danger. Children worked in coal mines and cotton mills; women labored in tenement sweatshops; workers faced the prospect of industrial accidents and illnesses such as respiratory diseases.

Industrialization also exploited natural resources and damaged the environment. Refiners and steel mills spewed oil into rivers and smoke into the atmosphere. Finally, industrialization brought a relentless drive for efficiency and profit that led to ever larger, more powerful businesses and gave the corporate elite undue power in national politics. In the 1890s business leaders’ need for yet larger markets led to pressure on the United States to expand overseas.

The United States had a long tradition of territorial expansion. Gains of adjacent territory in the 19th century—the Louisiana Purchase of 1803, the areas won from Mexico in 1848, and U.S. expansion across the continent—all enhanced American stature. More recently, the defeat and removal of Native American tribes by federal troops had opened the West to farms and ranches, speculators and corporations.

In the 1890s, several motives combined to build pressure for expansion overseas. First, business leaders wanted overseas markets. Products basic to the American economy—including cotton, wheat, iron, steel, and agricultural equipment—already depended heavily on foreign sales. Business leaders feared that if the United States failed to gain new markets abroad, other nations would claim them, and these markets would be lost to U.S. enterprise. Second, national prestige required the United Sates to join the great European nations and Japan as imperial powers (nations with overseas colonies). Alfred Thayer Mahan presented this position in The Influence of Sea Power upon History, 1660-1783 (1890). In order to enter the race for influence, Mahan contended, the United States had to expand its depleted merchant marine, acquire overseas naval bases, build up a large navy, and find markets abroad. Third, religious leaders supported efforts to spread Christianity to foreign peoples. Finally, the United States seemed to be falling behind in the race for empire; it had not acquired non-contiguous territory since the secretary of state bought Alaska from Russia in 1867.

Imperial designs evoked criticism, too. Some Americans opposed U.S. expansion and challenged the drive for an overseas empire. The Anti-Imperialist League—a coalition of editors, academics, reformers, and labor leaders—contended that the United States had no right to impose its will on other people and that imperialism would lead to further conflict. Foes of imperialism also protested that overseas territories would bring nonwhite citizens into the United States. Still the economic crisis of the 1890s made overseas expansion seem imperative, especially to the business community. At the century's end, the United States began to send American forces to Hawaii, Cuba, the Philippines, and East Asia.

Annexation of Hawaii  
In the 1880s a monarchy governed the Hawaiian Islands, but western powers, including the United States, Britain, and Germany, had significant influence in Hawaii’s economy and government. American business interests dominated the lucrative sugar business. Angered by U.S. domination, Hawaiian islanders in 1891 welcomed a native Hawaiian, Liliuokalani, as queen. Liliuokalani attempted to impose a new constitution that strengthened her power. American planters responded by deposing the queen in 1893. Proclaiming Hawaii independent, the Americans requested U.S. annexation. President Grover Cleveland stalled on the annexation treaty; his representative on the islands reported that native Hawaiians objected to it. Under President William McKinley, however, in 1898, Congress voted to annex the Hawaiian Islands. In 1900 Hawaii became American territory.

The Spanish-American War: Cuba and the Philippines  
United States involvement in Cuba began in 1895 when the Cubans rebelled against Spanish rule. The Cuban revolution of 1895 was savage on both sides. Americans learned of Spanish atrocities through sensational press reports as well as from Cuban exiles who supported the rebels. Humanitarians urged the United States to intervene in the revolution, and U.S. businesses voiced concern about their large investments on the island. However, President Cleveland sought to avoid entanglement in Cuba, as did President McKinley, at first.

A well-publicized incident drew the United States into the conflict. On February 15, 1898, an American battleship, the Maine, exploded in Havana harbor, killing 266 people. Most Americans blamed the Spanish, and "Remember the Maine" became a call to arms. McKinley began negotiations with Spain for a settlement with Cuba. McKinley then sent a message to Congress, which adopted a resolution recognizing Cuban independence and renouncing any intent to annex the island, but Spain refused to withdraw. In April 1898 Congress declared war on Spain, and the Spanish-American War began.

The four-month war ended in August with a victory for the United States. The first action occurred thousands of miles away from Cuba in the Philippines, another Spanish colony. There Commodore George Dewey surprised the Spanish fleet in Manila Bay and sank every vessel in it.

Next, the United States sent an expeditionary force to Cuba. The U.S. Navy blockaded the Spanish fleet, and the Americans landed unopposed. After a bloody battle, in which a regiment of soldiers called Rough Riders were led by Navy Secretary Theodore Roosevelt, the Americans captured San Juan Hill outside the strategic city of Santiago de Cuba, and Spanish land forces surrendered. American troops also occupied Puerto Rico and Manila Harbor. In August 1898 the United States signed an armistice, and later that year, a peace settlement.

The Senate narrowly ratified the peace treaty with Spain in February 1899. The treaty provided that Spain would cede the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Guam to the United States; the United States would pay Spain $20 million. In addition, Spain would surrender all claims to Cuba and assume Cuba’s debt. No wonder the Spanish-American War struck Secretary of State John Hay as a "splendid little war." In a few months, the United States had become a major world power with an overseas empire.

But the story of the "splendid little war" was not yet complete. In February 1899 the Filipinos, led by Emilio Aguinaldo, declared themselves independent and began a three-year struggle against 120,000 U.S. troops. About 20,000 Filipinos were killed in combat. However, more than 200,000 Filipinos died during the insurrection primarily due to a cholera outbreak from 1897 to 1903. Barbarities and atrocities occurred on both sides before the United States captured Aguinaldo and suppressed the insurrection.

The U.S. Army remained in Cuba until 1901, when the Cubans adopted a constitution that included the Platt Amendment. The amendment pledged Cubans to allow the United States to intervene in Cuban affairs when events threatened property, liberty, or Cuban independence. Cuba accepted the amendment and became in effect a protectorate of the United States. In the election of 1900, William Jennings Bryan again challenged McKinley, this time on an unsuccessful anti-imperialist platform.

Open Door Policy in China  
American trade with China increased in the 1890s. The United States had long demanded an Open Door Policy for trading in China, which was weak, in order to prevent other powers from carving up China among them. But France, Russia, England, and Japan bit off pieces for themselves by annexation or by establishing spheres of influence, where they exercised economic privileges.

As its rivals made gains, the United States feared it would be excluded from all trade in China. In 1899 Secretary of State John Hay sent the European powers and Japan a series of "Open Door Notes," requesting agreement on three points. First, each power would respect the trading rights of the others within each nation’s sphere of influence; second, Chinese officials would collect import duties; and third, no nation would discriminate against the others in matters of harbor duties or railroad rates within each sphere of influence. Hay declared the principles accepted, inaccurately, since Russia and later Japan disagreed.

Not all the Chinese welcomed western penetration of their culture. In 1900 the Boxer Uprising broke out in China. The Boxers—a sect of Chinese nationalists who opposed foreign influence in China—rose up against foreign traders, officials, and missionaries, and massacred many of them. The United States and the European powers intervened with troops and put down the insurrection. The European powers seemed eager to carve up China, but Hay persuaded them to accept compensation to cover their losses. The United States returned part of its compensation to China. The McKinley administration had stopped Europe from carving up China.

The quest for an overseas empire in the late 1890s thus led to substantial American gains. The United States annexed Hawaii in 1898, conquered the Philippines and Guam from Spain in 1899, turned Cuba in effect into an American protectorate in 1901, and kept China opened to American traders and missionaries.

Meanwhile, in September 1901, an anarchist shot President McKinley, and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt assumed the presidency. The United States now entered the 20th century and an era of reform.

The growth of industry and cities created problems. A small number of people held a large proportion of the nation’s wealth while others fell into poverty. Workers faced long hours, dangerous conditions, poor pay, and an uncertain future. Big business became closely allied with government, and political machines, which offered services in return for votes, controlled some city governments. As the United States entered the 20th century, demand arose to combat these ills.

Progressive reformers sought to remedy the problems created by industrialization and urbanization. To progressives, economic privilege and corrupt politics threatened democracy. Never a cohesive movement, progressivism embraced many types of reform. Progressives strove, variously, to curb corporate power, to end business monopolies, and to wipe out political corruption. They also wanted to democratize electoral procedures, protect working people, and bridge the gap between social classes. Progressives turned to government to achieve their goals. National in scope, progressivism included both Democrats and Republicans. From the 1890s to the 1910s, progressive efforts affected local, state, and national politics. They also left a mark on journalism, academic life, cultural life, and social justice movements.

Crusading journalists helped shape a climate favorable to reform. Known as muckrakers, these journalists revealed to middle class readers the evils of economic privilege, political corruption, and social injustice. Their articles appeared in McClure’s Magazine and other reform periodicals. Some muckrakers focused on corporate abuses. Ida Tarbell, for instance, exposed the activities of the Standard Oil Company. In The Shame of the Cities (1904), Lincoln Steffens dissected corruption in city government. In Following the Color Line (1908), Ray Stannard Baker criticized race relations. Other muckrakers assailed the Senate, railroad practices, insurance companies, and fraud in patent medicine.

Novelists, too, revealed corporate injustices. Theodore Dreiser drew harsh portraits of a type of ruthless businessman in The Financier (1912) and The Titan (1914). In The Jungle (1906) Socialist Upton Sinclair repelled readers with descriptions of Chicago's meatpacking plants, and his work led to support for remedial legislation. Leading intellectuals also shaped the progressive mentality. In The Theory of the Leisure Class (1899), Thorstein Veblen attacked the "conspicuous consumption" of the wealthy. Educator John Dewey emphasized a child-centered philosophy of pedagogy, known as progressive education, which affected schoolrooms for three generations.

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