THE GILDED AGE: 1869-1889
Themes of the Gilded Age:
: U.S. became the world’s most powerful economy by 1890s: railroads, steel, oil,
electricity, banking – America was transformed from an agrarian nation to an urban nation
between 1865 and 1920.
: hard vs. soft money ('70s & '90s);
trusts (throughout late 19th c.)
: millions of "New Immigrants" came from Southern and Eastern Europe, mostly
to work in factories.
Unions and Reform movements sought to curb the injustices of industrialism.
Farmers increasingly lost ground in the new industrial economy and eventually
The “Last West”
By 1900 society had become more stratified into classes than any time before or since.
By 1900 the U.S. exceeded the combined output of Germany and Great Britain
U.S. borrowed heavily from Europe
after WWI, U.S. emerged as largest creditor.
steel: railroads, skyscrapers, engines
oil: internal combustible engine, cars, subways, street railroads
Electricity: lights, power, refrigerated railroad cars
Advances in business: telephone, typewriter, cash register, adding machines
Mass popular culture (early 20th century): Cameras, phonographs, bicycles, moving
pictures, amusement parks, professional sports
Contrasts 1st Industrial Revolution: textiles, coal, iron, early railroads.
In 1880, about 50% of Americans worked in agriculture; only 25% by 1920
Class divisions became most pronounced in US history during this period
Farmers lost ground
In 1880, 25% of those who farmed did not own their land.
90% lived in the South
75% were tenants or sharecroppers
Depressions and recessions led to unrest
1873-1879; 1882-1885; 1893-1897; 1907-1908; 1913-1915
By 1900, 192,556 miles of track; 35,000 in 1865 alone (more than all Europe combined)
Gov’t subsidized transcontinental railroad building since unpopulated areas were initially
Railroad companies given 155.5 million acres along RR lines
Gov’t received low rates for postal service and military traffic in return
Cities flourished where lines were laid while bypassed cities became "ghost towns"
The Transcontinental Railroad (completed in 1869)
Pacific Railway Act (1862):
Passed by Republican Congress during Civil War
Connecting the Pacific states seen as urgent to security
Union Pacific Railroad appointed by Congress to build west from Omaha, NE
Company granted 20 square miles for each mile of track constructed
Company also granted federal loans for each mile: