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Searching for the underlying reality in the "land of opportunity," especially in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, has become one of the most significant and rapidly developing areas of American historical research. The myth of America as a place where the ambitious man was free to make his fortune through hard work and enterprise has been enduring, albeit little subject to scrutiny . The possibility of social and economic advancement for all men is central to a society styling itself as liberal, democratic, and capitalistic. In the early years of the twentieth century, this possibility was firmly held in the popular imagination. America is a nation of immigrants , drawn by the possibility of a better life. Free men laboring in a free economy, released from the class discriminations of the Old World , made the "land of opportunity" what it was. The popular evangelists of ready wealth, from Horatio Alger to Samuel Smiles preached this social gospel; the lives of the Carnegies and Rockefellers bore its witness. But aside from the great men , what could ordinary laborers expect as
their reward?



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