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The Gilded Age and the Second Industrial Revolution

KC‑6.1.I.B.i (KC)
Unit 6: Learning Objective D
WXT (Theme)

Video transcript

so we were talking about the wealth inequality that characterized the Gilded Age but you were telling me that that's not the only thing Kim that characterizes this period right what really makes the Gilded Age happen is what we call the Second Industrial Revolution I are you familiar with the first Industrial Revolution but of course so that was the revolution where they had steam ships and canals and kind of this early creation of the market system in the United States say like 1820s 1830s the Second Industrial Revolution is is more of a revolution of mass production okay I'd say and ways of making and shipping and communicating about business transactions and materials that didn't exist before so what are some of these disruptive technologies there are really poised to change the shipment paradigm so okay so off the top of my head um trains probably a huge deal right in this period yeah so we've got we've got all this coal going and we've got and that means that there's a lot of smelting happening and that means that there's also a lot of Steel to you I think if I had to choose one most important technology of the Gilded Age it would have to be steel now it's not like steel didn't actually exist for this deal is been around for like millennia yeah I think Sarah lynnium but what happens in this time period is there's a new process for making steel it's called the Bessemer process and the Bessemer process basically makes steel faster and it makes it cheaper okay and in this time period you know Andrew Carnegie we talked about being at this major steel baron railroads throughout the United States partly supported majorly supported by the US government and during this period they lay 40,000 miles of new tracks of rail that is so many miles that is Sonne miles how long is the United States from like Los Angeles to New York like 3,000 miles 3,100 miles ah yes so just imagine a nation where most railroad tracks had gone through sort of eastern coastal cities up until 1865 now the entire country is connected by rail there's more rail in the United States in 1900 then all of Europe combined so so steel is this really so the Bessemer process of making steel is this foundational technology that enables a lot of the Gilded Age to happen right so it enables the United States to move out and also to connect markets right so you can now take raw materials from the West which is really important right that's where the gold lives and also cattle ranching right you take those things from the West you take them to the cities to be processed then you take the fitted the finished goods and send them back out into the smaller towns so rail facilitates all of that so this is this is how my hometown became notorious yeah of Chicago so there would be cattle drives I guess then that came from the West and then they would be all be slaughtered and processed in Chicago right yeah I'm a native Pennsylvanian you're a native Chicagoan and we are born from steel places as the steel industry really grew up in Pittsburgh and what I think is really interesting about steel too is that it's like a self-sustaining industry right because you need the steel to make the railroads right and then the railroad industry pays for the creation of steel which facilitates the creation of more railroads which necessitates the creation of more steel and it's just like this never-ending boom in steel in the Gilded Age so steel facilitates the United States moving outward but it also facilitates the United States moving upward oh I see what you did that was good yeah you like that yeah so steel allows for the construction of buildings that are taller than ever before so what is this building here this building here is the home Insurance Building in Chicago they don't believe it is there anymore and you know what is special about the home insurance building know what's what's special about it the home insurance building is considered to be the world's first skyscraper yeah it looks pretty short for a skyscraper by modern standards and I couldn't build a building that tall that's ten storeys tall and what you can do with steel is build these steel frame structures that allow you without using stone there's kind of like a steel cage underneath the facade of this and so you can build buildings that are taller while having windows it's like a Faraday cage uh but there was terrible cell phone reception in that I imagine so yeah there were no cell phones at this time all right so you know what else made these tall buildings possible except for the steel structures Oh was it elevators it was totally elevators yes see you're better at this than you thought yeah this is the the time of the invention of the otis elevator this is my little and elevator entrance that yes you could go to the top of a tall building without having to walk up 37 flights of stairs which is pretty sweet for our efficiency if not maybe our waste lines okay so but we've got we've got this steel process which enables the construction of tons and tons of rail and tons and tons of buildings of new buildings where you can put more industry and more people and that enables cities to grow and wealth to grow yeah exactly so there are more and more people flooding into cities by 1870 there are more people working for other people for wages living in cities than people who work for themselves which is a new era in the American economic system there are some other really important business technologies that grow up in this time period as well so there's the telephone hmm which makes it possible to do business transactions on the spot right revolutionized the speed of business very much the same way that the internet is revolutionize the speed of business in the 1990s you also have refrigeration which you would not think would be that big of a deal but think about how it allows you to move foodstuffs sure all over the country to new markets you were just talking about Chicago right so the only way that cattle could be driven into Chicago slaughtered and then have meat sent to all the other markets in the United States was through refrigerated train cars and they have similar things for steam ships that allow people to for example bring oranges from Florida to New York so this web of markets that are connecting the United States and this is my terrible drawing of the United States but you know rail and then ships make it possible for all of these markets to connect together over time and over space that's super cool you know the railroad was even so important in this time period that in a way it invented the modern system of time right because before the railroad localities was just decide when noon was based on when the Sun was highest in the sky sure which meant that matter whether or not it was the same time in Kansas City as as in st. Louis but once you have a train connecting them you know the st. Louis train gets in at 12:05 if you're off you know you miss your train or that might lead to a collision of trains if they don't know when the other train is going to be coming through yeah okay so inventions of the Gilded Age intra national train travel the telephone refrigeration for meet the Bessemer process for steel and the standardization of time all of those things and I would say the last thing that might be really important here is also electrification hmm yeah and I like steel you know electricity was not invented in the Gilded Age but what happened was the spread of the light bulb in both homes and businesses which meant that you could work longer hours you didn't sleep as long actually the amount of sleep that people got per night switched from about nine hours before electrification to about seven after so Thomas Edison is literally responsible for robbing us of sleep but it also made it possible for workers to work longer hours and it significantly reduced the risk of fire in businesses which meant you could invest in them with more confidence oh because they didn't have gas lamps that could burst into flame right awesome well that's super cool so hurray Gilded Age right right and I think one thing that's important to understand about these technologies is that one of the goals of these technologies was to make it possible to produce things faster but also to reduce them with less skilled workers right because a skilled worker someone who knows a craft and can produce a finished item from start to finish that takes a long time and it costs a lot of money right this is the difference between buying a suit off the rack and having a bespoke suit if you want to pay someone for that time and talent you're going to pay a lot but if you can make something on a machine then you can make a lot of them very quickly and you don't need someone who is you know an expert tailor you just need someone who can operate a sewing machine to do a couple of seams so what they're trying to do here with this innovation is spread consumer goods spread a higher standard of living but they're also doing that at the price of having less skilled workers making much smaller wages