The Industrial Era, 1877 - 1882 (PERSIA)

P: End of Reconstruction, Compromise of 1877

The Close Election of 1876

During Reconstruction, Republicans dominated the South with carpetbaggers and troops in order to maintain peace in the once rebellious South. The South (the majority being Democrats) resented this treatment, and when the election of 1876 came were determined to try and win. The Republicans’ candidate was Rutherford B. Hayes, while the Democratic candidate was Samuel J. Tilden.

Problems With the Tally-

The election of 1876 is considered one of the closest in American history, and for good reason. The outcome of the election was as followed:
Though Tilden seemed to be the winner, reports of “bulldozing” at southern polls (not allowing African Americans to vote) questioned the legitimacy of his victory. It was suspected that many votes were lost due to the suppressed vote of the southern African American community. With this in mind, there was no clear victor for this election.

To solve the issue, a special committee was formed to vote on who would be president. The committee was divided evenly with members from all the different sections of government: half democrats, half republicans. The exception was one judge, a supposed independent, who sided with the Republicans in the vote. However, Hayes beat Tilden with just an 8 to 7 vote.

Filibustering & Compromise-

Democrats, wanting Tilden to be the winner, used a filibuster (long speeches meant to stall the vote at a congressional meeting) to try and pass the inaugural date before the final vote could be counted. However, the final count was completed. Even though the final count had declared Hayes the winner, the Democratic congress refused to acknowledge it. Therefore, the Republicans and Hayes compromised with the Democrats so their candidate could be sworn in as president.
Hayes beats Tilden, with the help of the Democrats

With this, known as the Compromise of 1877, Union/Republican involvement in the South lessened and most of the Reconstruction efforts stopped. Hayes, believing in moderates to protect African American rights instead of Freedman’s Bureau, gave the South the terms of the compromise (which included withdrawl of troops in the South). This marked the end of Reconstruction, and the dawning of the Industrial Age.

The Election of 1880-

By this election, the Republican Party split into factions: the “Stalwarts” and the “Half-Breeds.” The Stalwarts favored the old spoils system, while the Half-Breeds liked civil service reform and merit points for government posts. James A. Garfield was candidate for the Half-Breeds, with a vice-president of Chester A. Arthur from the Stalwarts. Meanwhile Gen. Winfield S. Hancock was the Democratic candidate. James Garfield won, but was sadly shot in 1881 by a madman before he could really fill his post. The new president, Chester Arthur, tried to be a balance between the Stalwarts and the Half-Breeds by passing civil reforms and trying to reform the spoils system (Pendleton Act, 1881).
James A. Garfield
Election of 1880 results

N.B. During campaigns, Republicans kept public sentiment in their favor with the “bloody shirt campaign,” which reminded the public of the Civil War which they blamed on democrats and the murder of the beloved Abraham Lincoln

The Greenbacks-

Also known as the Greenback-Labor party, they supported paper money (hence their name, greenback) to help aid such groups as farmers who associated the not-speices backed system as a sign of prosperity. In the 1878 elections they gained 14 members into Congress, including James B. Weaver who was a future leader of the Populist Party. In that election they got nearly a million votes. The Greenback-Labor Party also supported public control and regulation of private enterprises (i.e. Railroads) so there could be more equitable competition.

E: Industrial Era Economy

The New South-

The New South was mainly about economics, and its supporters argued for laissez-faire capitalism, industry and manufacturing, and better transportation. Since the President Hayes fulfilled his promise to create a transcontinental southern railroad, New South supporters such as Henry Grady (editor of the Atlanta Constitution) to spread the word about the benefits of capitalism. Eventually the local governments turned in favor of this New South, and the South began to attract northern business interest with its excellent ability to grow various crops. Agriculture remained as the major economic focus, especially cotton. Cotton became the South’s greatest asset, allowing for the development of a textile industry and a vast wealth from transcontinental trade (thanks to the railroad). Though the South produced the cotton, it was shipped to the North to be sold. Northern investors actually held a startling amount of Southern industry, from the railroads to cotton to steel.
The cotton gin was an essential part of cotton growing, as it refined the cotton for sale.

Without government enforcement of black rights, African Americans were the victims of the New South. Grouped together with poor whites with bad educations, many blacks stayed in the South and became serfs due to the crop-lien system. The crop-lien system made Africans Americans economic slaves. However, the entire Southern economy was hindered by these uneducated masses, because they could not compete on the same level as Northern manufacturing. Already behind at industrializing, the South still relied on mass farm labor to try and gain as much wealth as possible.

Westward Expansion, building up to the Industrial Era

New Frontiers & Industry-

With the help of technology, westward expansion began after the Civil War opening up new land and resources: coal, iron, copper, lead, timber, oil, etc. This new frontier became even more open with the building of the transcontinental railroad and the growth of industry (particularly in the North).

Inventions & Copper-

Thomas Edison, with the lightbulb
Edison’s invention of the light bulb (1879) and the electric generator (1881) A.G. Bell’s telegraph created a major market for copper. With these new technologies, mining for copper became a large industry. With electricity to light the tunnels, a migration of laborers who wanted to move West for opportunities, and the finding of copper mines in Montana, mining had a large appeal to Eastern capitalists. Mining soon became a highly mechanized industry, not only in copper but in steel and silver (the price of silver exceeded gold during this time, making American silver mines extremely popular) as well.

N.B. Disregarding the environment, placer mining and hydraulic mining were common practices. These hurt the soil and overall hurt western habitats. The damage from this practice is still noticeable today.

Capitalist interest also spread to farmland out West, creating “bonanza farms” (huge wheat farms that cultivated with heavy machinery and hired labor). These farms would soon produce wheat at an increasingly fast rate, helping the American economic market. However, later this mass production would result in economic depression and hardships for small farmers and agriculture in America.

Trains for Transportation-

Ranching out West would not have been so profitable if it hadn’t been for refrigerated cars to transport meat from the West towards industrial cities, such as Chicago.

Note for studying:

Related subjects to Westward Expansion-
-death of the Plains Indian
-sodbusters and the “wild west”
-helpful podcast (warning: monotone voice) Mr. Shocket, Chapter 18

Industrial Giants-

The Industrial Era was a beneficial time for businessmen and inventors. The government began creating patents to protect ideas that inventors create. Between 1860 and 1890, over 440,000 new patents were granted. While inventors expanded technology, businessmen embraced them and incorporated their inventions into their business empires.

The railroads truly can be credited for kicking off the Industrial Era, as they improved transportation and required supplies from many industries (steel, coal, etc.). Out of this industry came a few key men, who later became known as the “Robber Barons:”

Business & Strategies
Andrew Carnegie

Carnegie Steel
-used latest technology
-vertical integration
-Irish immigrant, who started off working for the railroad
-major supporter of the Gospel of Wealth
John D. Rockefeller

Standard Oil
-horizontal integration
-destroyed competition (e.g. lower prices)
-Standard Oil Trust
-did not believe in Gospel of Wealth
-criticized for unfair business tactics
J.P. Morgan

US Steel Corporation
-bought Carnegie Steel for $900 million
-also criticized for organizing large monopolies

Labor & Unions-

Pre-Industrial Era, labor was not organized and mainly relied on artisan skill. As mechanized industry took over, the skilled laborer found themselves obsolete to machines. Mass production was the goal, and efficiency was key. The skilled laborer was no longer needed, instead unskilled laborers who were efficient and worked for low income became the desirable work force. This is where Unions came into the picture.
The strike violence. On the left are the federal troops, on the right are the strikers.

Unions benefitted workers because they allowed them to work as a group to demand certain rights. If rights were not met, Unions also had the right to strike. The most famous strike of the Industrial Era was the Railroad Strike of 1877. The combination of an economic depression, railroad company cutbacks, and disgruntled employees led to a violent clash of laborers and management. The strike was against the Baltimore and Ohio rails, with half a million strikers participating. Though President Hayes called in federal troops, the violence still did not die down until after around a hundred people died. After the violence ended, some workers were compensated with better pay, but many were left to try and reorganize to fight for more. This is one of the points that made management and union relations so hostile.

Even with this strike, most unions did not rise until right after the Industrial Era ended. The first National Labor Union died after the unsuccessful strike of 1877, however unions such as the Knights of Labor slowly gained membership and went public in 1881.

Disgruntled Farmers-

One of the only businesses to face hardships during the Industrial Era were farmers from all over America. In a mechanized age, all types of farmers were hurt from the reliance on technology to try and meet the ever-increasing demand of the new free market. Small farmers could not afford the machines it cost to compete with highly mechanized large farms, large farms became highly dependent on Northern industries (e.g. supplying manufacturers with the goods to sell in catalogs), and all farmers were hurt by the wave of foreign cheaper crops that the global market produced. China, Russia, and Latin American countries produced various crops as well, creating abundance. This abundance drove down the price of crops. With less profit, farmers could not maintain the machines needed to produce and still make some sort of income. They also had to pay very large taxes on their land, making the tariffs protecting American industry more harmful than beneficial.

Class Divisions-

With the wealth so unevenly divided (the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer), the problems of the Gilded Age began in the Industrial Era.

R: Social Gospel

Though it mainly took off in later 1880s, protestant clergyman started to preach the Social Gospel in near the end of the Industrial Era (early 1880s). Its most famous advocate was Walter Rauschenbusch, who worked in New York City’s more ethnic neighborhood preaching the concept of applying Christian principles to social problems of the day. This movement stirred a call to action that took off in the Progressive Era, especially in cities.

Religion became especially focused in cities. As the New Immigrant population came in (mainly Catholic), religion became very important in ethnic neighborhoods. Also, the Salvation Army came to America from England in 1879.

S: Minority Groups

Native Americans-

Through this time, Native Americans’ (especially the Plains Indians) livelihood was threatened. With the expansion west and the killing of buffalo, Native Americans were fighting to prevent the government from erasing them and their culture from America. During the Industrial Era, one specific even was the surrender of Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians to Canada to army in 1877.

However, not everyone turned a blind eye to Native American struggles. Helen Hunt Jackson, a social critic, wrote A Century of Dishonor in 1881, describing the mistreatment of Native Americans by the USA. This book did cause some action, though it was mainly in support of assimilating them into white culture and converting them to Christianity.


Even before the Industrial Revolution, immigrants flocked to America for all the opportunities it had to offer. There was the chance for a job, a better income, even the chance to own land (thanks to the Homestead Act of 1862 which gave 160 acres of free land out west as long as a family settled there for 5 years). Even with these opportunities immigrants faced discrimination, especially in the work place. Many labor unions, nativist groups (i.e. the American Protective Association), and Social Darwinists disliked immigrants taking jobs and land that “native” Americans could fill. The first governmental action against immigrants was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited Chinese laborers from entering the USA (especially in California).
Settlement Housing

One aspect of immigrant life that would be an important reform movement in the Progressive Era was urban life. For most immigrant families, jobs were low-income and discrimination prevented them from buying property in certain areas of cities. Since many jobs were offered in cities, immigrants settled into ethnic neighborhoods (“ghettos”). They lived in tenement houses, which were small living spaces that would hold a large number of people. These small spaces were breeding grounds of diseases. Even if laws were passed (i.e. the law to ensure each apartment must have a window), many landlords ignored these laws or found loopholes. These poor conditions were unclean, yet allowed immigrants to maintain their unique cultures with others from similar backgrounds.

African Americans-

Blacks in America did not find much liberation in the new economic market, though it depended more on the region. For African Americans who stayed in the South, many became victims of the crop lien system, which made them practically serfs. Also, many reforms from Reconstruction were denied in the Supreme Court, almost all dealing with civil rights. The denial of these anti-discriminatory acts led eventually to the Jim Crowe Laws and segregation.

For blacks that migrated North (known during Reconstruction as the “Great Migration), life was a little better. Not tied down to work laboriously in cotton fields, they still had to work hard and face discrimination in the workplace.

Also, in 1881 Booker T. Washington established the Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, AL. The Institute became to be known as one of the best schools for both agriculture and industry.

Booker T. Washington


The call for labor brought women out of the private sector, at least in the cities. They also became more involved. Still demanding voting rights, many women also became involved in the Christian Temperance Movement, which advocated against the “alcoholic republic” and the lack of morality that came with drink. They also took stances on planned parenthood, human rights, anti-prostitution crusades, and equal rights for all.

I: Social Darwinism & Critics-

Social Darwinism & Laissez-Faire -

For the first time in American history, the USA embraced capitalism as the basis of its economy. Under the free market, industry could flourish and grow. Laissez-Faire economics meant that there was little government involvement and competition in business was encouraged. The major support for a competitive market was Darwin’s theory of “natural selection.” When applied to the economy, it meant that only the strongest and the hardest working get the benefits of being the best and gaining the wealth. The weaker businesses would die out. This reflected the idea that in the wild, the weakest die out first while the strongest thrive and live on. The poor, as William Graham Sumner put it, were unfit to survive and did not deserve charity as that is not the natural way. Laissez-Faire was embraced, especially with the rise of the monopolies in the 1880s.

Gospel of Wealth-

Another aspect of Social Darwinism was the concept of the Gospel of Wealth. Practiced and preached by Andrew Carnegie, it was the idea that the wealthy had a responsibility to give back to the community at large. As a religious person, Andrew Carnegie applied the idea of "Christian charity" in the creation of public museums, parks, and beautification projects that benefited society as a whole. The Gospel of Wealth, though seemingly contradictory, worked under Social Darwinism since it did not directly give money to the poor.

Literary Critics-

As the mechanized world took shape, the earliest of a group that would be later known as “muckrakers” began. The first social critic of this kind was Henry George, who wrote Poverty and Progress that talked about how to solve poverty. His solution was a single property tax, which would make the rich pay more than the poor. This idea of the rich being far more wealthy than the poor was exposed in George’s work. More writers (such as Edward Bellamy, who wrote Looking Backward: 2000-1887) would emerge to open the eyes of the American reading public to the “mucky” parts of society.

A: Architecture & Literature

For literature, see “critics” in the Ideology section.


The most important factors of architecture during this time were three things: skyscrapers, government buildings, and public parks. Skyscrapers came later in the 1880s, but Louis Sullivan of Chicago began designing skyscrapers to match the industrialized city atmosphere. Skyscrapers were possible due to the invention of the elevator by Elisha Otis. For government buildings, the use of Greco-Roman architecture made a distinct style that is still used today. Columns, marble, and sleek exteriors became the norm for federal buildings. Frank Law Olmstead was one of the first landscape architects to create the concept of the public park in cities, and he designed Central Park. With such donators as Andrew Carnegie later in the 1880s and on, the public park became one way for the wealthy to give back to the community.
Federal Bank building, with classical architecture

Helpful Podcast: Mr. Shocket, Chapter 19