"covered in gold age for america"

Gilded Age

What is the Gilded Age?

The term was coined by writers Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873), satirizing what they believed to be an era of serious social problems disguised by a thin gold gilding.

The Gilded Age was an era of enormous growth, especially in the North and West. This attracted millions of emigres from Europe. However, the Gilded Age was also an era of enormous poverty. The average annual income for most families was $380, well below the poverty line.Railroads were the major industry, but the factory system, mining, and labor unions also increased in importance. Two major nationwide depressions known as the Panic of 1873 and the Panic of 1893 interrupted growth.


The Bloody Shirt Campaign

Grant had remained a popular Civil War hero, and the Republicans continued to wave the "bloody shirt" as a patriotic symbol representing the North. The Republicans favored high tariffs and a continuation of Radical Reconstruction policies that supported five military districts in the Southern states. Grant also favored amnesty to former Confederate soldiers like the Liberal Republicans.

The election season degenerated into the opposing sides launching vicious personal attacks on the opposition candidate. Tilden, who had become wealthy as a lawyer in New York City, was accused of participating in fraudulent railroad deals. And the Republicans made much of the fact that Tilden had not served in the Civil War. Hayes had served heroically in the Union Army and had been wounded several times. And the Republicans continually reminded the voters that Hayes had participated in the war, a tactic sharply criticized by Democrats as “waving the bloody shirt.”


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Corruption During the Gilded Age

As America began to prosper during the Gilded Age corruption in politics and the economy was rampant. Grant’s presidency is tainted with multiple examples of back-hand dealings and immoral practices. To his credit he oversaw the Whiskey Scandal, the Credit Mobilier dilemma, Gould and Fisk’s Black Friday, and even his own Secretary of War William Belknap’s bribe-taking to annex the Dominican Republic. The largest scandal at the time would be the Tammany Hall political machine and “Boss” Tweed. Tweed and the rest of his political advisors stole an estimated $200 million from the city of New York through kickbacks and bribes. The most employed method by Tweed was to hire architects to build government buildings but invoice the city double the price it should have been. Tweed paid the actual cost out of pocket and kept the extra cash from the city for himself. He escaped prosecution mostly because he did give back to the city through welfare programs for widows, orphans, the poor, the aged, the sick and the unemployed. However in 1871 the New York Times found sufficient evidence to convict him for misuse of public funds. Moreover, a political cartoonist Thomas Nast could be credited more for his capture. His depictions of Tweed as a greedy giant allowed mainly immigrants who did not understand English or the illiterate to understand what Tweed did. After Tweed fled to Spain he was deported back to America after officials recognized him from Nast’s drawings. He was later prosecuted by Samuel Tilden and died in prison. Corrupt business practices were also employed. A popular scheme that the board of directors of Union Pacific Railroad and Credit Mobilier utilized was to build a dummy company, create an interlocking directorate, and transfer funds from one company to the other bankrupting one. Monopolies and trusts also were rampant. John D. Rockefeller is famous for perfecting the trust which is where two companies would consolidate. The problem with monopolies and trusts were that it did not allow any competition meaning companies could raise prices. In response, the government took steps to prevent this by signing into law the Sherman Anti-Trust Act even though it was not that effective.



Compromise of 1877

Was an unwritten deal that settled the 1876 Election. It ended the reconstruction era and pulled federal troops out of state politics in the south. Republican Rutherford B. Hayes was crowned president over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden. The only reason Hayes won was because Hayes promised that he would take out troops from whose support was essential for the survival of Republican state government in Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana. The decision was made by the democrats who controlled the House of Representatives allowing the decision of the Electoral Commision. Grant moved the troops out of Florida before leaving office and Hayes took out the remaining from South Carolina and Louisiana.



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