The Gilded Age


Contrasts in America 1875-1925

Struggle characterized by democracy and equity vs. hierarchy and order

In times of labor upheaval, “Americaness” determined by class (middle & upper classes)

In times of war,  “Americaness” determined by WASP loyalties.



Largely rural

No electricity, telephones, etc.

Immigration largely German, Irish and English

Railroads dominated industry


Beginning of unionism

Little mass entertainment

Few suburbs: most people lived in cities

Nearly all educated professionals WASPs

laissez faire beliefs

large number of black male voters

women did not vote

years of great unrest: 1877, 1886


Largely urban


“New Immigration” –E. & S. Europe

Finance capitalists dominated; automobiles

Wall Street dominated world banking

Large-scale unionism and political influence

Mass entertainment

Middle & Upper class lived in suburbs

More diversity among professionals

progressivism (esp. in city and state govt’s)

few black male voters

full suffrage

great unrest: 1919


The Corporation

ROBBER BARONS: Andrew Carnegie, JP Morgan, JD Rockefeller, Gustavus Swift, IM Singer & Co.


Limited Liability

“Middle Management”—start of the hierarchy

è Consolidation: (Legal thanks to NJ Incorporation Law of 1889)

                        Horizontal integration/ Mergers: the combining of a number of like industry firms

                        Vertical integration: the combining of a number of related firms

Trust/ Holding companies: little wonky fake companies that investors put their money


“The Self-Made Man”

Capitalism rested on the ideology of individualism and of “survival of the fittest”, the creation of high potential societal mobility. It coincided with Adam Smith’s laissez faire policy of supply and demand, where a company’s success was based on the “invisible hand” of the market


“The Gospel of Wealth”: With great power comes great responsibility (we must help the less fortunate)


Alternatives: Socialism, “Single-tax” system, “fraternal cooperation”


Industrial Workers and the New Economy

-Irish/Brits è Slavs/Poles + Anglo/African è Chinese/Mexican

-Working conditions were horrible

-Women and children were very disadvantaged without laws to protect them




  1. Unions = minority (AFL excluded women and unskilled workers)
  2. Tensions in ethnicity
  3. Shifting nature of work force
  4. Corporate strength OP

National Labor Union (post 1873)

(Radicals) Molly Maguires


Knights of Labor: First major effort to unionize nationally. Championed 8 hour work day and no child labor, but wanted workers to control the economy (“cooperative system”)

American Federation of Labor: craft unions. No women. Very conservative



-The great Railroad Strike proved how weak these unions were

-Haymarket Riot – the symbol of social chaos

-The Homestead Strike: “Anarchism” = “terrorism”; Pinkertons were reviled

-Pullman Strike and Eugene V Debs

Lochner v. New York, 1905: Court overturned law limiting bakers in New York to 60-hours per week.

Muller v. Oregon, 1908: Court upheld law limiting women to 60 hours per week. Brandeis used social studies evidence (“Brandeis Brief”) to show adverse impact of long work hours for women

Danbury Hatters case: Court ruled that union violated Sherman Anti-Trust Act by restraining trade

Clayton Anti-Trust Act, 1913: recognized union right to bargain collectively

Increased popularity of socialism among unskilled workers

1912: high point of socialist movement (6% of total vote)

International Workers of the World, “Wobblies”: radical socialist workers who hurt union cause

1919: Seattle General Strike; Boston Police Strike; John L. Lewis’s United Mine Workers (UMW)

– resulted in anti-union sentiment and Palmer Raids,

By early 1920s, the union movement was significantly weakened


Between 1875 and 1920 America changed from a rural nation to an urban one

Urbanization stimulated by large number of industrial jobs (and white collar jobs) available

New occupations for women: clerks, typists, telephone operators

Department stores forced many smaller stores out of business

“New Immigration” contributed dramatically to urbanization

Urban revivalism: Dwight Moody (seeks to restore Protestantism in the face of growing Catholicism and Modernism (belief in reconciling Bible and Darwin)

Social Gospel Movement: led by Walter Raschenbusch and Washington Gladden

American Red Cross, Clara Barton (Salvation Army)

Settlement House Movement: Jane Addams and Lillian Wald (& Florence Kelley)

skyscrapers: John L. Sullivan; Brooklyn Bridge, John Roebling

“Yellow Journalism” makes everything more fantastical than it was

The Political Bosses: The de facto rulers of the cities. Gave jobs to immigrants and promoted assimilation. Corrupt as fuck. Boss Tweed of Tammany Hall


Impact of the “New Immigration”

Political machines worked to support and quickly naturalize immigrants to gain loyalty.

Social Gospel: Walter Rauschenbusch, Washington Gladden, Dwight L. Moody, Billy Sunday

Salvation Army, Red Cross (Clara Barton)

Settlement House Movement: Jane Addams; Lillian Wald

Nativists sought to restrict New Immigration:

American Protective Association: anti-Catholic

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882

20th century: KKK; Immigration Act of 1921, National Origins Act of 1924

Supplied workers to work in factories during the 2nd Industrial Revolution

Mexican immigration after Mexican Revolution in 1910

The Great West

Impact of the transcontinental railroad on American society: Indian Wars against Plains Indians, Nez Perce and Apache; reservations

NA Policies

  1. Proclamation Line of 1763 (Separation Policy—Berkeley)
  2. Treaty of Greenville (Sovereign Nation Policy—AOC)
  3. Noble Savage (Assimilation Policy—Jefferson)
  4. Removal Act of 1830 (Reservation Policy—Jackson)
  5. Concentration Policy (Reservation Policy—Tribal ownership—BIA)
  6. Dawes Act (Severalty Act—Individual ownership)
  7. Burk Act (living 25 years on land = citizenship)

1890, Superintendent of the Census declares there is no longer a discernable frontier line

Three western frontiers:

  • Farming: Homestead Act, land sales from railroads
  • Mining: Nevada, Colorado
  • Cattle Ranching: “long drive,” cowboys, barbed wire

The farm as a factory: new machinery, tenant farming (sharecropping)

Plight of the farmer leads to increased political activity: Farmers’ Alliances and Populist Party

Farmers gouged by discriminatory railroad practices: long haul, short haul; pools

Sought inflationary measures to lower value of their loans and increase prices for their goods

Largely Hispanic and Chinese laborers, who develop their own individual cultures: Barros; Chinatowns

è Chinese Exclusion Act enacted to prohibit Asian immigration

è National Origins Act targets Japanese

All this industrialization creates very angry farmers. And so, the Populist Party is formed.


2 responses to “The Gilded Age

  1. Pingback: Map of the US History Guide | Surviving High School: A Hypocrat in a Perpetual State of Procrastination·

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