The Gilded Age in American History




Industrialization, Immigration, and the expansion of


Explosion of Industry

Three significant events spur Industry

Edwin Drake successfully used a steam engine to extract oil. This began an oil boom.

Bessemer Process:. Bessemer developed a process to make a flexible rust proof metal—Steel.

Mesabi Range: huge iron discovery in the Mesabi

Range of Minnesota

Innovation: The Brooklyn Bridge

Barnum proves the safety of this 8 th wonder!

Inventions promote change: Edison


Thomas A. Edison— remarkable statistics about his invention prowess!


Incandescent Light

Production and distribution of electricity

Inventions change lifestyles

Christopher Sholes invented the typewriter in 1867

A. G. Bell invented the teleophone in 1876

These two innovations changed the way business had done and the role of women in the workplace.

The Age of the Railroads

Transcontinental Railroad opened: May 10, 1869

The Golden Spike: Promentary Point


Railroad Innovations

In order to standardized travel and make it more convenient and efficient. The rail industry pushed the new innovation of using time zones to standardize travel.

Time Zones

Multiplier Industry

Railroads promoted other industries:




Car and line construction

Growth of Towns

Rail needs towns to sponsor lines and preserve order and stability along the route.

Industry and packaging became boom industries along the rail.

Growth of Chicago

Pullman, Illinois.

The people in the town built a factory for building sleeping cars.

Pullman provided all of the basic needs.

Prices were high rules were strict.


Violent Strike of 1894

Pullman Strike of 1894

Regulating Railroads

A major goal of

Populist Age

Farmers angry with abusive land grants, inconsistent rates, and high discounts for large shippers (none for small farmers)

Saw victory in the case of Munn (and

Wabash) v. Illinois

Interstate Commerce

Act of 1887reinforced the power of the Federal

Government to regulate interstate commerce.

Panic of 1893


Railroad co. financial problems—collapse of

Reading Railroad.

Currency problems

Credit shortage



15,000 businesses closed

600 banks

74 railroads

Est. 20% unemployment-

4,000,000 lost jobs

Panic of 1893

Rise of Big Business and Labor

No one defined the age like Andrew Carneige

One of the first “titans” of Industry (Robber

Barons) to build an empire of wealth.

True “Rags to Riches” story

Steel magnate

The Gospel of Wealth

Carnegie and

Rockefeller both created endowments that gave away nearly 1 billion dollars (at that time).

“Wealth is like a stinking fish” Carnegie

Most of their money went to things to better humanity such as universities and libraries.

Vertical and Horizontal Integration

Social Darwinism

Philosophy of Herbert


Built on books by

Horatio Alger

Social Darwinism

Riches were a “sign of

God’s favor, and therefore the poor must be inferior or lazy people who deserved their lot in life” (text-449)

John D. Rockefeller

Led to creation of trusts…competing companies who joined together in trust agreements run by a board of trustees as one large corporation.

Rockefeller’s Standard

Oil-controlled 90% of oil refinery in the US.

Charitable acts from this

“robber baron”

Regulating Business

Sherman Anti Trust Act

Made it illegal to form trusts

Prosecution very difficult.

Courts dismissed most attempts.

Emergence of Labor Unions


As business leaders consolidated and united, labor began to do the same.

Plight of Labor

Labor faced severe hardships:

Long work days

Dangerous conditions

No benefits

Risk of injury and death

Role of women and children

Two types of Unions


This group had more bargaining power.

Craft unions such as the AFL


Had less bargaining power.

Example: The Knights of Labor


Work week shrank and the pay increased between 1890 and 1915

Socialism and the labor movement

Big Bill Hawyood and the IWW.

“Wobblies” based their ideas off of those of Karl Marx.

Strikes and Violence

Purpose of a strike?

Examples of significant strikes.

Great Strike of 1877

Haymarket Affair

Homestead Strike

Great Strike of 1877

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877 began on July

17, 1877, in Martinsburg,

West Virginia. Workers for the Baltimore & Ohio

Railroad went on strike, because the company had reduced workers' wages twice over the previous year. The strikers refused to let the trains run until the most recent pay cut was returned to the employees.

Haymarket Affair

300,000 gathered to protest police brutality.

A striker had been killed the day before.

Someone tossed a bomb into the police line

Haymarket Affair

Homestead Strike

Plan to cut wages once again and hire

“Pinkerton’s” to allow the ownership to hire


National Guard had to be called in after workers took over the plant.

Workers lost influence after this strike.

Homestead Strike

Political Machines of the Gilded Age

“There is no denying that the government of cities is one conspicuous failure of the United States”.

“The worst government in Christendom—the most expensive, the most inefficient, and the most corrupt”.

Why so inept?

Explosion of population

Deluge of problems

New York’s population doubled five times in less than a generation given the millions of immigrants that flooded her borders.

Political Machines

An organized group that controlled the activities of a political party in a city, the political machine also offered services to voters and businesses in exchange for political or financial support. In the decades after the Civil War, political machines gained control of local government in Baltimore,

New York, San Francisco, and other major cities


The machine was organized like a pyramid. At the pyramid's base were local precinct workers and captains, who tried to gain voters' support on a city block or in a neighborhood and who reported to a ward boss. At election time, the ward boss worked to secure the vote in all the precincts in the ward, or electoral district. Ward bosses helped the poor and gained their votes by doing favors or providing services. As Martin Lomasney, elected ward boss of

Boston's West End in 1885, explained, “There's got to be in every ward somebody that any bloke can come to

. . . and get help. Help, you understand; none of your law and your justice, but help.”


If therre’s a fire in Ninth, Tenth, or Eleventh Avenue, for example, any hour of the day or night. I’m usually there…as soon as the fire engines. If a family is burned out, I don’t ask them whther they are Republicans or Democrats, and I don’t refer to the Charity Organization Society, which would investigate their case in a month or two and decide they couldn’t help them. I just get quarters for them to buy clothes and fix them up until things are runnin’ again.”

“It’s philanthropy but its politics, too, mighty good politics…the poor are the most grateful people in the world, and let me tell you, they have more friends in their neighborhoods than the rich have in theirs…

Another thing, I can always get a job for a deservin’ man. I make it a point to keep on the track of jobs, and it seldom happens that I don’t have one up my sleeve ready for use.”

George Washington Plunkitt , Precinct Captain,

Tammany Hall

Getting Votes

“I hear of a young feller that’s proud of his voice…I ask him to come around…and join our Glee Club.

He comes and sings, and he’s a Plunkitt follower for life. Another young fellar gains a reputation as a base-ball player. I bring him into our baseball club.

That fixes him, you’ll find him workin for my ticket at the polls the next election day…I rope them in by givin them opportunities to show themselves off. I don’t trouble them with Politics” Plunkitt

The Boss

THE ROLE OF THE POLITICAL BOSS Whether or not the boss officially served as mayor, he controlled access to municipal jobs and business licenses, and influenced the courts and other municipal agencies. Bosses like Roscoe Conkling in

New York used their power to build parks, sewer systems, and waterworks, and gave money to schools, hospitals, and orphanages.

Using Immigrants

IMMIGRANTS AND THE MACHINE Many precint captains and political bosses were first-generation or second-generation immigrants.


The machines helped immigrants with naturalization

(attaining full citizenship), housing, and jobs–the newcomers' most pressing needs. In return, the immigrants provided what the political bosses needed–votes.


NYC Courthouse example

Cost 13,000,000—in reality it was a 3,000,000 project.

Combating Machines

Became the quest of Newspapers

They attacked with little success in editorials.

What got them were the cartoons

“I don’t care what people write, for my people can’t read. But they have eyes and can see as well as other folk.” Boss Tweed.

The Cartoons of Thomas Nast

Exposing Gilded Age Scandal To

A Unique Audience.

Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed

• Political Machines

Dominate Local


• Certain Services are met and improve, but corruption is the order of the day.

Nast slowly erodes Tammany’s influence

A picture is worth 1000 words!

Who Stole the People’s Money?

Not Grrrrrrreat

In the political ring

Other creations…

• Symbols for modern republican and democratic parties.

• Uncle Sam, oh and…

Nast slowly erodes Tammany’s influence

A picture is worth 1000 words!

Who Stole the People’s Money?

Not Grrrrrrreat

In the political ring

Other creations…

• Symbols for modern republican and democratic parties.

• Uncle Sam, oh and…

Tammany Hall and Boss Tweed

• Political Machines

Dominate Local


• Certain Services are met and improve, but corruption is the order of the day.