The Gilded Age
Mr. Phipps
U.S. History
California State Standards
11.1.4. Examine the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction and of the industrial
revolution, including demographic shifts and the emergence in the late nineteenth
century of the United States as a world power.
11.2 Students analyze the relationship among the rise of industrialization, large-scale
rural-to-urban migration, and massive immigration from Southern and Eastern Europe.
11.2.1. Know the effects of industrialization on living and working conditions, including the
portrayal of working conditions and food safety in Upton Sinclair's The Jungle.
11.2.2. Describe the changing landscape, including the growth of cities linked by industry
and trade, and the development of cities divided according to race, ethnicity, and
11.2.4. Analyze the effect of urban political machines and responses to them by
immigrants and middle-class reformers.
11.2.5. Discuss corporate mergers that produced trusts and cartels and the economic
and political policies of industrial leaders.
11.2.6. Trace the economic development of the United States and its emergence as a
major industrial power, including its gains from trade and the advantages of its
physical geography.
Era Characteristics
Strong and rapid growth of industry, mass production,
mechanization, and the factory system
Consolidation of wealth and creation of an American
Political and corporate corruption and laissez-faire/hands
off approach to government involvement
Exploitation of cheap, immigrant labor
The creation of the American city and the expansion and
urbanization of the West
Rapid population growth (natural and migratory)
Increased social, racial, and labor tension
The beginning of social, political, and labor reform
Laissez-faire: “Hands-off”, the idea that government should not be
involved in business or regulation
Mechanization: The use of factory machines for mass production
Infrastructure: The “skeleton” of a country, referring to transportation
(railroads, roads, canals), the postal service, tax collection, ability to
vote, civil protection, sewage treatment, etc
Free Enterprise: a.k.a. “Capitalism” The idea that society benefits
from free competition in the market price, yielding individual profit, a
better/cheaper product, and wide availability of goods
Spoils System: Corruption in government, where a person in
authority (i.e., the President) rewards friends with special privileges
and political positions
Political Machines: Corrupt mafia-like organizations which sold
votes for rewards and ran the cities corruptly
1820-1860: Period of Manifest Destiny
1861-1865: American Civil War
Fought over states’ rights, control of industry, and
1865-1877: Period of Reconstruction
Territorial expansion, extension of slavery
Reunify the U.S., aid Freedmen, extend railroad
1866-1898: Period of the Gilded Age
Growth of industry, unchecked immigration,
political corruption
The Gilded Age System
Why America?
Large tracts of open
Abundance of natural
Excellent soil
“Can do” attitude
Eager population
A government that
encouraged rugged
individualism and free
Interpretation of famous Manifest Destiny
The Gilded Age?
Termed by Mark Twain
satirizing the period
Claimed that the period
was not as wealthy as it
Political parties were the
same: laissez-faire and
Political offices given
through spoils system
Local government run by
political bosses
Political Scandal
Federal government known for
constant scandal
 Credit Mobilier Scandal
Whiskey Ring
Cabinet stole money from
whiskey excise tax
Sec. of War sold junk to
Indians for profit
Panic of 1873
Pres. Grant ignored a private
contract to a railroad company,
V.P. made a ton of money
Economic depression due to
over-speculation in industry
and inflation
Pres. Garfield assassinated by
Cartoon from Puck: “Bosses of the
The Influence of Business
Powerful individuals forced and intimidated
Americans and politicians
Used tactics similar to mafia
Targeted immigrants for labor exploitation
and votes
Used bribery, violence, and extortion to get
job done
Political Bosses
Political bosses cartoon by Thomas
Ran local business and
Forced immigrants to vote
for specific candidates in
exchange for citizenship
Forced lower class to pay
“protection” money
Stole money from city
coffers through extortion,
graft, bribes, private
contracts, and misallocation
of funds
Most famous political
bosses were in the biggest
cities (i.e., Boss) William
Tweed of NYC
“Tweed Ring” by Thomas Nast
The New York Solar System: Boss Richard Croker of NYC.
organized NYC politics for nearly twenty years. It was nearly impossible to win an
election without his support: local or national.
The Titans of Business
Private investors and
contributed money to
elections and
campaigns in
exchange for a
“hands off” approach
Emphasis on
business and making
money over reform
The Titans
 J.D. Rockefellar-Standard Oil
 J.P. Morgan-Investment banking
and financier
 Andrew Carnegie--U.S.
 Cornelius Vanderbilt,
Jay Gould, and Jay
The Men
In Sum
Local and federal politics were influenced by
business leaders and political bosses
Few Americans believed that the federal
government would positively affect their lives
and improve their future
The “democratic” process did not reflect the
diversity of beliefs, peoples, and classes in
the U.S.

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