For most of human history, people worked by hand or with basic tools. Beginning in the late 1700s, the Industrial Revolution—which introduced labor-saving technologies and improved manufacturing methods—brought huge changes to the worker’s world.

Because of these changes, American workers produced more goods, more cheaply, in less time. They also moved into factories working long hours for low pay. The introduction of the assembly line, scientific management techniques, and automation brought higher wages and more affordable consumer goods. But these changes threatened to make work mindless, repetitive, and unsatisfying.

Photographs depict sharp contrasts: