Post By: Megan Petrick
The Industrial Revolution took place in America over the course of about fifty years, 1820-1870. During the late nineteenth century the Industrial Revolution brought about much change affecting almost every aspect of life in the American Society. Major elements of its impact can be seen through various changes in urbanization, immigration and industrialization. Several groups of people as well as individuals were forced to either adapt to the changing parameters of this new world or succumb to failure.
The change in modernization called for an entirely new work force. Job opportunities in new booming cities called for mass numbers to move to the cities, including those living internationally. This era of growth transformed the American society by creating a new social class of wealthy entrepreneurs. As the wealth for a small group continued to flourish the gap between the wealthy and poor began to increase at a rapid rate.
One social change that was greatly brought about due to the Industrial Revolution was children in the work force. In fact by 1900, 18 percent of all American workers were under the age of 16. Often times families needed the additional income a child could bring in. It was common to see children as young as six years old working in factories. The pay they received was very minimal because factory owners did not have to follow any minimum wage requirements. Orphans were the children whom were subject to slave like labor. Owners justified their lack of pay to orphans by claiming that they provided shelter, food and clothing to these children. Work hours were long, generally most children put in between 12 and 14 hours a day with minimal breaks.
To make matters even worse the conditions these children worked under were dangerous and grotesque. Machinery ran so quickly that little fingers, arms and legs could easily become stuck into the heavy equipment. The surrounding atmosphere was quite often filled with fumes and toxins that had long term affects on the growing lungs of small children. Sweatshops were notorious for being poorly ventilated and infested with vermin. It was common for children to be locked into the rooms they worked in, to ensure they stayed for at least 12 hours. If a fire or other type emergency was to break out, escape rates were very low. When machines broke, managers of the factories encouraged these small children to crawl into the tight places and explore what possible problems could have resulted. Their small bodies turned out to often be very beneficial for owners.
The absence of children in school and freely playing in the streets greatly impacted American’ s social society. These kids were forced to grow up and experience the real word realities their parents too were facing. Like stated earlier, these poor working conditions often impacted future health conditions for these children and provided hindrances for future success. Child labor during the Industrial Revolution forever changed the dynamics and social structure of the common family.