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The decades after the Civil War


Farmers Indiana
Farmers Indiana

Despite the state’s rapid economic growth, the decades after the Civil War were a difficult period for many Indiana farmers and industrial workers. Farmers often felt victimized by excessive railroad freight and storage rates and by high interest rates. At the same time the prices they received for their products declined during the postwar decades. Many farmers found it difficult or impossible to pay off the debts they had incurred to purchase new land and machinery. Faced with these difficulties, a considerable number of Indiana farmers looked for work in the new factories.

Some farmers tried to improve their economic condition by political action. Like many other Midwestern farmers, they joined the Grange, a farmers’ social organization whose activities became largely political in the 1870s. They also backed candidates of various independent political parties, such as the Greenback Party and later the People’s Party. These parties advocated government regulation of railroads and promoted economic policies that would benefit U.S. farmers. The work of the reform parties resulted in some gains, but the farmers’ situation did not improve substantially until farm prices began to rise in the last few years of the 19th century. The post-Civil War period was also a difficult time for industrial workers in Indiana. Like workers elsewhere in the country, Indiana miners and factory workers were often underpaid. They worked under dangerous conditions, and they went jobless during economic recessions, such as those of 1873 and 1893.

Many workers joined the farmers in supporting the Greenback Party and similar parties. Some workers joined such labor organizations as the Knights of Labor, the American Federation of Labor, the United Mine Workers of America, and the American Railway Union, which was led by Eugene V. Debs of Terre Haute.

The combination of political pressure and general labor discontent was instrumental in the passage of progressive labor laws by the state legislature in 1879, 1893, and 1897. In comparison with Illinois and other neighboring states, there was little serious labor violence in Indiana in the late 19th century. "Indiana" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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