HIST 405N Week 5 Assignment Case Study
HIST 405N Week 5 Assignment Case Study
In the 25th day of March 1911, a fire broke out in a New York City clothing factory which
burned the building and killed more than a hundred workers. The factory is owned by Max Blanck
and Isaac Harris – both having history of owned factory fires. The factory has poor access points
which made it difficult to escape during the 1911 factory fire. Moreover, numerous nonhumanitarian acts were happening in this factory – salary worth $15 per week for working 12 hours
daily, imprisoning the workers who are striking for their policies, and bribing politicians to favor
in their case (Smith, 2017). This case paved way led to a protest which called out the conditions
leading the fire incident. The factory owners were able to win against the case; however, the
incident led to multiple reform events such as passage of law requiring factory to be prepared with
fire incidents and the formation of a reform party for the cause of the workers.
From the mentioned 1911 incident, it is clear that businessmen were already ruling the
economy and those who are affected by it – almost all people. These ruling people can either be
captains of industry, shrewd businessmen, or robber barons. Shrewd businessmen were people
capable of assessing a situation and can turn it into their advantage (Khor, 2014). Captains of the
industry were people who uses their wealth for the cause of others and society. Robber barons
were people who monopolize an industry by overpowering and eliminating their competition
(Maryville University, n.d.). For most cases, like Blanck and Harris, most business leaders can be
considered as shrewd businessmen. These leaders always prioritize their self and wealth before
any others. Some are even conducting programs that will cater the minority and the discriminated
or will help the needy, but these are mostly coverups of their hidden intentions or negative issues.
During the American Industrial Age, leaders were usually robber barons since they were
eliminating their competitors to monopolize their industry. Sometimes, consolidation of smaller
businesses to larger ones allowed price fixation (Moffatt, 2020). Nowadays, it is very difficult to
identify one leader as to what type of businessman he is. We do not know the real intentions of
people behind the big businesses.
The American Age of Industry is the second wave of industrial revolution following the
Great Britain. In this era, a big impact changed how people lived and started capitalism, new
industries, and modern cities. It also brings tycoons J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie. and John D.
Rockefeller into a global business leadership. Their modernist ideas made America to rise as the
top global manufacturer (Morris, 2012). During the American industrial revolution, workers were
treated like the products they were producing. The employers have forgotten that their workers
were also human. As the technology continue to advance, the humanitarian act is growing
backwards (Miller, 2004). There were four major aspects that workers were deprived during this
age: long hours of work, low wages of pay, dirty and dangerous working condition, and lack of
rights. Workers were forced to work around 12-16 hours per day, without breaks, and to endure
salaries which cannot entirely cover the basic needs. Moreover, gender discrimination is also
present in terms of wages – men are paid highest followed by women and children. The low salary
also paved way for child labor in industries. Workplaces were also not safe – workers were exposed
to high temperatures without proper ventilation, no multiple entry and exit points in case of
emergency, and multiple cases of incidents involving machines. Ultimately, workers were not
being violated since there are no laws protecting them. They continue working even if they have
injuries or sickness. This happened because there is little involvement of the government to the
working industries (History Crunch Writers, 2019).
The government, upon assessment of multiple workers’ mistreatment, lobbied laws that
will protect the workers against their employers’ wrongdoings. Workers started getting protection
from the reformers who gained political powers by opposing the maltreatment of capitalism to the
working sector. When these political personalities won government position, they were able to
pass laws protecting the labor sector by providing a safer workplace, limited working hours, proper
compensation, and reduced discrimination (History Crunch Writer, 2016). For example, SullivanHoey Fire Prevention Law was passed in 1911 as a response to the New York factory fire. Also,
Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 was also passed as a response to set a minimum wage for
maximum working hours. Moreover, children were also prohibited to work in manufacturing and
mining industries (History.com Editors, 2020). Federal government started breaking monopolies
by passing some laws – Sherman Antitrust Act prohibited conspiring of businessmen to restrict
trading, Clayton Antitrust Act forbid some business acts and mergers to decrease competition, and
Federal Trade Commission Act created a commission preventing anti-competitive practices
(Moffatt, 2020). The Federal Trade Commission (n.d.) defined monopolization as the act of one
business industry which eliminates competition by creation or maintenance of a monopoly. The
commission have also grouped anticompetitive practices into agreements between competitors and
monopolization. Furthermore, acts included were fixation of price, boycott of competitor, and
exclusive deals. The federal government’s monopoly regulation protects and benefits the
consumers. Consumers were able to buy quality products at the right price. Furthermore, regulation
can help starting businesses to survive the competition.
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In achieving economic justice and reform for workers, government have played an
important role in passing the laws as mentioned. One of the progressive presidents, who fought
for this, is Theodore Roosevelt. He introduced the New Nationalism which promotes workers’
rights and creates market regulation agencies. Roosevelt’s presidency initiated the laws which
protects the consumers from the continuously increasing prices of commodities. With the help of
the Congress, he was able to form the Bureau of Corporations to check illegal business practices.
Laws are continuously passed to respond to businesses monopolizing an industry. Roosevelt-led
government also allowed America to profit and to help its citizens by allowing government funds
to be spent on public works. Another progressive president is Woodrow Wilson who introduced
the New Freedom. His banner targets monopoly destruction and economic opportunity for
microbusinesses. This was envisioned through banking reforms, tightening industrial
combinations, and reducing import restrictions (Weisberger et al., 2020). These progressive
presidents introduced reforms that are still protecting us.
The Industrial Revolution helped America in becoming a global leader but allowed nonhumanitarian acts to the working sectors. Reforms were only introduced when different workerrelated incidents happened at the hands of their employers. History taught us that progress leaves
no one behind. At the start of the revolution, the workers were not part of the benefitting sector.
As these people unite, they were able to seat personalities who fought for their rights. These
movements are part of the rights and benefits we are experiencing. As we move forward, more
laws are being passed to protect anyone of their rights.
Federal Trade Commission. (n.d.). Enforcement: Anticompetitive practices. Author.
History Crunch Writers. (2016, January 2). Labor movement in the industrial revolution.
History Crunch Writers. (2019, November 26). Working conditions in the industrial revolution.
History.com Editors. (2020, September 1). Child labor.
Khor, E. (2014). From academia to entrepreneur: Lessons from the real world. Elsevier Inc.
Maryville University. (n.d.). America’s gilded age: Robber barons and captains of industry.
Miller, D.L. (2004). The industrial age 1865 to 1917. American Heritage, 55(6).
Moffatt, M. (2020, January 27). Federal efforts to control monopoly. ThoughtCo.
Morris, C.R. (2012). The dawn of innovation: The first American industrial revolution. Public
Smith, P. (2017). The Triangle disaster: How a fire a century ago at a New York clothing factory
changed U.S. labor laws. New York Times Upfront, 150(1), 11.
Weisberger, B.A. (2020, September 27). United States. Encyclopædia Britannica.