35-Gilded Age

Gilded Age: Essential Questions
What is meant by the term Gilded Age and
how true was it about American life during
the late 1800s?
 Why did political machines come to
dominate cities during this period?
 What problems arose from political
machines and patronage during this era?
Gilded Age
-Term coined by Mark Twain
-Used to describe the glitter of the time period which hid the
corruption of politics and government as well as the growing gap
-many people saw gov’t job as
means of wealth
-spoils or patronage system—
giving gov’t jobs to friends
and party supporters
-trusts and monopolies had
come to dominate and control
the gov’t
People in gov’t positions known
for corruption:
-graft: illegal use of political
position for personal gain
-kickbacks: form of bribery,
obtaining money and “gifts”
-Fraud: deception for
personal gain
-laissez-faire (hands-off
approach to gov’t) and social
darwinism (survival of the
fittest) led to and allowed for
-Lack of city services:
fire departments
police departments
-Lack of social services for poor
and immigrants:
need to find jobs
need places to live
need for US citizenship
Lack of regulation by gov’t, social services, and city services leads to the
development of political machines
Political machine: when a party comes to dominate an area, social darwinism
at its best
Political Machines are characterized by:
-Pyramid in nature—a boss at the top, ward bosses who ran particular
neighborhoods, and precinct workers & captains that helped secure votes
-Corruption in the form of patronage, loyalty, graft, & kickbacks
-Offered services (help finding jobs, a place to live, and becoming a US
citizen) to immigrants in exchange for votes & monetary gifts
-Controlled jobs, business (both legal and illegal like gambling rings),
gov’t, tenements, etc.
Why did the public allow this system??? –political machines are able to
provide solutions to the challenges that immigrants faced
-most notorious political machine
Tweed Ring also known as Tammany
-controlled NYC
-Boss: William Tweed
-lots of graft and corruption
which allowed Tweed & the other
leaders to make money off of the
tax payers
-many of the immigrants couldn’t
read so when newspapers
published articles about Tweed
Ring and the corruption they went
-eventually exposed by political
cartoonist Thomas Nast,
everyone can understand a picture
-fraudulent elections
-lobbyists & captains of industry held great
influence over Congress for the large
-patronage system leads to unqualified
people in office that often used positions
as a means of personal gain
During the 1870s Grant’s administration:
-Credit Mobilier: RR Scandal involving the
construction of RR—investors literally
signed contracts with themselves and
then overcharged for construction to
make more
-Whiskey Ring: distillers paid bribe to tax
-Rutherford Hayes campaigns for
political reform & is elected in
-Hayes urges the elimination of
patronage system and
establishment of merit system
-Hayes leads reform efforts:
appoints independents to office,
sets-up investigative commissions
-James Garfield (elected in 1880)
continues reforms by appointing
reformers to positions
-Garfield assassinated by job
seeker (essentially job
seeker who support Garfield
during his campaign was not
awarded a job b/c Garfield
felt he was not qualified)
Chester Arthur (VP) becomes
President and passes the:
-Pendleton Act passes:
1. Ended spoils/patronage
2. established Civil Service
Commission which made
appointments based on a
merit system
3. Required gov’t examination
for jobs
The Tariff Debate Rages On
Tariffs are designed to protect
domestically produced goods, now
United States is a world leader so are
they necessary?
-big business says YES
-Democrats (mostly South) say NO
- Grover Cleveland(1884) —tries to lower
tariffs but no support from Congress
- Benjamin Harrison(1888) —signed
McKinley Tariff Act increasing tariffs
- Cleveland again(1892)
-only president to serve two nonconsecutive terms
-Again supported lowering tariffs,
but was unsuccessful
Gilded Age Activity
Key Terms & Political Machine Review
 Study Guide Goal 5
Test tomorrow—SSS pgs. 31-35
 (Big
Business, Industrialization, Inventions,
Labor Movement & Strikes, Immigration &
Urbanization, The Gilded Age)