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History, Industrialization and Urbanization

modern corporation, linotype, fast transport, cheap energy, phonograph

From 1870 to 1900 the United States became the world’s foremost industrial nation. It emerged as the leader in meatpacking, in production of timber and steel, and in the mining of coal, iron, gold, and silver. Overall, the nation experienced a stunning explosion in the scale of industry and in the pace of production. By the turn of the century, industrialization had transformed commerce, business organization, the environment, the workplace, the home, and everyday life.

Many factors fueled industrial growth in the late 19th century: abundant resources, new technology, cheap energy, fast transport, and the availability of capital and labor. Mines, forests, and livestock in the west provided raw materials for major industries, as did iron in Ohio and oil in Pennsylvania. Railroad expansion enabled businesses to move raw materials to factories and to send products to urban markets. A steady stream of immigrants arrived to work in America’s mines and factories.

Technological advances transformed production. The new machine-tool industry, which turned out drilling, cutting, and milling machines, sped up manufacturing. A trail of inventions, including the telephone, typewriter, linotype, phonograph, electric light, cash register, air brake, refrigerator car, and automobile, led to new industries. Finally, business leaders learned how to operate and coordinate many different economic activities across broad geographic areas. Businesses were thus able to become larger, and the modern corporation became an important form of business organization.

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