The Gilded Age

Nicole Messer

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Definition and Connections

covered or highlighted by gold or something of a golden color; having a pleasing or showing appearance that conceals something of little worth.

The Gilded Age was the time period spanning from the 1870's to the twentieth century and was given by Mark Twain to describe an era of social issues addressed by a thin layer of gold. This age was a period of enormous growth but was also shrouded in extreme amounts of poverty.

Election of Grant

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The Election on 1868 occurred on Tuesday, November 3rd between republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant and democratic candidate Horatio Seymour and was the first election to take place after the Civil War. Grant was considered a radical in this election, however he gained much of the popular vote from the new freedom of the South during reconstruction. Also, this was the first election where African Americans could vote, and because a majority of blacks voted, Grant won the election and was elected president.

Waving a bloody shirt refers to politicians referencing the blood of heroes, which was used to criticize opponents. This was mostly done by radical republicans in order to focus more attention on Reconstruction. This technique mostly secured veterans votes during the campaign. Grant waved "the bloody shirt" with hopes of reminding the voters of what the South and the Democratic party had done to the nation.


Many connections with Gilded Age had considerable power by giving special treatment, especially in businesses, to members of a group. Some began to use their power by utilizing large groups of voters in order to influence candidates, elections, and political parties. Eventually, the association leaders, known as bosses, began to run for office and get elected as well. Their main loyalties were to the associations that helped them become successful. Because the government operated behind closed doors, the opportunity for corruption was large and prominent.

The biggest example of machine politics was Tammany Hall, headquarters of the Democratic Party in New York City. Headed by William "Boss" Tweed, the Tammany Hall political machine of the late 1860s and early 1870s used graft, bribery, and rigged elections in order to rob the city of over $200 million. Many bosses came into the money through kick-backs and bribes.

In 1871, the New York Times published evidence of misuse of public funds to indict and eventually convict Boss Tweed and some of his Tammany associates. The 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 rejected despite even higher offers. In order to escape arrest, Tweed fled to Spain. However, he was identified from Nast cartoons that had circulated in that country, and as a result was captured by Spanish authorities and sent back to the United States.

Compromise of 1877

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Rutherford B Hayes won the White House over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden due to the fact that Hayes would remove the federal troops whose support was essential to the survival of Republican state governments in Florida, South Carolina, and Louisiana. The compromise took effect before Hayes was sworn in as president and Republican Ulysses S. Grant removed the soldiers from Florida. As president, Hayes removed the remaining troops in South Carolina and Louisiana. As soon as the troops left, many Republicans followed and the Democrats took control easily.