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Much of the reading this week focuses on the rapid expansion of the economy after the Civil War, which included the creation of large corporations and

Much of the reading this week focuses on the rapid expansion of the economy after the Civil War, which included the creation of large corporations and huge personal fortunes for the lucky few.  These developments caused both excitement and anxiety, as Americans grappled with a new economic landscape that focused on mass production and a gradual deskilling of work.  Central to this new economy was the city and urban populations exploded during this era.  All of these developments challenged Americans’ image of themselves as a largely rural nation of independent landowners and workers.The first discussion this week considers the political and social backlash against the “incorporation” (as one historian put it) of America.  The Populist (or Alliance) Movement and creation of the Populist (or People’s) Party suggest the depth of the challenge to the new corporate order.  Pointing to specific details from the documents, “The Omaha Platform,” and “Stand Up for Nebraska,” , one or more of these questions:

  • Who specifically were the villains to farmers and workers?
  • What were the problems facing farmers and how did the Populists intend to address those problems?
  • Would you characterize their solutions as “radical” (be sure to define “radical”)?  Why or why not?

Using the Andrew Carnegie document, Luna Park photograph and Heinz advertisement discuss how people living through the creation of this modern, industrial society may have perceived it as beneficial.  You may want to consider some of the questions below to guide your thoughts.

  • How does steel magnate Andrew Carnegie defend the rise of big business?
  • Carnegie wrote this piece in 1885.  Would he still be able to make these arguments in the midst of the depression and political upheaval of the 1890s?  Why or why not?
  • What characteristics would you assign to this new industrial age based on the Luna Park photograph and Heinz advertisement and why?
  • What do the photograph and advertisement tell us about how some people were experiencing the advent of mass production?

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