The Gilded Age Summary - The Gilded Age Summary Analysis...

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The Gilded Age Summary & Analysis The Big Picture: Who, What, When, Where & (Especially) Why Key Points Rapid economic growth generated vast wealth during the Gilded Age New products and technologies improved middle-class quality of life Industrial workers and farmers did not share in the new prosperity, working long hours in dangerous conditions for low pay Gilded Age politicians were largely corrupt and ineffective Most Americans during the Gilded Age wanted political and social reforms, but they disagreed strongly on what kind of reform The "Gilded Age" Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner were the first to call the years after the Civil War the "gilded age." Struck by what they saw as the rampant greed and speculative frenzy of the marketplace, and the corruption pervading national politics, they satirized a society whose serious problems, they felt, had been veiled by a thin coating of gold. The label has stuck. Now usually applied to the period extending from the election of Ulysses S. Grant in 1868 to the elevation of reformer Theodore Roosevelt to the presidency at the turn of the twentieth century, the term "Gilded Age" has survived because historians have found a great deal of validity in Twain's and Dudley's characterization of their own time. During those years, America's economy did grow at an extraordinary rate, generating unprecedented levels of wealth. Railroads , and soon telephone lines , stretched across the country, creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs and cheaper goods for consumers. But a nation that had long viewed itself in idyllic terms, as a nation of small farmers and craftsmen, confronted the emergence of a society increasingly divided between the haves and the have-nots —a society in which many poor workers struggled just to survive while an emerging industrial and financial aristocracy lived in palatial homes and indulged in opulent amusements. Some Americans celebrated the new wealth, others lamented it; all could agree that profound changes were taking place in the country. During these years, American politics were dynamic and exciting. Voter participation rates were extraordinarily high and national elections were decided by razor-thin margins. But corruption also plagued American politics. At the national level, the administration of Ulysses S. Grant was
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