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HIST363
Assessment 7: Capital and Labor Relations, 1880–1920
Answer Guide
Following are answers to the guided reading questions. If you did not get the right
answer the first time, go back and reread the paragraph(s) identified after each
question. Save this document along with your notes for future reference.
1. Sombart, among many others, noted that whereas in Europe organized labor
developed political parties, U.S. workers never developed a political party to represent
their interests. Sombart emphasized that because universal manhood suffrage
occurred much earlier in the United States, workers never had to organize to win the
right to vote, unlike in Europe, where the aristocracy denied workers voting rights for
much longer. For more information, see “American Labor in Comparative Perspective”
under the University of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization and the Working
Class webpage.
2. Workers increasingly lost economic status as the nineteenth century progressed, with
fewer adult white men owning property, mechanization enabling factory owners to
replaced skilled craftsmen with semi or unskilled laborers, and a massive supply of
cheap labor in the form of European immigrants keeping wages down. Workers feared
that they would no longer be free but instead become “wage slaves” to the capitalist
class. For more information, see “Sources of Worker Unrest” under the University of
Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization and the Working Class webpage.
3. Two of the most hotly contested issues in the labor movement were the questions of
whether labor should try to reform the current system or press for a fundamental
transformation of the U.S. economy and whether labor should organize into industrial or
craft unions. The question of reform or transformation centered around whether it was
enough for workers to win higher wages, shorter hours, and better working conditions,
or if workers needed to control production through worker cooperatives, or more
radically, socialism. The question of industrial or craft unionizing spoke to strategy;
some people thought the best strategy would be to organize an entire industry or
organize along particular skills. Skilled workers had more bargaining power because
they were harder to replace, but doing so threatened to fissure the entire labor
movement along skilled/unskilled lines. For more information, see “Sources of Worker
Unrest” under the University of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization and the
Working Class webpage.
4. In addition to external resistance from capitalists and the division between skilled and
unskilled workers, ethnic tensions undermined many efforts among workers to unionize.
There was strife not only between the native and foreign-born, but within what historians
call the “new” and “old” immigrants. “Old” immigrants, like people coming from Britain,
Ireland, and Germany, clashed with “new” immigrants, such as Italians, Jews, and
Slavs. Employers would strategically hire a heterogeneous mix of immigrant labor at
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their factories in hopes of keeping their workforce divided. For more information, see
“The Drive for Unionization” under the University of Houston’s Digital History:
Industrialization and the Working Class webpage.
5. The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 is significant because it was the first major railroad
strike in the United States and one of the first general strikes in the country. The strike
was caused in large part by northern railroads, which slashed wages and salaries in
response to economic problems stemming from the Financial Panic of 1873. The
Pennsylvania Railroad’s actions in particular caused violent strikes to break out across
the nation, with two of the bloodiest battles occurring in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Over
100 people were killed in the violence nationwide, as state militias and federal troops
were used to end the strikes. For more information, see “The Great Railroad Strike”
under the University of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization and the Working
Class webpage.
6. In the 1870s, the Reading Railroad blamed the deals of two dozen mine foremen and
administrators on a secret society of Irishmen called the “Molly Maguires.” Although the
Reading Railroad hired a Pinkerton undercover detective to investigate, it is highly
probable that most of the men accused and executed for being Molly Maguires were
innocent. At the time, however, fears about the Molly Maguires enabled mine owners to
destroy the miners’ union, the Workingman’s Benevolent Association. This action, in
conjunction with the Catholic Church’s decision to excommunicate any miners in the
fraternal Ancient Order of Hibernians, crippled the ability of mine workers to organize in
the Pennsylvania coalfields. For more information, see “The Molly Maguires” under the
University of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization and the Working Class
webpage.
7. The first nationwide union in the United States was the National Trades Union,
formed in 1834. The union rapidly disintegrated after the financial panic of 1837. For
more information, see “The Origins of American Trade Unionism” under the University
of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization and the Working Class webpage.
8. The Knights of Labor embraced a more wide-ranging plan of social and economic
reform than the AFL. The Knights of Labor agitated for an eight-hour workday, the
abolition of child labor, safer working conditions in factories, equal pay for men and
women, and compensation for injuries on the job. Most broadly, the Knights of Labor
wanted factories and stores to be run as workers’ cooperatives. In contrast, the AFL’s
agenda was more narrowly focused on increasing wages, reducing hours, and
improving working conditions. Additionally, the AFL favored the use of strikes in labor
disputes, whereas the Knights of Labor did not. Finally, the Knights of Labor organized
workers regardless of skill or trade, whereas the AFL was only made up of skilled
workers in craft unions. For more information, see “The Origins of American Trade
Unionism” under the University of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization and the
Working Class webpage.
Saylor URL: www.saylor.org/ HIST363 Subunit 7.2.1 (after reading)
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Page 2 of 4
9. Protestors in Haymarket Square were arguing for an eight-hour workday. No one
was ever connected to the explosion, although four men were executed and a fifth
committed suicide, despite a total lack of evidence connecting them to the bombing.
This incident displayed American fears about radical labor organizers and immigrants.
For more information, see “Haymarket Square” under the University of Houston’s Digital
History: Industrialization and the Working Class webpage.
10. Samuel Gompers is famous because he was the first president of the American
Federation of Labor. He was born in London, immigrated to the United States at age
13, and became a cigar-maker and head of the cigar-maker’s union before ultimately
becoming president of the AFL. Gompers did not believe in socialism, and his
philosophy toward labor organizing was to organize skilled workers into unions that
would sign contracts with employers guaranteeing wages and hours of work, among
other agreements. For more information, see “Samuel Gompers and the American
Federation of Labor” under the University of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization
and the Working Class webpage.
11. The Homestead Strike was sparked by Henry Clay Frick’s decision to cut wages
and forbid unions at the Homestead Works. After fighting off 300 hired Pinkerton
guards, the union was broken by the arrival of 8,500 National Guardsmen who took over
the Homestead Works and by a failed assassination attempt on Frick, which cut public
support for the steelworker’s union. The lasting consequences were that the steel mills
increased the length of the workday to 12 hours, cut wages, installed a 24-hour shift
every two weeks, and successfully prevented the steel industry from becoming
unionized for another four decades. For more information, see “Homestead” under the
University of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization and the Working Class
webpage.
12. The similarity was that in all cases, federal troops were used to break the strike.
One of the most important features of labor activism during this time period is that the
federal government solidly supported capitalists, to the extent of using armed forces to
suppress labor uprisings. For more information, see “Pullman” under the University of
Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization and the Working Class webpage.
13. Under the sponsorship of the Knights of Labor, Peter J. McGuire and Matthew
Maguire, a carpenter and machinist, respectively, organized the first Labor Day parade
in New York City in 1882. For more information, see “Labor Day” under the University
of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization and the Working Class webpage.
14. “Big Bill” Haywood was the Western Federation of Miners’ secretary-treasurer and
cofounder of the International Workers of the World. He was put on trial because the
man who killed Steunenberg, Harry Orchard, claimed that Haywood was one of three
officials from the Western Federation of Miners who ordered him to plant the bomb that
killed Steunenberg. Haywood was defended by legendary defense attorney Clarence
Darrow in a trial that made headline news across the nation. Haywood and two other
people accused in the plot to murder Steuneberg were eventually acquitted or had their
Saylor URL: www.saylor.org/ HIST363 Subunit 7.2.1 (after reading)
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charges dropped. For more information, see “The Murder of Former Idaho Governor
Frank Steunenberg” under the University of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization
and the Working Class webpage.
15. Germans and Eastern European Jews were the two groups of people that were the
most ardent supporters of the Socialist Party. The Socialist Party’s most impressive
victories came in Milwaukee, with its large German population, where voters elected a
socialist mayor and member of Congress. For more information, see “Socialist and
Radical Alternatives” under the University of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization
and the Working Class webpage.
16. Eugene Debs was a socialist leader who helped found the American Railway Union,
an attempt to organize one union across the entire railroad industry. Emma Goldman
was a radical who supported a number of causes from feminism to pacifism. She was
deported to the Soviet Union in 1919 and lived the rest of her life in exile in France.
Mother Jones was one of the most effective labor organizers and strike leaders, who, in
addition to being present at many major strikes, also was at the convention that created
the International Workers of the World. For more information, see “Biographies” under
the University of Houston’s Digital History: Industrialization and the Working Class
webpage.
Saylor URL: www.saylor.org/ HIST363 Subunit 7.2.1 (after reading)
The Saylor Foundation
Saylor.org
Page 4 of 4