Gilded Age

Nikhil Kesarla-1st Period

Part A-Definition

The term Gilded Age refers to the period of U.S. History between the 1870s-1900s. The word "gilded", applied my Mark Twain to this era in U.S. History, was meant to show that while America seemed to be shiny and prosperous on the outside, once you looked deeper, it was apparent that it was riddled with corruption. Though many businesses were prospering, they only were at the expense of thousands of farmers and immigrants. As such, the Gilded Age was an ironic phrasing of this Era by Mark Twain to emphasize the corruptness and dishonesty of many politicians/businessmen to get rich at the expense of others during this time.


Election of Grant and Bloody Shirt Campaign

Andrew Johnson was very unpopular in the US for his policies, so Grant ran for the 1868 presidential election. His decision to run was partially based on the assumption that the nation wanted a man who was a war hero. However, he had no political experience, so his political advisers painted him as the war hero of the North, and continually reminded the nation of his numerous war victories, hence, the bloody shirt campaign. He was matched up against Horatio Seymour of New York, who was a brilliant former New York governor who was nominated by the Democrats.The Bloody Shirt campaign was also used by Grant to show that Grant’s success in the Civil War and that he should be trusted for defeating the South. Because of this, Grant ended up handily winning the 1868 election, with an electoral count of 214-80


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Corruption during Gilded Age

As shown, the Gilded Age was nothing more than an age filled with corruption, though on the outside it looked good. Governments were naïve, though in most cases didn't care, about business and the ways that individuals and companies made money, both legally and illegally. They were not able to deal with many cutthroat business practices, so these continued to flourish. Earlier in the century, businesses had been allowed to incorporate by obtaining a charter from a state government. Among other advantages, the owners of an incorporated business were shielded from most of the liabilities incurred by the business. This was beneficial since before incorporation was allowed, if a business failed, the owner was wholly liable for all the debts. After incorporation was allowed, big companies discovered they could buy other companies and hold them under the umbrella of the parent company. Another unscrupulous practice sometimes employed was to have a company form another company with the same board of directors running both companies. This new political landscape where the official government was supported and manipulated by a shadow government of bosses.associations became known as machine politics for its ability to call out the votes “like a machine” to sponsor any political agenda.

The most infamous example of machine politics was Tammany Hall, headquarters of the Democratic Party in New York City. Headed by William Marcy Tweed, the Tammany Hall political machine of the late 1860s and early 1870s used graft, bribery, and rigged elections to milk the city of over $200 million. A brilliant political cartoonist Thomas Nast conveyed Tweed’s abuses to even the illiterate and semi-illiterate masses of recent immigrants. Nast was offered a $100,000 bribe to "study art in Paris," a euphemism for discontinuing his pictorial campaign against Tweed. Nast refused despite even higher offers. Tweed was then exposed and found guilty at trial. This example serves as the epitomy of the business mindset of this age.


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Compromise of 1877


Taking after Henry Clay, the newest “Compromise” of 1877 had significant effects to the United States. This Compromise was unofficial, and resulted largely in part because of the hotly contested election of 1876. The Democrats reluctantly allowed Rutherford B. Hayes to retain his presidency and get re-elected, in exchange for several concessions. First, they demanded for the North to officially stop military reconstruction in the two remaining states of Louisiana and South Carolina. Also, the South asked for the a bill to start a Texas and Pacific railroad construction. Though some promises were not kept, including this bill, it was enough to break the electoral standoff and allow for a shaky peace to be maintained.