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The Gilded Age. Gilded Age Explained. Name given to the time period in American history between Reconstruction and the turn of the 20th century (late 1870s-1900 ).

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gilded age explained
Gilded Age Explained
  • Name given to the time period in American history between Reconstruction and the turn of the 20th century (late 1870s-1900).
  • Mark Twain coined the term... Describing, satirically, a society whose serious problems had been veiled by a thin coating of gold.
  • Marked a change in society from agrarian dominated by small producers to urban dominated by industrial corporations.
gilded age explained1
Gilded Age Explained
  • Rampant greed (robber barons—Carnegie, Rockefeller, Morgan).
  • Political corruption (Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall).
  • Economic growth (American economy doubles in size).
  • Poor labor practices (low wages, long hours, poor working conditions).
  • Unionization (Knights of Labor).
  • Urbanization (% of Americans living in cities increases from 20% in 1865 to 40% by 1900).
  • Technological innovation (steel, oil, electricity).
gilded age explained2
Gilded Age Explained
  • Political and social philosophies (socialism; Darwinism; American Dream; Russell Conwell and acres of diamonds).
  • Railroad expansion (miles of track increases from 35,000 in 1865 to 242,000 by 1900).
  • Mass immigration (5.5 million in the 1880s; 4 million in the 1890s).
  • Judicial rulings (Plessyv. Ferguson; Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad).
  • Racial Inequality (Chinese Exclusion Act).
  • Political Oversight (Interstate Commerce Commission; Sherman Anti-Trust Act).
  • Financial inequality (In 1890, 11 million of the nation's 12 million families earned less than $1200 per year; of this group, the average annual income was $380, well below the poverty line).
robber barron or captain of industry
Robber Barron or Captain of Industry?
  • John D Rockefeller—Standard Oil.
  • Andrew Carnegie—Carnegie Steel Company.
  • JP Morgan—JP Morgan bank.
  • Avoided Civil War service by way of payment; leaders in philanthropy.
  • Rags to riches?
    • A study of 303 business executives in from the1870s showed 90% came from middle to upper class families.
  • A Senate report from the early 20th century shows Morgan at his peak sat on the board of 48 corporations; Rockefeller37.
big business and the government
Big Business and the Government
  • “…the purpose of the state was to settle upper-class disputes peacefully, control lower-class rebellion, and adopt policies that would further the long-range stability of the system.” - Howard ZinnA People’s History of the United States
  • Of the 14th Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, 19 dealt with the Negro, 288 dealt with corporations.
  • "No harm shall come to any business interest as the result of administrative policy so long as I am President ... a transfer of executive control from one party to another does not mean any serious disturbance of existing conditions." – Grover Cleveland (22nd and 24th president of the United States)
the supreme court
The Supreme Court
  • 2 major rulings:
    • Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad (1886).
    • Plessy v. Ferguson (1896).
  • Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad.
    • Decision: corporations were persons for the purposes of the 14th Amendment (citizenship and civil liberties).
      • Corporate personhood.
  • Plessy v. Ferguson.
    • Decision: segregation was legal as long as “equal” facilities were available.
      • “Separate but equal”
unionization
Unionization
  • Poor working conditions, wages, violence, and overall mistreatment sparks unionization movement.
    • Early1880s = about 500 strikes a year involving about 150,000 workers; 1890s = 1,000 a year involving 700,000 workers; early 1900s = 4,000 annually.
  • Mass influx of immigrants (i.e., cheap, available labor) allowed for business owners to treat employees anyway the wanted.
  • Knights of Labor (1869)
    • Created to effectively negotiate with big corporations.
    • Organize workers into “one big brotherhood.”
    • Open to anyone regardless of trade (excluded bankers and lawyers).
    • Campaigned for 8 hour work day, abolishment of child labor, improved safety, equal pay for men and women, injury pay.
    • Declined after the Haymarket Square Riot in 1886.
political and social philosophies
Political and Social Philosophies
  • Social Darwinism
    • Scientist Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species (1859) expounded the theory of evolution whereby the stronger/adaptable animals and plants survive.
    • This idea began to spill over into society and became a basis for discussion when dealing with social issues.
      • Evolution was a natural process in society much like nature and the government should not interfere.
        • To place restrictions on society (legislation) would weaken society.
    • Failure to advance in society indicated a lack of character, determination and ability.
  • Socialism
    • The idea was made popular in America by the bookThe Cooperative Commonwealth by Laurence Gronlund.
    • The belief that private control of the economy should be replaced by government oversight/control to ensure fairness.