1st Edition

American Life During the Industrial Age A Social and Cultural History in Essays and Documents

Edited By Alexis McCrossen Copyright 2025
    260 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    260 Pages 30 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This volume explores the Industrial Age (1860–1914), bringing together published and archival primary sources with introductory essays that contextualize a period of extraordinary social, cultural, and economic transformation.

    The Industrial Age’s developments, which included electricity, internal-combustion engines, moving assembly lines, and clock time, posed as much risk and opportunity as do today’s innovations. Today artificial intelligence, terrorism, climate change, and the threat of pandemics like Covid-19 threaten our safety and sense of well-being, just as machine production, the labor movement, toxic chemicals and waste, and epidemics like tuberculosis and cholera posed significant challenges in the Industrial Age. This modern and innovative collection features tried and tested topics, such as immigration and labor, along with underexplored ones, such as electricity, abundance, and contaminants.  Each chapter includes a historiographical essay exploring the rich historical and sociological scholarship on the period in the United States, while framing the documents and illustrations included in the chapter. 

    American Life During the Industrial Age is an ideal companion to undergraduate and graduate courses in United States history, American Studies, the history of technology, and the history of culture and society.

    Introduction  1. Wages  2. Scarcity and Abundance  3. Immigration  4. Race and Racism  5. Work  6. Unions and Strikes  7. Electricity  8. Clock Time, Speed, and Simultaneity  9. Contaminants  10. Diseases and Cures


    Alexis McCrossen is Professor at the Clements Department of History, Southern Methodist University, USA where she teaches US social and cultural history. She is the author of Marking Modern Times: Clocks, Watches and Other Timekeepers in American Life and Holy Day, Holiday: The American Sunday, and is the editor of Land of Necessity: Consumer Culture in the United States-Mexico Borderlands.

    "Here is an Industrial Age full of surprises and unexpected resonances with our present moment in time. McCrossen provides fascinating glimpses of an era whose complexities and possibilities we've scarcely grasped. The attention to technology, the environment, and the rhythms of everyday life exceeds any other volume I have seen. Sure to be a game-changer in the classroom."

    Seth Rockman, Brown University, USA

    "This sparkling collection shows students what history is—and what it can be. With keen historical sensibility and abiding empathy, Alexis McCrossen brilliantly captures the hopes and fears of Americans from all walks of life as they grappled with new technologies and new ways of working, thinking, buying, traveling, communicating, organizing, and marking time.  She assembles a marvelous and diverse array of documents and artifacts and her crisply written chapter introductions place these sources in historical context while giving readers space to interpret them. The result is a stunning portrait of a pivotal era."

    Wendy Gamber, Indiana University, USA, President Society of Historians of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

    "Alexis McCrossen's essays and collection of documents help students and teachers make connections across the worlds of science, technology, business, culture, and the environment. What emerges is a fascinating picture of a dynamic nation crippled by civil war and yet somehow still poised to leap into a new century."

    Ari Kelman, University of California, Davis, USA, Editor Reviews in American History

    "McCrossen has written an indispensable and highly approachable introduction to a pivotal era in American history. She has been thoughtful in selecting the primary documents and makes excellent use of them in her insightful thematic essays. This book will provide students with a comprehensive portrait of the Industrial Age."

    Gavin Benke, Boston University, USA

    "This volume presents students with an opportunity to understand how historical narratives are crafted and defended. The tight essays Alexis McCrossen has written introduce readers to the major ideas, themes, and arguments that frame our modern understandings of race, immigration, labor, technology, poverty, and public health during America’s Industrial Age.  The primary-source documents she has assembled, then, invite students to interrogate the ideas and arguments she has presented – and, perhaps, to formulate new arguments about this period in America’s development that witnessed so much change."

    Maura Jane Farrelly, Brandeis University, USA

    "Alexis McCrossen’s volume offers students a fascinating, expansive look into American life and culture from 1860-1914. Each chapter provides an interpretative essay and set of expertly selected primary sources that creatively guide readers into explorations of the era’s biggest issues, such as wage labor, scarcity and abundance, immigration, race and racism, electricity, and time. I can’t wait to assign this book to my students!"

    Alison Parker, University of Delaware, USA

    "Alexis McCrossen has crafted a valuable introduction to a transformative era in U.S. history. The documents are admirably curated, offering both breadth and depth, while emphasizing the diversity of American experiences in the industrial age. The essays clarify major historical themes, providing context and helping to frame the documents for classroom use. Presenting an approachable overview of U.S. history in the late 19th and early 20th century, this volume will be a welcome addition to syllabi at the graduate and undergraduate level."

    K. Stephen Prince, Louisiana State University, USA

    “McCrossen takes a wonderfully experiential approach, focusing on the experience of ordinary Americans as they sought to navigate the emerging industrial society. Instead of lumping them into one group, she highlights how differences of gender, ethnicity, race, and age impacted their ability to navigate this industrial society. This book is very timely, in the sense that we are ourselves navigating rapid technological change (AI), which has equally profound implications for labor and social life in general.”

    Nick Yablon, University of Iowa, USA