US History Stuff

by, Justice Hanson

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie was the pioneering tycoon of the "Age of Steel". From his companies emerged the steel to build the infrastructure railroads, bridges, automobiles, ships that would build a nation. He was a major catalyst in the transformation into the Industrial Revolution producing the steel to make machinery and transportation possible. In his philanthropic stage of life, he became the world's beneficiary to education as he is responsible for the construction and donation of thousands of libraries in the U.S., Europe and around the world.

Carnegie would move up the ladder at the Railroad incorporating his knowledge of the telegraph, a much needed skill to prevent crashes on single track lines. During the Civil War, Carnegie rebuilt many of the telegraph and railroad lines damaged by confederate sympathizers and even worked in the offices of then President, Abraham Lincoln.

After suffering extreme exhaustion or mild stroke, he realized that people need to rest their bodies and enjoy life. After a hiatus and the end of the Civil War, Carnegie would set his sights on the Pullman "sleeper" train car company, another that would build iron bridges for railroads, and oil fields that he knew would have value as fuel. He took many risks and learned that his future lied in investing in people and ideas. He detested "speculators", people who invested as gamblers and throughout most of his life was actively involved in running the companies he invested in. Does this sound much like management issues 20th century entrepreneurs have with financiers!?

Knights of Labor

The Knights of Labor began as a secret society of tailors in Philadelphia in 1869. The organization grew slowly during the hard years of the 1870s, but worker militancy rose toward the end of the decade, especially after the great railroad strike of 1877, and the Knights' membership rose with it. Grand Master Workman Terence V. Powderly took office in 1879, and under his leadership the Knights flourished; by 1886 the group had 700,000 members. Powderly dispensed with the earlier rules of secrecy and committed the organization to seeking the eight-hour day, abolition of child labor, equal pay for equal work, and political reforms including the graduated income tax.

Pullman, Illinois

In 1894, in Pullman, Illinois, the workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company went on strike. This event, which began as an ordinary labor dispute, escalated into one of the most important and far-reaching events in United States labor history. Rents for Pullman houses were twenty-five percent higher than rents in neighboring communities. Some houses were of poor quality. This lack of freedom began to create discontent among the people. In 1893, a financial panic hit the United States. Over 4,000 workers were initially laid off by Pullman and wages were drastically slashed. The reason why was Pullman Illinois an unusual town was because it was a town within a company. People that lived there were brought in for the sole purpose of work. That makes it very different than our common cities or county towns, and maybe that's the reason why it was considered a bit unusual.

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 began on July 17, 1877, in Martinsburg, West Virginia. Workers for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad went on strike, because the company had reduced workers' wages twice over the previous year. The strikers refused to let the trains run until the most recent pay cut was returned to the employees.

President Rutherford B. Hayes sent federal troops to several locations to reopen the railroads. In the meantime, the strike had spread to several other states, including Maryland, where violence erupted in Baltimore between the strikers and that state's militia. In Columbus, mobs attacked and destroyed much railroad property. Protests in Zanesville, Lancaster, and Steubenville also briefly shut down rail service. The worst agitation occurred in Newark, a major depot for the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. On July 18, 1877, strikers blockaded the railroad, refusing to let any trains to pass. Governor Young quickly dispatched militia forces to the city, hoping to avoid violence.

By the end of August 1877, the strike had ended primarily due to federal government intervention, the use of state militias, and the employment of strikebreakers by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company. The Great Railroad Strike was typical of most strikes during this era. The availability of laborers and government support for businesses limited workers' ability to gain concessions from their employers.

Labor Unions in the United States Today

Labor unions are legally recognized as representatives of workers in many industries in the United States. Their activity today centers on collective bargaining, over wages, benefits, and working conditions for their membership, and on representing their members in disputes with management over violations of contract provisions. Larger unions also typically engage in lobbying activities and electioneering at the state and federal level.

Samuel Gompers

“Our movement is of the working people, for the working people, by the working people,” he said. “There is not a right too long denied to which we do not aspire ... there is not a wrong too long endured that we are not determined to abolish.”