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menuAmerican Social History Project  ·    Center for Media and Learning

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  • Historical Eras > Industrialization and Expansion (1877-1913) (x)

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An American Railway Union Strike Halts Cross-Country Trade

In 1894, the American Railway Union organized a national boycott and strike against all trains hauling Pullman Cars in response to a strike called by workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company. The strike spread across the nation. Strikers were met [...]

The President of the B&O Railroad Announces Wage Cuts

After the Panic of 1873 plunged the U.S. economy into a severe and lasting depression, corporations such as the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Company found themselves cutting costs, usually by reducing employees' wages, as this letter from the [...]

Calvary Escorting Meat Train Protected by Infantry from the Chicago Stock Yards During Strike

The Pullman Strike began on May 11, 1894, when Pullman Palace Car Company workers walked off the job in response to severe wage cuts; members of Eugene V. Debs' American Railway Union soon joined in by refusing to work in Pullman cars. U.S. Army [...]

"To A Locomotive in Winter" (Excerpt)

Walt Whitman ardently depicted scenes and objects of modernity in the mid 19th century, seeing beauty in the power and invention of the machine age. This set him apart from a slightly earlier generation of artists, poets, and writers like Henry [...]

The President of Union Pacific Praises the Railroads

This excerpt from Sidney Dillon's article "The West and the Railroads," from an 1891 issue of The North American Review, credits the railroad with the growth and positive transformation of the American West. The president of the Union Pacific [...]

The New York Times Predicts a Railroad Strike, 1885

This New York Times article from September 1885 makes reference to the tensions that existed between organized labor and Chinese immigrant workers on the Union Pacific and other railroad lines. According to the article, the Knights of Labor, the [...]

The New York Times Describes Racial Unrest on the Railroads

A New York Times article from 1889 describes another instance of racially-based labor unrest on the railroads. In Chattanooga, Tennessee, a group of African-American railroad laborers spontaneously strike to protest the dismissal of a black [...]

A Railroad Titan Explains Why the Chinese are Good for White Workers

The "divide-and-conquer" tactics used by bosses pitted different ethnic groups against one another and native-born workers against all immigrants. It often worked out better for white workers than for Asians. Charles Crocker, one of the "Big Four" [...]

1877: The Grand Army of Starvation Viewer's Guide

This booklet is curriculum support for the American Social History Project's 30-minute documentary 1877: The Grand Army of Starvation. The viewer's guide contains background information on issues raised by the documentary as well as additional [...]

Background Essay on Building the Railroads

This essay explains how railroads transformed late-nineteenth century America and shows how their impact was felt differently across class and racial lines.