Steel, Supply, and Sweat: The Industrialization of America #2

Brief Intro Paragraph:

            As an update to my first post discerning America’s industrialization through steel, supply, and sweat, this post will further the general understanding of America’s workers: both positive and negative. To deepen the understanding of this period in American history, one must personally understand the perspectives of those who witnessed this history first-hand. For the past couple of days, our Honors History class has researched our respective topics with the use of online interactive activities. These activities provided primary sources such as first-hand accounts, pictures, and newspaper reactions detailing the events respective to our topics. With the information produced by these activities, we were able to update our original blog posts with new information about personal experiences and events that affected our topic. The main update of this post is the dark and infamous event that greatly influenced American industry and the treatment of its workers, The Homestead Strike of July 6th, 1892. My interactive activity can be found here:

Key Terms:
  • Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American businessman that revolutionized American industry through his methodical and successful steel production company, Carnegie Steel. Carnegie rose from humble beginnings to become a very wealthy investor of modern technology.
  • John Rockefeller was an American businessman who attempted to create an American monopoly through his dominating and highly profitable oil production company, Standard Oil.
  • J.P. Morgan was an American businessman who mastered company finances through his uses of industrial consolidations for industries including banking, electricity, and steel.
  • Monopoly is the total control of the supply and trade of a product or service.
  • Vertical consolidation is the complete control over all phases of a product’s development. This was utilized by Carnegie to ensure the lowest possible production costs of his products
  • Horizontal consolidation is the act of merging different companies together in order to create a larger, more profitable company. This was utilized by Carnegie and Rockefeller to dominate the steel and oil industry (respectively) by merging with his competitors
  • Trust (used in business) is the unofficial bond of different companies without a merger so that several companies could be managed at the same time as a single unit. This was utilized by Rockefeller after he was ordered by state law that he could not own a monopoly, thus the trust was used to avoid this law.
  • The Sherman Antitrust Law was a law passed in Congress in 1890 to prevent the combination of companies that restrained trade or commerce. The law proved unsuccessful for several years as the law was vague enough to interpret differently from its original clause.
  • Piecework was a rule utilized in factories that dictated that those who worked the fastest and produced the most pieces of products earned the most money. Workers were paid by production (not hours) so that companies could reach production quotas at the lowest possible production cost.
  • Sweatshops were factory shops where employees worked long hours at low wages under poor working conditions. These shops usually had very low standards of cleanliness and safety.
  • The Homestead Strike was a major worker strike that took place on July 6, 1892 at Homestead Steel Works in Homestead, Pennsylvania. Homestead was an important steel production mill for Carnegie Steel, but due to wage controversies the workers threatened to strike. In an attempt to resolve the conflict, the workers were fired and the mill was locked out. The workers had the strike anyway, took hold of the mill property, and surrounded the mill to prevent private security forces from retaking the property. A battle erupted between the strikers and the private security forces, resulting in casualties on both sides.
Enduring Understandings:

Industrialized business rose greatly in America due to major investments.

  • Larger pools of capital were used in business investments, costs, and loans. (America: Pathways to the Present)
  • The revised role of business ownership significantly increased the number operations, workers, products, and management. (America: Pathways to the Present)
  • Much of Carnegie’s fortune was invested in Homestead, a steel mill 150 acres wide and employs 4,500 men. In 1888, Carnegie spent $500,000 to create a monopoly by purchasing the 14 competing steel mills to be added to the Carnegie plant. (Illustrated American)

The capital invested innovations of American inventors lead to more efficient methods of commodity production.

  • Edwin Drake’s drilling for oil allowed for easier oil production, creating a new, abundant energy source. (America: Pathways to the Present)
  • Thomas Edison’s new energy source, electricity, became widely available and was used for new inventions like electric lighting. (America: Pathways to the Present)
  • Steel (used as a building material, greatly superior to iron) was produced at a much faster rate than ever before because of the improved Bessemer Process (developed by Henry Bessemer and William Kelly), allowing for productions of higher quality. (Robber Barons and Rebels)

The animosity from the workers in retaliation to their low wages lead to very emotional strikes that caused their anger and frustration to be vented in a single protest, the Homestead Strike.

Homestead Strike, Defeated Pinkertons

  • This sketch depicts the absolute rage expressed upon the defeated Pinkerton detectives after their failed landing to suppress the Homestead Strike. (Created by G.A. Davis, sketch by C. Upham for the July 14th edition of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Weekly.) Click to view full picture.
Reflection Paragraph:

            A first-hand experience of my topic would be certainly a dark one. Imagine living in 1892, being at the very bottom of the power structure, experiencing hard work in a steel factory with little pay. The price of bread is equal to your daily wage. (Illustrated American) With wages fixed and disputes over pay erupting, fellow workers are debating a strike. (Illustrated American) The strike is planned to take place on the same day as your work contract termination, June 30th. However, on the 29th, Homestead is shut down and the workers are locked out. (The Pittsburgh Post) The strikers begin the Homestead Strike on July 6th, taking Carnegie Steel property. Private security contractors, Pinkerton’s detectives, arrive in river barges but the striker mob prevents them from landing. Pinkerton’s men point rifles at the mob and several detectives land. The mob rush to seize the Pinkerton’s weapons and a rifle is fired from the barge. The mob falls back, only to retaliate enough that the barges are successfully prevented from landing. Pinkerton’s men are trapped inside their barges and finally surrender on the condition that they would be protected from the mob. Pinkerton’s men are then lead outside of their boats, unarmed, facing severe physical and vocal attacks from the mob. The National Guard is called to restore order several days later, and 8,500 men break up the mob. (New York Herald) The Homestead Strike will be remembered as a failed union to prevent the unjust treatment of workers, all being driven by steel, supply, sweat, and now sacrifice.


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