The Gilded Age

Brady Knippa

The Gilded Age

Gilded: Covered thinly with gold, or given a deceptively attractive appearance.

The Gilded Age Era

This term was applied to the time period spanning the 1870's to the twentieth century, and was given by Mark Twain to describe an era of social problems covered by a thin appearance of gold. This time period was a period of enormous growth, but was shrouded in extreme poverty.

Election of Grant - Bloody Shirt Campaign

The Election on 1868 was held on Tuesday, November 3rd, and was between republican candidate Ulysses S. Grant and democratic candidate Horatio Seymour. It was the first election to take place after the Civil War. Grant was considered a radical in this election, but gained much of the popular vote through the newly enfranchised freedom of the South during reconstruction. This was also the first election where African Americans could vote, and because of the majority black vote, Grant won the election and the presidency.

Waving a bloody shirt refers to politicians referencing the blood of heroes to criticize opponents. This technique was mostly employed by radical republicans to focus attention on Reconstruction. This technique mostly secured veterans votes during the campaign. Grant waved "the bloody shirt" wanting the remind the voters of what the South and the Democratic party did to the nation.

Corruption of the Gilded Age

Many associations of the Gilded Age gained considerable power by giving preferential treatment, especially in businesses, to members of a group. Some began to use their power by mobilizing large groups of voters to influence candidates, elections, and political parties. Eventually, the association leaders, called bosses, began to run for office and get elected themselves. Their main loyalties were to the associations whom they owed their personal success. Because the government operated behind closed doors, the opportunity for corruption was rampant.

The most infamous 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 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 refused despite even higher offers. To escape arrest, Tweed fled to Spain. Ironically, he was identified from Nast cartoons circulated in that country, and as a result was captured by Spanish authorities and extradited back to the United States.

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Compromise of 1877

Rutherford B Hayes was awarded the White House over Democrat Samuel J. Tilden on the understanding that Hayes would remove the federal troops whose support was essential to the survival of Republican state governments in South Carolina, Florida, and Louisiana. The compromise took effect before Hayes was sworn in, as the president, 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 also left and the Democrats took control.

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