Industrialization of the United States
Industrial development in the United States began already in the 18th century (see early United States history). However, the years from 1865 to 1945 were momentous, as the USA rose from an agrarian nation of 35 million citizens, to the world's dominant superpower, and the home of 140 million people, mostly through immigration. The Old West was colonized, and mass production, automobiles, electric lighting, and popular culture such as Hollywood movies and jazz (see The Jazz Track) created the modern American lifestyle.
- Once, during Prohibition, I was forced to live for days on nothing but food and water. – W. C. Fields
The late 19th century was named The Gilded Age; and saw a rising class of capitalists and intellectuals, among continued poverty, widespread corruption, and racial tension in the wake of the emancipation of slaves. The Progressive Era starting around 1900 brought political reforms, such as antitrust laws, labor rights, women's suffrage, as well as the prohibition of alcohol, which was repealed in 1933. The "war on drugs" has its origin in the prohibition era and the time immediately afterwards, though the actual term was not used until the Nixon era.
World War I was followed by the Roaring Twenties, an economic boom brought to halt by the 1929 stock market crash that led to the Great Depression. The New Deal policies of the 1930s included infrastructure projects which transformed the American scenery. During the interwar years the US started intervening in some low level domestic conflicts and civil wars throughout Central America and the Caribbean, mostly to ensure stable dictatorships favorable to the US and American business interests primarily in bananas and other agricultural products. This era gave rise to the term "banana republic" and some of the same patterns could be seen after the war with a cold war background.
As World War II in Europe began in 1939, the United States was a non-belligerent supporter of the Allies. The Pearl Harbor attack in 1941 marked the beginning of American involvement in the Pacific War, and after Germany also declared war on the US shortly thereafter, the American Armed Forces became officially engaged in the European theater as well. In 1944 the Allies, mostly Americans, landed at the D day beaches and helped bring the war to an end by May 1945 (Europe) and September 1945 (Japan) respectively. While industrial output continued growing throughout the 1950s, the rise of the automobile as well as a growing trend of suburbanization that originated from returning soldiers building houses in the suburbs drastically reversed some of the earlier trends and also led to political changes, among them the civil rights movement and following that, the decline of liberalism and progressivism in the American political landscape.
In sports this era saw the rise and consolidation into "Major Leagues" of Baseball as well as the setting of the first rules of American Football, a sport initially almost exclusively played by high-school and college amateurs. Basketball was also invented in this era and Ice Hockey consolidated into a sport played mostly in the Midwest, the Northeast and Canada, but their public attention was low and their attendance figures were dwarfed by "America's pastime", Baseball. Radio and railroads made nationwide leagues at least a theoretic possibility and by the beginning of the 20th century Major League Baseball franchises could be found in most of the Northeast and Midwest, playing the first "World Series" in 1903. Professional football originated mostly in and around Ohio and by 1920 a league that would later become the NFL and included teams such as Green Bay or the Chicago Cardinals (now playing in Arizona) crowned its first champion but was mostly ignored by major newspapers, radio stations and the public at large.
The United States has too many remnants from the Industrial Revolution to mention in a single article. This is a compilation of cities and other places of great historical importance, where the industrial heritage is more or less visible today. Many of them are in the north-east, and can be seen on the American Industry Tour from Boston to Chicago.
As the American frontier was closed during the late 19th century (with the exception of Alaska), the early 20th century was the Golden Age of American cities. Since the 1940s, much of the population has migrated to suburbs, as many city centers decayed. During the 21th century, some American city centers have been revitalized, due in part to rising gas prices that make living in the suburbs uneconomical, and decreased crime rates that make the city center attractive again. The trend of re-urbanization appears to continue resulting in better public transport systems in and between many cities.
In the mid-19th century, America became world leading in railroads, and later in urban rail. However, from the 1930s, the General Motors Streetcar Conspiracy had many rail lines closed down, to promote automobile use. Ever since then, America has been the land of the automobile, with rail travel lagging behind. Even today of roughly one billion automobiles in the world 250 million are driving around on American streets. Getting around the United States without a car can thus be difficult.
New England had already developed some industries during the Colonial era, but industrialization really took off during the Civil War.
- Boston/Charlestown, Massachusetts. Site of the Boston Navy Yard. From its foundation in 1801 until its decline past World War II and the final decommission in 1974, it built and maintained much of the US Navy.
- Waltham, Massachusetts. A suburb of Boston, with the remnants of the Boston Manufacturing Company. A centre for the American textile industry already in the early 18th century, and the birthplace of the Waltham System; an early version of the assembly line. In the 19th century, Waltham Watch Company made the city known as the Watch City. The car company Metz made the first American Motorcycles here.
- Lowell, Massachusetts. Lowell had watermill-powered workshops already in the 18th century, and was the country's first planned industrial city.
The Mid-Atlantic had thriving industrial cities even before the Civil War. Their productivity helped bring the Union to victory. Many immigrants from Ireland, Italy and Eastern Europe settled here. The manufacturing crisis beginning in the 1960s hit the Mid-Atlantic hard, but high-tech, service and hospitality industries have emerged, and many industrial buildings have been redeveloped for other purposes.
- Albany, New York. A center for the wood, paper and print industry, with many of the nation's first high-rise buildings. Owes its importance at least in part to the Erie Canal.
- Troy, New York. Troy flourished throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries and though deindustrialized like most of the rest of the North, has what's probably the best-preserved collection of grand 19th-century big-city buildings in the country.
- New York City. The largest city of the United States through most of its history. Many of the world's first skyscrapers were built here. Since 1886, the iconic Statue of Liberty has been the first sight of America for millions of immigrants from overseas.
- Atlantic City, New Jersey. A resort city with its heyday during the early 20th century, especially in the Prohibition years, when the city was highly corrupt, and a haven for drinking, gambling, and other vices. Today, the city is very much down on its luck.
- Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The city was industrialized already before the Civil War; it is best known for the Bethlehem Steel Company, once the country's second-largest steel manufacturer, which was dismantled during the 2000's. The main industrial area has been transformed to a casino resort.
- Scranton, Pennsylvania. The Steamtown National Historic Site tells a lot about American railroad history. The Pennsylvania Anthracite Heritage Museum can also be found here.
- Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. A cluster for iron and steel production during the late 19th century, with several museums and tours. Infamous in later times for the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear incident.
- Washington, D.C.. The capital is younger than most other big cities at the Atlantic coast, and most of its monumental architecture was created during the early 20th century. The Smithsonian Institution (established in 1846) has many museums; especially the National Museum of American History and the Arts and Industries Building contain many objects from the Industrial Revolution.
- Wheeling, West Virginia. At the northernmost corner of the South, Wheeling's immigrant population and anti-slavery sentiment made the city culturally more Northern than Southern. As West Virginia seceded from Virginia during the Civil War, Wheeling was the provisional state capital from 1861 to 1863. After the war, the tobacco industry flourished, as well as Victorian architecture, for which the city is known today.
- Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The "Steel City" was once at the core of American industry, and the seat for United States Steel, at its time the world's largest corporation. Though many steel mills have closed down during the 20th century, Pittsburgh has revitalized its industrial heritage.
- Buffalo, New York. An industrial city powered by the hydroelectricity from Niagara Falls, with several museums.
The rich natural resources, such as grain, iron, coal, wood and hydroelectric power, together with the Great Lakes and the Mississippi river system, allowed the Midwestern cities to boom during the Industrial Revolution. Since World War II, manufacturing has declined, and the region is today known as the "Rust Belt", with high unemployment and urban decay.
- Cleveland, Ohio. The birthplace of Standard Oil, the Rockefeller dynasty, and the early motor industry. The country's fifth largest city during the 1920's. As most other cities in the once industrial heartland it has fallen to a "rust belt" image, but a revitalization is underway and the somewhat negative reputation of the city is almost entirely undeserved
- Detroit, Michigan. The "motor city", the name "Detroit" was long a metonym for the US automobile industry. As the industry downsized since the late 20th century and population moved to the suburbs, much of the city lies deserted. The already-struggling city was hit hard by the housing crash of 2007/2008; though there are signs of recovery and "new urbanism", a long way remains to go.
- Chicago, Illinois. America's second city during the Industrial Revolution was the capital of the meatpacking industry, a haven for organized crime during Prohibition, and a hotspot for blues and jazz. Much of the city was destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. An important city in the history of organized labor, with the Pullman Union, and the Haymarket Square Massacre, the date of which is remembered in most of the world (though not the US or Canada) as a worker's holiday on May 1st. Also known for its brilliant classic modernist skyscrapers.
- Indianapolis, Indiana. The first Union Station in the USA was built here, allowing transfer between different railroads. The early motor industry rivalled Detroit. Today, the city has many museum featuring 19th and 20th century artifacts.
- St. Louis, Missouri. Host city of the 1904 World's Fair and Summer Olympics, as well as the Wainwright building, a high-rise office building that became the prototype for modern skyscrapers.
After the American Civil War, the federal government organized the South under the Reconstruction program. Reconstruction briefly brought the civil rights guaranteed in the constitution to (almost) all (male) citizens, including African Americans. However by 1876 Reconstruction had ended and the South was firmly in the grab of the old white landowning elite from the antebellum era. Though slavery was abolished, racial tension continued, and under "Jim Crow laws", African-Americans remained as second-class citizens until the Civil Rights revolution during the 1950s and 60s. There was a civil rights movement throughout the 19th and early 20th century, however it was less successful than in the 50s and 60s (owing in part to different attitudes among white Northerners) and more focused on lifting African Americans up from poverty through education and economic development than on achieving political participation. The most notable result of the early civil rights movement was their defeat in the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court case that established the notorious "separate but equal" rule in 1896 and was overturned in 1954 in the ruling on Brown v. Board of Education.
Industrialization generally came late to the South; however, the oil industry in Texas boomed starting around 1900. The New Deal targeted the South, especially through the Tennessee Valley Authority.
- Memphis, Tennessee. This inland port at the Mississippi has seen the best and the worst of American history; racial conflict and poverty, as well as the rise of the blues and modern American popular music.
- Nashville, Tennessee. Known as "Music City", Nashville is the foremost center of Country music and a major center of the recording industry in general. Country music was originally classed as "Hillbilly Records", which were mass-produced starting in the 1920s, when there was a huge immigration of poor Southern white farmers to the major cities of the South, North and, later, West, in parallel to the Great Migration of Southern African-Americans to the North. The homesick white former farmers bought these records in droves, just as the black former sharecroppers supported the companies that pressed the blues and other so-called "Race Records" during the same period. Nashville also has an industrial heritage dating back to the 19th century, starting with the arrival of railways in 1859 and continuing with the electrification of the local trolley system in 1889 and the beginning of production at Marathon Motor Car in 1910.
- New Orleans, Louisiana. Though the Civil War devastated many southern cities, New Orleans was largely intact, though hurricanes and floods later took a toll on the city's architecture. New Orleans always was and continues to be an important port and a center of African American culture, and is credited with being the birthplace of jazz.
California became the Land of Opportunity; more civilized than the Wild West.
- Hoover Dam. An impressive feat of engineering during the 1930s. It was built to provide water and electricity to Las Vegas and other cities in the area, a feat made difficult today by the ever more severe droughts.
- San Francisco, California. This city was destroyed during the 1906 earthquake, but quickly rebuilt. The Golden Gate Bridge, one of America's most iconic landmarks, opened in 1937 after much controversy and hundreds of lawsuits. A once common sight throughout the country are the cable cars, that while primarily a tourist attraction are still used by locals for their daily commute.
- Hollywood, California. Hollywood was established as the Western World's greatest center for motion pictures during the 1920s. While the bulk of cinematic production has now moved to Burbank, Universal City and other local surrounding communities, many venues remain from that time.
- Lincoln Highway
- American Industry Tour
- Route 66, opened in 1926 and decommissioned in 1985, was a legendary link between east and west until it was bypassed by multiple Interstate highways in the post-war years.