Prosperity After the Civil War
During the period of the Civil War, the typical American business was a small, family owned company and it usually produced goods for a smaller, regional market - Prosperity After the Civil War introduction. However, as the Civil War ended, big businesses began to dominate the corporate world. Many businesses, such as the Standard Oil Co. and Carnegie Steel, became monopolies and owned all parts of one particular industry. These huge firms were able to mass produce their products and sell them not only all over the country, but also internationally. Due to the huge transformation in the business world, the economy and politics were affected as well as the American people and unfortunately, these affects turned out to be more negative than positive.
As businesses began to form and grow into huge monopolies, the impact they had on the government and politics grew as well. The government at that time had a lassiez faire outlook on businesses. They did not find the need to be involved in business affairs. However, when these mammoth companies controlled all aspects of a particular staple in the American society, many wanted the government to step in and regulate it. The extremely wealthy men who owned these companies were also able to control the government in some ways. As depicted in the cartoon entitled “The Bosses of the Senate,” the entrepreneurs of that time are shown as giant men looking down on all the other “less important” people of the senate. This shows that these men believed that they could not only control the business world, but also the political world as well. The picture also shows a door labeled “Peoples Entrance” with a sign below that says closed. Some people believed that the idea of democracy and governing by the people was slowing decreasing and being taken over by the huge trusts. A sign also hangs above the men of the industry which reads “This is a senate of the monopolists, by the monopolists, and for the monopolists,” showing that they really were only looking out for themselves and finding ways to control the government to benefit their companies. As much as some people would like to think that the business world and government do not have much of an influence on one another, the events that happened after the civil war show that big monopolies are capable of controlling aspects of the government only to benefit themselves.
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These big businesses not only had the power to influence the government, but they also had a huge impact on the economy of the country during this time. Since a lot of the necessary items in American were manufactured by one company, such as oil and steel, they were able to control the entire enterprise. They could set prices to what they wanted and still get business since they were the only company that offered the needed product. While some companies took advantage of this and set high prices, other companies kept their prices reasonable to ensure good business. The owners of the railroad industry had the greatest impact though. If they had high prices, the prices of almost all things would go up due to transportation of the products. If it costs one company a lot of money to ship their goods all over, the prices of the products will go up to cover those costs. The graph which shows the indexed prices during the years 1870-1899 demonstrates how the prices fluctuated during those years. Throughout that 30 year span, the prices of food, fuel, and lighting all went down significantly. This was probably due to the high demand of these products and the all-around lower prices. The cost of living, however, hardly had a change throughout the years. It decreased slightly but not by a noticeable amount. As far as other businesses competing in the industry, if a business was not one of the very top ones, the chances of it surviving were slim to none. As is stated in the article titled, ”How I Was Ruined by Rockefeller,” George Rice says that the Standard Oil Company was offering the same quality of oil as he was, but at a much lower price that they couldn’t compete with. Consumers will obviously use the cheaper of the products so the companies with a little higher of a price most likely went under. By smaller businesses not being able to compete, this just gave the already huge companies even more power.
During these years after the Civil War, many Americans struggled. Although the industrial world boomed, so many people were looking for jobs that many did not have any jobs. For the ones that happened to have jobs, the working conditions were so atrocious that sometimes it might not have even been worth it to have a job. As demonstrated in the article titled What Does Labor Want? It explains the concern of many workers. The passage voices the want of a reform from the workers. They say that human beings should be treated just as well as every other person in the world. These workers worked well over 14 hours a day doing very strenuous labor. They pleaded for shorter work days and better treatment of workers. The people also were fearful of the huge up and coming businesses. They did not like the power the companies had over the government and economy. The people knew these businesses had the power to change the prices of all goods to whatever they wanted. Although there were many corrupt things about the working world, one good thing of it all was that women were now able to work. Instead of having to sit at home and be a typical housewife day after day, they were now able to work in some factories and stores. The picture from Document J shows a room full of female typists. Another benefit to the new industrialization was that many new stores and inventions became available. In the piece from Sister Carrie the author talks about the greatness of department stores. They had lavish items such as stationary, jewelry, clothes, and a number of trinkets. People bustled around these stores all the time looking at the newest fashion and shiny objects. Whoever went in them felt elegant and important. These little things definitely do not weigh out the negative aspects of the working world, but it offered a little bit of pleasure in a world of hardships.
The period after the Civil War offered the country great prosperity and growth. The formation of monopolies brought about both good and bad effects, but it all contributed to the nation’s history. Big businesses were able to gain control of both the economy and the government, but were eventually regulated later on. All of this was just stepping stones in order to get the great system America has today.