Factories During the 19th century
By: Justin Hohberger
The Need for Workers
During the late nineteenth century the U.S. economy underwent a spectacular increase in industrial growth. The expansion of manufacturing created a need for large numbers of factory workers. Many factories had assembly lines where workers would stand for hours on hours.
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Factory conditions were also poor and, in some cases, deplorable. Lack of effective government regulation led to unsafe and unhealthy work sites. In the late nineteenth century more industrial accidents occurred in the United States than in any other industrial country. Rarely did an employer offer payment if a worker was hurt or killed on the job. As industries consolidated at the turn of the century factories grew larger and more dangerous. By 1900 industrial accidents killed thirty-five thousand workers each year and maimed five hundred thousand others, and the numbers continued to rise.
Wages in the Factories
Although the average standard of living for workers increased steadily during the last decades of the nineteenth century, many workers struggled to make ends meet. At the turn of the century it took an annual income of at least $600 to live comfortably but the average worker made between $400 and $500 per year. During economic recession workers at the factories would experience extreme pay cuts.