16. Capital and Labor

Friedrich Graetz, “The Tournament of Today – A Set-To Between Labor and Monopoly.” August 1, 1883. Library of Congress (LC-DIG-ppmsca-28412).

Friedrich Graetz, “The Tournament of Today – A Set-To Between Labor and Monopoly.” August 1, 1883. Library of Congress (LC-DIG-ppmsca-28412).

Introduction

Industrialization remade the United States. At the turn of the twentieth century, powerful capitalists, middle class managers, and industrial and agricultural labors confronted a new world of work and labor in the United States. While many benefited from the material gains of technological progress, others found themselves trapped in cycles of poverty and hopelessness and strikes, protests, and political warfare rocked American life as workers adjusted themselves to a new industrial order. The following sources explore the mindsets of American suddenly confronted with a new world of concentrated capital and industrial labor. 

 

Documents

William Graham Sumner on Social Darwnism (ca.1880s)

William Graham Sumner, a sociologist at Yale University, penned several pieces associated with the philosophy of Social Darwinism. In the following, Sumner explains his vision of nature and liberty in a just society.

Henry George, Progress and Poverty, Selections (1879)

In 1879, the economist Henry George penned a massive bestseller exploring the contradictory rise of both rapid economic growth and crippling poverty.

Andrew Carnegie’s Gospel of Wealth (1889)

Andrew Carnegie, the American steel titan, explains his vision for the proper role of wealth in American society.

Grover Cleveland’s Veto of the Texas Seed Bill (1887)

Amid a crushing drought that devastated many Texas farmers, Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill designed to help farmers recover by supplying them with seed. In his veto message, Cleveland explained his vision of proper government.

The “Omaha Platform” of the People’s Party (1892)

In 1892, the People’s, or Populist, Party crafted a platform that indicted the corruptions of the Gilded Age and promised government policies to aid “the people.”

 

Media

“The Tournament of Today” (1883)

Friedrich Graetz, “The Tournament of Today - A Set-To Between Labor and Monopoly.” August 1, 1883. Print shows a jousting tournament between an oversized knight riding horse-shaped armor labeled "Monopoly" over a locomotive, with a long plume labeled "Arrogance", and carrying a shield labeled "Corruption of the Legislature" and a lance labeled "Subsidized Press", and a barefoot man labeled "Labor" riding an emaciated horse labeled "Poverty", and carrying a sledgehammer labeled "Strike". On the left is seating "Reserved for Capitalists" where Cyrus W. Field, William H. Vanderbilt, John Roach, Jay Gould, and Russell Sage are sitting. On the right, behind the labor section, are telegraph lines flying monopoly banners that are labeled "Wall St., W.U.T. Co., [and] N.Y.C. RR". Via Library of Congress (LC-DIG-ppmsca-28412).

Friedrich Graetz, “The Tournament of Today – A Set-To Between Labor and Monopoly.” August 1, 1883.  Via Library of Congress (LC-DIG-ppmsca-28412).

“Print shows a jousting tournament between an oversized knight riding horse-shaped armor labeled “Monopoly” over a locomotive, with a long plume labeled “Arrogance”, and carrying a shield labeled “Corruption of the Legislature” and a lance labeled “Subsidized Press”, and a barefoot man labeled “Labor” riding an emaciated horse labeled “Poverty”, and carrying a sledgehammer labeled “Strike”. On the left is seating “Reserved for Capitalists” where Cyrus W. Field, William H. Vanderbilt, John Roach, Jay Gould, and Russell Sage are sitting. On the right, behind the labor section, are telegraph lines flying monopoly banners that are labeled “Wall St., W.U.T. Co., [and] N.Y.C. RR”.”

 

Lawrence Textile Strike (1912)

Lawrence Textile Strike, 1912. Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-23725.

Lawrence Textile Strike, 1912. Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-23725.

In 1912, The International Workers of the World (the IWW, or the “Wobblies”) organized textile workers in Lawrence and Lowell, Massachusetts. This photo shows strikers, carrying American flags, confronting strikebreakers and militia bayonets.