During the era between late 19th century and early 1900s, the population and economy rapidly grew in the United States. Dubbed the “Gilded Age” by Mark Twain, this period was a time for prosperity, improvement and discovery. Of those who benefitted, western farmers and factory laborers excelled through the discoveries and improvement occurring at this time.
The post Civil War era demonstrate radically positive effects for western farmers. Numerous advancements occurred in agricultural technology, transportation and developments of better quality planting. An advanced plow with a chilled (process of surface-hardening a metal by instant cooling) steel moldboard was created in 1868 by James Oliver. Sometime later, it became possible for two or more furrows at a time to be turned by the creation of the gangplow. This reaped, threshed, and bagged grain mechanically in a continuous motion.
Following the gangplow emerged cream separators (first created by C. G. de Laval of Sweden in 1880), seed planters, corn shellers, and a myriad of other influential farming devices. Horses became increasingly rare after 1900 as they were replaced with the development of steam tractor in 1902. Gasoline and diesel tractors also emerged. Along with new agricultural tools came novel transportation machines.
Haulage of produce was drastically expedited when Gottlieb Daimler built the first motor truck in 1896. Farmers obtained a new source of power when electric lines were extended to rustic areas and gave rise to automatic milking machines, electrically driven pumps for drawing water from wells, and refrigerated storage facilities. Through this increased use of machinery it became capable for farmers to produce enough goods to feed the nation’s enlarging population and their trade expanded overseas.
Agricultural workers did not benefit from the Rising Age without outside help; scientists aided framers to amplify and excel production. Through federal financial aid, Scientists were able to develop: better seeds and hardier plants, manufacturing uses for farm produce, elite breeds of livestock and effective methods of fighting off crop diseases.
Luther Burbank formed the Burbank potato (early 1870s), improved the varieties of produce and flowers, and a spineless cactus. Former slave and agricultural chemist (for more than 40 years), George Washington Carver, found a variety of uses for the sweet potato, peanut, and soybean while working at the Tuskegee Institute.
These revolutionary discovers allowed Southern farmers to lean less on cotton growing as the demand for newly noticed valuable goods grew. The government even bolstered farming by founding the federal Department of Agriculture in 1862 which aided farmers in performing research on animal and plant disease, plant varieties etc. Through the government, scientists and inventors, the farming industry was benefited tremendously by the Gilded Age.
Along with western farmers, factory labors were effectually assisted during the Gilded Age. Primarily, the first important national labor union, the Knights of Labor, was founded in 1869 by Uriah S. Stephens. This, along with many other unions such as the American Federation of Labor (organized in 1881), sought to improve the harsh working environment. These unions most commonly pushed for 8 hour work days, equal pay for men and women, abolition of child labor, government regulation of trusts, a graduated income tax etc. for both skilled and unskilled laborers. Additionally, the amount of working women rose drastically during this expanding age.
Between 1880 and 1900, the number of women laborers rose from 2.6 to 8.6 million. This helped many families climb out of poverty through additional income. Thomas Edison, who invented the first commercially incandescent lamp in 1879, aided workers drastically by making it capable for them to see easily as they worked and made their working experience more expedient with no need of refills on oil. When Frank J. Sprague developed the first successful DC motor in 1886 and adapted it to power street railways, transportation was significantly more convenient for laborers; workers could go more places at a faster rate.
Lastly, when electrification was made public in the mid 1880s, it provided a way for an assembly line to be created in which each workers job was made easier; the worker, instead of having to learn and meticulously create one individual product, was simply required to create one specific piece that was part of the product. As the Gilded Age unfolded, the laborers’ lives were made easier and more beneficial through spectacular ideas and more convenient appliances. Overall, the Industrial Age was a time for improvement in all areas of life in the U.S.A. Whether it be farmer or factory laborer, working conditions benefitted profoundly.
Through better motor vehicles, farmers could move produce and sell it faster and industrial workers could transport themselves more easily to their destination. Both agricultural and factory work was expanded to new and greater opportunities by the invention of electricity. Through collective assistance across the nation, factory workers and farmers’ gained in many positive areas during the Gilded Age. .