The Gilded Age (1877-1900) and Progressive Era (1890-1914)
How did the United States change due to extreme wealth and power being controlled by a few industrialists?
Are we in a Gilded Age today?
How can progressive reforms fix problems such as those seen in the Gilded Age?
Gilded Age Defined
The late 1800s is often called the Gilded Age because of the great wealth of a few that masked the devastating poverty of the many. The blame for poverty was largely put upon the poor with ideas such as Social Darwinism and writings such as Horatio Alger Jr.’s “rags to riches” novels.
Technologies of the Gilded Age
New technology would provide great changes during the late 1800s. The technologies helped cities grow, made communication faster, made travel faster, and increased the role of mechanization and electricity in our lives.
Alexander Graham Bell
Businesses and the individuals that controlled them grew incredibly large and powerful in the late 1800s. The industrialists behind the businesses were sometimes called “captains of industry” because of the advancements that their businesses made, such as providing jobs and generating money that went to good causes. These industrialists were also sometimes called “robber barons” because of the negative impacts of their huge companies, such as ruthless business practices and involvement in political corruption.
Gospel of Wealth
The growth of big business led to increased abuses of workers, often immigrants, in sweatshops. This included low wages and child labor. Labor unions would form and expand in response to these abuses, most famously the American Federation of Labor. The tactics used by labor unions were mostly ineffective due to the power and influence of the industrialists and the oversupply of immigrant workers. The government sided with the big businessmen, even using police and federal troops to force an end to strikes. Also, it did not help that unions often lacked the numbers they needed due to discrimination based on skill-level and ethnicity.
Knights of Labor
American Federation of Labor
Eugene V. Debs
Great Strike of 1877
Sherman Anti-Trust Act
Urbanization and Immigration
The growth of industry and much immigration brought about urbanization. As new immigrants moved to the cities, they met much nativism, one reason that ghettos defined the makeup of many cities of the time. The cities grew faster than they could accommodate the needs of a larger population, leading to many problems such as poor sanitation and deadly fires. Overall, there was not much done to address these problems in the Gilded Age, Frederick Law Olmstead being an exception. The concentration of population in cities did allow for some new recreations, including amusement parks and spectator sports.
melting pot theory
Chinese Exclusion Act
Frederick Law Olmstead
Politicians had the reputation for being corrupt in the late 1800s. Two reasons for this include rapid urbanization and laissez-faire government. Big businessmen routinely bribed politicians to meet their needs. Political machines ruled the cities. Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency is an especially corrupt time in politics marked by numerous scandals and excessive patronage. There were some reforms during the Gilded Age, though these were largely ineffective at producing any real change.
Whiskey Ring Scandal
Credit Mobilier Scandal
Civil Service system
Sherman Anti-trust Act
Progressive Muckraking and Results
The Progressive Movement emerged as a response to the problems of the Second Industrial Revolution. People, such as the muckrakers, started making the public aware of how bad the problems were. The problems had gotten so bad that the public could not ignore them anymore. Reforms came about in new laws, progressive politicians being elected, and individuals taking action as seen in Jane Addams’ Hull House.
Triangle Shirtwaist Fire
Social Gospel Movement
Progressivism in the Federal Government
Teddy Roosevelt’s presidency would begin progressivism in the federal government. His Square Deal set out to control corporate abuses, protect consumer from dangerous products, and conserve our nation’s natural resources. William Howard Taft was Roosevelt’s hand-picked successor, though Taft upset Roosevelt by being more conservative than Teddy had hoped. When the Republicans picked Taft as their candidate for the election of 1912, Teddy formed the Bull Moose Party. This split the Republican vote and Wilson won. He would continue progressive reforms, most notably in finance and trust legislation.
Anthracite coal miner’s strike of 1902
Meat Inspection Act
Food and Drug Administration
Pure Food and Drug Act
election of 1912
Progressive Party (a.k.a. Bull Moose Party)
Federal Reserve Act
Clayton Anti-Trust Act
African-Americans in the Progressive Era
After slavery ended, African Americans were kept inferior by other means. These included voting restrictions, violence, and segregation. The Progressive Era push for reform was also seen in fighting inequality. Responses to inequality differed in the black community. Booker T. Washington represented the moderate approach, endorsing gradual improvements for African Americans beginning with economic equality. W.E.B. Du Bois represented the more extreme approach, endorsing immediate equality.
Plessy v. Ferguson
de facto segregation
de jure segregation
Ida B. Wells
Booker T. Washington
Atlanta Compromise Address
Up From Slavery
Souls of Black Folk
Progressive Era Innovations
Progressivism also led to reforms in business. This includes Henry Ford’s innovations, such as the five-dollar day, forty-hour week that began the trend of workers as consumers. Innovations would provide new technologies to buy and new ways to buy them.