All the facts : a history of information in the United States since 1870

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They invested not in labor but in technology, particularly improved plows, reapers, and threshers. With westward expansion onto the prairies, a single family with a reaper could increase acreage and thus production without large amounts of hired labor. Arable free lands grew scarcer during the s, forcing more and more land seekers west into arid lands beyond the 98th meridian.

All the Facts: A History of Information in the United States since 1870

In many years these lands lacked adequate rainfall to produce crops. During the same period, the percentage of workers employed in agriculture fell. Such statistics seemed to reflect a decline in the importance of farming, but in fact, they reflected its significance and efficiency.

Farmers produced more than the country could consume with smaller and smaller percentages of its available labor. They exported the excess, and the children of farmers migrated to cities and towns. Where at the beginning of the century exports composed about 10 percent of farm income, they amounted to between 20 and 25 percent by the end of the century. Migration from rural to urban areas dwarfed both foreign migration and westward migration. The rise of industrial America, the dominance of wage labor, and the growth of cities represented perhaps the greatest changes of the period.

Few Americans at the end of the Civil War had anticipated the rapid rise of American industry.

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As the Massachusetts Bureau of Statistics and Labor declared in , wage labor was universal: "a system more widely diffused than any form of religion, or of government, or indeed, of any language. Skilled workers proved remarkably successful at maintaining their position through the s, but they had to fight to do so. The relatively high wages for skilled workers led employers to seek ways to replace skilled with unskilled or semi-skilled workers.

Mechanization provided the best tactic for deskilling work and lowering wages. Many of the bitterest strikes of the period were attempts to control working rules and to maintain rather than raise wages. Beginning with the Great Railroad Strike of , through the Great Upheaval of that culminated in the slaughter at Haymarket Square, then through the Homestead Strike , Pullman Strike , and more, the largest confrontations often involved violence and the intervention by state or federal governments to repress the strikes.

Many of these strikes involved the railroads; the whole economy seemed to revolve around the railroads. At the end of the s the railroads renewed their expansion. With a brief break in the s, expansion continued at a reckless pace until At the end of more than 20 percent of the , miles of railroad in the United States had been constructed in the previous four years. By the end of the century the railroad corporations rivaled the United States government in size. In the Pennsylvania Railroad had , employees, almost three times the number of men in all the armed forces of the United States.

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Nationally, , people worked for railroads in and nearly , in about 3 percent of the entire work force of the nation. By roughly one-sixth of all capital investments in United States were in the railroads. The railroads powered the industrial economy. They consumed the majority of iron and steel produced in the United States before As late as , steel rails accounted for 90 percent of the steel production in the United States. They also distributed these commodities across the country. At times, however, railroads threatened to haul the American economy into the abyss.

Rail corporations overbuilt, borrowed recklessly, and were often atrociously managed. They ricocheted wildly between rate wars and the creation of pools to fix prices, and they encouraged other industries to follow.

Wheat, silver, timber, cattle, and other commodities flooded the market, sent prices tumbling, and dragged many producers into bankruptcy. The signal of every economic collapse in the late nineteenth century was the descent of railroads and the banks associated with them into receivership.

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The railroads were typical of the economic contradictions of the era. Over the period as a whole, American industry advanced rapidly. At the end of the century, it had overtaken Great Britain both in iron and steel production and in coal production. The United States made such great gains because it was the fastest runner in a relatively slow race. The entire period from to the turn of the century became known as the Long Depression in western Europe.

The United States grew faster than European economies, although no faster than nations with similar British colonial backgrounds—Australia and Canada. It actually grew more slowly than Argentina. None of these economies, however, were remotely as large. The growth was not even.


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The economy came out of the depression following the Panic of at the end of that decade, lurched into a short, sharp depression in —, and then fell into a much more severe depression from to Until the s this was known as the Great Depression. Such fluctuations in the American economy were linked to the larger world economy. Important sectors of the American economy globalized, putting American businesses and farmers in competition with other places in the world.

One result was a steady downward pressure on prices. The Republican policy of maintaining tariff protection for American industry mitigated deflation on the domestic market, but the return to the gold standard with the Resumption Act of , which later became a major political issue, created compensatory deflationary pressure that contributed to the general decline in prices. This benefitted workers only as long as they were able to maintain their wages.

Economic changes manifested themselves in rates of immigration which rose during good times and declined during bad , urbanization, types of work, family organization, and more.

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All the Facts: A History of Information in the United States since | Information & Culture

Social and cultural patterns, in turn, affected the economy by determining who held certain jobs, how those jobs were valued, and where and how work took place. The cumulative effects of these changes were staggering, and many Americans worried that immigration, urbanization, wage labor, and the rise of large corporations undermined values that they thought defined the country itself. The Civil War had seemed to secure the triumph of a world of small producers and the values of free labor, individualism, and contract freedom.

Many Americans desperately wanted to believe that those values survived and still ensured success within the new industrial society. Sometimes they attached the old values to new theories. Herbert Spencer, the British writer and philosopher, had many American disciples, of whom William Graham Sumner of Yale was probably the most prominent. Spencer and his disciples tried to understand human social change in terms of Darwinian evolution, utterly obfuscating the mechanisms of biological evolution in the process.

Other Americans simply tried to portray the new economy as essentially the same as the old. They believed that individual enterprise, hard work, and free competition in open markets still guaranteed success to those willing to work hard. An evolving mass print culture of cheap newspapers, magazines, and dime novels offered proselytizers of the old values new forms of communication.

Horatio Alger, whose publishing career extended from the end of the Civil War to the end of the century, wrote juvenile novels that reconciled the new economy with the old values of individualism. Many other Americans did not think so. They formed a diffuse reform movement contemporaries referred to as antimonopolism. Antimonopolists, including farmers, small businessmen, and workers in the Knights of Labor and other organizations, agreed on the problem, but often differed on the solution.

They lamented the rise of large corporations, which to them were synonymous with monopoly. They worried about the dependence on wage labor, the growth of unemployment, particularly during the frequent panics and depressions, the proliferation of tramps as the poor who wandered in search of work were known, and the decline of individual independence.


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In the s Walt Whitman lamented the human casualties of the new economy. Antimonopolists agreed that the purpose of a republican economy was to sustain independent and prosperous republican citizens, but how to restore the economy to that condition was the problem. Some, probably a majority in the s, sought government intervention to restore competition. Others, who grew in numbers in the s and s, accepted the inevitability of large corporations but desired that they be more tightly regulated. By the s, the Populists, an antimonopolist third party centered on the South and West, advocated government ownership of the railroads and the telegraphs.

In many ways the antimonopolists were successful. They comprised large factions within both the Democratic and Republican Parties and created new third parties from the Greenbackers — to the Populists of the s. In , the climactic election of the period pitted the antimonopolist William Jennings Bryan against the Republican William McKinley.

Bryan lost, but many of the reforms antimonopolists advocated would be enacted over the next twenty years.

Many others were already in place. The inevitable compromises involved in passing legislation left a contradictory reform legacy. Some measures sought to restore competition by breaking up trusts or holding companies while others accepted the existence of large corporations but enforced regulations to restrain them. The Sherman Anti-Trust Act of initiated a movement to break up the largest trusts. State railroad commissions, the most effective of which were in Iowa and Texas, and the Interstate Commerce Commission created in represented attempts to regulate corporations.

Thomas Edison emerged as perhaps the most admired American of the age because he seemed to represent the triumph of individualism in an industrial economy. He built his famous lab at Menlo Park, New Jersey, in The public regarded Edison as the "wizard of Menlo Park," but it was ironically the lab—a cooperative enterprise—that produced the inventions from a workable electric light to the phonograph and more.

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And when in Edison merged his lab and other businesses into General Electric, the man who was a symbol of economic individualism became the head of a large corporation. That the corporate form captured Edison was not surprising because large corporations that first arose with the railroads before the Civil War were coming to dominate the American economy during the Great Merger movement of the s. John D. Rockefeller symbolized the darker view of the economy. His Standard Oil became the best-known and the best-hated corporation of the day.

Rockefeller ruthlessly consolidated a competitive oil industry, absorbing rivals or driving them out of business. He was unapologetic, and he had only disdain for those who still thought of the economy as depending on individualism and competition. Organization and consolidation was the future. What was also gone was the United States as a purely continental nation.

In many ways, the American acquisition of an overseas empire was a continuation of its continental expansion at the expense of American Indian peoples. But with the annexation of Hawaii and the subsequent annexation of the Philippines and Puerto Rico following the Spanish American War , the United States extended its military and governmental reach beyond its continental boundaries. The war, like so many things, marked the vast changes that took place in a neglected era.

Rockefeller [], Headquarters: 49 W. Skip to main content. History Now. Cortada advances a new and intriguing scholarly perspective that emphasizes the analysis of the critical role of information in the form of facts and data in shaping social dynamics Ultimately, Cortada's new historiography not only creates a means for assessing how informational factors tie the past to the present, but also adumbrates the probable direction of future change. Michael Halpert, EH.

Net Cortada does not disappoint when it comes to breadth His book serves as a fascinating, exhaustive, and wide-ranging introduction to the concept of information. He made me think, and he has laid bare some fertile soil for future researchers to exploit. James W. Cortada is the author of over two-dozen books on the history and use of information and computing in American society. Introducing American Information 1. A Short Biography of American Information, 2. How Citizens Became Dependent on Information, 6. Informing the Business of America, 8. Information and the Modern Knowledge Worker, 9.

Uses of Information in Everyday Life, The Internet and Modern Uses of Information Du kanske gillar. Inbunden Engelska,