MATERIAL PROGRESS IN POST-CIVIL-WAR AMERICA
1876 The application of scientific methods to the investigation of natural laws and to the conduct of the useful arts which are founded upon them is year by year... enlarging the outcome of human endeavor. More notably, perhaps, are these facts in... Engineering.... In metallurgical engineering, especially,, within the period of our own recollection, how rapid has been the rate and how wide the scope of progress — the scientific discovery and mining of metaliferous veins; the economical separation and reduction of ores of every grade; the production and regulation of high temperatures; the varied improvements in the manufacture of iron, in saved heat and work, in uniformity and range of products; and most important of all, the creation and the utilization, to be counted by the million tons a year, of the cheap constructive steels! Alexander Lyman Holley, from an address, “The Inadequate Union of Engineering Science and Art,” given on February 22, 1876.
c. 1876 It has been just so in all my inventions. The first step is an intuition — and comes with a burst, then difficulties arise.... ‘Bugs’ — as such little faults and difficulties are called — show themselves and months of anxious watching, study and labor are requisite before commercial success — or failure — is certainly reached. Thomas A. Edison, inventor of the light bulb, phonograph, motion picture camera, and many other inventions, who opened a research laboratory in Menlo Park, NJ in 1876.
1876 Mr. Watson, come here. I want you. Alexander Graham Bell calling his assistant; the first words spoken into a telephone.
1876 My God, it talks! The emperor of Brazil, examining the telephone, at the 1876 American Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia.
INNOVATION IN BUSINESS
1873 “The Gilded Age” Title of a novel by Mark Twain. The expression came to represent American life in an age of money and leisure.
In the manufacture of agricultural implements, specific evidence is submitted showing that six hundred men now do the work that, fifteen or twenty years ago, would have required 2,145 men — a displacement of 1,545.
The manufacture of boots and shoes offers some wonderful facts in this connection. In one large and well-established manufactory, the proprietors testify that it require five hundred persons, working by hand processes, to make as many women’s boots and shoes as a hundred persons now make with the aid of machinery — a displacement of eighty percent.
David A. Wells, Recent Economic Changes (1889)
1890 Touching the material condition of the great mass of people... we may safely say that no nation ever enjoyed such universal prosperity. The producers, in agriculture and manufacturing, have not made exceptional gains. Indeed, these have not been as prosperous as usual, owing to the great fall in prices of products. But the masses of the people have never received compensation so high or purchased commodities so cheaply. Never in any country’s history has so great a proportion of the products of labor and capital gone to labor and so little to capital. And this furnishes the best proof of a most satisfactory condition of affairs. It is probable that in many future decades the citizen is to look back upon this as the golden age of the Republic and long for a return to its conditions. From Andrew Carnegie, Triumphant Democracy: Sixty Years March of the Republic.
c. 1890 From the moment these crude stuffs were dug out of the earth until they flowed in a stream of liquid steel in the ladles, there was never a price, profit, or royalty paid to an outsider. Observer of vertical integration of business as practiced by Andrew Carnegie.
c. 1890 “Captains of industry” Leaders of big business, likening them to great military leaders.
THE GOSPEL OF MATERIAL PROGRESS
1893 A little ideal world, a realization of Utopia... [looking forward to] some far away time when the earth should be as pure, as beautiful, and as joyous as the White City itself. Description of the Chicago World’s Fair.
1893 A grand opportunity to see... the material advantages which civilization brings to mankind. Description of the Chicago World’s Fair by Frederick Ward Putnam, a director of the Fair and head of Harvard University’s Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.
1900 There is no genuine, praiseworthy success in life if you are not honest, truthful, and fair-dealing.... To make money honestly is to preach the gospel. Andrew Carnegie, founder of United States Steel, in The Gospel of Wealth.
c. 1900 “Carnegie library” Public libraries, such as that in Mount Vernon, built from money donated by Andrew Carnegie.
UNETHICAL BUSINESS PRACTICES
1889 I have been driven from pillar to post, from one railway line to another, for twenty years, in the absolutely vain effort to get equal and just freight rates with the Standard Oil Trust,... but which I have been utterly unable to do. I have had to consequently shut down, with my business absolutely ruined. George Rice, a small oil refinery owner, in a complaint to the U.S. Industrial Commission about John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil Trust.