From Farm To Factory: Industrialization In America

942 words - 4 pages

Post-bellum America experienced a shift from a rural, agrarian society to an urban, industrial society which caused a conversion in the way families functioned, forced Americans and immigrants alike to adjust to the unsympathetic factory system, and gave career opportunities to women for ages to come.Born in the country, America moved to the city in the decades following the Civil War. As agriculture deteriorated in relation to manufacturing, America could no longer aspire to be a nation of small freehold farms. Industrial jobs, above all, drew country folks off the farms and into factory centers. From 1950 to 1900, the percent of the labor force involved in manufacturing increased from 16.4 percent to 27.5 percent. The relocation to the city introduced Americans to dissimilar ways of living. In rural areas, dwellers produced little household waste. Domestic animals or scavenging pigs ate food scraps on the farm. Household products were sold in bulk at the local store, without wrapping. In the city, however, goods came in throwaway bottles, boxes, bags, and cans. Apartment houses had no adjoining barnyards where residents might toss garbage to the hogs. The new urban environment was hard on families. Paradoxically, the crowded cities were emotionally isolating places. Urban families had to manage on their own, separated from the clan, kin, and village. As families increasingly became the virtually exclusive arena for intimate companionship and for emotional and psychologically satisfaction, they were subjected to unprecedented stress. Many families cracked under the tension. The urban era launched the era of divorce. From the late nineteenth century dates the beginning of the "divorce revolution" that transformed the United States' social landscape in the twentieth century. Urban life also dictated changes in work habits and even in family size. Not only fathers but mothers and even children as young as ten years old often worked, and usually in widely scattered locations. On the farm having many children meant having more hands to help with hoeing and harvesting; but in the city more children meant more mouths to feed, more crowding in sardine-tin tenements, and more human baggage to carry in the uphill struggle for social mobility. Not surprisingly, birthrates were still dropping and family size continued to shrink as the nineteenth century lengthened.Urban centers mushroomed as the insatiable factories demanded more American labor and as immigrants swarmed like honeybees to the new jobs. Older ways of life wilted in the heat of the factory furnaces. The very concept of time was revolutionized. Rural American migrants and peasant European immigrants, used to living by the languid clock of nature, now had to regiment their lives to the factory whistle. The seemingly arbitrary discipline of industrial labor did not come easily and sometimes had to be forcibly taught. In "America, Past and Present", the author said, "Men and...

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