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History of Industrialization in the United States


The skyrocketing expansion of manufacturing in the period between 1877-1900, named the Gilded Age, generated enormous wealth and made the USA the most economically developed country. Nevertheless, along with achievements, industrialization gave rise to many significant social issues, including a yawning break between rich and poor and economic instability, provoking the population’s increased engagement in politics. This paper will examine the speech “What Does the Working Man Want?” by Samuel Gompers, explaining its significance and relation to the course material. Samuel Gompers is the president of the American Federation of Labor and a prominent leader of the labor movement in the United States.

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The Reason for the Source

Because of the continuously increasing inequality gap and the unbearable conditions of ordinary workers, people staged massive strikes and demonstrations throughout the United States. Most semiskilled workers encountered acute economic insecurity embracing no protections against unemployment, no pensions, no compensation for injuries (Kim 00:15:00-00:15:07). Moreover, toilers had to work over ten hours for a meager wage that was barely enough to feed the family. In this regard, Samuel Gompers advocated for reducing the working day to eight hours and endowing workers with decent living conditions (Gompers 1). In this message, Gompers also reacted to some widespread assumptions concerning the inferiority of the eight-hour movement.

The Author’s Perspective

Samuel Gompers was deeply convinced that the eight-hour working day would bring a substantial benefit to both the wage-workers of America and the overall society. First, the speaker asserted that limiting working hours to eight hours could help eliminate adverse habits, especially prevalent drinking, a favorite haven of many workers. Gompers also assumed that the implementation of this idea could stimulate industrial and commercial development. In particular, he claimed that the eight-hour movement “means greater prosperity, it means a greater degree of progress for the whole people; it means more advancement and intelligence, and a nobler race of people” (Gompers 2). The appearance of more available hours should release numerous golden “opportunities for thought,” which could push workers to mental labor and profound interest in studies (Gompers 2).

The Environment Conveyed

The given source is closely related to the severe general position of millions of American laborers, which was primarily caused by long workdays. Indeed, numerous wage-workers labored over sixty hours per week in dangerous circumstances, without any reimbursements for injuries or protections against unemployment (Kim 00:14:54-00:14:56). In addition, the Gompers conveys the atmosphere that prevailed in the American society of that era, striving for radical social and economic transformations. It was evident that workers could no longer endure the harsh working conditions and their inferior status, which required the government to introduce comprehensive reforms in favor of the working class.


The source is principally connected with the first argument stating that corporations considerably contributed to American society’s transformation in the late 19th century. Indeed, industrial corporations and banks captured all main sectors of the US economy and even could control the governmental decisions, which put the working class at a disadvantage. Business leaders, such as Carnegie or Rockefeller, could exploit the laborers, forcing the latter to fight for their rights, the primary of which was the idea of an eight-hour working day. In a broader historical context, industrialization, together with increased wealth, provoked large-scale social unrest, entailing far-reaching social and economic changes. This epoch also indicates the importance of the struggle for social rights to induce positive shifts and promote overall progress.


“HIST 371 Industrialization, Workers, and Immigration.” YouTube, 2021. Web.

Samuel Gompers. “What Does the Working Man Want?” The University of Texas at Austin, pp. 1-5. n.d. Web.

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