Second Industrial Revolution, 1870-1914 (2023)

unprecedented urbanization

Between 1820 and 1860, unprecedented urbanization and rapid territorial expansion transformed the visual map of the United States. These changes led to the Second Industrial Revolution, which peaked between 1870 and 1914. Studies of United States territorial expansion between the annexation of Texas (1845), the British withdrawal from Oregon, and the Guadalupe-Hidalgo Treaty (1848), which secured the transfer of Mexico to the Southwest, exponentially transformed the liberty of settlers, industrial capitalists, and the competing Native American visions of the future of the American Empire.

"If Rip Van Winkle of the West had fallen asleep in 1869 and woken up in 1896, he would not have recognized the country the railroad passed. bison have given way to cattle; the mountains are swollen and boring. Great expanses of once grass. The land now.” Corn and wheat were grown. Nation-states conquered the Indians, massacred some of them, and imprisoned and controlled most of them. Population grew over most of this vast area, cities also grew on the outskirts. A country that was once big North-South is now East-West. Any change can be traced back to the railways.”

need rail

Second Industrial Revolution, 1870-1914 (1)

The need for large-scale industry was evident: to reach the fledgling port cities of California like San Francisco and speed up the extraction of gold from the mines, railroads had to be built across the plains to reach the Pacific Ocean, and trade networks were opened. Many questions arose about the nature of this new American territory: would it rely on slave labor and fulfill Jefferson's original vision of an agrarian republic? Will corporations or the federal government create the necessary infrastructure to "tame the West"? Still others wondered if handing over the bison-rich plains to the New York-based company would destroy the American Dream for America's second and third sons. Still others see the technological innovations of the Second Industrial Revolution as the unstoppable culmination of modern civilization, driving the realization of Manifest Destiny. Problems of this sort are not new to American history. In the first half of the 19th century, Americans were forced to adjust to the effects of the first industrial revolution. The period 1750 to 1850 marks a century of increasing industrial activity around textiles. After Eli Whitney invented steam power and the cotton gin in 1793, cotton from the southern United States could be shipped from New England to the vast textile mills of Britain, creating a reverse triangular trade centered on a single global commodity. These developments were hailed by some as "progress," but the speed, scale, and reliance on slave labor inspired great anxiety and fear in others.

Although the economic and social problems of the first industrial revolution worried many,These concerns were brushed aside during the country's bloody civil war(1861-1865)。

  • Chinese railroad workers and golden nails

The following map shows the progress of the railroads before the Civil War (click to enlarge as always):

Second Industrial Revolution, 1870-1914 (2)
Second Industrial Revolution, 1870-1914 (3)

US economic growth

After the Civil War and Reconstruction, the U.S. economy grew significantly as it entered the "Second Industrial Revolution," commonly believed to have occurred between 1870 and 1914. The United States gained abundant natural resources from its newly acquired territories, a growing labor supply from immigrants from Europe, the north and west migration of emancipated African Americans, expanding markets for manufactured goods, and the availability of capital for investment.

With the help of new labor and production technologies, the Second Industrial Revolution lifted local communities and their new products from the shadow of large regional, agriculture-based economies. During the second industrial revolution, innovations in transportation such as roads, ships, straits, and especially railroads, connected previously isolated and distant communities.

shipment of products

For the first time, goods from the American heartland can be shipped directly to the Atlantic and vice versa. The ability to ship products long distances has transformed the nature of economic activity in the United States. Before the development of this complex system of transportation and communication, economies were localized and often based on a system of barter. The transportation revolution opened up new markets for farmers, industrialists, and bankers, who could now bring cotton from the Mississippi Valley, wheat from the Midwest, and manufactured goods from New York State to a global market on credit. Likewise, the expansion of the railroads drastically reduced the time and money required to haul heavy loads and opened up new opportunities for enrichment at a time when two-thirds of Americans still lived on farms.

government intervention

The federal government took an active part in this growth by promoting the development of industry and agriculture. High tariffs were imposed to protect American industry from foreign competition, railroads were granted land to encourage construction, and the military was used to drive Native Americans off the land that western farmers and mining companies wanted. The rapid growth of factory production, mining, and railroad construction encouraged the development of a new industrial economy in stark contrast to the small-scale farming and workshop economy of the early pre-Civil War days.

In 1913, the United States produced one-third of the world's industrial output, more than Britain, France, and Germany combined. As new technologies play an increasing role in the daily lives of working- and middle-class citizens, living standards and the purchasing power of money are improving rapidly. Between 1870 and 1920, nearly 11 million Americans moved from farms to cities, and another 25 million immigrated from overseas. In 1920, for the first time, the census showed that historically more people in the United States lived in cities than in the countryside.

connected growth

Second Industrial Revolution, 1870-1914 (4)

Inventions during the second industrial revolution are interconnected. Railroads encouraged the development of the telegraph. Telegraph wires and railway lines are inseparable, and telegraph bearings are distributed along the entire length of the railway lines. The telegraph, and later the telephone, ushered in an era of instant communication and led to, in the words of cultural historian Stephen Cohen, the "destruction of distance". This is a sea change for Americans. As these new technologies create a new sense of global unity, “local” becomes “national” and even “international”. These technologies have also accelerated the pace of life and the way people work and live.

Important technological advances of the second industrial revolution

  • 1870s.Automatic signals, air brakes and kingpins on the railways; Bessemer and then open hearth work in steelworks; Telephones, lamps and typewriters.
  • 1880s.Elevators and structural steel for buildings leading to the first "skyscrapers".
  • 1890s.the phonograph and the films; the dynamo, which contributed to modern household items such as refrigerators and washing machines, gradually replacing water and steam engines; and the Wright brothers, who invented the first automobile and airplane in 1903 and invented the internal combustion engine.

unstable growth

Economic growth during this period was exceptional but unpredictable. The world economy experienced two major depressions in 1873 and 1897. There is intense competition between companies vying for control of the industry. Many companies went bankrupt, others were taken over by larger companies that eventually dominated the market.

For those who can benefit from these technological advances, the second industrial revolution is very profitable. During the Great Depression of 1873, future industrial tycoon Andrew Carnegie founded a steel company that controlled all phases of the business, from raw materials to transportation, production, and distribution.

Second Industrial Revolution, 1870-1914 (5)

Carnegie Fortune

In the 1890s, Carnegie dominated the steel industry and amassed a multimillion-dollar fortune. Its steel mills are the most technologically advanced in the world, but its workers pay the price. Carnegie ran his company in an authoritarian manner. Factories operate 24 hours a day and workers work late hours. But at the same time, Carnegie believed that the wealthy had a moral responsibility to promote social progress, and he donated much of his fortune to various philanthropic causes, most notably the establishment of public libraries across the country.

Like Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller amassed a great fortune, although his wealth stemmed from his dominance in the oil industry.

Second Industrial Revolution, 1870-1914 (6)

beat the competition

Rockefeller destroyed rival oil companies through fierce competition, secret agreements with railroads, and setting prices and production quotas. He acquired competing refineries and oversaw all aspects of operations including drilling, refining, storage and distribution. Soon after, Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company controlled most of the country's oil industry. Like Carnegie, Rockefeller publicly supported many charities, but privately he dominated his workers and vehemently opposed their attempts to organize and unite.


The second industrial revolution fueled the Golden Age, a time of extremes: great wealth and widespread poverty, great expansion and deep depression, new opportunities and greater standardization. When the depressions of the 1870s and 1890s left millions unemployed or receiving lower wages, economic insecurity became an essential way of life. Those who continued to work in the industry experienced extremely dangerous working conditions, long hours, no workers' compensation, no pensions and low wages. But for a minority of workers, the industrial system offered new forms of freedom. Skilled workers earn high salaries in industrial jobs and oversee much of the production process. Financial independence today requires technical skills rather than workshop and tool ownership. It's called "progressive" by its supporters, but those who work in the factories know there's a price to pay.

This article will help answer the question "What are the effects of the second industrial revolution?" Topics: causes of the second industrial revolution, railroads, economic negative effects of the second industrial revolution, inventions of the second industrial revolution, golden age, wealth, poverty, Wealth inequality, oil, Rockefeller, Carnegie, technological advances of the second industrial revolution, transportation, second industrial revolution, when is it?

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Reed Wilderman

Last Updated: 01/23/2023

Views: 5748

Rating: 4.1 / 5 (52 voted)

Reviews: 91% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Reed Wilderman

Birthday: 1992-06-14

Address: 998 Estell Village, Lake Oscarberg, SD 48713-6877

Phone: +21813267449721

Job: Technology Engineer

Hobby: Swimming, Do it yourself, Beekeeping, Lapidary, Cosplaying, Hiking, Graffiti

Introduction: My name is Reed Wilderman, I am a faithful, bright, lucky, adventurous, lively, rich, vast person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.