A New American Consumer Culture

Critical Thinking Questions

Consider the fact that the light bulb and the telephone were invented only three years apart. Although it took many more years for such devices to find their way into common household use, they eventually wrought major changes in a relatively brief period of time. What effects did these inventions have on the lives of those who used them? Are there contemporary analogies in your lifetime of significant changes due to inventions or technological innovations?

Industrialization, immigration, and urbanization all took place on an unprecedented scale during this era. What were the relationships of these processes to one another? How did each process serve to catalyze and fuel the others?

Describe the various attempts at labor organization in this era, from the Molly Maguires to the Knights of Labor and American Federation of Labor. How were the goals, philosophies, and tactics of these groups similar and different? How did their agendas represent the concerns and grievances of their members and of workers more generally?

Describe the various violent clashes between labor and management that occurred during this era. What do these events reveal about how each group had come to view the other?

How did the new industrial order represent both new opportunities and new limitations for rural and working-class urban Americans?

How did the emergent consumer culture change what it meant to be “American” at the turn of the century?