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The Dawning of American Labor: The New Republic to the Industrial Age




The Dawning of American Labor: The New Republic to the Industrial Age

Brian Greenberg

ISBN: 978-1-119-06555-5 September 2017 Wiley-Blackwell 232 Pages



A concise history of labor and work in America from the birth of the Republic to the Industrial Age and beyond

From the days of Thomas Jefferson, Americans believed that they could sustain a capitalist industrial economy without the class conflict or negative socioeconomic consequences experienced in Europe. This dream came crashing down in 1877 when the Great Strike, one of the most militant labor disputes in US history, convulsed the nation’s railroads. In The Dawning of American Labor a leading scholar of American labor history draws upon first-hand accounts and the latest scholarship to offer a fascinating look at how Americans perceived and adapted to the shift from a largely agrarian economy to one dominated by manufacturing.

For the generations following the Great Strike, “the Labor Problem” and the idea of class relations became a critical issue facing the nation. As Professor Greenberg makes clear in this lively, highly accessible historical exploration, the 1877 strike forever cast a shadow across one of the most deeply rooted articles of national faith—the belief in American exceptionalism. What conditions produced the faith in a classless society? What went wrong? These questions lie at the heart of The Dawning of American Labor.

  • Provides a concise, comprehensive, and completely up-to-date synthesis of the latest scholarship on the early development of industrialization in the United States
  • Considers how working people reacted, both in the workplace and in their communities, as the nation’s economy made its shift from an agrarian to an industrial base
  • Includes a formal Bibliographical Essay—a handy tool for student research
  • Works as a stand-alone text or an ideal supplement to core curricula in US History, US Labor, and 19th-Century America

Accessible introductory text for students in American history classes and beyond, The Dawning of American Labor is an excellent introduction to the history of labor in the United States for students and general readers of history alike.

List of Figures / vii

Acknowledgments / ix

Prologue: American Exceptionalism and the Great Strike of 1877 / 1

Chapter One: Artisans in the New Republic, 1787–1825 / 11

The Artisan Workplace / 11

The Political Economy of Early America / 15

The Early Transformation of the Workplace / 26

Rural Manufactures / 28

The Economy of Seaport Cities / 38

Manual Labor In and Out of the City / 41

Economic Change and the Demise of the Artisan Order / 46

Celebrating the New Era / 55

Chapter Two: Labor in the Age of Jackson, 1825–1843 / 59

The Geography of Industrialization / 59

Cultural Response to Industrialization / 70

Holding onto the Familiar / 74

Religion, the Revivalists, and the New Work Ethic / 76

Radical Resistance to the New Industrial Order / 81

Chapter Three: The Industrial Worker in Free Labor America / 91

Lynn as a Microcosm / 91

Not Just Lynn / 96

Labor Reform and the Remaking of American Society / 103

Immigrant Workers Confront Nativism / 111

Black Workers in a White World / 115

Trade Unions on the Move in the 1850s / 121

Chapter Four: From the Civil War to the Panic of 1873 / 129

Labor and the War / 129

The Great Lockout of 1866 / 133

“Eight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Rest, and Eight Hours for Recreation” / 137

Building a National Organization / 147

Epilogue: A Tradition of Labor Protest Persists / 159

Bibliographical Essay / 171

Index / 203