Timeline: Economy, Technology, and Labor 1865-1905


The Protectors of Our Industries.
  • 1865
  • New York Stock Exchange established at modern Wall Street location
  • 1866
  • Economic depression hits, lasting into 1867
  • Trans-Atlantic cable between US and Britain becomes fully operable
  • Goodnight Trail, a major cattle trail from New Mexico to Texas, established
  • National Labor Union founded

The Protectors of Our Industries. Puck, Feb. 1883, p.368.


  • Iron Molders locked out, Troy, NY
  • Chinese railroad builders’ strike, Central Pacific, over wage rates and eight-hour day
  • 1867
  • Chisholm Trail, a major cattle trail from Texas to Kansas, established
  • Knights of St. Crispin, union for workers in shoe factories, founded
  • 1868
  • Congress passes law stipulating an eight-hour day for laborers employed on federal projects
  • George Westinghouse invents railroad air brakes, not widely adopted for many years
  • Abram Hewitt introduces open-hearth steel process to the United States
  • Inventor Christopher Sholes introduces typewriter
  • Anthracite coal strike, Penn., over wage levels and eight-hour day


Laborers.

Image courtesy the Victorian Scrapbook at The Trade Card Place.

  • 1869
  • First transcontinental rail line joins Union Pacific and Central Pacific at Promontory Point, Utah
  • Heinz food company established in Philadelphia
  • Knights of Labor founded in Philadelphia
  • Collar laundresses strike, Troy, NY, over wages and union recognition
  • 1870
  • J. W. Hyatt introduces celluloid
  • Armour & Co. established in Chicago
  • First asphalt-paved road is built in New Jersey
  • 1871
  • Pillsbury Co. created
  • 1872
  • Montgomery Ward begins mail-order business in Chicago
  • Vaseline (petroleum jelly) patented
  • Shoe workers’ strike, Lynn, MA, over wage levels
  • 1873
  • Coinage Act establishes process for placing the United States on the gold standard over the next six years; species payments resume in 1879
  • Andrew Carnegie begins to focus on steel production
  • Major economic depression hits nationwide, enduring through 1878
  • 1874
  • Joseph F. Glidden develops and markets barbed wire
  • South Dakota gold rush begins
  • Macy’s department store in New York introduces Christmas display windows
  • 1875
  • Anthracite coal strike over reduction in wages; met by massive police force, strikers riot and burn coal cars and Reading Railroad buildings; 20 Irish-American “Molly Maguires” convicted and hanged for labor-related assassinations
  • 1876
  • Alexander Graham Bell develops and patents first telephone
  • Thomas Edison introduces a mimeograph machine
  • Amalgamated Association of Iron, Steel, and Tin Workers founded
  • Black rice workers’ strike, Combahee River area, South Carolina, over wages and “scrip” pay; strike forcibly suppressed amid violence in ensuing political campaign (1876-1877)
  • 1877
  • First local telephone exchange set up in Lowell, MA; first switchboard built in Boston; intercity telephone communications betgions between Chicago and Milwaukee and Boston and Salem
  • First electric streetlight introduced in Newark, NJ
  • Hires root beer marketed for the first time
  • Great Railroad Strike spreads across eastern United States, from Buffalo to Baltimore to St. Louis; gunfights and violence in many cities, notably Pittsburgh, triggered by arrival of National Guard and US troops
  • Cigarmakers’ strike, New York City, to protest wage cuts
  • Anti-Chinese riots, San Franciso


Chinese Labor.

Image courtesy the Victorian Scrapbook at The Trade Card Place.

  • 1878
  • Thomas Edison demonstrates and patents phonograph
  • 1879
  • Thomas Edison develops and patents incandescent light bulb
  • James and John Ritty patent a cash register
  • Researchers at Johns Hopkins University develop saccharine
  • Frank Woolworth opens his first “five and dime” store in Pennsylvania
  • 1880
  • Cleveland installs first electric streetlight system in the nation
  • First hydroelectric power company created in Grand Rapids, Michigan
  • Sherwin-Williams begins manufacturing house paint
  • 1881
  • First electric power plant serving multiple customers is built in New York City
  • Frederic Ives produces the first color photograph
  • Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners founded
  • 1882
  • Economic depression hits, lasting through 1885
  • Inventor Henry Seely patens an electric iron
  • John D. Rockefeller creates Standard Oil Trust, first corporation to use trust mechanism
  • Cotton mill strike in Cohoes, NY, to protest wage reductions
  • 1883
  • Northern Pacific Railroad completed, creating additional transcontinental link
  • United States railroads set up four standard timezones; most of the nation converts to these standard times on the “day of two noons”
  • Completion of 1595-foot Brooklyn Bridge, a suspension bridge and engineering marvel designed by John Roebling; links Brooklyn to New York City for pedestrians and road traffic
  • William Jenney designs the first steel-frame skyscraper, the Home Insurance Building, Chicago
  • Cowboy strike in Texas panhandle over wage reductions
  • Tobacco workers’ strike, Lynchburg, VA
  • Iron Molders’ lockout, Troy, NY, results in violence and murders on both sides (1883-1884)
  • 1884
  • Otto Mergenthaler patents a typesetting machine that cuts publishing time and costs for newspapers and magazines
  • Textile workers’ strike in Fall River, MA, over wage cuts
  • Union Pacific Railroad Strike across the West (Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah) over wage cuts
  • 1885
  • Inventor Charles Tainter introduces the Dictaphone
  • William Stanley patents the electric transformer
  • Cloakmakers’ general strike, New York City, over wages and working hours (1885-1886)
  • Carpet weavers’ strike, Yonkers, New York, over union recognition (1885-1886)
  • Series of two strikes against Jay Gould’s Southwest Railroad, along the Missouri Pacific, Kansas and Texas, and Wabash lines; after Gould reneges on agreement, riots erupt in Ft. Worth, Texas, and Parsons, Kansas; the killing of nine strikers in East St. Louis precipitates riots and imposition of martial law (1885-1886)
  • McCormick Harvesting Machine Company strike, Chicago, over wage cuts; repeated violent clashes occur in front of plant, with strikers facing off against replacement workers, Pinkerton detectives, and Chicago police (1885-1886)
  • Anti-Chinese violence by Knights of Labor miners in Rock Springs, Wyoming, results in burning to death of Chinese miners; subsequent anti-Chinese riots in Seattle Tacoma, and many towns in Oregon and Northern California; includes assaults and forcible expulsion of Chinese miners and agricultural workers (1885-1886)


Cheap Chinese Labor.

Image courtesy the Victorian Scrapbook at The Trade Card Place.

  • 1886
  • May 1 national strike for the Eight-Hour day; over 350,000 suspend work activities, with labor militancy especially strong in Chicago; in Detroit, participation by workers at Michigan Car Works precipitates violence
  • Continued violence in Chicago McCormick strike, including police killing of two strikers, leads to protest meeting at Haymarket Square; bomb thrown by unknown person kills a policeman and more are killed by ensuing police fire; nationwide hysteria over anarchist threat; eight Chicago anarchists sentenced to hang.
  • Textile stirke in Augusta, Georgia, over low wages and “pass system” that bars workers from seeking higher wages from a new employer; lockout follows
  • Cowboy strike in Wyoming, to protest layoffs and wage cuts
  • Collar laundresses strike and lockout in Troy, NY, over wages and union recognition
  • American Federation of Labor founded
  • First Coca-Cola sold in Atlanta, Georgia
  • 1887
  • Congress establishes Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate and oversee interstate trade
  • Massachusetts Bureau of Labor uses the term “unemployment” for the first time, in its modern usage, in one of its reports
  • New York Longshoremen’s strike over wage cuts; spreads to Hoboken and other New Jersey ports
  • 1888
  • George Eastman develops and patents hand-held “Kodak” camera
  • Nikola Tesla introduces first motor running on alternating current, enabling electric power to be transmitted over large distances
  • Herman Hollerith invents a punch-card tabulating machine, used in the 1890 census, that underlays the technology for early “computers”
  • Richmond, Virginia, installs the nation’s first electric trolley system
  • International Association of Machinists founded
  • Burlington Railroad workers’ strike on lines running from Chicago to Colorado and Wyoming; armed clashes between strikers and Pinkerton detectives, trains burned and dynamited
  • Cincinnati shoemakers’ lockout over wages and union recognition
  • 1889
  • Stunt reporter Nellie Bly, under sponsorship of the New York World, circles the world in 72 days, 6 hours, 11 minutes, beating the fictional record set in Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Singer Sewing Machine Co. produces first electric sewing machine in America
  • Otis Elevator Co. installs the country’s first electric elevators in a New York office building
  • Textile workers strike in Fall River, MA, over wages, safety, and pace of work; strikers beat and stone replacement workers
  • Professional baseball players’ revolt against the National League; strikers run their own league, the Players’ League, which competes with the NL for one season (1889-1890)
  • 1890
  • Economic depression hits, lasting through 1891
  • Congress passes Sherman Antitrust Act
  • United Mine Workers founded
  • Gorras Blancas (White Caps), protesting Anglo intrusion, issue manifesto in New Mexico
  • Carpenters’ eight-hour day strike wins gains in 137 cities
  • 1891
  • United States becomes party to an international copyright bill protecting copyrights in US and Europe
  • American Sugar Refining Company founded
  • Thomas Edison patents the Kinetoscope, a motion-picture technology
  • Inventor Jesse Reno develops the escalator
  • Chinese sugar-cane workers strike, Hawai’i, over deductions from wages; violently crushed by police
  • Black dockworkers’ strike, Savannah, GA, over wage cuts
  • Coal miners’ strike, eastern Tennessee, over “scrip” pay and competition from convict labor; strikers forcibly remove convict laborers from the mining regions and burn convict stockades; military force used in response
  • 1892
  • Boll weevils begin to wreak devastation on cotton crops in Texas
  • American Telephone and Telegraph opens long-distance telephone service between New York and Chicago
  • General Electric Company founded
  • Steel workers lockout at Carnegie Steelworks, Homestead, PA, over union recognition, leads to burning of barges, pitched battle between strikers and large contingent of Pinkerton detectives; US troops sent to impose order
  • Hardrock miners’ strike in Couer d’Alene district, Idaho, over wage reductions precipitates a lockout, gunfights, and the dynamiting of mine property; National Guard and federal troops impose martial law and carry out mass detentions of strikers
  • New Orleans general strike for ten-hour day, overtime pay, and union recognition; a cross-racial effort in a number of trades and industries, it is defeated by a mass show of force on the part of state authorities
  • 1893
  • Major economic depression hits, lasting through at least 1897 (some historians argue longer, through 1898 or beyond)
  • Federal Railroad Safety Appliance Act requires air brakes on all trains
  • American Railway Union founded
  • Western Federation of Miners founded
  • Inventor W. L. Judson patents the zipper
  • 1894
  • Hardrock miners’ strike in Cripple Creek, CO, for eight-hour da precipitates fierce violence between Western Federation of Miners and National Guard; the Strong Mine is dynamited
  • Great Northern Railroad Strike, on lines stretching from Minneapolis to Seattle, over wage cuts
  • Fall River, MA, textile workers strike over wage levels
  • American Railway Union organizes nationwide boycott of Pullman Cars, in solidarity with strike at Pullman Car Works, Chicago; strike spreads across the West, armed clashes and mob violence result in Chicago and many other cities result after US troops intervene to break strike


Boycott It.

Image courtesy the Victorian Scrapbook at The Trade Card Place.

  • 1895
  • George B. Selden develops and patents an internal combustion engine; Frank Duryea introduces gasoline-driven motors, key to development of the automobile
  • The Baltimore & Ohio begins to use electric locomotives, the first US railroad to do so
  • First pneumatic tires manufactured by Hart Rubber Works, Connecticut
  • National Association of Manufacturers holds first meeting in Ohio
  • Haverhill, MA, shoe factory workers’ strike over wage cuts
  • 1896
  • Guglielmo Marconi demonstrates wireless telegraph, soon to be the basis of radio
  • Hardrock miners’ strike in Leadville, CO, precipitates violence as mine owners and state leaders vow to clean out union; gun fights, dynamiting incidents, and attack on Coronado Mine (1896-1897)
  • 1897
  • Klondike gold rush begins
  • Jell-O introduced
  • Massacre of Slavic coal miners in Lattimer, PA, as miners march for higher wages and an end to “scrip” pay; 50 dead or wounded
  • 1898
  • Boston begins operating the first US subway system
  • Marlboro, MA, shoe workers’ strike over wage levels
  • 1899
  • Brotherhood of Teamsters founded
  • Grain shovelers’ strike in Buffalo, NY, over wages and system of using saloons as labor centers
  • Street railway workers’ strike in Cleveland, OH, over speedup and safety issues; strikers attack and beat strikebreakers
  • Hardrock miners’ strike in Couer d’Alene district, Idaho, over union recognition and wages; precipitates armed clashes and dynamiting of Bunker Hill Mine property; US Army imposes martial law, large numbers of striking miners are rounded up and held for extended periods in stockades
  • Newsboys in New York strike over pay; spreads to other parts of New York state, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, and to bootblacks and messenger boys
  • 1900
  • Olds Motor Works begins large-scale production of automobiles in Detroit
  • International Ladies Garment Workers Union founded
  • Japanese, Chinese, and Portuguese sugar-cane workers strike, Hawai’i, over low pay
  • Anthracite coal strike in PA, over working conditions, leads to armed battles between sheriff’s men and strikers in Shenandoah and Oneida; National Guard called in
  • National Negro Business League created
  • Machinists’ strike in Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and Paterson, N.J., for union recognition, minimum wage, and a nine-hour day (1900-1901)
  • 1901
  • J. P. Morgan creates U.S. Steel Corporation
  • Oil struck at Spindletop, Texas, beginning oil extraction in the state
  • United Textile Workers founded
  • National Cash Register Co. strike in Dayton, OH, for union recognition; workers locked out
  • San Francisco restaurant workers strike over wages and for a six-day workweek
  • Federación Libre de los Trabajadores is admitted to the American Federation of Labor, marking the first entry of Mexican-Americans to this major union
  • Major steelworkers’ strike against newly created US Steel Corp., seeking union recognition
  • 1902
  • American Automobile Association founded
  • Inventor Willis Carrier patents an air conditioner
  • Inventor Arthur Little patents rayon
  • Anthracite coal strike, PA, for eight-hour day, UMW recognition, minimum wage; strikers shot by company guards, precipitating violent clash in Shenandoah and calling of National Guard; houses are burned and strikebreakers stoned before President Theodore Roosevelt intervenes and pressures mine owners for settlement
  • Chicago teamsters’ strike versus packing houses over wages and working conditions; consumer boycott accompanies strike; three days of riots in Chicago against the “beef trust”
  • 1903
  • Orville and Wilbur Wright succeed in first flight of an aircraft at Kitty Hawk, NC
  • William Harley designs and introduces the Harley-Davidson motorcycle
  • Department of Commerce and Labor created at the Cabinet level in the federal executive branch
  • Ford Motor Company founded in Detroit
  • Women’s Trade Union League founded
  • Japanese and Mexican sugar beet workers in Oxnard, California, unite in strike over wage reductions; in gunfights, four members of the new Japanese Mexican Labor Association are shot
  • Hardrock mining strike in Cripple Creek, CO, in sympathy with a strike of refinery workers in Colorado City, over wages; armed battles are followed by military occupation of the district, burning and destruction of union halls in Cripple
  • Creek area, and forcible expulsion of WFM miners from the district (1903-1904)
  • Hardrock mining strike in Telluride, CO, over wage cuts and eight-hour day; violence on both sides , National Guard called in, strike is forcibly ended amid mass arrests (1903-1904)
  • Italian, Finnish,and Slavic coal miners in Utah strike for union recognition; pitted against Utah Fuel Company with secret support of Mormon church; violence against strikers occurs, National Guard called in (1903-1904)
  • 1904
  • Transit workers’ strike in New York City over wages and hours of work
  • Packinghouse workers strike in Midwestern cities for minimum wage; violence erupts and black strikebreakers area ttacked in Chicago, Kansas City, and St. Joseph, MO, and militia are called in to Sioux City, Iowa
  • Thomas Edison introduces motion-pictures with sound
  • Invention of the ice cream cone
  • 1905
  • International Workers of the World founded


© 2010 Rebecca Edwards, author of New Spirits: Americans in the Gilded Age, 1865-1905 by Rebecca Edwards, Oxford University Press

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