Almost all historical events have these three commonalities; they involve people, places, and power. Since this theme is so frequently present in history, it can be used to study almost any topic. This unit in history, is a project studying this theme on various topics, mine being Labor vs. Big Business. This particular post is to define the key terms of the readings on the topic and to develop some “enduring understandings,” general statements taken from the topic that can apply to anything.
Transcontinental Railroad- railroad going from east to west coast, example of poor treatment of workers and corruption by company
Immigrant Workers- used as cheap form of labor by many corporations
Mass Production- production in large quantities
Andrew Carnegie- Powerful and wealthy industrialist who created US Steel Corporation
Robber Barons- term used to describe powerful industrialists implying they built fortune by stealing from public
Captains of Industry- term used to describe powerful industrialists implying they had positive effect on nation
John D Rockefeller- Powerful and wealthy industrialist who created Standard Oil Company
Social Darwinism- extended Darwin's natural selection to society and economic success, argued society and government should not interfere with business
Oligopoly- market structure which is dominated by only a few large profitable firms
Monopoly- complete control of a product or service by one company
Economics of Scale- as production increases, cost per item decreases
Vertical Consolidation- control of the many different businesses that make up all phases of a products development
Horizontal Consolidation- bringing together many firms in same business
The Sherman Antitrust Act- outlawed any combination of companies that restrained interstate trade or commerce
Union- organization of workers that gave them power in numbers
Strike- organized refusal to work by workers as form of protest
Scab- worker brought in to break strike
Great Railroad Strike of 1877- strike over wage cuts of railroad workers that began series of violent labor strikes
Haymarket Riot- labor demonstration that turned deadly when bomb exploded at police that resulted in many deaths and wrongful punishments of falsely accused conspirators. Well known example of tension between police and protesters
Those with great economic power and those with great political power tend to have aligned interests:
- J.P. Morgan made sure his creation of US Steel Corporation was successful “by making sure Congress passed tariffs keeping out foreign steel” (Robber Barons and Rebels, 257).
- The Central Pacific Railroad “spent $200,000 in Washington on bribes to get 9 million acres of free land and $24 million in bonds” (Robber Barons and Rebels, 254).
People in power have little regard for the wellbeing of the lower class:
- “The Union Pacific [Railroad] used twenty thousand workers- war veterans and Irish immigrants, who laid 5 miles of track a day and died by the hundreds in the heat, the cold, and the battles with Indians opposing the invasion of their territory” (Robber Barons and Rebels, 255).
- “One Italian man, told he was going to Connecticut to work on the railroad, was taken instead to sulfate mines in the south, where he and his fellows were watched over by armed guards in their barracks and in the mines, given only enough money to pay for their railroad fare and tools, and very little to eat” (Robber Barons and Rebels, 266).
The topic, “Labor vs. Big Business: The Rise of Corporate America,” fits the theme, “People, Places, and Power,” very well so far. For people, the topic mainly focuses on the wealthy industrialists, such as Carnegie and Rockefeller, and the poor laborers. The industrialists had the power of the lower class of America. They used their power in order to increase their power even more and prevent others from gaining such power. This power struggle led to many poor laborers revolting in places all over America, including Haymarket, Chicago. These things all fit together to relate to the theme nicely.