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Consequences of the Industrial Revolution

Page history last edited by Robert W. Maloy 1 year ago


Focus Question:

What were the important consequences of the Industrial Revolution after the Civil War?

Link here for a complete timeline of the Industrial Revolution, starting in 1712 with the invention of the steam engine.


Rumford Chemical Works, Providence, Rhode Island, 1886

Rumford Chemical Works, Providence, Rhode Island, 1886

Topics on the Page




  • Environmental Impacts
    • Triangle Shirtwaist Fire (1911)







  • The Expansion of Cities 
    • The Great Chicago Fire (1871)
    • Social Reformers
      • Jacob Riis
      • Jane Addams


The Growth of Big Business

John D. Rockefeller and his son, John D. Rockefeller Jr.



Image to the right is John D. Rockefeller and his son,  John D. Rockefeller, Jr.


  • From 1869 to 1910 manufacturing rose from $3 billion to $13 billion 


  • Many different industries were dominated by a few corporations and people
  • Examples:




  • The growth of big business created a new upper class
    • In 1860, there were 400 millionaires in the US
    • In 1892, there were 4,047 millionaires in the US


  • Big Businesses grew due to standardization, mechanization, and economies of scale


  • Less people were becoming involved in agriculture
    • More people were becoming involved in business
    • However, agricultural practices were still important and evolved with the industrial revolution.


Effects of Agriculture on the Industrial Revolution includes an overview about agriculture during this time, primary sources, discussion questions, and a some sample multiple choice questions. 


  • Big Businesses created fear in society
    • Accused of abusing workers
    • Corrupting politics
    • Creating unsafe products
    • Fix prices
    • Influence government decision making
  • Click here for more information


Economic Impacts- The Panic of 1893


Due to the increasing influence of monopolistic power and the unstable financing and overbuilding of railroads, a severe recession occurred as a result of bank failures across the nation.


  • The financial bubble created by the railroad industry burst in 1893, which catalyzed the worst economic recession the United States had experienced up until that time, rivaled only by the Panic of 1973.


  • The Reading Railroad company went bankrupt on February 3, 1893, causing bank runs throughout the country.



  • Unstable investments into the Railroad industry and overbuilding railroads
  • Unstable investments into railroads in Southern American countries
  • The increase of silver drove the price of the commodity down
  • Decline in the price of agricultural commodities
  • Bank Runs


National Guard troops firing on Pullman strikers, 1894
National Guard troops firing on Pullman strikers, 1894



  • 20% unemployment
  • 500 Banks closed
  • 15000 businesses failed



For more information, view: Youtube clip: Panic of 1893

See also, the Panic of 1893 from Citizendium

Click here for a lesson plan on Big Businesses at the start of the 20th century

Election of 896- president mckinley and his economic pol


The second half of this Crash Course: U.S. History describes the societal impacts of the Industrial Revolution on America.

For information on governmental efforts to regulate business and promote competition, see Economics E.4.3

Click here for a podcast discussion of the impact of railroads on the development of the American economy in the post-Civil War era based on the book Railroaded: The Transcontinentals and the Making of Modern America by Richard White (W. W. Norton, 2011).

Environmental Impacts


Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, March 25, 1911 from The New York World newspaper

Growing cities faced problems of fire sewer garbage and disease. Cities lacked proper sewage systems which resulted in the rapid spread of disease, most notably yellow fever and cholera. The environmental impact was not limited to on land. Steamships caught fire easily, exploded upon collision and polluted waterways.


Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, March 25, 1911 from The New York World newspaper

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire (1911)


  • On March 25, 1911, a fire broke out in one of New York City's many garment factories.
  • 146 workers, mostly women and immigrants, died in the fire.
  • Factory exposed the working conditions of the immigrants
    • Locked exits prevented workers from escaping
    • No fire alarms
    • No system for evacuating the factory
    • No fire ladders tall enough to reach the workers

Click here for more info

Click here for an online exhibit on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory from Cornell. Includes pictures, interviews, documents from the tragedy.

Short documentary on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire Documentary on the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire

external image 200px-Paperback_book_black_gal.svg.pngSee Influential Literature Page: The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (1906)

Short documentary on the influence of The Jungle


Upton Sinclair selling the “Fig Leaf Edition” of his book Oil! in Boston, 1927

external image Upton_Sinclair_Oil.jpg
In The JungleUpton Sinclair exposed some of the horrifying issues that were facing growing cities, such as poverty and unsanitary living and working conditions. His work in revealing social problems earned him the name "muckraker."


  • While Sinclair intended for the book to focus on all the different societal problems, the public mainly took issue with the conditions of the Chicago slaughterhouses.


  • President Roosevelt, while not wanting to align himself with Sinclair's politics, sent two of his most trusted advisers, Labor Commissioner Charles P. Neill and Social Worker James Bronson Reynolds, to do surprise inspections of the Chicago Slaughterhouses because of strong public pressure.



  Historical Biography Page on Ida Tarbell




Violation of Children's Rights and The Resulting Labor Laws

During the Industrial Revolution, Children were often used as laborers.


  • Their smaller size allowed them to move in tight spaces in factories or mines where adults couldn’t fit, and children were easier to manage and control than adult workers.


  • Perhaps most importantly, children could be paid less than adults.


  • Child laborers were often forced to forgo an education to help support their families by working in factories.


  • In 1900, 18 percent of the workforce in the United States was under the age of sixteen.


  • Nineteenth century reformers and labor organizers sought to restrict child labor and improve working conditions, but sadly, it took a market crash to finally sway public opinion; the Great Depression proved that Americans wanted all available jobs to go to adults rather than children.



  • As economic reforms took the forefront of the U.S under the New Deal, so did child labor laws.




Lizzie Borden, 1982
Lizzie Borden, 1982

Lizzie Borden Murder Trial, Fall River, Massachusetts (1892)

For information, primary sources, and teaching activities to do with students based on the trial, women's history and urban studies, see A Historical Investigation into the Past: Lizzie Borden/Fall River Case Study

This History Channel video provides background information on the case.




Expansion of Cities


Chicago in Flames by Currier & Ives, 1871


Chicago in Flames by Currier & Ives, 1871


  • New factories were built along waterway’s; and subsequent cities and towns


  • People began to travel westward by roads and rivers


  • Large difference between traditional farming society and newer industrial society


  • From 1821 to 1836, town of Lowell, MA’s population increased from 5 farm families to over 10,000


  • Cities were center of finance and manufacturing


  • Theaters, museums, circuses became popular


  • Retail stores 


  • Lancaster Turnpike: Linked Philadelphia and Lancaster, PA


2500 American Cities/Towns on an Animated Map 

Foundation of 2500 American Cities and Towns, 1570 to Present: An Animated Map

For primary source images of the sixth largest city of the United States, Cincinnati, Ohio in 1848 from across the Ohio River, see the Cincinnati Library website.

The Great Chicago Fire and the Web of Memory

For photo images of urban life, see the photo archive of the Lower East Side Tenement Museumin New York City. This site features historic and contemporary pictures of the tenement at 97 Orchard Street.

Textile mill workers, Macon, Georgia, 1909
Textile mill workers, Macon, Georgia, 1909


Social Reformers


Jacob Riis and New York City Tenements and Factories


Jacob Riis, 1904

Jacob Riis, 1904
Click here for an e-book version of How the Other Half Lives: Studies Among the Tenements of New York, Jacob Riis (1890).

"His time, like our own, was marked by vast wealth and dire hardship, by scandals and financial manipulation, by institutionalized political corruption, by nativist hostilities to newcomers, and by democracy's struggle to define its responsibilities to those on the margins--the poor, the immigrants, the sick, the elderly" (from "The 1890 Book I Had to Have," Ted Gup, The New York Times, January 12, 2014).

Click here to view slideshows of the photography of Jacob Riis and Lewis Hinefrom "Documenting 'The Other Half': The Social Reform Photography of Jacob Riis & Lewis Hine" from the Photography and Social Reform website of the University of Virginia.

A Biographer's Summary of Jacob Riis' achievements as a social reformer
"Jacob Riis's many contributions to the betterment of American life, especially for the poor, include more than housing, parks, schools, pure water, child labor laws.

He was important, too, as the first documentary reporter-photographer, the initiator of human-interest newspaper stories.

His life in his adopted country fairly overflowed with deeds of significance." (from "Not Charity, but Justice": The Story of Jacob A. Riis by Edith Patterson Meyer (Vanguard Press, 1974, 163-164).

Jane Addams and the Hull House


Jane Addams, 1924 or 1926

Jane Addams (September 6, 1860 – May 21, 1935) was most well-known in American history for her work as a settlement activist and reformer, social worker and public philosopher.

- One of her biggest achievements was the creation of the Hull House in 1889, in which she was the co-founder.

- The Hull House was settlement house in Chicago for female middle-class workers and immigrants.

- Many settlement houses were established during this time period in poor urban areas. These house provided services such as day cares, education and healthcare to improve the lives of poor workers in the area.These houses helped to combat the poor living conditions in the cities created by the Industrial Revolution.

- Facilities within the settlement included a night school for adults, clubs for older children, a public kitchen, an art galley, a gym, a girls' club, a bathhouse, a music school, a theater, apartments, a library, meeting rooms for discussion, clubs, an employment bureau, and a lunchroom. 

- Many of the facilities operated under the Art Program, which was one of the most important aspects for Jane Addams. This program allowed women an alternative education. At this time, an industrialized education was most common, as it fit individuals to a specific job or position useful within an industrial economy. Instead, the art program allowed women to think independently and promoted collective interaction, self-discovery and imagination.

- The Hull House also allowed for social worker education.

- In 1931, Jane Addams was the first women to be award the Nobel Peace Prize. She is also recognized as the founder of the social work profession in the U.S.

Click here for an interactive timeline showcasing Jane Addams' biography.

Click here for a lesson plan on Jane Addams.

Click here to view Inside an American Factory: Films of the Westinghouse Works, 1904 from the Library of Congress.

Streetscape and Townscape of Metropolitan New York City, 1860-1942 provides original prints and photographs from the New York City Public Library.

World's Columbian Exposition: Ferris Wheel, Chicago, 1893
World's Columbian Exposition: Ferris Wheel, Chicago, 1893

New York City: Portrait of a City is a collection of photographs from Life Magazine.

Horatio Alger, Jr. (1832-1899), American writer
Horatio Alger, Jr. (1832-1899), American writer

The Glided Page features primary source documents from 1866 to 1901, including public figures as diverse as philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson, critic Thorstein Veblen, President Grover Cleveland, writer Stephen Crane, and reporter Richard Harding Davis.

external image Thiessen_Polygons.png Which of the following industries declined as a result of the development of the railroad industry?
A. coal
B. stagecoach
C. steel
D. telegraph
Correct Answer: B


Work Cited:
1. www.kidinfo.com/American_History/Industrial_Revolution.html
2. americanhistory.about.com/od/industrialrev/Industrial_Revolution.htm
3. www.britannica.com/eb/article-9042370/Industrial-Revolution

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