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Interpreting the Evidence

The Cost of Industrialization

  • Historical Era:

    Turn of the Century and WWI (1890 - 1930)

  • Thinking Skill:

    Historical Analysis & Interpretation

  • Grade Level:

    Middle School
    High School
    College University

  • Topics:


  • Primary Source Types:

    Written Document

  • Regions:

    Mohawk Valley
    New York State

  • Creator:

    NYS Archives Partnership Trust Education Team

  1. Load My File Upload - January 28, 2021 in Main Image Viewer
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Suggested Teaching Instructions

Topic: Factory conditions during American Industrial Revolution

Skills: Identify and describe, Categorize, Predict

This document shows industrialization caused positive and negative effects. It also shows how the government tried to slowly clean up states’ water supplies to reduce health epidemics and how a glove factory in Gloversville in 1903 dumped 20,000 gallons of manufacturing was per day into a local creek. They also had 175 employees using a bathroom that empties into that creek.

Historical Context: In the 19th century dramatic changes were taking place in the way goods were produced and in how society was organized. Machines were replacing human and animal labor and new forms of power were driving technological change at an unprecedented pace. In addition, mass urbanization and immigration were transforming cities and causing a societal upheaval. Hardships for workers, pollution, horrific working and living conditions were just a sampling of the problems plaguing the rapidly changing world. Reformers and governments were slow to react because of the belief in laissez-faire principles. As a result, many of the early positive effects were overshadowed by the misery of the working class.

              This record was created in response to the Public Health Laws of 1903. This law authorized the Health Department to survey industrial discharges and sewerage in an attempt to regulate output into the state’s waterways. Industries discharging any waste material-chemical or human- were required to file a report and identify what they were putting into the rivers or streams. The Health Department tried to clean up the state’s waters to curb epidemics such as typhoid fever. This particular record from Gloversville is in the NYS Archives. Many more can be found at the State Archives that originated in other localities throughout NY.

Essential Question: Why were decisions made to improve conditions during the Industrial Revolution in the U.S.?

​​​​​Optional Extension Activity

The following activity could be completed in order to extend students’ thinking and encourage them to make connections:

1.      Present 4 topics:

a.       Effects of chemicals in the document on the human body

b.      Frequency of water-born communicable diseases in the early 1900s and today

c.       Modern laws on discharging material into bodies of water

d.      Local industries and how they manage waste disposal.

Allow students to group themselves based on interest. Have the small groups work together to learn about their topic. Then have each group share their findings with the class.