Emerging Industrial
America, 1865-1920

HIS 2998-002 Fall 1997 Villanova University

Dr. Charlene Mires

Welcome to "Emerging Industrial America, 1865-1920." In this class, we will be investigating a period of great transition in American history -- the years in which the United States evolved from a largely rural and agrarian society to a nation increasingly urban and industrialized. People who lived at this time experienced profound changes in their work life, home life, and political life. These changes and their consequences will be the subject of this course.

How did people respond to economic and social change?

What do their responses tell us about such issues as race, ethnicity, class, and gender?

We will explore these and other questions that arise as we examine documents and artifacts from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Through your active participation in this class, you will:

Learn about a period in American history that is not widely understood.

Gain understanding of the causes and consequences of economic transitions -- processes that are significant not only to the period we are studying but also to our own post-industrial age.

Learn about relationships between historical events and everyday life.

Learn how historians (including you!) use documents and artifacts to arrive at interpretations of the past.

Build your critical reading and writing skills.

Books to buy (all paperbacks):

Samuel P. Hays, The Response to Industrialism, 1885-1914, 2nd edition.

This is a brief overview that we will read during the first two weeks of class as an introduction to the time period. Throughout the course, we will engage in an extended critique of this book.

Leon Fink, Major Problems in the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era.

This is a collection of primary source documents and essays that will allow us to delve more deeply into the topics introduced by Hays and to see how interpretations of the time period have changed since Hays wrote his book.

David M. Katzman and William M. Tuttle Jr., Plain Folk: The Life Stories of Undistinguished Americans.

This is a collection of worker autobiographies. You will choose one of the workers as a subject for the paper that you will write for this class.

Highly recommended, but not required: Mary Lynn Rampolla, A Pocket Guide to Writing in History.

This small booklet is a guide to historical research and writing, including how to handle footnotes. If you do not have much experience writing history papers, you should buy this booklet. It will be useful not only in this course, but in other history courses that you take.

(You will read at least three other books that you choose in connection with your paper for this course.)

Course requirements:

Complete all assigned reading.

Attend class regularly (see Draconian policies, next page).

Submit written responses to weekly reading assignments (details, page 3).

Take a midterm exam (essays, written in-class) and a final exam (take-home).

Write one 6-8 page paper that explores the industrial context of the life of an individual who lived during our time period (details, separate handout).

Participate in leading an in-class discussion about the topic of your paper.


Grades will strictly adhere to Villanova University's grading criteria. As a reminder, an "A" is defined as:

"the highest academic grade possible; an honor grade which is not automatically given to a student who ranks highest in the course, but is reserved for accomplishment that is truly distinctive and demonstrably outstanding. It represents a superior mastery of course material and is a grade that demands a very high degree of understanding as well as originality or creativity as appropriate to the nature of the course. The grade indicates that the student works independently with unusual effectiveness and often takes the initiative in seeking new knowledge outside the formal confines of the course."

For other grade criteria, consult the University Catalog, pp. 34-35.

Midterm 25% of grade

Paper 25% (includes in-class discussion of paper topic)

Final 40%

Reading responses 10%

Attendance To be successful in this course, you must attend regularly. We will often spend our class time discussing documents, an experience that cannot be duplicated by getting someone's notes. Lectures will strive to add to the reading, not duplicate it. Failure to attend will most certainly affect your success on exams. 

Also note: For freshmen, attendance is required.

Deadlines LATE PAPERS WILL NOT BE ACCEPTED. This applies to reading responses and all stages of the paper. Exceptions will be made only in cases of unanticipated, unavoidable, documented emergency.
Where to turn things in Bring your work to class. DO NOT slide papers under office doors or leave them in the History Department. If you must miss class on a day when an assignment is due, you may fax it to: (215) 925-6919. The fax must be received the same day as the class meeting.
How to contact the professor Office hours: St. Augustine Center, Mondays and Wednesdays, 

2-3:30 p.m., and other times by appointment. Please don't hesitate to ask. 

Best method otherwise: E-mail to cmires@email.vill.edu. 

Office phone / voice mail: 519-6935.



For this class, the assigned "reading responses" are written, informal considerations of the required reading for the week. The reading responses are required. and they will be collected on Monday each week that they are assigned. They will not receive individual letter grades, but a collective grade will be assigned at the end of the semester based on your diligence and thoughtfulness. Grades will drop precipitously if you fail to do more than two of these responses.

Most reading responses will deal with the reading in the Major Problemsbook. Your response must include:

Comparison of the documents section of the chapter with the Hays book. Do you see anything in the documents that supports Hays' conclusions? Anything that contradicts him? (Warning: "No" is not an acceptable answer for this part of your response!)

For each essay, identify the author's argument. Does the author agree or disagree with Hays? (Or, perhaps, add something that Hays did not consider?)

These reading responses will serve as preparation for the take-home final exam, which will ask you to critique the Hays book, using the other assigned readings. SAVE YOUR WORK.


This course is structured so that as you gain confidence and expertise in the subject matter, you will play an increasingly active role in the class. During the first three weeks, we will begin with some introductory lectures and discussions while we read the Hays book. We will then move on to the Major Problems book. During this second phase of the course, there will usually be an introductory lecture on Fridays to introduce the topic for the following week. Other days will usually be devoted to discussions of the reading. Finally, during the last two weeks of class, you will take over to share what you have learned in doing your paper for this course.
Week Assignments (complete by Monday) Paper deadlines / Other things to remember
Aug. 25 Start reading Hays
Sept. 1 Finish reading Hays Sept. 1: No class - Labor Day
Sept. 8 Reading response to Hays, due Monday: 

What is Hays' main point? 

What is the main point of each chapter?

By Friday: Skim the Plain Folk book and pick a paper topic. (See separate handout for paper instructions.)
Sept. 15 Major Problems, Ch. 1: "The Price of Progress: Capitalism and Its Discontents" 

Reading response due Monday.

Sept. 22 Major Problems, Ch. 2: "The Search for Order in Industrial America" 

Reading response due Monday.

By Friday: Submit paper bibliography (three books and one other source).
Sept. 29: Major Problems, Ch. 5 and 6: "City and Suburb: New Vistas, New Walls" and "Power in the Gilded Age: Political Parties and Social Movements." 

Reading responses (for both chapters) due Monday.

Oct. 6 Major Problems, Ch. 12: "Protecting the Natural and Man-Made Environments" 

Reading response due Monday.


In class, Friday, Oct. 10

Oct. 13 No class - Semester break
Oct. 20 Major Problems, Ch. 8: "Americanization on Whose Terms?" 

Reading response due Monday.

By Friday: Submit a progress report on your paper -- What have you done so far? What is the most interesting thing you have learned? What problems are you having, if any?
Oct. 27 Major Problems, Ch. 4 and 7: "New South Image Versus New South Reality" and "African -American Politics Under Jim Crow" 

Reading responses (for both chapters) due Monday.

Nov. 3 Major Problems, Ch. 9 and 10: "Progressivism: The Spirit of Reform" and "Progressivism: Foundations for a New American State" 

Reading responses (for both chapters) due Monday.

Nov. 10 Major Problems, Ch. 11: "Sex and the Construction of Gender" 

Reading response due Monday.

By Friday: Submit partial draft of paper -- at least half the paper and an outline of what you expect to do for the rest.
Nov. 17 Major Problems, Ch. 13 and 15: "Commercialized Leisure and Spectator Sports" and "America and the Great War" 

Reading responses (for both chapters) due Monday.

Nov. 25 Start reading Plain Folk No class Nov. 27 and 29 - Thanksgiving.
Dec. 1 Finish reading Plain Folk 

Student-led discussions of papers begin.

Dec. 8 Student-led discussions of papers. Monday: PAPERS DUE.

FINAL EXAM - Take home, due during time scheduled for final

In an essay of five pages (typed, double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins), respond to the following:

A historian is considering whether a new book is needed to replace Samuel Hays' The Response to Industrialism for history courses that examine "emerging industrial America" in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Would you advise the historian that a new book is needed, or not? Answering this question requires a detailed critique of the Hays book, using the documents and essays in the Major Problems book and knowledge you have gained from class lectures, discussions,. readings for your paper, and other students' projects.

Additional instructions will be provided before you write your exam.