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The many reforms changes and inventions that happened in america in the early 1900s

The Era of Expansion and Reform "We must abolish everything that bears even the semblance of privilege. In a period of less than fifty years, it was transformed from a rural republic to an urban state. The frontier had vanished. Great factories and steel mills, transcontinental railroad lines, flourishing cities, vast agricultural holdings marked the land.

And with them came accompanying evils: Reaction against these abuses came from America's people and from her political leaders - Cleveland, Bryan, Theodore Roosevelt, Wilson. Their powerfully articulated reforms, idealistic in philosophy but realistic in execution, accepted the dictum that "legislation may begin where an evil begins. The 36,000 patents granted before 1860 were but a pale forerunner of the flood of inventions to follow.

From 1860 to 1890, 440,000 patents were issued, and in the first quarter of the twentieth century, the number reached nearly a million. The principle of the dynamo, which was developed as early as 1831, revolutionized American life after 1880, when Thomas Edison and others made its use practical. Morse perfected electrical telegraphy in 1844, distant parts of the continent were soon linked by a network of poles and wires. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell exhibited a telephone instrument and, within half a century, 16,000,000 telephones were accelerating the social and economic life of the nation.

The tempo of business was quickened too by the invention of the typewriter in 1867, the adding machine in 1888, and the cash register in 1897. The linotype composing machine, invented in 1886, the rotary press, and paper-folding machinery made it possible to print 240,000 eight-page newspapers in an hour.

After 1880, Edison's incandescent lamp brought to millions of homes better, safer, cheaper light than had ever been known before. The talking machine was also perfected by Edison who, in conjunction with George Eastman, developed the motion picture. These, and the many other applications of science and ingenuity, resulted in a new level of productivity in virtually all fields.

Concurrently, the basic industry of the nation-iron and steel-was forging ahead, protected by a high tariff. Previously concentrated near deposits in the eastern states, the iron industry moved westward as geologists discovered new ore deposits.

Especially notable was the great Mesabi iron range at the head of Lake Superior which, within a short time, proved one Of the greatest ore producers in the world. The ore lay on the surface of the ground and was easy and cheap to mine. Remarkably free of chemical impurities, it could be processed under the new converter or open-hearth methods into steel of superior quality at a price of thirty-five dollars instead of the previously prevailing cost of three hundred dollars a ton.

Advances in steel production were, to a great extent, achieved by Andrew Carnegie, a major figure in the history of the industry.

1870-1900: Industrial Development

Coming to America from Scotland as a boy of twelve, he progressed from work as a bobbin boy in a cotton factory to a job in a telegraph office, and then to one on the Pennsylvania Railroad. Before be was thirty, he had made shrewd and farsighted investments, which by 1865 were concentrated in iron. Within a few years, he had organized or had stock in companies making iron bridges, rails, and locomotives.

Ten years later, the steel mill be built on the Monongahela River in Pennsylvania was the greatest in the country. Year by year, Carnegie's business grew. He acquired commanding control not only, over new mills, but also over coke and coal properties, iron ore from Lake Superior, a fleet of steamers on the Great Lakes, a port town on Lake Erie, and a connecting railroad.

His business was allied with a dozen others; it could command favorable terms from railroads and shipping lines; it had capital enough for expansion and a plentiful supply of labor. Nothing comparable in the way of industrial expansion had ever been seen before in America.

In many respects, the history of Carnegie is the story of big business in the United States. Although he long dominated the industry, he never succeeded in achieving a complete monopoly over the natural resources, transportation, and industrial plans involved in the making of steel. In the 1890's, companies rose to challenge his pre-eminence.

Stung by competition, Carnegie at first threatened to acquire new mines and build an even more powerful business; but, as an old and tired man, he was finally willing to listen to the suggestion that he merge his holdings with the new organization which would embrace most of the important iron and steel properties in the nation.

The United States Steel Corporation which resulted from this merger in 1901, illustrated a process that had been under way for thirty years. Begun during the Civil War, the trend gathered momentum after the seventies. Businessmen realized that if they could bring competing firms into a single organization, they could control both production and markets. Developed to achieve these ends were the "corporation" and the "trust" which were in many respects logical forms of organization for large-scale undertakings.

For in a corporation a wide reservoir of capital could be tapped.

Twentieth Century: Society in the United States

Potential investors were attracted by the fact that they could expect profits from their purchase of stocks and bonds but were liable, in case of business failure, only to the extent of their investments. The trust was, in effect, a combination of corporations whereby the stockholders of each placed their stocks in the hands of trustees who managed the business of all.

Trusts made possible large-scale combinations, centralized control and administration, and the pooling of patents. By virtue of their capital resources, they had greater power to expand, to compete with foreign business companies, and to drive hard bargain,; with labor, which was at this time beginning to organize effectively.

They could also exact favorable terms from railroads and to exercise influence in politics.

The Era of Expansion and Reform

The Standard Oil Company, one of the earliest and strongest corporations, was followed rapidly by other trusts and combinations - in cottonseed oil, lead, sugar, tobacco, and rubber. Aggressive businessmen began to mark out industrial domains for themselves. The MeCormicks established pre-eminence in the reaper business. The trend was clearly reflected in a survey made in t904 which showed that more than five thousand previously independent concerns had been consolidated into same three hundred industrial trusts.

In still other fields - in transportation and communication particularly-the trend toward amalgamation was spectacular. Western Union, earliest of the large combinations, was followed by the Bell Telephone System and eventually by the American Telephone and Telegraph Company.

Cornelius' Vanderbilt had early seen that efficient railroading required the unification of lines. In the sixties be had knit some thirteen separate railroads into a single line connecting New York City and Buffalo, nearly 300 miles away. Other consolidations were already under way, and soon the major railroads of the nation were organized into trunk lines and "systems" directed by half a dozen men.

Within its borders were focused all the dynamic economic forces: With populations recruited from the countryside and from lands across the sea, villages grew into towns and towns sprang Into cities almost overnight. In 1830, only one of every fifteen persons lived in communities of 8,000 or over, in 1860 nearly one out of every six, in 1890 three out of ten.

No single city had as many as a million inhabitants in 1860, but thirty years later New York had a million and a half, and Chicago and Philadelphia each had over a million, In these three decades, Philadelphia and Baltimore doubled in population; Kansas City and Detroit grew fourfold, Cleveland sixfold, Chicago tenfold.

Minneapolis and Omaha and many communities like them which were mere hamlets when the Civil War began, increased fifty times or more in population. Vital as were these developments, their implications were not sufficiently understood to make a significant impact on the political life of the period. Although there was an abundance of issues before the American people, one distinguished historian has written, "between 1865 and 1897 there were put upon the federal law books not more than two or three acts which need long detain the citizen concerned only with those -manifestations of political power that produce essential readjustments in human relations.

He alone of the Presidents following the war had some understanding of the significance and direction of the changes that were transforming the country and made some effort to grapple with the problems resulting from them. In the question of railroads, for instance, many abuses demanded readjustment.

Particularly pernicious was discrimination in rates against small shippers in the form of rebates to larger ones. While competition held down freight charges between cities having several rail connections, rates were excessive between points served by but one line.

  • Within a year he had shown that he understood the great changes sweeping over America; he was determined to give the people a "square deal;
  • The relationship of the three figures in this statue captures this tension;
  • The expansion into the west largely explains this extraordinary achievement;
  • The MeCormicks established pre-eminence in the reaper business.

As a result therefore, it cost less to ship goods 800 miles from Chicago to New York than to places a few hundred miles east of Chicago. Railroads also tried plans of joint action to avoid competition. By one of these devices - pooling- rival companies divided the freight business according to a prearranged scheme placing the total earnings in a common fund for distribution. Popular resentment at these railroad practices deepened as time passed, and some efforts at regulation were made by the states.

Although these had some salutary effect, the problem was, by its very nature, national in character and therefore demanded Congressional action. This statute forbade excessive charges, pools, rebates, and rate discrimination, and created an Interstate Commerce Commission to guard against violations of the act and to regulate railroad charges and practices.

  • These were to serve as depositories for the cash reserves of those banks which joined the system;
  • The heroes of the day were all reformers, voicing the needs of the times;
  • The movement it had started, however, revived in the Farmers' Alliances which began in the late eighties and early nineties;
  • No single city had as many as a million inhabitants in 1860, but thirty years later New York had a million and a half, and Chicago and Philadelphia each had over a million, In these three decades, Philadelphia and Baltimore doubled in population; Kansas City and Detroit grew fourfold, Cleveland sixfold, Chicago tenfold.

Cleveland was also an energetic champion of tariff reform. Adopted originally as an emergency war measure, the high tariff had come to be accepted as permanent national policy. Cleveland regarded this as unsound and responsible, in large measure, for a burdensome increase in the cost of living and for the rapid development of trusts.

  • But during and after Reconstruction, blacks were often treated as second-class citizens;
  • By 1900, labor was a force in America that no statesman could ignore;
  • And as manufacturing had developed in the decades following the war, so was agriculture now undergoing a revolution;
  • Yet thoughtful Americans did not look with complacency upon their social, economic, and political situation;
  • Under the Homestead Act they staked off their claims and fenced them in with barbed wire, ousting the ranchmen from lands they had possessed without legal title.

For years, the tariff had not even been a political issue. In 1880, however, the Democrats had demanded a "tariff for revenue only," and soon the clamor for reform became insistent.

In his annual message in 1887, Cleveland, despite warnings to avoid the explosive subject, startled the nation by denouncing the fantastic extremes to which the principle of protecting American industry from foreign competition had been pushed.

This question became the issue of the next presidential election campaign, and the Republican candidate, Benjamin Harrison, defending the concept of protectionism, won. His administration set about fulfilling its campaign promises by new legislation, and the McKinley tariff bill was passed in 1890. This measure sought not only to protect established industries, but also to foster infant industries and, by prohibitory duties, to create new ones. The generally high rates prescribed by the new tariff were shortly reflected in high retail prices, and before long there was widespread dissatisfaction, During this period, public concern was increasingly directed at the trusts.

Subjected to bitter attack through the eighties by such reformers as Henry George and Edward Bellamy, the gigantic corporations became not only an object of antagonism but also a political issue. In 1890, the Sherman Antitrust Act was passed. Its primary intention was to break the monopolies; it forbade all combinations in restraint of interstate trade and provided several methods of enforcement with severe penalties. The law itself accomplished little immediately after its passage, for it was couched in general and indefinite terms.

A decade later, however, in the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, its effective application earned the President the nickname of "trust-buster. The vitality of the American people in these years was concentrated elsewhere; its impact was perhaps most clearly reflected in the history of the west.

In 1865, the frontier line followed generally the western limits of the states bordering the Mississippi River, bulging outward to include the eastern sections of Kansas and Nebraska.

Behind this thin edge of pioneer farms was still much unoccupied land, and beyond that stretched the unfenced prairies, merging finally in the sagebrush plains that extended to the foothills of the Rockies, Then, for nearly a thousand miles loomed the huge bulk of mountain ranges, many richly stored with silver, gold, and other metals. On the Pacific side, new plains and the many reforms changes and inventions that happened in america in the early 1900s stretched to the wooded coast ranges and the ocean.

Apart from the settled districts in California and scattered outposts, the vast inland region was peopled only by Indians. Yet a quarter of a century later, virtually all the country had been carved into states and territories.

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Settlement was spurred by the Homestead Act of 1862 which granted free farms of 160 acres to citizens who would occupy and improve the land. By 1880, nearly 56,000,000 acres had thus found their way into private hands.

The wars with the Indians had come to an end. Miners had ranged over the whole of the mountain country, tunneling into the earth, establishing little communities in Nevada, Montana, and Colorado.

Cattlemen, taking advantage of the enormous grasslands, had laid claim to the vast region stretching from Texas to the upper Missouri River. Sheepmen, too, had found their way to the valleys and mountain slopes. Then the farmers swarmed into the plains and valleys and closed the gap between the east and west.