The Gilded Age

Madelyn Baker Pd 1

"The Gilded Age"

"Gilded" = Covered thinly in gold OR wealthy and privileged

"Gilded Age" --> refers to how the time was glittering and "gold" on the surface, but underneath, it was very corrupt. (Term first used by Mark Twain) The time made America look very rich, wealthy, and elegant when looking from the outside, but it was actually full of corruption, had poor treatment of immigrants, and had an industrial society that was filthy and unsanitary.

The Gilded Age is what transferred America from an agrarian society to a more industrial society. It was an era of reform. The upper class was full of wealth, but underneath that, there was much corruption and the separation of classes was widening.

Election of Grant ("Bloody Shirt Campaign")

Ulysses S. Grant got along with Andrew Johnson, until the issue of the dismissal of Stanton and the Tenure of Office Act. Grant did not have strong political views, but was taken by the radical Republicans as their candidate. He loved the attention the war had brought him and after New York City offered him a cash grant and Philadelphia and Galena, Illinois offered him free houses, he accepted the nomination for 1868 election. The Democrats nominated Horace Seymour to run. His views focused on the repayment of war debt in greenbacks.

"Bloody Shirt Campaign"

The campaigning was full of bitter tactics. Grant was hailed as a war hero, but he was also accused of being an alcoholic and "Negro-lover." In the Republican campaign, they mostly used the tactic of "waving the bloody shirt." This consisted of reminding the Democrats of their lack of support in the war effort, trying to guilt them into voting for Grant.

Ending Results

Grant won with the electoral votes. The popular votes had a margin of 300,000 votes, showing that the 500,000 ex-slaves had a large part in getting Grant elected.


The Gilded Age is known for the corruption that formed in America during this time.

William "Boss" Tweed and Thomas Nast

William Tweed

  • he was a volunteer firefighter and bookkeeper when he was elected alderman and then elected to a term in Congress
  • elected to important positions in New York City government after he had been elected to a new, bipartisan board of supervisors in 1865
  • got this position from strengthening his status in Tammany Hall (the executive committee of New York City's Democratic Party organization and a political machine)
  • during this time he was able to get some of his close companions to be elected in various positions around the city, establishing what would be known as the "Tweed ring"
  • 1860, he was the head of Tammany Halls' general committee, so he controlled the nominations for city positions
  • 1860, opened a law office and charged large "legal fees" to corporations
  • 1868, became a state senator and grand sachem (principle leader) of Tammany Hall
  • dominated Democratic Party in city and state, his candidates were elected mayor of New York City, governor, and speaker of the state assembly
  • 1870, forced passage of new city charter so he and his associates could control city treasury
  • Tweed Ring got money through "faked leases, padded bills, false vouchers, unnecessary repairs, and overpriced goods and services bought from suppliers controlled by the ring
  • Vote fraud was a large part of elections

Thomas Nast and the Exposure

  • revealed what William as doing
  • he drew satiric cartoons in Harper's Weekly
  • exposed by The New York Times, Thomas Nast, and the reform lawyer, Samuel J. Tilden
  • Tweed was charged with forgery and larceny
  • sentenced to prison in 1873 and was released in 1875
  • reentered into prison because of a civil case, escaped to Cuba then Spain
  • recaptured and spent the rest of his life in prison

Cartoons by Thomas Nast of William Tweed and the Tweed Ring

Compromise of 1877

  • after election of 1876, Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina were the only three states with Reconstruction-era Republican governments still in place
  • allies of Rutherford Hayes (Republican candidate) met in secret with southern Democrats to negotiate the acceptance of Hayes' election
  • Democrats agreed not to reject Hayes if the Republicans took out the federal troops from the South (would consolidate Democratic power in the South)


  • marked end of Reconstruction-era
  • troops were removed
  • Florida, Louisiana, and South Carolina became Democratic again