The Gilded Age

Kailyn Lee 7th


Gilded (verb): to cover thinly with gold leaf or gold paint.
  • The time period that occurred from the end of the 1800's to the early 1900's applies to the term the Gilded Age because it was known for it's facade and cheap industrialization. Workers produced poor quality products in mass production and coated them with gold to to gain riches quickly. It also suggests a fascination with gold itself and with the wealth and power that gold symbolizes. Mark Twain named this era after he wrote a book entitled The Gilded Age.

Election of Grant and the "Bloody Shirt" Campaign

  • Republican Ulysses S. Grant took victory over Democrat Horatio Seymour during the Election of 1868 replacing the exceedingly unpopular and disliked Andrew Johnson. Being a former and successful general of the Civil War gave him an advantage in the election as he was known a well-respected hero and was highly favored. Grant won the election with the significantly higher amount of votes in the electoral college but when it came to the popular vote, him and Seymour were very close.
  • The "Bloody Shirt" campaign was a reminder to the Democrats and the south for the Civil War and all the deaths that occurred. The Republican campaign consisted mainly of "waving the bloody shirt," to call attention to the voters of the Democrats' and their lack of support during the war effort.

The Corruption of the Gilded Age

  • The Credit Mobilier affair is an example of the corrupt practices that characterized the period. Credit Mobilier was formed in 1863 by the same officers and stockholders of the original Union Pacific railway company. It was built to supply materials and labor the railroads. The federal government had granted the railroad generous loans for its building and the officers put all of the money into Credit Mobilier which led to extra money for them. These officials had created both groups to gain excessive amounts of profits for themselves. Eventually, the company went bankrupt.
  • William Marcy Tweed, otherwise known as "Boss Tweed", was the head of Tammany Hall in New York. The Tammany Hall machine politics of the late 1860's and early 1870's used bribery and rigged elections (aka Spoils System) to con the city out of nearly $200 million. The spoils system is a practice where a political party or member offers government jobs to the people in exchange for their vote. This often harmed the society as these people elected for office were inept and unskilled for that position. Tweed and other political machines did not assign roles accordingly which concluded to many malfunctions. Tweed also traded jobs, housing, and other important items in return for the immigrant's votes. A portion of this money went to creating public jobs and constructing public buildings but people who worked in the cities (like contractors and suppliers) had to give kickbacks to the machine bosses in order to maintain their businesses. Because of this, Boss Tweed gained fortunes due to kickbacks and the bribes. Many of the people in New York hated the Boss System provided but those who complained were threatened or had their property taxes raised. In 1871, the New York Times published enough evidence that Boss Tweed had misused financial funds and convicted him and other bosses for their wrong doings. Political cartoon artist Thomas Nast portrayed the corruption of Boss Tweed through pictorial campaigns gaining support from immigrants and citizens.

Compromise of 1877

As a result of the Compromise of 1877...
  • Ended election disputes from the Election of 1876
  • Florida, Louisiana and South Carolina became Democratic states again.
  • Rutherford B. Hayes was elected as president in exchange of Republicans pulling their troops out of Southern states.
  • Democrats allowed Hayes to rule but demanded several concessions.
  • Hayes must add at least one southern democrat into his administration.
  • Must appoint Democrats to patronage positions in the South
  • Departure of federal troops from the south
  • Must support construction of a transcontinental railroad in the South.
  • Must agree to legislation to help industrialization in the southern.
  • Hayes agreed to end reconstruction which effectively marked the end of the reconstruction era.
  • Samuel J. Tilden won popular vote as Democrat, and Republicans won the electoral votes.
  • Introduction of Jim Crow Laws and Segregation throughout the South
  • Civil Rights Act of 1875: guaranteed equal accommodations in public places and prohibited racial discrimination in jury selection.
  • To the millions of slaves in the south, the Compromise of 1877 was known to them as the "Great Betrayal." The efforts from the north to ensure the civil rights of blacks had disappeared.