The Benefits and Drawbacks of the Expansion of Industry and Corporations in the United States between 1860 and 1900

Between the years 1860 and 1900, industry and corporations expanded extremely rapidly. There were many different reasons that attributed to this increase. Along with the immense social and economic benefits of this time there were also negatives that hurt many Americans.

One of the factors that contributed to this growth was the abundant natural resources. Some of these resources included coal, iron, copper, lead, timber, and oil. Also, there was an abundant labor supply. There were so many immigrants that were arriving in America; big businesses had no problem with employment.

They could increase production because they could always find workers who were willing to work for very little pay. There was also many new technologies during this time. These technologies made jobs easier and it cut the time of production. They made it so businesses did not need skilled laborers working for them; only unskilled laborers to work the machines. With the improvements in transportation systems, such as the railroad, it made shipping goods much easier.

Because of this, new markets opened up in rural and western areas. Corporations could sell to more people which meant more money. With the government’s laissez faire policy, big corporations could keep growing without being regulated by the government.

With this economic expansion, some people became extremely successful. For example, people like John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and Cornelius Vanderbilt, created huge empires. They had monopolies over their industries which brought them excessive wealth. During this time, it was relatively easy for people with money to increase their wealth by investing their money in corporations or starting businesses of their own.

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Also, the improvements during this time helped to make the country more accessible. For example, with the improvements in the railroad business, people could get to other parts of the country much easier because all of the railroads were connected. This allowed more people to settle in the west.

While this expansion benefitted many wealthier upper class people, it hurt many of the lower working class citizens. For example, when big corporations formed monopolies over certain industries, it decreased competition. This meant that there were increased prices which hurt the poor and benefitted the rich. Over time, this created a huge gap between the classes. By 1890, 10 percent of the population controlled 90 percent of the nation’s wealth. Also, there were many labor problems. Immigrants worked in factories in poor conditions and for extremely low wages. There were so many unskilled workers looking for jobs, that if the workers complained about their conditions, they were easily replaced. The big corporations had complete control over their workers. There were many violent instances when the laborers tried to form unions. They were put down by the big corporations who used harsh methods.

This was a time when there were few rich and many poor. It was a struggle for many Americans to get jobs and provide for their families. In contrast, it was also a time of progress and ingenuity. Many of the things that happened during this period shaped America into what it is today.

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The Benefits and Drawbacks of the Expansion of Industry and Corporations in the United States between 1860 and 1900. (2023, Apr 26). Retrieved from

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