Guilded Age America


S ee handout

The term "Gilded Age” was created by Mark Twain to describe how American society during the late 1800’s. Everything seemed shiny and golden on the outside, but underneath was a society filled with poverty, crime, and a large disparity between the rich and the poor. Bottom Line = Something is gilded if it is covered with gold on the outside but made of cheaper material inside.






Many new inventions led to industrial growth (Cause) Farm machines meant less need for farm labor (effect) Factory jobs and service jobs in the cities (effect) Disposable income drives new industry and wealth (effect) Growing income gaps.

Social Gospel Social Darwinism Political Machines Americanization

 Discrimination (blacks, minorities, immigrants, women)  Corrupt Political Machines  Poor Working Conditions  No Equality between Lower Class and Upper Class

Sweat Shop

 Upton Sinclair wrote a book to expose and explain the difficulties of the immigrant experience. The book led directly to the Meat Inspection Act.

 Sinclair said- “I aimed for the country’s heart and I hit its stomach.”

Social Gospel – Reaction to social problems

  Movement strove to improve conditions in cites according to the biblical ideals of charity and justice. Government had no real role in public assistance.

 “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile.”  “The fellow that has no money is poor. The fellow that has nothing but money is poorer still.”

Social Darwinism is an ideology of society that seeks to apply biological concepts of Darwinism or of evolutionary theory to sociology and politics, often with the assumption that conflict between groups in society leads to social progress as superior groups outcompete inferior ones. (Wikipedia)

"The law of competition may be sometimes hard for the individual, [but] it is best for the race , because it insures the survival of the fittest in every department." ---Andrew Carnegie, "The Gospel of Wealth, (1889) "A drunkard in the gutter is just where he ought to be...The law of survival of the fittest was not made by man, and it cannot be abrogated by man. We can only, by interfering with it, produce the survival of the unfittest." --- William Graham Sumner, What Social Classes Owe to Each Other (1883)

 Social Darwinists don’t believe that the government should help people. They oppose natural rights theories. But in the absence of organized government support, political machines gained momentum.

 Urban political machines, built largely on the votes of diverse immigrant populations, dispensed jobs and assorted welfare benefits while offering avenues of social mobility at a time when local governments provided a paucity of such services.

 The theory of Social Darwinism also dictated that immigrants lose their native culture and assimilate into American culture. This assimilation was called Americanization. Schools were a central part of this movement.

 The Americanization movement was a nationwide organized effort in the 1910s to bring millions of recent immigrants into the American cultural system. 30+ states passed laws requiring Americanization programs; in hundreds of cities the chamber of commerce organized classes in English language and American civics; many factories cooperated.