Trends and Themes of the Era
- Big Business, first in the form of massive
corporations and then in even larger trusts, built up monopolies
over markets and made astronomical profits. Big Business drove industrialization
and helped foster the belief in America as the land of opportunity,
where anyone who worked hard could get rich. It also, however, generated
a vast imbalance between the rich and the poor.
- The government at first followed a hands-off policy with
Big Business. As business abuses increased, state governments and
then the Federal government passed a spate of regulatory legislation.
True regulation of business would not begin until the early twentieth
- Industrialism attracted rural Americans and many European
immigrants to cities in the United States. As a result, the U.S.
shifted from an agrarian to an urban society. Immigration became
a key ingredient in the success of industrialism, since immigrants
were willing to work as cheap labor.
- Politics were dominated by local political parties, called
Machines, rather than individuals. Politics and politicians were
often corrupt, complicit with Big Business interests. Beginning
with the Pendleton Act in the 1880s, the government began to attempt
to clean itself up.
- Technology, in the form of railroads and other
innovations that increased efficiency and communication, drove industrialism.
Industrialism, in turn, created the wealth and impetus that drove
the need for better technology. Technology became essential to American