Gilded Age

Andrew Schwenn


The word "gilded" means something of little worth concealed by gold or something of a gold color. The term was coined by Mark Twain, referring to the diguised social problems of United States society. While it was an era of significant growth, poverty was a large problem, and working conditions remained very poor.

Ulysses S. Grant's Campaign

Ulysses S. Grant, previous general for the Union army in the Civil War, was nominated as the Republican candidate for the election of 1868. Democrats nominated Horatio Seymour, who traveled around the country attempting to convince the people of the South's loyalty and full return into the Union. Conversely, Grant did little campaigning, instead "waving the bloody shirt," a euphimism that meant he was reminding voters of the South's actions and war crimes, despite their efforts to prove their loyalty. With the election having been not long after the war, not everyone had forgiven the South, and Grant won 53% of the popular vote and the majority of electoral votes.

Corruption and William Tweed

Corruption and scandals in the political and economic systems were notable in this era. The spoils system in which a person elected into office would appoint his supporters regardless of political ability was common; and economic monopolies that occurred when a company owned all of an industry were not yet made illegal. An example of corruption in companies would be the Credit Mobilier scandal, in which the Union Pacific Railroad company building the eastern section of the Transcontinental Railroad sold shares but put profits into Credit Mobilier until Union Pacific Railroad went bankrupt, leaving shareholders and investors out of money. William M. Tweed, a politician and "boss" of Tammany Hall, the Democratic political machine, expanded his influence through the politcal machine and bribery. Using his political authority and position as a guise, Tweed managed to steal an amount estimated at around $200 million.

Thomas Nast

Nast was a German-American caricaturist and editorial cartoonist, famous for his cartoons about Boss Tweed and the Tammany Hall political machine, his creation of the modern version of Santa Claus, and the elephant political symbol used by the Republican Party.

Compromise of 1877

The Compromise of 1877 was an informal deal that settled the election of 1876, pulled federal troops out of the South, and ended Reconstruction. Rutherford B. Hayes was given the presidency with the understanding that he would remove troops from South Carolina, Florida, and Lousiana. The compromise was made by Hayes and Democrats in the House of Representatives. When troops were removed, many Republicans left and the South was essentially returned to the Democrats.