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Progress and Conflict in the New Industrial Order. History 17B Lecture 3. Spirit of Individualism. “Rags to Riches” stories Horatio Alger’s characters embraces individualism Hard work pays off. Mainstream Ideals. Andrew Carnegie. J.P. Morgan. John D. Rockefeller.

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spirit of individualism
Spirit of Individualism
  • “Rags to Riches” stories
    • Horatio Alger’s characters embraces individualism
      • Hard work pays off.
mainstream ideals
Mainstream Ideals

Andrew Carnegie

J.P. Morgan

John D. Rockefeller

  • Captains of industry embody individualist philosophy.
  • Both political parties argue for minimal government interference.
    • Except to help big business and ensure cheap labor.
  • Federal government sought to unite nation into a single economic unit.
the new industrial economy
Rich in Resources

Iron Ore, Oil, Gold, etc.

Steel and capital goods


Railroads allow for movement of goods.

Refrigerator car (1877).

The New Industrial Economy

Bessemer Process

business efficiency

Minimize costs and maximize profits.

Replace or augment human labor.

Sell more goods cheaply AND at a profit.

Scientific Management (aka “Taylorism”)

Reduce tasks to a minimum of movement directed by one authority.

Management holds monopoly of knowledge.

Non-skilled, cheap labor performs simple, repetitive tasks. (Assembly line.)

Business Efficiency

Frederick Taylor

robber barons
Massive fortunes

Carnegie, Rockefeller, Gould, and Vanderbilt


Capitalists who extracted wealth from economic system while adding nothing to it.


Industrial statesmen; symbols of the individualist creed,

Robber Barons





Disparity in Wealth

Gap between rich and poor

In 1890

Top 1% of population owned 25% of nation’s wealth

Top 10% of population owned 75% of nation’s wealth

Was individualist creed a justification for wealth and exploitation?

Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth”

Rich should help the poor help themselves.

Donate to cultural, educational, and scientific endeavors.

Social Darwinism

Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner’s theories of “survival of the fittest.”

The rich are the most fit.

Government shouldn’t interfere with natural process.

laissez faire
  • Government takes a backseat to business in economy.
    • Belief that individuals dependent on government will lose freedom.
  • Myth of Laissez-Faire and Big Business
    • Protection from overseas competition
    • Laws to facilitate corporate financial growth

“What a funny little government”, 1900

free markets and competition
Danger of decreased competition.

Capitalism can lead to monopoly and concentration of wealth.


Reduce competition, control production, and set prices.

Free Markets and Competition
consequences to the worker
Consequences to the Worker
  • Karl Marx and Worker Alienation
    • Workers have nothing to sell but their labor which is subject to price fluctuations like any other commodity.
  • Workers merely a cog in the machine
triangle shirtwaist fire 1911
146 people (mostly women and children) die in factory fire

Doors locked to keep women in and union organizers out.

Fire escapes poorly made.

146 people killed.

Triangle Shirtwaist Fire, 1911
child labor
Child Labor
  • By 1900, 1.7 million children working
  • 60 hours per week in mines, glass factories, sweat shops, farms.
  • Poor parents often had no choice.
labor s challenge
Great Strike of 1877

100,000 railroad workers strike when wages cut 10%

Strikes spread across country into all industries.

Crushed but contributes to building a labor consciousness.

Labor’s Challenge
labor unions
Knights of Labor

A “cooperative commonwealth” open to all of the producing class

Promotes broad social reform.

730,000 members (1886)

American Federation of Labor (AFL)

Open only to skilled workers for more bargaining power.

Samuel Gompers and “pure and simple unionism”

130,000 members (1886)

Labor Unions

Samuel Gompers

haymarket riot of 1886
Many radical Socialists and Anarchists who believe reform of capitalism is futile.

Anarchist rally turns into police riot in Haymarket Square, Chicago.

Anarchists and Labor Unions are blamed.

Knights of Labor folds but AFL gains strength.

Haymarket Riot of 1886
the use of state violence
State violence weakens unions.

Homestead Steel (1892) and Pullman (1894) strikes both broken by state militia and federal troops.

Strike leaders and sympathetic town officials arrested on charges of riot, murder, and treason.

The Use of State Violence
iww wobblies
Tactics were one of direct action through strikes and sabotage to spark a worker’s uprising.

Industrial Workers of the World

A radical western labor union focusing on unskilled workers.

IWW (Wobblies)
american radicalism
American Radicalism

The new industrial order would not commence without challenges from American workers.