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U.S. History Curriculum
VII. UNITED STATES: 1877-1890
Understand the role of the national government during the period 1877-1890
With the exception of the Civil War, until the Great Depression of the 1930s, the activities of the national government had relatively little effect on the daily lives of Americans. Five major factors help to explain this inactivity.
First, most Presidents had a narrow view of the role of the Presidency. Many of them believed that the government was best which governed least. Nevertheless interest in politics remained high. Local politics were of great interest to voters. In no other period of U.S. history did a higher percentage of eligible voters actually vote, more than 80 percent as compared to less than 55 percent in recent presidential elections.
Second, during the late nineteenth century, the two major political parties received roughly the same number of votes at national elections. Of all the Presidents between Hayes and Theodore Roosevelt, only McKinley received more than 50 percent of the popular votes. Democrats usually held a majority in the House of Representatives. And Republicans usually controlled the Senate. For only two years between l869 and l897 did either Republicans or Democrats control the presidency, Senate, and House of Representatives at the same time.
Third, the closeness of the vote on the national level illustrates the lack of national consensus on major political issues. Citizens of the U.S. did not yet have enough in common to support comprehensive political action.
Fourth, state and local governments played active roles in dealing with the major political issues of the day.
Fifth, the national government lacked the money, information, and personal necessary to do effective work. The federal government's expenditures amounted to about 5 percent of the GDP (versus over 20 percent today). Lack of money explains both the national government's failure to start new programs and to enforce ones which were already on the books. In addition, to buy votes, the government put its limited funds into pensions for Union Army veterans instead of other projects. In l892 out of a budget of around $330 million, $l60 million went to veterans (48%). (In 1992 the federal budget was $1.39 trillion; the deficit was $290.4 billion, and veteransâ benefits and services made up about 2% of the budget). The government lacked both the theoretical knowledge and the statistical data on which to make decisions. The Bureau of the Census was not even established with a permanent staff until l902.
The issues concerning the national government tended to be ones that local and state governments could not solve. The conflict over the patronage system is an example of this concept. The federal government had numerous jobs to give out: 50,00 in l868, 250,00 by l900. Most of these jobs were given to supporters of the party in power. Other party supporters were rewarded with contracts for government work in "pork-barrel" bills. The assassination of President James A. Garfield in l88l by a disappointed officer seeker led to the passage of the l883 Pendleton Civil Service Act. This act established the Civil Service Commission that drew up and administered examinations for government jobs. Once in these civil-service jobs individuals could not be fired for political affiliation. At first only l0 percent of the l3l,000 government workers were protected by civil service. But as each President tried to protect his political appointees before he left office, the number of workers protected by civil service increased.
Tariff legislation also occupied the attention of almost every administration. Tariff duties ranged from 38 to 58 percent during this period. Advocates of high tariffs won support from industry. Managers argued that high tariffs protected U.S. employers and workers from the competition of foreign goods produced by workers earning lower wages than Americans. Foes of the tariff pointed out that high tariff rates permitted inefficient producers to charge higher prices because tariff walls protected them from competition. Tariffs also hurt farmers by raising prices on manufactured goods with no compensating increase in the price of foodstuffs. Since business exerted an enormous influence over Congress, tariffs tended to be high.
During the Grant Administration corruption ran rampant through a number of administrative departments. A "whiskey ring," which included the Supervisor of Internal Revenue robbed the federal government of $l million annually by not turning over revenue taxes collected on distilled liquors and fines placed on tax-evading distillers. The Secretary of War was forced to resign when it was revealed that he had accepted $24,000 in bribes. The Secretary of the Navy "sold" contracts to shipbuilders. And the Secretary of the Interior worked closely with land speculators. During the rest of the era corruption was not as blatant. The l883 Pendleton Civil Service Act forbade the political party in power from asking for campaign contributions from federal workers.
Understand the characteristics of the western frontier.
The Indians west of the Mississippi varied greatly in culture, but the most important Plains groups had some similarities. Most were nomadic hunters. The Buffalo was the key to the Indians' life. Its meat was the Indians' principal food. Its skin was made into clothing, teepees, and blankets. Its bones were made into knives and hoes, and tendons were used for thread and bowstrings. The bladder was used as a water bag. Chiefs were usually elected and their powers were ill-defined. War was the principal business of the men--they hunted, fished, and fought while women did the rest of the work. The position of an Indian woman was comparatively good. She had rights that her husband had to respect. Marriage customs were similar over the plains, even though they varied in detail. A girl normally married young in a ceremony that involved some sort of purchase. Crime was dealt with through vengeance--infidelity by a wife was often punished by the amputation of the end of her nose by her husband. Medical care was primitive and was furnished by medicine men who mainly sought to drive out evil spirits by elaborate ceremonies; although they did use native herbs. White men's diseases such as smallpox, measles, and syphilis were devastating to the Indians. A smallpox epidemic in 1837 killed over half of several tribes.
The tribes of the Plains were not homogeneous. The tribe practically never acted as a cohesive unit. The clans within each tribe exercised complete freedom of action. Each tribe occupied a fairly definite area. Some tribes were traditionally friendly, while others were hostile. Whites did not understand this lack of central control, to them "an Indian was an Indian." This lack of understanding led to numerous problems between the two races. Warfare between Indians and whites was almost a continuous affair from 1607 until the defeat of Geronimo in 1886. During the Civil War the Indians took advantage of the preoccupation of the U.S. Army with the Confederacy, but after the war the government sent about 25,000 troops to the frontier and the Indians' days as an independent group were numbered. Despite some victories, most notably the defeat and extermination of General Armstrong Custer and 200 of his men at Little Big Horn in June 1876, the superior technology and manpower of the U.S. army soon defeated the Indians.
By 1887 the military threat of the Indians was over, and humanitarians like Helen Hunt Jackson in her book A Century of Dishonor reminded whites that their treatment of Indians had been less than honorable. The result of this concern was the Dawes Severalty Act. Indians became citizens, and the government dealt with Indians as individuals, not as members of a specific tribe. The reservation lands were divided and each Indian family received a 160 acre farm. These could not be leased or sold for 25 years. All additional reservation land was taken from the Indians and put on the market to the highest bidder. Thus, from 1887 to 1937, Indian controlled land fell from 138 million acres to 48 million acres. Under Franklin D. Roosevelt, the government finally realized that this act was a disaster to the Indians and the reservation system was reinstated. Today, Indians are still citizens, and they have the choice of either living on the reservation under a tribal government or moving off the reservation and having the same rights and duties as other citizens. State laws do not apply to reservation land. Tribal laws cannot violate federal laws or the Constitution.
There were two types of people moving West. The first group was those who used nature -- fur trappers, prospectors, hunters. The second group were those who subdued nature -- farmers, ranchers, miners, townspeople. The land speculator was a key element on the frontier: sixty to seventy percent of all frontier farms were bought from speculators. Contrary to myth, the frontier was not a place of great upward social mobility -- wealth tended to be concentrated in the hands of a few people. In frontier communities studied, 10% of the population controlled almost 40 percent of the wealth. Those with wealth were able to use it to gain more power and wealth, those without it did not often climb the social/economic ladder. For the average westerner life was primarily a continuous struggle for success, with minimum conveniences. Western life attracted optimistic people who hoped to make their fortune. Success was measured in materialistic terms. Socially the westerner was a conformist--standards of community behavior were fairly rigid. The man who moved west had no desire to create a new world, he just wanted to have a better standard of living than he could have back East.
Beyond the Mississippi the land was different than the East. There were endless plains, and few trees. Beyond the 98th meridian rainfall averaged less than 10 inches a year and eastern methods of agriculture were impossible. As the historian Walter P. Webb pointed out, east of the Mississippi, civilization stood on three legs: timber, water, and land. West of the Mississippi, timber was not available and an entire new way of life had to be created. Houses were made of sod, and water had to be brought up from deep in the ground by windmills. Wood was not available for fencing. A special plow had to be developed to break the hard soil of the plains. About $1,500 was the minimum amount a settler needed to begin a farm in the West during the latter half of the 19th century. Since the average worker during the l9th century only made between $.75 and a $l.00 a day, Eastern workers did not often have the necessary capital to become Western farmers. The heaviest migration movements occurred during times of prosperity rather than depression. The resources of the frontier fed into the U.S. economic system, increasing the number of jobs and personal income, decreasing social unrest and giving the U.S. the world's highest standard of living. The frontier also acted as a psychological safety value--even though laborers rarely moved to the land of the West, they thought they could.
The first economic exploitation of the frontier was always the collection of furs, either by trapping or trading with the Indians. The trappers were usually in the employee of a large corporation. John Jacob Astor, the owner of the American Fur Company, was America's first millionaire. Most of the furs were sold to Europeans, and were obtained in trades with the Indians for European made goods. Since it took about four years from the time manufactured goods were shipped from Europe until the furs arrived, most of the fur trade was conducted on credit. It was a business that was characterized by either huge profits (50 percent was common), or large losses--a year's catch could easily be stolen or lost. Each fur company had men that dealt with all the nontrapping and trading duties (they made about $200 a year). There were two types of nonIndian trappers--those who were hired by the year for about $400, and those who worked on a commission based on the number of furs they sold the company.
The fur trappers like Kit Carson, Jim Bridger, and Jedediah Smith depended on their wits and physical stamina and courage to survive. Often they lived in the wilderness for the entire year, only going to the trading post once to sell their furs and to pick up their supplies for next year. They usually had an Indian wife, or two, not only for companionship and to help with the chores, but to help cement their relationship with the Indians. The trading posts were made of either adobe or logs and they never were successfully attacked by the Indians. Since the trappers were always on the move following the animals, the rendezvous was another way that the trappers and fur company met. Rendezvous were held primarily in Idaho and western Wyoming from 1825 until 1839. The fur company would send a wagon train of goods out from St. Louis in the spring and it would meet with the trappers at a predesignated location in late June or early July. At the rendezvous the fur company had the advantage since the trapper had no one else to sell to. Whiskey flowed freely at the meetings. Often the trapper was in debt to the company at the end of the year, and he would be forced to buy his goods on credit, thus insuring the fur company the sale of his furs the next year. By the end of the 1830s the beaver hat fad died in Europe, the animals had been trapped out in many locations, and advancing settlement began to eliminate the trappers.
The mining frontier followed the trapping frontier and was important in bringing settlement to California, Nevada, Alaska, and the Rocky Mountain West. The discovery of gold in California in 1848, soon after the U.S. had acquired it from Mexico by war, started the boom. Two years later California had the necessary population to become a state. In 1859 gold was discovered near Pike's Peak Colorado, and in 1860 the world's richest silver lode was found near Virginia City Nevada. During the next two decades large mineral deposits were found throughout the Rocky Mountain Region. In 1896 the Klondike strike brought about 30,000 miners to Alaska. Although the mining frontier only lasted about 40 years, its impact was significant. The gold and silver extracted helped provide the capital necessary for U.S. industrial expansion (between 1860 and 1890 about $2 billion in gold and silver was mined from the American West). And other minerals--copper, zinc, lead, and coal--also helped America build a strong industrial base. In addition, farmers, merchants, and cattlemen moved to the West to provide supplies for the miners
While the first head of Longhorn cattle were driven north in 1846, it was not until after the Civil War that the cattle frontier began. The cattle had been brought to the U.S. by the Spanish. They had roamed free for centuries, feeding on the lush grasses of southeastern Texas. During the Civil War the cattle were pretty much left alone and the number increased rapidly. After the war, the urbanization and industrialization of the North created a market for beef -- a market that Texas entrepreneurs were eager to fill. The Texans needed to get their beef to market. Since the railroad had not yet reached Texas, the long-drive was the answer. In 1867, a herd of cattle was driven from Texas to the railhead at Abilene, Kansas. Over the next two decades about 4 million head of cattle were driven into Kansas. Kansas farmers opposed the long-drive because the Texas cattle brought tick fever into the State and this disease effected their dairy cows. In addition, the Texan's cattle would trample the Kansas' farmers crops and contaminate their water supplies. The Kansas State Legislature responded to these concerns by passing quarantine lines that forced the Texas cattle to move to cow towns farther west as farmers moved into the eastern part of the state, and as the completed railroad line moved west. The cow towns were also under dual pressure. They wanted the business that the cowboys brought to their town at the end of the long drive, but they also were under pressure from local citizens to "clean-up" the town. The city fathers generally tried to have the best of both worlds by setting up a "red-light" district for the cowboys. As soon as the cattle drive moved west to a new town, the city government would outlaw the gambling, saloons, and brothels that they had allowed to exist for the cowboys.
The Cattle industry also moved north onto the High Plains. At first cattle were driven north to feed the miners, but once in Colorado, Montana, and Wyoming the cattlemen found grasslands that were ideal for their herds. Between 1866-1888 about 6 million head of cattle were driven from Texas into the Rocky Mountain states. At first, cattle raising was an easy way to make money. The range was free. The Homestead Act allowed a cattle rancher to control the water supply to large areas by homesteading on headwater of the river. The cost of the long-drive was less than 1 cent a mile per head of cattle, and a cow worth $4 on the range would bring $40 in Chicago. The profitability of cattle raising attracted eastern and European capital. The blizzards of 1885-87 killed thousands of head of cattle. The intervening summer was very dry and also hurt the industry. These calamities wiped out the investments of many ranchers. The mass production of barbed wire in the late 1870s terminated grazing on the open range.
Sheep raising was also an important part of the ranching frontier. In general, the cattle industry dominated the Great Plains and sheep raising dominated the Mountain States. Since sheep eat the grass much closer to the ground than cattle do, the two animals can not pasture together. In addition, sheepherders would fence in the range with barbed wire to protect their flocks. Thus, violence between the two groups was common. But, by 1900 there were more sheep than cattle grazing on the Great Plains (this comparison is misleading though because cattle were slaughtered and sheep were kept alive for their wool). In Montana, for example, sheep outnumbered cattle by a ratio of over 6 to 1.
Because of the transitory nature of western society and the remoteness of the region from authority, violence was a way of life. The Indian had to be subdued, the buffalo slaughtered, and nature tamed. In addition, violence toward whites was not uncommon. The vigilante is an institution unique to the United States. Between 1882-1903, the number of whites lynched in the West in proportion to the population was much greater than that of either the South or the East. Countries like Canada and Australia which underwent the frontier experience along with the U.S. did not have vigilante committees. In those two countries a strong executive authority moved into unsettled areas ahead of the pioneers and established law and order from the beginning (in Canada the national government was represented by the Royal Mounted Police). Because of the U.S. concept of federalism, authority on the U.S. frontier was local and it was susceptible to local pressure and mores.
Understand the impact that industrialization had on America.
America had the resources necessary for industrialization. To successfully industrialize a country needs access to natural, capital, and human resources. Coal and iron were the key ingredients for early industrialization, and America had them in abundance. Capital expansion is financed through the reinvestment of profits, through bank loans and the sale of stock, and government assistance. During the 19th and early 20th centuries there was no income tax, few unions existed, and immigrants from the countryside, or from Europe, willingly worked overtime at regular hourly rates. These factors helped create large profits for reinvestment. As industrialization expanded, large financial institutions developed to handle the increased capital. As the size of firms increased, private ownership gradually gave way to corporate ownership. For those projects that were deemed vital to the nation, and were beyond the ability of private ownership to finance, the government stepped in. In Europe the railroads were constructed and run by the government. In the U.S. the federal government gave 130 million acres of land to the railroads and $60 million in low interest loans (which they would pay back through the sale of the land given them). High tariffs protected a nation's industries until they had established themselves.
Four factors affect the quality of human resources: numbers, education, health and attitude. As long as the number of people does not become too great for the natural and capital resources base, numbers increase economic growth. The USâs population increased 400% from 1860 to 1930 (31.4 million to 122.8 million). Thirty million of this increase was through immigration. Since most immigrants were in the prime working age, this influx was a great benefit to the U.S. Industry required a more educated work force than agriculture and the government responded. In 1870 on 2% of Americans graduated from high school. By 1920 almost 17% graduated.
Fundamentally, the whole gigantic transformation of human life brought about by industrialism comes from the need to reduce the price of goods and services to make them competitive in the largest possible market. Such was the immediate purpose of all the great inventions: the harnessing steam and electric power, the construction of machines capable of performing quickly and accurately the most complicated operations, the development of efficient means of transportation, the rational utilization of labor.
The ramifications of the major inventions of the industrial age can be illustrated by the effects of mechanization of English cotton manufacture on the United States. The introduction of machinery increased the capacity of English mills to the point where the existing supplies of cotton from India no longer met their needs. The U.S. could not supply cotton because it grew the short-stapled variety, the seeds of which were difficult to remove. In 1793, when Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin, it became profitable to grow short-staple cotton. In 20 years American cotton production increased from 1.5 million pounds to 85 million pounds. Thus, technical advances in Britain led to an intensification of slavery in America. After about 20 years of work and the investment of several hundred thousand of today's dollars, the steam engine became a practical method of powering machinery. The greatest applicability of steam at first was in the cotton industry. The coupling of steam engines to spinning and weaving machines greatly reduced the price of cotton goods. Between 1720 and 1812 the price of cotton yarn fell by 90 percent. Machine produced cotton textiles were the first clothing material in history available cheaply and in quantities to the mass of population.
One of the most important applications of steam took place in transportation. The development of railroads and steamships contributed more to the opening of new markets than any other invention of the age. In 1700 it took a stagecoach leaving London three days to travel 75 miles and two weeks to travel 450 miles. Under these circumstances, merchandise could scarcely move from one part of the country to another on land. Every nation consisted of a multitude of small, self-contained economies, each of which satisfied its own needs. Canals modified this situation somewhat--one tow horse could pull as much merchandise on a canal barge as could forty horses on land--but canals were slow, expensive to build, and limited by topography to certain areas.
The first practical steam railway engine was constructed in England in 1829. By 1849 railroads were traveling at average speeds of fifty miles an hour on some lines. Wherever it penetrated, the railroad broke down the invisible walls protecting local markets from outside competition. In many instances it became cheaper to buy products manufactured hundreds of miles away than those produced locally. One of the consequences of this development was regional specialization, each area tending to concentrate on those goods it could produce most cheaply. Although the steamship did not gain acceptance until the 1870s (its fuel consumption was too high at first), once accepted, steamship transport had an immediate effect on the movement of foodstuffs and mineral raw materials, that is, on bulky and heavy items whose transportation costs had been prohibitive in the days of the sailing ship. It reduced the price of a bushel of American wheat in Western Europe by 75 percent (and thus, along with the railroad, played a direct role in motivating American farmers to move west and open up more land to wheat farming). The simultaneous development of refrigerated trains and ships also permitted the transoceanic shipment of meat. Argentinean beef and Australian mutton, which until the 1870s had practically no commercial value, suddenly acquired great value and became the main source of wealth for these countries.
Another impact of industrialization was the creation of an interdependent world economy. For example, the collapse of several banks in Vienna in 1873 caused a financial crisis in Germany, which in turn brought down scores of small railroad companies in the U.S., and in New York City led to the dismissal of 200,000 employees. The use of manganese in hardening steel and the use of nitrates in fertilization led to the development of manganese mining in the Congo and nitrate mining in Chile, bringing industry to areas that in other respects were wholly in a pre-industrial era. Such examples could be multiplied many times. Between 1830 and 1913 international trade increased from $1.5 billion to $40 billion.
It is difficult to know with any degree of assurance the impact that early industrialization had on the life of the masses of population. Data is not available, and how can we compare, for example, the loss of fresh air and a familiar environment with the acquisition of better clothing or more food, or the decline of economic security with the gain of material goods? Prior to the industrial revolution most non-agricultural work was done in small shops by craftsmen. A man was a cobble, glassblower, a silversmith, etc. Young people learned a craft through a long apprenticeship program. Most items were not mass produced but were made for a particular individual. Work rules tended to be informal. Generally, you could set your own hours as long as you completed your task. Time could be taken of for leisure during the week, if, for example, you would come in and work Saturday or Sunday. Master-apprentice relations, while not always cordial, were personal. Often the apprentice lived in the master's home or shop.
The industrial revolution changed this system. In America and Western Europe large-scale enterprises became the norm. Jobs within a factory became more and more subdivided. This trend created the need for unskilled labor. The use of the assembly line accelerated this trend. Instead of workers being skilled craftsmen, they were part of the production process--working in impersonal factories, prisoners of the clock. This change in the methods of production caused conflict and turmoil. Those people who could adapt to it did well. Those who could not adapt went under.
Because of increased productivity prices fell. Thus, even with stable wages, the worker could buy more goods. Real wages in Britain rose 40 percent between 1825-1850. In the U.S. the average annual wage for manufacturing workers in 1900 was $435 or $8.37 a week. Unskilled workers were paid about 10 cents an hour on the average, about $5.50 a week. The average workweek in 1860 was 66 hours, in 1910 it was 55 hours. Nevertheless, while the conditions of the working class as a whole improved, the conditions of certain of its segments deteriorated. Between 1880 and 1900, 35,000 American workers were killed on the job. In many cases, their dependents received nothing. In 1900 about l.7 million American children under the age of 16 worked full-time, and about 20% of the American work force was female.
The group that suffered the most was the unemployed. The introduction of machinery in manufactures that had previously relied on manual labor created havoc in certain trades. The industrial economy, producing not for a local and relatively predictable market but for an uncertain national or international market, was subject to wild fluctuations. Each such fluctuation threw thousands of laborers out of work. Politicians did little to help the unemployed. Businessmen and manufacturers had much more political power than the workers and little legislation was passed to protect labor from the abuses of the capitalists.
In major industries a few large firms developed monopoly power. They formed pools, in which a group of producers agreed to limit production or set prices. When pools failed the capitalists turned to trusts. In a trust a board of trustees ran several companies in related industries. The board could run several companies without being accountable to the public since they were not legally the owners--the stockholders were. For a while, trusts dominated entire industries like oil and tobacco. Firms also became vertically (controlling all aspects of extraction, manufacturing and distribution) and horizontally integrated (one firm acquires control of other firms that produce the same product)
Workers attempted to respond to industrialization through the creation of unions. The workers hoped to achieve higher wages, better working conditions and more benefits through collective bargaining. But due to industrial and government resistance union membership grew slowly. While union membership in the U.S. reached 16.3% of the work force in 1920, the post World War I reaction against unions drove membership down to less than 9% in 1930. The primary cause of low union membership was government attitude. This was especially true in the United States. Both state and national laws made it difficult to form unions. Laws, and the courts, frequently treated unions as if they were criminal conspiracies organized to illegally raise wages and restrain trade. Judges often issued injunctions that forbade strikes or boycotts. Police, the national guard and the regular army consistently broke-up strikes. Management also responded to worker demands through Welfare Capitalism. Under this system the workers received benefits like coal at cost, subsidized housing, pensions and stock plans. All of these benefits were given at the discretion of management and could be taken away at any time for any reason.
The first national union in the United States was the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor founded by Uriah Stephens in 1869. It concentrated on organizing "all who toiled." Under Terence Powderly membership rose to 700,000 by 1886. In that year, during a labor rally in Haymarket Square, Chicago, a bomb was thrown into the crowd killing several people. The authorities used this incident as an excuse the crush the union -- many of its leaders were arrested and several executed -- and by 1900 the organization was defunct.
Understand the social consequences of early industrialization.
The increased production of industrialization led to huge increases in population. The second important change occurred in the distribution of the population: the shift of inhabitants from the countryside to the city. The reasons for urbanization were primarily economic. In preindustrial conditions, with low labor productivity, it was more efficient to locate manufactures near the sources of food, that is the countryside, because the worker consumed more food (in terms of bulk and weight) than raw materials. This explains why, between 1500 and 1800, the city population of Europe remained static and in some places even declined. The introduction of mechanization and steam power altered this situation. The productivity of labor now increased to the point where the worker required far more raw materials, such as cotton and coal, than food. It became, therefore, more expedient to locate him as close as possible to the sources of raw materials and to bring the food to him. In addition, all of the following contributed to urban growth: 1) the size and cost of machines; 2) the construction of canals and railroads; 3) the desirability of concentrating in one place technical, administrative and financial operations; and, 4) the lure of wealth, amusement, and an opportunity for self-improvement. By 1851 Britain's urban population outnumbered its rural population. (1920s for the U.S.).
The second response came from primarily unskilled workers who had a socialist response to industrialization. They formed the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), popularly known as the "Wobblies." The IWW had its principal base among migratory workers in lumbering, mining, and agriculture. Cut off from their families and often unable to vote these men worked long hours at dangerous jobs for low pay. They became revolutionaries advocating the forcible overthrow of the government and sabotage. When conditions became desperate in industries such as textiles, mining and working the docks, the IWW often led dramatic strikes, largely of unskilled immigrants. The IWW was destroyed during World War I when the government arrested and jailed most of its leadership. The 1917 Communist revolution in Russia also made its radical program less appealing to American workers.
The third and most effective union was the American Federation of Labor. The AFofL is a national alliance of skilled workers formed in 1886 under the leadership of Samuel Gompers. Since AFofL workers had the power to stop production in an industry that relied heavily upon skilled labor (e.g. cigar rollers, electricians, plumbers, type setters) it was successful for its members. But it did little to help the mass of unskilled workers. It was not until John L. Lewis formed the Congress of Industrial Workers (CIO) and the national government changed its attitude toward workers in the 1930s during Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal that workers began to have a say over their work life.
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