The Rise of Big Business
The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries experienced the growth of a modern industrial economy characterized by factories and mass production, linked transportation networks, and large corporations in the United States. The growth was mostly fueled by the rise of big business which dominated most industries as effective organization and management created efficient businesses that utilized various competitive strategies to cut costs and undercut rivals. Although many industrialists engaged in philanthropy, the rise of big business raised many troubling questions including monopoly and the detrimental effects on competition in a capitalist economy, unfair and corrupt business practices and political influence, government regulation of business and the economy, the poor treatment of workers, and economic inequality. Big business and the questions it raised remained central to the discussion of the American economy and politics throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century.
Workers in the Gilded Age and Progressive Era
During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, American workers experienced the convulsions of the industrial revolution. While workers generally made impressive gains in wages over these decades, they often toiled for long hours in dangerous conditions. Workers sought to protect their interests against management by organizing into unions and taking collective action, though with mixed results. Some unions chose utopian or violent solutions which usually failed to achieve the results attained by a more business-like approach. Prior to the twentieth century, these efforts to organize workers faced determined opposition and had little success. However, support for the labor movement grew following 1900, and this support was reflected in the actions of all three branches of both state and national government.