The Effects of the 19th Century Market Revolution Essay

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Market Revolution: Why it Was Good for Some, Not for Others

The Market Revolution of the 19th century could not have occurred without the Age of Industrialization that allowed it to displace the old mode of commerce and trade. Goods could now be produced en masse and shipped at far faster speeds than ever before. What had once been the work of the domestic role players was not taken out of their hands and made the work of laborers in factors. In every sector, technology played a part -- the cotton gin, the furnaces, the steel mills, the meat packers, the freight trains -- the landscape of America was changing and life and its social, spiritual, economic and political characteristics were also being impacted as a result. For some the impact was positive -- but for others it was negative. To some, the market revolution was a quality of American liberty; others viewed it as a danger. This conflicting response can be understood by examining the different ways in which some benefited and others were hurt by the market revolution of the 19th century.

For the robber barons, the market revolution was a great thing: it allowed them, under the guise of capitalism, to expand their monopolies across the nation. Men like Carnegie, Fisk, Harriman, Rockefeller and Morgan, all profited immensely from the market revolution. They dominated in manufacturing, finance, transportation and production. Their hands were into every aspect of life -- from moving goods to establishing communications to building the new urban landscape and the new cities of tomorrow, their influence and ability to profit from the new markets that were opening up thanks to Industrialization gave them unprecedented power. None of them would regret the market revolution, as they were positioned to make fortunes from the possibilities that arose as a result.

As Srebnick (1997) notes, "one feature of this economic development was that the traditional and more regulated systems of production based around systems of apprenticeship and regulated markets gave way to less regulated forms consistent with the rise of market capitalism" (p. 46). In other words, business went from small-scale with special focus on talent-driven production to large-scale with emphasis on machine-driven mass-production. With the latter, there was less oversight -- the old world guilds no longer had a place in this development; it was new territory, like the frontier: those forging the path did so largely on their own, with little accountability. In this sense, they had more "freedom" to operate than prior to the revolution. Labor laws were not in place; safety regulation laws were not in place; laws forbidding monopoly were not in place. The market revolution was a dream come true for Big Money and the men behind the money profited handsomely.

The proverbial little guy, however -- the mom-and-pop type of businesses -- were not competing with the monopolists, who could afford to lower prices in order to capture more and more market share. Plus, with the advent of the train transportation system, goods could be shipped to places they never could reach before. Thus, millionaires came into being in America for the first time during this period. A new class of elitists, of wealthy business owners began to crop up. The enjoyed economic prosperity and socialization (social mobility as a result of being well-connected to families and friends who could get them in the door) and even political clout. Lincoln -- the self-made man from Kentucky, who settled in Illinois as a small-town lawyer -- went on to become President of the United States after polishing his rhetorical skill and cultivating relationships with the right kind of movers and shakers (and also taking up a "cause" that could guarantee…

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Works Cited

Srebnick, A. (1997). The Mysterious Death of Mary Rogers. NY: Oxford University

Press.

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