Gilded Age - get your game on

Gilded Age
Political and Economic Challenges
Chapter 7
Essential Questions
E.Q. 12 - Analyze a primary source document reflecting the
dynamics of the Gilded Age American society.
E.Q. 14 - Analyze a political cartoon that portrays the
controversial aspects of the Gilded Age.
E.Q. 15 - Explain the impact of different forms of corruption and its
consequences in American politics during the later half of the Age.
E.Q. 17 - Determine the progress of political and social reform in
America during the Progressive Era
Analyze the issue of corruption in national politics in the
1870s and 1880s.
Discuss civil service reform during the 1870s and 1880s.
Assess the importance of economic issues in the politics of
the Gilded Age.
Discover the various scandals that plagued this era.
Gilded Age Meaning
Book by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner: The Gilded Age: A
Tale of Today (1893)
- satirizing what they believed to be an era of serious social problems
hidden by a thin gold gilding
- describes the political corruption of President Ulysses S. Grant’s
administration (1869-1877)
suggested a shallow glitter which came to describe the social and
political life of the latter part of the 19th century
characterizes an era which enriched some people while trapping others
in poverty
Gilded Age Meaning
Term refers to the shallow and gaudy culture engaged in by the newly rich and the
families of old wealth
Some historians interpret the ornate mansions of New York City and lavish
parties held in them as expression of excess wealth caused by mindless
A play on “Golden Age”
Thin gold layer covering outside (to “gild” something)
Corruption in Politics
Weak and ineffectual
lassez faire - government
Various scandals
Political cartoons used to
expose corruption:
- Thomas Nast
Spoils System
Spoils System
“Unless you can get the ear of a Senator... and persuade
him to use his “influence” in your behalf, you cannot get
employment of the most trivial nature in Washington. Mere
merit, fitness and capability, are useless baggage to you
without ‘influence,’ ... It would be an odd circumstance to
see a girl get employment ... merely because she was
worthy and competent, and a good citizen of a free country
that “treats all persons alike.” -Mark Twain & Charles Dudley Warner
Spoils System
Politicians awarding government jobs to loyal party
workers with little regard for their qualifications.
Candidates did not help with their own elections.
Influenced high voter turnout
Led to civil service - system where most gov’t workers
would get their jobs due to expertise and keep them
regardless of who took over office
Spoils System ctd...
Controversy over accepting the civil service system
Politicians worries about attracting workers for campaigns and parties
President James Garfield’s assassination by Charles Guiteau helped
settle the matter
Chester A. Arthur becomes President and has to support civil service
reform because of public’s outcry after Garfield’s death
Laws requiring individuals to pass civil service examination to obtain
government jobs
- eliminate patronage and corruption in government hiring
Pendleton Civil Service Act
Applied to Federal jobs
Jobs are rewarded based on merit
Establishes the Civil Service
- make government appointments
based on merit system
wrote a civil service exam
“Boss System”
“Political Machine”
Local level spoils system
The leader is the “political boss”
System is held together with material rewards
Jobs, lodging, extra groceries, and a means of socialization
for new immigrants
In exchange, the immigrants offered votes
“Boss System”
William “Boss” Tweed
Tammany Hall Democratic political
machine in NYC
“Tweed Ring” - small group of men
who controlled New York City's
Boss Tweed. “As long as I count the
votes, what are you going to do about
it? say?”
The Boss System aspect of Gilded
Age illustrated in this cartoon
Grant’s Black Friday
President Ulysses S. Grant
During Reconstruction, greenbacks issued without gold backing them.
James Fisk & Jay Gould sought to corner the gold market
Conspired with Grant’s brother-in-law, financier Abel Corbin
Manipulated Grant in social situations to hold gold
Summer 1969 - started buying up all the gold (Prices rise, stocks plummet)
September 20, 1969 - start hoarding gold (Drive prices even higher)
Friday, September 24, 1969 - Grant discovers what is going on and releases
gov’t gold and prices plummet
Despair after the collapse of the gold market
Whiskey Ring Scandal
During the Reconstruction, the government needed funds to help the recovery
Enacted steep taxes - especially on liquor
Upset, distilleries concocted a plan to retain the money which involved bribing
government officials.
St. Louis, Chicago, Milwaukee, Cincinnati, New Orleans, Peoria
Soon, millions of dollars were missing in federal taxes and high government
officials (including President Grant’s personal secretary Orville E. Babcock) were
In 1847, it was finally busted by the new Secretary of Treasury Benjamin
- organized a secret investigation that exposed the ring and resulted in 238
indictments and 110 convictions
Whiskey Ring