Notes on the Gilded Age - 1 Notes on the Gilded Age...

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1 Notes on the Gilded Age Overview of the Gilded Age: I. The Civil War and Reconstruction had divided America. But even before Reconstruction ended America’s industrial expansion, the most important tendency of the postwar years, was well under way. England and Germany had gone through a similar transformation earlier, but American industrialization was larger in scale than that of any other country and arguably transformed the national culture more profoundly. II. While it is debatable the Second American Revolution was carried out consciously in the interests of businessmen and industrialists, it remains true that industry received important and unprecedented governmental support during the Civil War and reached unprecedented heights in the postwar period, and continued to rise with few interruptions for the rest of the 19 th century. III. Though the catalyst and key to the industrial expansion they were given great support by the federal government and some states. Much of the aid came in the form of the government’s most plentiful asset, land (millions of acres). IV. As the Industrial Revolution gained momentum it was reinforced by a resurgence of the “Ideology of Success,” that everyone who exercised hard work (industry) and economy (restraint) could become successful in America. Although the idea was generally untrue for most Americans for several generations, and for some never, it provided the hope people needed to believe in and embodied the “Gospel of Wealth.” However, some particularly in business espoused “Social Darwinism” as the reason for the success of individuals. Wealth, leadership, success, and prosperity were determined by evolutionary superiority (survival of the fittest). V. The population to man the factories and swell the markets poured in from Europe and a lesser extent Asia. Between 1877 and l900 the U.S. population grew from 38,500,000 to 76,000,000. More than 12,000,000 from immigration especially from Southern and Eastern European countries like Italy and Poland. Many questioned whether this flood could be absorbed, but the needs of industry for workers, plus the old American commitment to free immigration won out. A. The Railroads and industry : a. During the period the growth of the railroads after the Civil War was phenomenal. By the early l900’s America possessed 1/3 of the world’s railroad tracks. The early railroads were local catering to regional service, but with federal aid of 54 million acres of public domain and $ 60 million dollars in loans by l869 the first transcontinental railroad was completed. With other land grants and public loans other railroads were built. By l871 the federal government had given the railroads 135 million acres of land and millions of dollars in interest-free loans plus generous state
2 policies eventually led to the creation of three transcontinental routes and the eventual consolidation of hundreds of smaller railroads. These railroads too had been given federal aid but went bankrupt through competition with other railroads using ruthless,

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