The Gilded Age

Furnish Per. 2 - Allan Tian


Gilded - (adjective) covered thinly with gold sheeting or gold paint

The "Gilded Age" was coined by Mark Twain. It referred to the superficial state of the era. Just as a gilded object, the state of America seemed attractive to the external viewer, but in truth there were many social issues and the perceived "get rich quick" opportunities were near non-existent.

"Bloody Shirt" Campaign

The election of 1868 was won by Ulysses S. Grant of the Republican party. His major opponent was Horatio Seymour of the Democratic Party.

Grant did not actually campaign much in contrast to Seymour who traveled country. Grant's victory was due to his followers waving the "bloody shirt". In this manner Grant was able to win presidency due to his status of being a war hero. The "bloody shirt" also serves as a reminder of the Civil War (which was blamed on the Democratic Party and the South), and attracted many union veteran votes.


As immigration poured into the United States during the post-Civil War era organizations were formed with the intent to help those in need. Eventually leaders of these local organizations would gain sufficient social status to be able to control the votes of immigrants to put the leaders in office. The administrations would also bribe businesses and people to vote for them. This manner of controlling local governments became known as "machine politics".

Corruption ran rampant within local governments. The corrupt office holders would accept bribes and kick-backs to fill their wallets.

Corruption on the federal level also existed, but not through the same reason as the corruption on the local level. Grant and following leaders were weak as politicians and the spoils system was re-implemented (especially by Grant). Many, many ineligible people held office during Grant's administration. The acceptance of bribes was not uncommon.

"Boss Tweed"

Tammany Hall is the political machine that dominated New York during the late 1860s and early 1870s. William M. Tweed and his associates rose to prominence within the group and was elected to be the chairman. Soon Tweed rose to control the entire local government. He and his associates earned huge amounts of money from kick-backs and bribes. He also bought companies to award them with city contracts which would bring profit to himself. Boss Tweed's dynasty fell when other members of Tammany Hall shared evidence of Tweed's corruption with the New York Times. Samuel J. Tilden published the evidence even after being bribed not to. News of his corruption was spread among immigrants and the illiterate by Thomas Nast's cartoons for the Harper's Weekly.

Compromise of 1877

Election of 1876 was Samuel J. Tilden (Democrat) vs Rutherford B Hayes (Republican).

The result was Tilden winning the popular vote while Hayes won the electoral, but there were three states with irregular returns. Each of the three states sent back a set of two returns, one Republican the other Democrat.

Congress did not know who should be allowed to accept the returns, because any individual would be biased toward's their party. Therefore an electoral commission comprised of 15 people was created by the Electoral Count Act (passes Congress 1877). They voted on whether to accept the Republican or Democratic return. The decision was to accept the Republican returns, but the Democrats were outraged.

A compromise was hammered out. Republicans had to assure the Democrats a place at the presidential patronage trough, the Texas and Pacific Railroad's construction, and the withdrawal of remaining military governments in the Southern states (therefore ending Reconstruction). In return the Republican returns were accepted.

Hayes wins the election.