Stockman's History Extravaganza
A Bunch of "Stuff"
What We Are Covering Today
Farmers-Immigrants-Labor Unions-Populist Movement and Urbanization.
Down on the Farm
Throughout the South and West, farming remained an important part of life.
In the 1870's and 1880''s, it became a very costly industry. Farmers borrowed from banks in order to purchase the latest machinery. Mechanization helped make farming easier and enabled farmers to produce more goods.
While this initially benefited farmers, it resulted in overproduction and caused farm prices to drop. This meant farmers were getting less money for their products. As farmers slipped further and further in debt they blamed politicians and big business.
In 1887, President Grover Cleveland signed into law the Interstate Commerce Act which regulated railroad rates. Farmers also wanted subsidies. They want government to pay them money to cover their losses due to its overproduction. Farmers wanted to see more money put back into the nation’s economy so they supported the circulation of greenbacks
The concern over the farmers eventually gave rise to the Populist Movement. Populism embraced what farmers wanted, it supported the circulation of greenbacks. In 1892,, under the official name of the People’s Party, the Populists met in Omaha, Nebraska. Here, they formed the Omaha Platform. Politically, Populism appealed to the common man.
It was a movement that praised agriculture as the backbone of the country and favored farmers of the South and West. It also sought to break down racial divisions between white and black farmers. Populists preached these two groups must unite to beat oppression of big business and corrupt politicians.
The Big City
From the end of the civil War until the beginning of the 20th century, the size of the U.S. cities increased rapidly. In the west, new towns grew out of nothing as railroads and western settlements took hold.
Many of these towns grew into bustling cities. In the east, established cities grew in population due to industrialization and the job opportunities it created.
Fly Away: Migration
As industrialization continued in the U.S. people left their farms and migrated to cities where they could earn higher wages. Rising farm cost and declining prices for agricultural products meant fewer individuals could make a living farming. Out West and down South as cities grew bigger, people began to see an increase in urban life.
However, it was the Northeastern cities who saw the greatest numbers of population growth. All over people were making their way to the cities. As for African Americans, most southern blacks farmed, moved out west or moved to cities within the South.
Welcome to America!
The second half of the 19th century also saw a dramatic increase in immigration to the U.S. In the East most new arrivals came from Europe. On the West coast, many immigrated from china in hopes of making money on the U.S. railway lines.
Some came seeking a better life, others fled hardships like famine. By the end of the 1800's, nearly 80% of New Yorker's were foreign born. Industrialization was largely responsible, as industry grew, the need for labor increased.
To handle the large numbers of people arriving in the country, the federal government opened Ellis Island in 1892. It was a tiny island near the Statue of Liberty, which became a well known reception center for immigrants arriving by ship.
As more and more people immigrated to the U.S., the nation became very diverse.
This inspired a phrase called the melting pot. Most immigrants did not want to fully assimilate, they wanted to maintain many of their traditional ways.
While immigration had positive effects, such as greater diversity and providing a much needed labor force. It also presented problems. Many U.S. citizens looked on immigrants negatively. They felt immigrants took away jobs from natives. They also mistrusted foreigners whose cultural ways they could not understand.
People who strongly opposed immigration became known as Nativist. Nativist were suspicious of ethnic ghettos in inner cities. Ghettos were neighborhoods where immigrants from a certain region or country tended to live together due to their common culture, language, and heritage. Many natives saw this as a sign of disloyalty to the U.S.. Religious difference were also a source of tension. Most U.S. citizens were protestants, while many arriving immigrants were catholic.
As feelings of nativism grew, anti-immigrant groups grew. Eventually the government reacted to Nativist concerns by attempting to pass legislation restricting immigration.
A number of such efforts failed when they were vetoed by U.S. presidents. Legislation did pass with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. This prohibited Chinese immigrants from legally coming to the U.S. and was not repealed until 1943.
Labor Unions rose out of the challenging conditions that faced industrial workers.
Unions are organizations of workers formed to protect the interest of its members.
The Knights of Labor formed in 1869 and hoped to organize all working men and women into single unions. The Knights pursued social reforms such as equal pay for equal work, the eight hour workday, and an end to child labor.
In 1886, the American Federation of Labor (AFL), led by Samuel Gompers formed. The AFL used the economic pressures of strikes and boycotts. The AFL also believed in collective bargaining. To increase their ability to negotiate with business owners, the AFL pressed for closed shop workplaces in which employers could only hire union members.
One of the most influential union leaders in history was Eugene Debs. He organized the American Railway Union in 1893 and went on to lead the Pullman Strike of 1894.
He ran for president several times as a leader of the American Socialist Party.
Employers hated unions. Many of them forced employees to sign contracts, which forbade workers from even joining. Others placed union workers on blacklists. Also they would institute lockouts in which employees were not allowed to return to work.
When strikes occurred, employers often hired scabs to take over the jobs left vacated.
As time went on employers would ask for injunctions. These were court orders that forbade strikes because they violated the law or threatened public interests. When all else failed employers would use violence and intimidation to deal with labor problems.