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America after Reconstruction Period

The reconstruction period of 1865-77 was a time when civil war in the United States took place. The success associated with the reconstruction period includes retaining wholeness as the United States despite the civil war, drafting new constitutions by the southern states, and ratifying the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments where loyalty was pledged to the union (Henretta & Brody, 2009). Federalism settled in the U.S. originating in 1790s and the 1830 Nullification crisis. Some of the failures associated with this period were drastic changes in southern political power passed by radical republicans through congress that rendered most of the legislation useless (Bensel, 2000). With the removal of federal troops by Rutherford Hayes, former slave owners and confederates regained power. This was a return of power to the non-blacks, implying a return of the old southern policy. In between the period between 1877 and 1942, the United States experienced major shake ups while making progress at the same time. Major developments made the United States an industrialized urban society with national markets and communication media.

The Southern Society after Reconstruction

The blacks gained freedom in the south. However, equality was still lacking and the blacks struggled with illiteracy, unemployment, and poverty. Freedom became difficult to handle and discrimination intensified with the introduction of Jim Crow laws in the beginning of 1880. The blacks were segregated from the whites. In 1896, the Supreme Court promoted such segregation in the Plessy v. Ferguson decision. The separate yet equal facilities were declared constitutional. African-Americans moved to the urban centers in search of employment. The number of urban African-Americans in the South increased by 75% towards the end of 1800s (Whitley, 2008). In a similar manner, the period following reconstruction was not purely associated with social injustices in the United States. Industrial revolution that had begun even prior to reconstruction was to continue shaping the economics, culture, and politics of America.

Post-Reconstruction Age 1877-1900

The United States experienced formation of the mass market along with economic growth. The economic growth and specifically the rise of industries provided a lot of prosperity for some people who referred to this age as the Gilded Age because of the spending tendencies (Henretta & Brody, 2009). People moved from the countryside to the urban centers, producing a social and cultural transformation (Biddle, 2001). Such changes disrupted the conventional society and economies while many others, especially workers and farmers, did not have a share of the bounty of the new America, especially in Arkansas.

Opening up of Markets and Transportation

The drastic expansion of railroad transport network offered the sole significant chance for change in the United States. There was connection of Arkansas to Tennessee, Memphis, and other various places, including the major agricultural areas. By 1895, there were major railroad networks covering many parts of the U.S. (Henretta & Brody, 2009). The shipment of goods was made possible in advancing new economic prospects. Finance and commerce also moved into new avenues, and many other areas were considered in the emerging primary markets. Other opportunities for making money surfaced. The railway technology increased the amount of traffic and actively enhanced diversification in agriculture. Forage crops like hay were introduced in place of cotton (Bensel, 2000). Farmers started coming from Europe. They were Poles, Russians, Germans, Slovaks, and Bohemians. The spread of commercial agriculture, the introduction of new crops, mining, the timber industry, and the railroads promoted the establishment of manufacturing. Many industries taking care of and processing the farm goods emerged.

Towards the end of the nineteenth century, the period after reconstruction in the United States, there was drastic industrial expansion and development in what was seen as the second phase of industrial revolution. The United States was moved to ranks of the global economy (Schaeffer, 2003). During this time as well, strong democratic organs formally distributed political power. The United States’ economy constrained the party coalitions to shape in such a manner that the competition of policy between the big parties successfully substituted for organizational authoritarianism. Redistributive wealth claims were hampered by the social coalitions’ nature, supporting competition amongst the big political parties (Bensel, 2000). Later on, the social coalitions were shaped decisively through the underlying organization of the national political economy.

The most impactful factors that shaped the national party coalitions included large regional imbalances matching the pace of economic development and a deep division that existed between Industrial and Agrarian elites in America that underpinned the inverted class structure based on sections of the party system (Whitley, 2008). In disparate ways, imbalanced regional development characterized the elite division and party competition. This was to an extent that if a single factor had to explain the lack of a big political movement for a fundamental redistribution of wealth in the late 19th century, this would be big disparities in the trajectories and nature of the regional political economies of the nation (Henretta & Brody, 2009).

The time of drastic economic development and growth in the West and in the North led the United States being the globally recognized dominant economy, both agriculturally and industrially. The mean yearly income following inflation grew by a significant 75% in between 1865 and 1900. The growth was also significant after 1900, increasing by 33% by the year 1918. However, the southern part lagged behind. After the reconstruction, the United States became a powerful and united nation with a robust national regime. Reconstruction brought a desired end to slavery and citizenship for those formerly considered to be slaves. However, they lacked political power through the ‘Jim Crow’ system (Bensel, 2000). Politically, the United States in the 3rd and 4th party system was mainly dominated by the Republicans except for two presidents from the democratic side.

The first industrial revolution in the United States shifted production to factories from artisans, whereas the Second Industrial Revolution triggered expansion in coordination, organization, and the industry scale, agitated through transportation and technology developments (Carlson, 2005). Railroads were useful in opening up new markets, the west, the creation of farms and towns where they did not exist before (Whitley, 2008). The United States saw its transport development come with the transcontinental railroad that was built by entrepreneurs who were nationally oriented toward British funds and Chinese and Irish labor. It offered access to formerly remote territories. The construction of railway boosted opportunities for credit, capital, and aspiring farmers.

New industrial technologies in the steel and iron manufacturing, like the open-hearth furnace and the Bessemer process, used with similar chemistry innovations and other sciences immensely enhanced productivity (Biddle, 2001). New tools of communication like telephone and telegraph made it possible for corporate managers to coordinate functions over long distances (Carlson, 2005). Innovations were also useful in managing how work was typified and organized through scientific management, as was with the case of Frederick Winslow Taylor.

To fund the large-scale business organizations needed during this time, the enterprise emerged as the main form of corporation. Business enterprises expanded through mergers and creation of single firms from competing organizations known as ‘trusts’, which were a kind of monopoly (Henretta & Brody, 2009). High tariffs prevented the workers and factories in the United States from overseas competition, particularly in the woolen factories. Government railroad land grants made investors, railroad workers, and farmers rich. They further created hundreds of new cities and towns. Businesses usually went to the court to prevent labor from engaging in unions or some organized strikes.

Powerful industrialists like John Rockefeller, Jay Gould, and Andrew Carnegie, known together through their enemies as “robber barons”, had a lot of power and wealth. In tight competition of accumulating wealth, the skilled artisan’s labor surrendered to well-paid skilled engineers and workers. This happened as the United States further deepened its base of technology (Carlson, 2005). At the same time, the continuous flow of immigrants encouraged the presence of cheap labor, particularly in manufacturing and mining.

America in the 20th Century

The start of the twentieth century was the period of endings and beginnings for the United States. American art industry was not yet developed until this time, which caused artists from America go to Europe to paint. Both impression and realism artists like Eakins, Sargent, and Prendergast were among the first art professionals. Newspapers changed format to four-column with the use of tabloid style used in 1900. From 1900-09, this was a decade that led to progressive education. Teachers’ annual pay was $325. Many institutions of learning were established: University of Chicago Laboratory School was established by John Dewey. Immigration was on the rise and, therefore, population growth was becoming a problem for the United States. Demographic data during this time included about 76 million Americans living in 46 states, more than $46 million US dollars in the United States treasury, whereas the average worker earned $12.98 per week working for about 59 hours (Whitley, 2008). Life was starting to have a nicer shape, but this was happening gradually.

A lot of changes came through development in technology. The period between 1900 and 1910 became an age of consumerism and materialism (Henretta & Brody, 2009). The industrial age was comprised of mass, full swing production that led to depreciating prices (Whitley, 2008). With the growing industries and production, safety and environmental management were becoming a challenge, and laws governing them were enacted. This was particularly related to food processing. Other developments were seen in typewriter secretary jobs. Transportation and radio broadcasts were a major development in the communication media. Ships, trains, and automobiles changed the way people perceived their surroundings (Carlson, 2005). Revolution in Aviation industry was also evident. This is when the Wright brothers made their maiden flight at Kitty Hawk.

By the year 1910, the population of the United States had hit 92.4 million with a life expectancy of 51.8 years for females and 48.4 years for males (Whitley, 2008). This decade was accompanied by a lot of global changes, but especially for America. During this decade, the United States emerged as a world leader for the first time due to the achievements it had made culturally, socially, industrially, economically, and politically (Bensel, 2000). Among the challenges of 1910, there were issues of increased immigration faced till this day along with monopoly and labor battles, poverty, child labor, and work safety. It was also the decade when the first war whose goal was to stop all wars took place. This was the time when America demonstrated maturity in different spheres, including war.

At this time, the United States still experienced the Progressive Era, which had begun in 1895 all the way till the WW1. It was a time of unrest and reformation. Monopolies still existed, despite the 1890 Sherman Antitrust Act. Social issues continued in the U.S. Labor unions in the 1910s increased as the middle classes showed dislike for work conditions. Inequality, poor pay, and denial of women rights were common oppressive tendencies. With the WW1 and progressing philosophies, the United States continued further industrialization. There was an increased production of vehicles that created global prosperity and led to a lot of social dynamics in the history of America. Popular culture now became a great national product of America (Biddle, 2001). American dance influenced all other parts of the world with people listening to American jazz tunes, wearing American fashions, falling for pop fashions and fads, and buying American products (Schaeffer, 2003). Tobacco started as a fad and later grew into a big business. Out of all the tobacco sold in New York City, 25% of it was made by immigrants.

Towards the end of the decade between 1910 and 1919, other changes came about. The population was roughly 106.5 million with about 5.2% unemployed. Because of increased standard of living and production, life expectancy increased by 1920 to 54.6 years for females and 53.6 years for males (Whitley, 2008). After the WW1, people settled down and art industry grew. However, there was a looming danger of economic downturn, which was experienced in the following decade. WW1 created a worldwide shift in the economy, and the United States could not have survived for long (Henretta & Brody, 2009). However, it performed well in managing the situation when compared to other nations of the world.

There was scarcity of money by 1930. This was occasioned by the economic depression. People could do anything that would make them happy. The popularity of movies and parlor games increased as a result. Communication media further developed as people listened to the Yankees. The young people of this time danced to the music by famous bands. The population had grown to 123.2 million in 48 states with an increased life expectancy of 58.1 years for males and 61.6 years for females (Whitley, 2008). These trends and statistical data show that life was really taking a good form in the United States despite the many ups and downs in economy. The economic stability of the nation enhanced the welfare of the people.

The American dream became a nightmare during the great depression, especially for the immigrants (Schaeffer, 2003). American has shifted from being a land of opportunity to one of desperation. All optimism and hope has faded away, and there was a lot of despair in the atmosphere. The people of the United Sates questioned all the maxims on which they had founded their lives-capitalism, democracy, individualism. Only California had the promise of a better life. Agriculture was the last resort for the American and the immigrants. There was a marked decrease in the family income for Americans going down from $2300 to $1500 (Whitley, 2008). People sought to survive by any means possible. Lifestyles, attitudes, and institutions changed during this time. However, democracy prevailed during these times.

Democracies like Italy and Germany fell to dictatorship, whereas the United States and the constitution prevailed during this moment. The strength and will of the people of the United States was much stronger than in other parts of the world (Bensel, 2000). Despite the challenges hitting every corner of the Earth, the United States depicted resilience and was stable amidst the unpleasant twist of events. Economics overpowered politics during the decade between 1930 and 1939. It all started with shanty towns known as ‘Hoovervilles’ named following a president who had a feeling that relief must be a job for the private sector. The president ended up with a federal programs’ alphabet soup financed through the federal government and a commissions’ assortment established to regulate the banking industry of Wall Street and other business organizations. The 1935 Social Security Act established a program to propagate earnings for the elderly in the society. The Wagner Act enacted the same year saw workers get legal rights of unionizing. The Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) was founded by John Lewis, which saw improved conditions towards the blue-collar workers (Whitley, 2008). By the end of this decade, the United States went through the laissez-faire kind of economy that oversaw its mannerism to the economy controlled through the federal government (Henretta & Brody, 2009). This has been the best action course even up to this date.

Improved Communication Media in the United States

A lot of the most distinguished writers (Thornton Wilder, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Ernest Hemingway) in the history of America began their work in the 1930s (Whitley, 2008). Their literary works explored the great depression. Music started to develop further. For instance, common songs like “Brother Can You Spare a Dime” was a song that highlighted the challenges experienced by people during that time. The young people listed and danced to famous bands of Duke Ellington, Benny Goodman, and Tommy Dorsey among others. The musical arts were supported by federal music project. Growth in the American music industry led to diversification in building the economy (Henretta & Brody, 2009). This was a wave that moved so quickly and influenced people’s lives both locally and internationally.

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The radio attained its popularity in the 1930s. Towards the end of this decade, almost 80% of the American population owned radio sets (Whitley, 2008). The people of America liked laughing at the comic works of Fred Allen, Gracie Allen, George Burns, and Jack Benny as well as Fibber McGee, Amos and Andy and Molly. This industry attracted a huge following and it grew fast. News broadcasts through commentators like Edward R. Murrow and H.V Kaltenborn kept the public informed about the increasing chaos in Europe. Franklin Roosevelt used the radio medium in ‘Fireside Chats’ to influence the public opinion. Innovations that were demonstrated in this line did not come part of the daily life until WW11. This gave a glance of the technology that was anticipated in the future (Carlson, 2005). Development in medicine in the 1930s included the establishment of fresh and safer ways of doing blood transfusion. This was a development that was needed to save the lives of many soldiers in the war that was anticipated. The Chicago’s Cook County Hospital in 1937 opened a blood bank that was storage for blood from donors. Chances of surviving complex surgery on crucial organs in the United States were thus increased.

Scientific Research and Technology

Absolute scientific study was challenged by a lack of funding. Ground breaking experiments in physics were carried out in learning institutions like the California Institute of Technology and Columbia University. In 1933, Albert Einstein went to America and became a professor at the Princeton University in the Institute for Advanced studies (Whitley, 2008). Further industrial studies led to better methods of preserving food, different products were made from synthetic materials like cellophane, plexiglass, and nylon. This enhanced the techniques of manufacturing through polymerization (Carlson, 2005). Additionally, it increased gasoline production by 9 million gallons annually. America was advancing in technology and manufacturing with education and scientific research.

America at the Beginning of WWII

From 1940, theatric performance flourished a lot. Musicals and Broadway marquees stormed the decade through the emergency of play titles like ‘Green pastures’, ‘The man who came to dinner’, and ’Winterset’, among many others. Hollywood produced various movies to entertain the audience, being affected by depression in what is commonly known as Hollywood’s ‘Golden age.’ People used escapism through movies to forget their problems for some time. The most dominant feature of the fourth decade in the twentieth century was the WWII. The production of war pulled the United States from the Great Depression (Whitley, 2008). Women replaced men who went to war, and started to work. The people who were unemployed by 1940 reached 8.12 million, while the national debt of the United States was $43 Billion later during that decade because of the war.


The six and a half decades after reconstruction and the beginning of World War 2 were the years, which were characterized by progress at a positive note, but by experienced some challenges as a result of the great depression. This was a period of many changes in the United States. The early decades in the 20th century saw the American people benefit from industrial growth, while at the same time experiencing some challenges. The cheap workforce and assembly-line production made mass production possible. The transportation and rail systems helped in the shipping of the manufactured goods, which was mainly a consequence of the new industrial technologies discovered throughout the United States.

Retailers across the United States could afford the expansion of their operations and laid a basis for a consumer-driven community that continued to evolve between 1877 and 1942. In terms of materials, the dwellers in the city had high living standards in very many aspects including shelter, food, housing, and other material products. This also included education and healthcare. As a result, the United States became an industrialized, urban society with national markets and communication media. The dominance, skills, and produce of the United States was on demand and used on the global scale. The spending nature, immigration, and spread of the American culture, politics, and products created a lot of wealth both for individuals and the nation at large.

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