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  • Episode 23: The Rise of the Industrial Economy

  • Hi I’m John Green this is Crash Course U.S. History and today were going to discuss

  • economics and how a generation of- Mr. Green, Mr. Green, is this going to be

  • one of those boring ones no wars or generals who had cool last words or anything?

  • Alright, Me From The Past, I will give you a smidge of Great Man history. But only a

  • smidge. So today were gonna discuss American industrialization

  • in the decades after the Civil War, during which time the U.S. went from having per capita

  • about a third of Great Britain’s industrial output to becoming the richest and most industrialized

  • nation on earth. Libertage

  • Meh, you might want to hold off on that Libertage, Stan because this happened mostly thanks to

  • the Not Particularly Awesome Civil War, which improved the finance system by forcing the

  • introduction of a national currency and spurred industrialization by giving massive contracts

  • to arms and clothing manufacturers. The Civil War also boosted the telegraph,

  • which improved communication, and gave birth to the transcontinental railway via the Pacific

  • Railway Act of 1862, all of which increased efficiency and productivity. So thanks, Civil

  • War! Intro

  • If you want to explain America’s economic growth in a nutshell chalk it up to G, D,

  • and L: Gerard, Depardieu, and Lohan. No, Geography, Demography and Law.

  • However, while were on the topic, when will Gerard, Depardieu, and Lindsay Lohan

  • have a baby? Stan, can I see it? Yes. Yes. Geographically, the U.S. was a huge country

  • with all the resources necessary for an industrial boom. Like, we had coal, and iron and, later,

  • oil. Initially we had water to power our factories, later replaced by coal. And we had amber waves

  • of grain to feed our growing population which leads to the Demography.

  • America’s population grew from 40 million in 1870 to 76 million in 1900 and 1/3 of that

  • growth was due to immigration. Which is good for economies. Many of these

  • immigrants flooded the burgeoning cities, as America shifted from being an agrarian

  • rural nation to being an industrial, urban one.

  • Like, New York City became the center of commerce and finance and by 1898 it had a population

  • of 3.4 million people. And the industrial heartland was in the Great Lakes region. Chicago

  • became the second largest city by 1900, Cleveland became a leader in oil refining, and Pittsburgh

  • was a center of iron and steel production. And even today, the great city of Pittsburgh

  • still employs 53 Steelers. Last but not least was the Law. The Constitution

  • and its commerce clause made the U.S. a single area of commercelike a giant customs

  • union. And, as well see in a bit the Supreme Court interpreted the laws in a very business

  • friendly way. Also, the American constitution protects patents,

  • which encourag4B-es invention and innovation, or at least it used to.

  • And despite what Ayn Rand would tell you, the American government played a role in American

  • economic growth by putting up high tariffs, especially on steel, giving massive land grants

  • to railroads and by putting Native Americans on reservations.

  • Also, foreigners played an important role. They invested their capital and involved Americans

  • in their economic scandals like the one that led to a depression in 1893. The U.S. was

  • at the time was seen by Europeans as a developing economy; and investments in America offered

  • much higher returns than those available in Europe.

  • And the changes were talking about here were massive. In 1880, for the first time,

  • a majority of the workforce worked in non-farming jobs. By 1890 2/3 of Americans worked for

  • wages, rather than farming or owning their own businesses.

  • And, by 1913 the United States produced 1/3 of the world’s total industrial output.

  • NOW bring out the Libertage, Stan. Libertage

  • Awesome. And even better, we now get to talk about the perennially underrated railroads.

  • Let’s go to the Thought Bubble. Although we tend to forget about them here

  • in the U.S., because our passenger rail system sucks, railroads were one of the keys to America’s

  • 19th century industrial success. Railroads increased commerce and integrated the American

  • market, which allowed national brands to emerge, like Ivory Soap and A&P Grocery Stores.

  • But railroads changed and improved our economy in less obvious ways, too: For instance, they

  • gave us time zones, which were created by the major railroad companies to make shipping

  • and passenger transport more standard. Also because he recognized the importance of telling

  • time, a railroad agent named Richard Warren Sears turned a $50 dollar investment in watches

  • into an enormous mail order empire, and railroads made it possible for him--and his eventual

  • partner Roebuck--to ship watches, and then jewelry, and then pretty much everything,

  • including unconstructed freaking houses throughout the country.

  • Railroads were also the first modern corporations. These companies were large, they had many

  • employees, they spanned the country. And that meant they needed to invent organizational

  • methods, including the middle manager--supervisors to supervise supervisors. And for the first

  • time, the owners of a company were not always day-to-day managers, because railroads were

  • among the first publicly traded corporations. They needed a lot of capital to build tracks

  • and stations, so they sold shares in the company in order to raise that money,

  • which shares could then be bought and sold by the public. And that is how railroads created

  • the first captains of industry, like CorneliusThey Named a University after MeVanderbilt

  • and AndrewMe TooCarnegie (Mellon) and Leland “I Named a University After My

  • SonStanford. The Railroad business was also emblematic of the partnership between

  • the national government and industry. The Transcontinental Railroad, after all, wouldn’t

  • have existed without Congressional legislation, federal land grants, and government sponsored

  • bond issues. Thanks, Thought Bubble. Apparently it’s

  • time for the Mystery Document. The rules here are simple.

  • I guess the author of the Mystery Document and if I’m wrong, which I usually am, I

  • get shocked. Alright.

  • The belief is common in America that the day is at hand when corporations far greater

  • than the Erieswaying such power as has never in the world’s history been trusted

  • in the hands of mere private citizens, controlled by single men like Vanderbilt...– will ultimately

  • succeed in directing government itself. Under the American form of society, there is now

  • no authority capable of effective resistance.”

  • Corporations directing government? That’s ridiculous.

  • So grateful for federal ethanol subsidies brought to you by delicious Diet Dr. Pepper.

  • Mmm I can taste all 23 of the chemicals. Anyway, Stan, I’m pretty sure that is noted

  • muckraker Ida Tarbell. No! Henry Adams? HOW ARE THERE STILL ADAMSES IN AMERICAN HISTORY?

  • That makes me worry well never escape the Clintons. Anyway, it shouldve been Ida

  • Tarbell. She has a great name. She was a great opponent of capitalism. Whatever. AH!

  • Indeed industrial capitalists are considered both the greatest heroes and the greatest

  • villains of the era, which is why they are known both ascaptains of industryand

  • asrobber barons,” depending on whether we are mad at them.

  • While they often came from humble origins, took risks and became very wealthy, their

  • methods were frequently unscrupulous. I mean, they often drove competitors out of business,

  • and generally cared very little for their workers.

  • The first of the great robber barons and/or captains of industry was the aforementioned

  • Cornelius Vanderbilt who rose from humble beginnings in Staten Island to make a fortune

  • in transportation, through ferries and shipping, and then eventually through railroads, although

  • he once referred to trains asthem things that go on land.”

  • But the poster boy of the era was John D. Rockefeller who started out as a clerk for

  • a Cleveland merchant and eventually became the richest man in the world. Ever. Yes, including

  • Bill Gates. The key to Rockefeller’s success was ruthlessly

  • buying up so many rivals that by the late 1880s Standard Oil controlled 90% of the U.S.

  • oil industry. Which lack of competition drove the price

  • of gasoline up to like 12 cents a gallon, so if you had one of the 20 cars in the world

  • then, you were mad. The period also saw innovation in terms of

  • the way industries were organized. Many of the robber barons formed pools and trusts

  • to control prices and limit the negative effects of competition.

  • The problem with competition is that over time it reduces both prices and profit margins,

  • which makes it difficult to become super rich. Vertical integration was another innovation

  • firms bought up all aspects of the production processfrom raw materials to production

  • to transport and distribution. Like, Philip Armour’s meat company bought

  • its own rail cars to ship meat, for instance. It also bought things like conveyor belts

  • and when he found out that animal parts could be used to make glue, he got into the glue-making

  • business. It was Armour who once proclaimed to useeverything

  • but the squeal.” Horizontal integration was when big firms

  • bought up small ones. The best example of this was Rockefeller’s Standard Oil, which

  • eventually became so big incidentally that the Supreme Court forced Standard Oil to be

  • broken up into more than a dozen smaller oil companies.

  • Which, by the way, overtime have slowly reunited to become the company known as Exxon-Mobil,

  • so that worked out. U.S. Steel was put together by the era’s

  • giant of finance, J.P. Morgan, who at his death left a fortune of only $68 millionnot

  • counting the art that became the backbone of the Metropolitan Museum of Artleading

  • Andrew Carnegie to remark in surprise, “And to think he was not a rich man.”[1]

  • Speaking of people who weren’t rich, let us now praise the unsung heroes of industrialization:

  • workers. Well, I guess you can’t really call them

  • unsung because Woody Guthrie. Oh! Your guitar! And my computer! I never made that connection

  • before. Anyway, then as now, the benefits of economic

  • growth were shared...mmm shall we say...a smidge unevenly.

  • Prices did drop due to industrial competition, which raised the standard of living for the

  • average American worker. In fact, it was among the highest in the world. But due to a growing

  • population, particularly of immigrant workers, there was job insecurity. And also booms and

  • busts meant depressions in the 1870s and 1890s, which hit the working poor the hardest.

  • Also, laborers commonly worked 60 hours per week with no pensions or injury compensation,

  • and the U.S. had the highest rate of industrial injuries in the world: an average of over

  • 35,000 people per year died on the job. These conditions and the uncertainty of labor

  • markets led to unions, which were mostly local but occasionally national.

  • The first national union was the Knights of Labor, headed by Terence V. Powderly which

  • grew from 9 members in 1870 to 728,000 by 1884.

  • The Knights of Labor admitted unskilled workers, black workers, and women, but it was irreparably

  • damaged by the Haymarket riot in 1886. During a strike against McCormick Harvesting

  • Company, a policeman killed one of the strikers and in response there was a rally in Chicago’s

  • Haymarket Square at which a bomb killed seven police officers.

  • Then, firing upon the crowd, the police killed four people. Seven anarchists were eventually

  • convicted of the bombing, and although Powderly denounced anarchism, the public still associated

  • the Knights of Labor with violence. And by 1902, its membership had shrunk considerably--to

  • 0. The banner of organized labor however was

  • picked up by the American Federation of Labor under Samuel L. Gompers. Do all of these guys

  • have great last names? They were more moderate than the anarchists

  • and the socialist International Workers of the World, and focused on bread and butter

  • issues like pay, hours, and safety. Founded in 1886, the same year as the Haymarket

  • Riot, the AFL had about 250,000 members by 1892, almost 10% of whom were iron and steel

  • workers. And now we have to pause to briefly mention

  • one of the most pernicious innovations of the era: Social Darwinism: a perversion of

  • Darwin’s theory that would have made him throw up. Although to be fair, almost everything

  • made him throw up. Social Darwinists argued that the theory of

  • survival of the fittest should be applied to people and also that corporations were

  • people. Ergo, big companies were big because they

  • were fitter and we had nothing to fear from monopolies.

  • This pseudoscience was used to argue that government shouldn’t regulate business or

  • pass laws to help poor people. It assured the rich that the poor were poor because of

  • some inherent evolutionary flaw, thus enabling tycoons to sleep at night. You know, on a

  • big pile of money, surrounded by beautiful women.

  • But, despite the apparent inborn unfitness of workers, unions continued to grow and fight

  • for better conditions, sometimes violently. There was violence at the Homestead Steel

  • Strike of 1892 and the Pullman Rail strike of 1894 when strikers were killed and a great

  • deal of property was destroyed. To quote the historian Michael Lind: “In

  • the late 1870s and early 1880s, the United States had five times as many unionized workers

  • as Germany, at a time when the two nations had similar populations.”[2]

  • Unions wanted the United States and its citizens to imagine freedom more broadly, arguing that

  • without a more equal economic system, America was becoming less, not more, free, even as

  • it became more prosperous. If youre thinking that this free-wheeling

  • age of fast growth, uneven gains in prosperity, and corporate heroes/villains resembles the

  • early 21st century, you aren’t alone. And it’s worth remembering that it was only

  • 150 years ago that modern corporations began to form and that American industry became

  • the leading driver in the global economy. That’s a blink of an eye in world history

  • terms, and the ideas and technologies of post Civil War America gave us the ideas that still

  • define how we--all of us, not just Americans--think about opposites like success and failure,

  • or wealth and poverty. It’s also when we people began to discuss

  • the ways in which inequality could be the opposite of freedom. Thanks for watching.

  • I’ll see you next week. Crash Course is produced and directed by Stan

  • Muller. Our script supervisor is Meredith Danko. The associate producer is Danica Johnson.

  • The show is written by my high school history teacher, Raoul Meyer, Rosianna Halse Rojas,

  • and myself. And our graphics team is Thought Café.

  • Each week there’s a new caption for the Libertage. You can suggest captions in comments

  • where you can also ask questions about today’s video that will be answered by our team of

  • historians. Thanks for watching Crash Course. Make sure

  • youre subscribed. And as we say in my hometown, don’t forget to be awesome.

  • Industrial Economy - ________________

  • [1] Brands, American Colossus p 6. [2] Lind, Land of Promise 171

Episode 23: The Rise of the Industrial Economy

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産業経済。クラッシュ・コース アメリカの歴史 #23 (The Industrial Economy: Crash Course US History #23)

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