America began as a nation of farmers. In 1790 almost four million people lived on farms, sewed their own clothes, and made their own soap and candles, and furniture. For things they couldn?t do themselves, early American turned to local craftsman and shopkeepers. Everything from wagons to leather shoes was made by hand one item at a time. Even work was different from what it is today. People didn?t have jobs in the way we think of them now. They didn?t commute back and forth to an office or earn a regular paycheck. People worked for themselves and lived where they worked; the farmers on their land, the craftsman in a little shop behind his house, the doctor in his study.
The Industrial Revolution changed all that. With the invention of the steam engine, things that used to be made by hand could be made by machine. Small shops gave way to giant factories and assembly lines.
All over the country, people struggled, some more successfully than others, to adapt to the new ways. It was an unrestrictive time. Historians have named it the Gilded Age, after an 1873 novel by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner.
(The Pullman Strike of 1894 by Linda Jacobs Altman p. 11)
Faced with the hard reality of industrialization, workers began banding together to demand better wages and working conditions. American labor movement was born. As workers explored the power of group action, they soon learned that railroads made ideal targets for strikes and boycotts. The whole of American industry depended on a healthy and efficient railway system. Anything that stopped the trains, or slowed them down, would send shock waves all over the country.
During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Americans witnessed many strikes. Their causes varied. Sometimes economic objections...