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America's History in the Making

Industrializing America

In the Video

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Historical Perspectives

Historical Perspectives

After Reconstruction, mass production, mass immigration, and movements for social change converged to bring about a period of unprecedented economic expansion. Advances in mass production and mass distribution changed how people worked and lived. The nation's patent system encouraged innovation by protecting the rights of inventors. The mass production of goods became more mechanized and efficient, output increased, and profits rose, allowing businessmen to invest and expand American industry. Through published advertisements, American businesses recruited overseas immigrants to work in the nation's factories, mills, farms, and railroads. Millions of immigrations from Asia, Latin America, and Europe provided the labor needed by American industry. These laborers often worked long hours at low wages and under harsh working conditions. Eventually, workers organized to change these conditions and went on strike to win their demands. Strikes and other forms of labor protests continued throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. National reaction to labor unrest ranged from calls for reform to outright repression. Although many groups favored better treatment of workers, women's organizations emerged as a powerful new force for labor reform: They fought for an end to child labor, the introduction of minimum wages, and improvements in health and safety conditions in factories.

Faces of America

Faces of America

Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a feminist author; Rose Cohen, a Russian immigrant garment worker; and Ah Bing, a Chinese immigrant farmer, represented the diverse cultures and ideas that emerged during American industrialization. Charlotte Perkins Gilman, a self-educated artist and author, proposed some radical ideas about the role of women in society. Gilman believed that women should have economic and professional opportunities beyond the domestic sphere. Rose Cohen's memoir described the immigrant experience in Manhattan's tenement district. Her memoir gives a compelling glimpse into the lives of European immigrants as they attempted to build a bridge from their old world origins into their new world. Ah Bing immigrated to the United States from China and worked at the Lewelling orchard in western Oregon. During periods of anti-Chinese rioting, Ah Bing and other Chinese laborers found refuge in the Lewelling home. Chinese discrimination culminated with the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited Chinese immigration into the United States.

Hands on History

Hands on History

How do you write a historical biography? Rayvon Fouché, an associate professor of science and technology studies at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, recreates the process he used to write the book Black Inventors in the Age Segregation. Fouché researched three African American inventors by researching history at the National Archives, examining primary sources at a historic home, and interviewing the granddaughter of one of the inventors. Read edited Hands on History interview with Rayvon Fouché.

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