Robber Barons

In the Cartoon:
Cyrus Field, Jay, Gould, Cornelius Vanderbilt and Russel Sage are represented here basking in their luxury while laborers who work with cheap wages work hard to hold up their profits and lifestyle.


In 1870  The Robber barons, or the captains of industry were industrialists who controlled the whole industrial market. Robber barons could make prices lower and then , once they owned the market, could hike up prices
they donated a lot of their money but the government was worried about crushing free competition.
With all the new inventions capitalism grew, Rockerfeller began
to use horizontal and vertical integration to control the market.

Industrial Causes and Invention Time Line

Link to time line

During the industrial Revoltion a plethora of new inventions came about to make working more efficient. These inventions also helped to reduce the need of labor. This would later lead to the use of cheap labor with immigrants.

Interstate Commerce Act

Granger laws were made to regulate trains and the railroad, but in 1886 Surpreme Court ruled that the granger laws were unconstitutional.

In 1887 The Interstate Commerce Act gave the federal government the right to supervise railroad activity through a 5 member Interstate Commerce Comission (ICC)

The ICC was not powerful enough, especially after supreme court ruled that the ICC could not set a max rate. The ICC only got power in 1906 when President Roosevelt came into office

“American Frankenstein”

This picture shows how the train, a mans creation has turn against its creator by attaking the people of the nation.

Effects of the Industrial Revolution: Child Labor

 A child millworker is shown here. She runs 4 sides of the mill on 48 cents a day. When asked how old she was, she hesitated, then said, “I don’t remember,” then added confidentially, “I’m not old enough to work, but do just the same.”


Here shows several young boys working in a textile factory in the late 19th century.

Effects of the Industrial Revolution: Labor Unions and Strikes

Labor Unions/Reformers:
Due to the increase in poverty, child labor, dangerous conditions in factories, and lower standard of living from the industrial revolution many labor unions came about. One of the main figures of these labor unions was Eugene Debs. Eugene Debs was the head of the IWW- Industrial Workers of the World- a group of radical unionists and socialists in Chicago. The IWW wanted to included workers skilled and unskilled.

an illustration of the Haymarket Affair
The Social Gospel Movement brought about reforms that preached salvation through service to the poor. Many women at this time were a part of this including Jane Addams and Janie Porter barrett. Jane Addams created the first settlement house in 1886 while Janie Porter Barrett founded the Locust Street Social Settlement, the first settlement home for African Americans. These people worked to educate and help the poor in cities and slum areas. These many acts of kindness inspired many to join to help in this act. By 1910 about 400 settlement houses were operating across the country.

Women and girl winding wire onto a machine
During the late 1800s many workers began going without pay causing several violent strikes to start. Railroads workers in Baltimore and Ohio went on the Great Strike of 1877 to protest their second wage cut in two months. Another major strike was the Haymarket affair on May 4th, 1886 which was a protest against police cruelty. A bomb was thrown and 7 police officers were killed while many workers were injured. The Homestead Strike included steel workers on June 29th, 1892 which caused the national guard to step in. Many women were not allowed in labor unions, but they supported much of the work of unions. Women such as Mary Harris Jones, or Mother Jones, demanded for better working conditions, end to child labor and equal pay for equal work. Mary Harris Jones spoke on child labor,

“The employment of children is doing more to fill prisons, insane asylums, almshouses, reformatories, slums, and gin shops than all the efforts of reformers are doing to improve society.”

In 1903 she led 80 million children to Theodore Roosevelt’s home to expose the injuries and horrors of child labor this would later lead to the passing of child labor laws.

Mary Harris Jones in the Children’s Crusade


Effects: Immigration

Railroad companies promising a ticket to land lured Irish, Chinese and other immigrants to America.
When they could not get to the train on time they stayed in the city and worked to feed their families.

Some worked for the railroads and others in factories, but almost all worked for very low wages to keep their jobs.

Immigrants were the cheapest workers so many American citizens were kicked out of their jobs for the cheaper labor.


Central Pacific hired many Irish immigrants while Union Pacific hired many Chinese.

working was hard and many accidents occured in 1888. Casualties from railroad work mounted to 2,000 killed and 20,000 injured.

Republicans fought to get immigrants equal rights, and higher wages.



Railroads and Expansion:
The Industrial Revolution took a toll on America for better and for worse. This was the starting point of the new America and the years to come. More efficient processes, such as the Bessemer process was used to produce better quality steel, were used to help expand our railroads and population.

The need for more efficient work was filled with new machines. The new inventions made work easier, faster and more efficient.  Many jobs opened up causing immigrants to come looking for work. The work force not only opened up to immigrants and men, but children and women as well. Laborers worked long hours with little pay and poor conditions.  Angered against their conditions many laborers began labor unions and strikes. Eugene Debs was the head of the IWW,  Industrial Workers of the World, a group of radical unionists and socialist in Chicago. These strikes would later lead to the passing of laws against child labor and equal pay for equal work. Along with the voices of working men many women like Mary Harris Jones led strikes to better the lives of laborers.

 IWW demonstration in New York City

Robber Barons and The Grange:
As new industries formed so did Robber Barons such as Carnegie and Rockefeller who both used vertical and horizontal integration to form huge industries to control the markets and became extremely wealthy. The Grange, organization of farmers attempting a social outlet and an educational forum for isolated farm families, tried having government control over railroads. The Grange was angry because of the unfair distribution of land to railroads and the Robber Barons causing farmers to go into debt. Later the Interstate Commerce Act was passed, but was proven too weak to control the railroads.

In all the lingering effects of the Industrial revolution were both positive and negative. The new inventions created new jobs for men, women and children alike. The rapid growth of railroads caused for westward expansion and creation of new cities such as Chicago and Seattle. With the spreading of people also spread ideas enriching our culture. The Industrial Revolution also caused great wealth and poverty in America arousing many protests and reforms.