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American History: The 1877-1920 Era


The period between 1877 and 1920 covers several changes in the United States. There was reconstruction of Southern America after destruction which resulted from the American Civil War. The other major development was the coming up of industrialization. The period was marked by continuous strikes which were caused by the formed labor unions that were responsible for fighting for the rights of employees who were previously oppressed and underpaid (Cohen, 2002). The end of the civil war left a gap in the United States and the Southern group were divided and had so much control on the blacks who were there and other minority groups. They denied them of their human rights and deprived them economically. In political and social terms they mistreated them and looked at them as second class or less human beings. When all this was happening, there was rapid industrial development especially from the North. They also began to rise internationally due to imperialism and domestic population growth.

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Major Events and the Interrelation with People

This is a period which came up after the American Civil War. Southern America was the most affected and would not let off the bitterness they had for the Federal Government. They had to be reintegrated to the United States union and reinstate the human rights that they had been denied and that caused them to have a lasting bitterness. Lincoln came up with plans for the reconstruction although he was assassinated before he fulfilled the dream he had for the Americans. He was fighting to have the freed blacks be full protected although this was done before 1877.

Most of reconstruction came to an end 1n the year 1877 in most states after Rutherford Hayes was elected to a post of president in the year 1876. Hayes ensured that the all the remaining states that were under army governance to the Republicans hands. However, reconstruction still took effect not until the Northerners declared that there was no more threat for the Southern America and that the civil war was over. It was only then that reconstruction was stopped and freedom was declared for all the minority groups of Southern America and especially African American. The end of reconstruction meant that all people were to be treated equally and all were privileged to be allowed all the human rights; however this was only a dream as racism took an upper hand in almost the whole of Southern America. Jim Craws Laws served as green light to White Supremacists. The laws perceived African Americans as lesser beings and people who deserved to be treated as slaves. They were denied rights to education and were not to mix with the Natives. Laws and political system that was supposed to protect all was poorly enforced in the rural areas giving the natives a chance to oppress the Black Americans as they were concentrated in the rural areas. The blacks were perceived as evil and thought to committing all the criminal activities. The Dominant Party System that was called the Solid South was in itself inefficient when it came to addressing to addressing the issues that were to enhance equality hence racism dominated the Southern.

The period was also marked by Indian Wars. This was caused by the desire to expand their territories. The miners and the ranchers penetrated to the plains and to the mountains thus had regular conflicts with the Indians who felt it was not right for Westerns to invade their land. The Indians were forced by the American government to keep to an area that was reserved for them (Recchiuti, 2007). This was not to be welcomed by the Indians thus there were conflicts in the 1880s and ended in the 1890s. By then the Westerners wanted to assimilate the Indians into their culture so that they would economically gain. They therefore started setting classes and other training institutions that were for the Indians and those schools produced very prominent Indians. The Indians formed anti-assimilation groups that were against the integration of the two groups the Indians and the Westerns since they viewed it that Westerners were interested in their own selfish needs.

The Westerners realized that Indians were not to be easily put off; they therefore opened up another option of allowing Indians to own lands and other personal property which they were previously denied. This was also facilitated by the Dawes Act which was signed up in 1887 which proposed that the land what was communally owned to be divided among the family heads for a period of 25 years after which the American government promised them that they would have the legal ownership of the lands and also be accepted as full citizens (Recchiuti, 2007). The other undivided lands were put on sales so that the settlers would have an opportunity to purchase the lands. The Indians thereafter discovered that this decision only made them lose their land since half to the previously owned tribal land was offered to the settlers. Another resultant was destruction of their traditional organizations and the original culture (Cohen, 2002). The Westerners achieved the purpose of having Dawes Act which was to bring the Indians closer into their lines so that controlling them would be easier. A number of them accepted to be incorporated in American culture. Most intermarried and left some ancestry lines in many American families. The rest who refused to be integrated were left to suffer in poverty and only supported by the Federal government through relief food, education and health care.

Industrialization is also a major change that took effect during the period. United States rose to be among the leading industrialized country in the world (Randall, 2009). American were able to extend their territories thus they had ample land, cheap labor offered by those who were integrated into their culture, the different empires had different climates thus were enabled to practice different forms of production, there was vast modes of transportation modes that had come up which enabled access to many other places resulting from industrial changes and need for natural resources where they would acquire the raw materials they required for their upcoming industries and at cheap prices.

Technological advancement and improved mode of transportation encouraged the development of towns, new farms and opened up new markets where there was none. Improved infrastructure enabled them to access lands that were previously closed up. Technological advancement such as in the Iron and Steel Industries opened up better methods of production as well as in the areas of Chemistry advancements (Fine, 2005). Communications also developed due to the coming up of telephones and the coming up of telegraphs allowed coordination of managers from different areas of the world to effectively coordinate events and thus facilitating production and developments. There was the emergence of funding firms which led to the development of monopolies. There was also the development of labor unions which were put in place to negotiate for the workers thus there came up a number of strikes which were organized by those labor unions. The huge number of immigrants into United States offered cheap and available labor especially in areas that required little or no training such as in mining fields.

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After 1873, there came up the Gilded Age which was particularly for those who were on the lead in United States. This was facilitated by the Second Industrial Revolution and the wealth transfer that was already taking place thus brought about a number of social changes. The resultant was formation of social classes from the super rich to the poverty stricken group (Franklin, 2003). This was brought about by the coming to an end of the reconstruction period and the elections that took place which brought few issues. The government was corrupt and though the people turned out in large numbers there was still corruption taking place (Randall, 2009). This period was also marked by major changes such as the American Renaissance, educational changes; the religious movements were active in the time, new empires were coming up and the immigrants were assimilated into the American culture.

During this period there was the greatest number of immigration into America. The immigrants were leaving their homeland to America as a result of poverty in their homelands thus went to search for jobs in the already industrialized nation. Others were running away from the religious threats they were receiving. Though the other immigrants were warmly welcomed the Asians were not let in and were looked at as if they were alien and would not fit in the society (McGerr, 2003). Some immigrants settled permanently in the land while others came for temporary basis. This led to development of discrimination and racism and especially was facilitated by Jim Craw Laws. The Americans started feeling superior to the immigrants and especially the minority groups and all forms of oppressions were directed to them.

The farmers were experiencing difficulties despite the fact that there were many improvements. The soils were unproductive as a result of exhaustion and crop diseases and pests, natural disasters were no exception and also they were financially suffering. There were expanse lands for cultivation following the displacement of the Indians (Bundy, 1995). This resulted to low prices for the products since so much was produced and there were no ready markets for products. Due to these problems there was need for labor management. The labor management resulted in improved results although the workers were oppressed and lowly paid thus the management was of benefit to the land owners but not the workers, there was therefore the need to have labor organizations that were there to negotiate for workers. The labor unions proved to be an effective means of the workers handling their problems in that they organized strikes for workers so that their working conditions could be improved. By 1912, they had become very popular and almost all the fields of work including the military groups had employed them as a way of solving their problems.

The period is also marked by imperialism. There was a marked prosperity in all fields following the election of William Mckinley that led to the development of national confidence. This is the time when the Americans wanted to control even the Spanish who had proved to still own a great possession and the Americans were viewing them as a threat (Franklin, 2003). In 1898 when a Cuban Marine ship did explode in Havana, the Americans said that they were the Spanish and did send their military force to intervene on the situation and a war was declared. The Spanish were defeated and from there the Americans took full control of the empires which were controlled by the Spanish and even to the present day the Spanish are never in terms with the Americans.

In the 1900, came the progressive era. The citizens were given a chance to raise an opinion of Mckinley leadership on the foreign policy through the presidential election. The United States admitted they were pleased with the success they got from the war with the Spanish. They saw it as way of opening a door for new markets. He was reelected and became even more popular in his second term but was shot only a year latter. Roosevelt took over the presidency during a time when United States was both internationally and domestically prospering (Bundy, 1995). This began to change and corruption set in, in such a way that the rich were using their affluence to influence the politicians and hence everything started regressing many other restrictive laws were put in place. Reforms were then made which were to reinstate the moderate development as well as cater for the welfare of the workers such as the working hours were shortened to eight and other factors were put in place for the workers during the working periods and even after.

In 1914 the United States after discovering that the Germans were asking the Mexicans to start a War with the Americans, they started a war so as to revenge against the German and thus the setting in of the World War 1. The war started involving other groups which were in support of either the Germans or the United States. Anything that had Germanic origin was banned and Germans were viewed as a terror in all means. United States was in fear of Germans even before the war and had gone to an extent of buying Danish Virgin Islands so that the Germans would not have them (Foner, 2002). After a long period of War which the Americans were not prepared for thus had small military forces and fewer weapons but were forced to go into it only stopped after a treaty between the two nations was signed and thus peace was restored even in the other nations that were involved.


In conclusion, the Americans underwent so many activities during the period between 1877- 1920. Those events and the relationships they had with the other nations had a lot of influence to the other nations and have contributed in making America what they are today. The period is marked with many struggles and successes which to this day has remained a legacy that other nations would want to emulate.

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  1. Bundy, D. (1995). The Historiography of the Wesleyan/Holiness Tradition. Wesleyan Theological Journal, 30(1), 70. Print.
  2. Cohen, N. (2002). The Reconstruction of American Liberalism, 1865-1914. Carolina: University of North Carolina Press.
  3. Fine, S. (2005). Laissez Faire and the General-Welfare State: A Study of Conflict in American Thought, 1865–1901. Michigan: University of Michigan Press.
  4. Foner, E. (2002). Reconstruction Revisited; in Reviews in American History, The Promise of American History. Progress and Prospects reviews of the historiography journal, (4), 82-100.
  5. Franklin, J. H. (2003) Reconstruction after the Civil War. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  6. McGerr, M. (2003). A Fierce Discontent: The Rise and Fall of the Progressive Movement in America, 1870-1920. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
  7. Randall, S. (2009). More Recovered: A Review of Recent Historical Literature on Evangelicalism in the Late Victorian E. Quodlibet Journal, 3(1).
  8. Recchiuti, J.L. (2007). Civic Engagement: Social Science and Progressive-Era Reform in New York City. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.

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