Hello Mr. History,

I was wondering if you could please educate me on something:

I’d like to get a perspective of what daily life was like in rural/farming communities and towns in America from 1900-1905. I’d like to specifically know what made individuals’ lives difficult. How were individuals affected by things like the efflux of people to cities because of the 2nd Industrial Revolution, famine, poverty, or worsening farming conditions?
Thank you for your attention and the wonderful work that you do,

José Parladé




Dear José,

As the United States entered a new century, its people could generally look back on the past few decades as being rich with inventiveness, progress and success, with more to look forward to. The « rags to riches » mythos had become reality for enough people, such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, to encourage multitudes more. The rise of a new wealthy industrial class and a growing middle class contrasted with millions of laborers working for 1 to 2 dollars per 14-16 hour day, which contributed to the rise of the first labor unions. Thousands of Americans were migrating from the farms to the cities, only to find thousands more immigrating from foreign lands with the same hopes, leading to a succession of ethnic groups encountering resentment in the New World, as well as pitifully low wages that drove about a third of them back to their home countries. Many stuck it out, however, because of the seemingly endless opportunities promised by life in the United States.

American farmers, however, entered the new century feeling victimized and left behind by events. Although the number of farms in the country had doubled between 1865 and 1900, the percentage of American involved in farming dropped from 60 percent in 1860 to 37 percent in 1900. Farms were becoming more specialized and commercialized, and more dependent on machines to keep up production. Due to a static money supply in the 1870s and 1880s, combined with monopolies among the manufacturers and the railroads that shipped the farm goods, farmers often were unable to afford the machines they needed and were driven out of business. There were also heavy taxes on property, including farmland, but none on profits from stocks and bonds. Competition with foodstuffs imported from countries such as Argentina, Canada and Russia also held down food prices to the detriment of American farmers. The occasional drought and other natural disasters only exacerbated an already deteriorating situation American farmers faced by 1900.

More details can be found in the attached blogs :




As well as a list of books covering the era :




Jon Guttman

Research Director

World History


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