Chapter 23 Activity

The Gilded Age

Definition of gilded

  • Gilded (verb) - to cover (something) with a thin layer of gold

The word gilded applies to the Gilded Age era because this timeframe was known for fakery and cheap industrialization. Workers just made poor quality products and coated them with gold to get rich quickly. It was also known for rapid economic growth but much social conflict. This era was based off of Mark Twain’s novel titled The Gilded Age.


election of Grant and the "Bloody Shirt" campaign

In the Election of 1868, Ulysses S. Grant (Republican) ran against Horatio Seymour (Democrat). Grant campaigned to continue radical reconstruction. He was elected because he was a well respected war hero from Civil War, even though he was accused of being a drunkard and a lover of Black people. The “Bloody Shirt” Campaign consisted of Republicans waving bloody shirts to remind citizens of the Democrats’ lack of support during the Civil War. Grant won by a landslide in the Electoral College, but beat Seymour by merely 300,000 popular votes which foreshadowed there was stuff in store for Grant's Presidency.


Corruption during the Gilded Age

During the Gilded Age, governments were naive about the ways individuals and companies made money in business, both legally and illegally. They weren’t able to deal with cutthroat business practices, so they continued which cause lots of corruption. When it finally became very clear that some regulation was necessary, government didn’t know where or how to apply the controls.


  • Union Railroad and Credit Mobilier

One scandal during the Gilded Age dealt with the Union Pacific Railroad Company. The Union Pacific directors created Credit Mobilier that was to supply materials and labor. Though they were the directors of both companies, they kept their involvement with the Credit Mobilier quiet. Within a few years of the Railroad’s operation, the company went bankrupt. A New York newspaper exposed the scandalous co-ownership of the companies in 1872, and charges were confirmed by congressional investigation. Credit Mobilier tried covering up what they did by giving congressmen shares of its valuable stock that paid dividends of as much as 348%.


  • Boss Tweed Spoils System

William Marcy Tweed, otherwise known as "Boss Tweed" was the head of Tammany Hall in New York. The Tammany Hall machine politics of the late 1860's and early 1870's used bribery and rigged elections (aka Spoils System) to con the city out of $200 million. The spoils system is a practice where a political party or member offers government jobs to the people in exchange for their vote. This often harmed the society as these people elected for office were inept and unskilled for that position. Tweed and other political machines did not assign roles accordingly which concluded to many malfunctions.


  • Continued

Tweed also traded jobs, housing, and other important items in return for the immigrant's votes. A portion of this money went to creating public jobs and constructing public buildings but people who worked in the cities (like contractors and suppliers) had to give kickbacks to the machine bosses in order to maintain their businesses. Because of this, Boss Tweed gained fortunes due to kickbacks and the bribes. Many of the people in New York were not convinced of the benefits the Boss System provided but those who complained were threatened or had their property taxes raised. In 1871, the New York Times published sufficient evidence that Boss Tweed had misused financial funds and convicted him and other bosses for their wrong doings. Political cartoon artist Thomas Nast portrayed the corruption of Boss Tweed through pictorial campaigns gaining support from immigrants and citizens.



Compromise of 1877

Rutherford B. Hayes was elected as president in exchange of Republicans pulling their troops out of Southern States. After the Election of 1876, Hayes agreed to end Reconstruction period. Samuel J. Tilden won popular vote as Democrat, and Republicans won the electoral votes. There was an unwritten, informal deal between Democrats and Republicans, so Hayes had to appoint one democrat into his administration. Construction of a second transcontinental railroad in the South began, because Legislation had to help industrialize the South. This led to beginning of Jim Crow Laws and Segregation throughout the South. The Civil Rights Act of 1875: guaranteed equal accommodations in public places and prohibited racial discrimination in jury selection. To the millions of slaves in the south, the Compromise of 1877 was known to them as the "Great Betrayal." The efforts from the north to ensure the civil rights of blacks had disappeared.


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