The Gilded Age
An explanation of the Gilded Era of the United States
"Gilded" .... What does it mean?
The word "Gilded" means "covered thinly with gold leaf or gold paint." This is used to describe something cheap, like plastic or functional metal being covered up with another cheap material to make it look more valuable, as though the entire thing were a precious metal. This applies to the era because during this time period America was booming. The wealthy were becoming wealthier and showier, and seemed to be developing a culture. But politicians were greedy and corrupt and said to be the cheap material being hidden by the gilding.
President Ulysses S. Grant
President Grant used what was called the "Bloody Shirt Campaign" to be elected and throughout his presidency. This was effectively using the civil war and his successes in it to get votes. He also used the fact that Republicans were from the North and Democrats were generally more southern to turn the voting Northerners in his favor.
Corruption and "Boss" Tweed
The government at the time was riddled with corruption, including bribes accepted by the vice president and tax revenues stolen from the treasury, but the biggest example was William "Boss" Tweed, who stole over $200 million from the government using kickbacks and bribes. He was eventually brought to justice by a cartoonist named Thomas Nast, who drew him many times, making him recognizable to the public and bringing to their attention his corruption.
Compromise of 1877
This was an unwritten deal that gave office to Rutherford B. Hayes in the election of 1876 with the stipulation that he must remove federal troops from the political machinations of the Southern states, allowing Democrats to thrive once again in the south.