The Gilded Age

By: Allie McKee

"Gilded" in the Gilded Age

"Gilded" can usually be taken to reference an obsession with appearances contributing to gold or beauty by covering with thin gold paint. This term is ironically not considered to refer to the word, "golden", which has a positive meaning. The word, "gilded" has a negative connotation used to mean cheap commercialization, shoddiness, and fakery. This era portrayed a fascination with gold itself and with wealth. Many people became schemers in order to reach their goals of obtaining these fascinations. It displayed an insight interpretation of the culture and age of such extremes of wealth and poverty in the United States during this time.
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The "Bloody Shirt" Elects Grant

Many people believed that a good general would make an effective President, which is why many people supported the election of General Grant to office. General Grant was the most popular Northern hero to emerge from the war and was nominated for presidency by the Republicans in 1868. The Republicans' platform supported the continuation of the Reconstruction, but Grant though otherwise. General Grant stated, "Let us have peace", which struck a highly popular note and became a leading campaign slogan.


The Democrats denounced military Reconstruction, but could agree on little else. Wealthy eastern delegates demanded a plank promising that federal war bonds be redeemed in gold, which was answered by the poorer midwestern delegates with the "Ohio Idea" calling for redemption in greenbacks. Midwestern delegates got the platform, but not the candidate. Instead, former New York governor, Horatio Seymour, was nominated in hope for success by repudiating the Ohio Idea.


Republicans showed support for Grant by "waving the bloody shirt" and reviving gory memories of the Civil War. Grant won the election of 1868.


Ulysses S. Grant

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Corruption in the Gilded Age

Tammany Hall

New York City, Democratic Party Headquarters


Headed by William Marcy "Boss" Tweed.

The Tammany Hall political machine of the late 1860s and early 1870s used graft, bribery, and rigged elections to bilk the city of over $200 million. Some money went to create public jobs that helped people, support the local economy, and other money went into constructing public buildings. He was successful through his use of kick-backs and bribes. Tammany Hall set up support for widows, orphans, and other underprivileged people. This resulted in leaving many people wanting system reform.

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Union and Central Pacific Railroad Company

Considered the worst scandal involving interlocking directorate.

The directors created an alternate company, Credit Mobilier, made to supply materials and labor. The directors kept their involvement with Credit Mobilier quiet and paid the company huge prices for all its services and materials. Heavy extracts of government money bankrupted the company and led to bribing congressmen in order to draw off attention of the scandal.

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Fisk and Gould

Partners, "Jubilee Jim" Fisk and Jay Gould worked together in order to concoct a plot in 1869 to corner the gold market. On "Black Friday" (September 24, 1869), Fisk and Gould dramatically bid the price of gold skyward. In order to lower the high price of gold, the Treasury was forced to sell gold from its reserves.


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Courageous Thomas Nast

Gifted cartoonist, Thomas Nast, attacked Tweed mercilessly, after spurning a heavy bribe to desist. The New York Times secured evidence in 1871 and courageously published it. (Shown Below)


Compromise of 1877

Electoral Count Act (1877)


Passed by Congress

Set up an electoral commission with 15 men selected from the Senate, House of Representatives, and the Supreme Court. It would determine which party would win the election. The committee determined, without opening the ballot from 3 disputed states, that the Republicans had won in the disputed ballots from the states, giving Republicans the presidency. The Democrats were angry with the results, but agreed that Republican Hayes could take office if he withdrew the federal troops from Louisiana and South Carolina.

Rutherford B. Hayes

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