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The Industrial Army Movement of 1894 and Transitions in American Labor Activism During the Gilded Age

Welt, Aaron

Industrialization fundamentally altered life in nineteenth century America. The free labor ideology of the era shaped labor activism by guiding it towards an "equal rights tradition," which held that workers could use their civil and political rights to correct the ills wrought by industrialization. However, the growth of the wage-labor system, and the vulnerabilities of wageworkers during times of depression, demonstrated the outdated potential of the equal rights tradition. The Industrial Army Movement of 1894 represented a shift in American labor activism as resistance through the ballot box, strikes and courts gave way to a national approach dedicated to appropriating the power of the federal government to aid unemployed industrial wageworkers. The Industrial Army Movement built upon prior political activism of the Populist People's Party and the Knights of Labor-affiliated Workingmen's Parties, movements that also sought to wield political power to alleviate the dislocations caused by industrialization. Though the movement was unsuccessful in lobbying Congress to pass a government-funded jobs program to build infrastructural projects around the country, the Industrial Army Movement nevertheless represents a pivotal shift in the labor movement's tactics and the increasingly central role the federal government would have to play in the political, economic and social life of the United States during the age of industrialization.

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History
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B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
May 12, 2010

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Senior thesis.

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