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How did the Gilded Age change the United States? DISCUSS.

How did the Gilded Age change the United States? Construct an answer, referencing the following:

c. 4 specific historical examples from lecture AND

d. 4 specific primary documents from Chapter 2 of American Issues.

(please let me know if you need anything else or clarification)

Lecture Notes:

Rural exp.

· There’s a very important transformation in the Midwest that begins in 1862.

· Homestead Act: Anyone who had never taken up arms against the U.S. government (including freed slaves and women), was 21 years or older, or the head of a family, could file an application to claim a federal land grant.

o It was 160 acres and the person being given land was to cultivate 40 acres of the land.

o The Homestead Act had a failure rate of about 50%, which meant that people couldn’t maintain the land for five years.

o Lincoln’s goal for the Homestead Act was to give land to poor people. It was also to expand agriculture out of the south.

· Railway Act: passed in 1862, but the transcontinental railroad was not completed until 1869. The railroad was supposed to help farmers transport their products. It was also supposed to help settlers come to the west.

o It modernizes the west

o If they could generate the capitol to build the railroad, they got rights to everything underneath the tracks that they put their land on (except for gold). They also get a mile of land on either side of the track (in a checkerboard fashion), and they get paid by the mile.

o Because they were paid by the mile, the builders created a much longer route than was necessary.

o Farmers become dependent on the railroad. This causes a monopoly. The shipping rates go up, the rights of the land belong to the owners of the railroad. The owners of the land received from the Homestead Act, live in between the checkerboard pattern of land that the railroad owns, so when the farmers need to cross the railway owned land, they need to pay a fee.

o The Railroad land also has water underneath, which they sold to other farmers who couldn’t afford to create a well.

o The people who own the railroad are men who live in the cities (New York, San Francisco). For the first time, farmers are saying things like “these are the money-elite, who are keeping us down”. This was unusual at that time because the few people at the time who were wealthy deserved it and earned it ethically.

o This led to the gold v. silver standard.

· Gold vs. Silver standard

o There was a time when farmers wanted access to cheaper money (silver), which they could use to pay their debts. Silver had a deflationary effect on loans. The farmers glommed on to this silver movement. They wanted to pay off all of their debts with silver.

o Because silver was easier to come by and it was cheaper currency, they wanted to be able to use silver as currency.

o Bimetal currency

· This created a growing movement in which farmers were opposed to the elite. The number of farmers was growing, but the demand of their agriculture was staying the same – this caused dissatisfaction on the farms. Populism.

· Today’s Populism: Bill Clinton and George Bush both created a populist culture. Populism is a belief in the “common man” and what the American man wants. Another populist concept is common sense.

The populists wanted:

· Government regulation of transit and communications.

· Liberal credit policies.

· Prohibition of land ownership by foreigners.

· Currency reform – bimetallism.

For the first time in American history, we have people asking the government to make changes and regulate something. The populists introduced into our society that we should call for regulation on anything from financial help to private industry.

· They have a platform and their spokesman is William Jennings Bryan. Bryan was a great orator and he led a political populist platform in 1892 and runs for president in 1896. He runs as a democrat and loses to McKinley. After he lost, that was the end of the political party known as the populist party for that time.

· Growing Wealth Disparity is the reason for the populist party’s efforts. After WW2 and up until the 1980s, the wealth inequality was very low.

Industrialization and Consolidation

· By 1920, for the first time the census records that the majority of the population lives in cities. For the first time in this country, you’re seeing people living in the cities and major immigration pools coming into the cities.

· On the urban side of things, the most important thing to change was technological innovation. The technology was rapidly growing. Late 19th century was the rise of the machines.

· The most famous technological revelation of the era was 1876 Thomas Edison generated a type of prototype of the electric grid. George Westinghouse created G.E. (general electric) and also the alternating current. The DuPont family made gunpowder, explosives, rubber, fibers, etc. Ford democratized the automobile. This was the era of Technological Innovation.

· The DuPont family falls out in the 70s because they created agent orange, which is what was used in Vietnam to destroy entire villages. Many people who were opposed to the war, associated the DuPont family with that.

· Prior to this hyper industrialism, it was still the craftsman system. The economy of craftsmen shifted to the economy of high-speed production (factory workers).

· This higher production rate led to faster and higher output.

· Creation of cigarette making machines drove the production of cigarettes from 1,000 cigarettes per factory per day to 120,000 cigarettes per factory per day.

· Another development that takes place during this period is that you see the concentration of capitol. Mergers. Corporations are merging. They are reducing competition, and the size of a factory is growing.

· Final change is the expansion of markets. We expand our exports multifold during this period. We go from being a nation that primarily produced for ourselves to being an export nation. This continued until about the 1950s.

· Workplace injuries were increasing. Industrial accidents. One thing that happened a lot was the tie of the smocks would get caught into a machine and people would get sucked into the machines. There were also lots of kids working. In 1820, 20% of kids between the ages of 10 and 15 were working in factories full time.

· Rise in poverty. Even though wages are going up, the cost of living is going up faster than the wages. This means that the real income is shrinking. Real Income is going down.

· AppleMark


This is the first time we see such huge numbers of wealth inequality.

· This time was called the Gilded Age. Twain saw that in the wealth disparity that put most of the population at the bottom.

· The role of lobbyists is so important because what they do is try to get the desired output from congress. They are interfering with democracy. They show up with literal sacks of money or checks or coins or gold and they tell the person to pass a certain bill vote a certain way.

Chinese Scapegoat

· In san Francisco (terminus for intercontinental railroad in 1969), the Chinese were brought in because they could be paid less wages than American workers. In 1868, there was a federal treaty passed because of lobbyists, which allowed the free passage of the Chinese immigrants who built the majority of the railroad.

· As they show up on the docks, this creates frustration for the Anglos. Employers begin to recognize that the Chinese were good workers who were very good replacements. In 1873 there’s a financial panic that makes a lot of these Anglos think that the Chinese were responsible for the great depression.

· Because of this panic and depression of 1873, there begins to be a movement to get the Chinese out of this country. It’s the first and only time that we’ve excluded one group so restrictively. No new Chinese between 1880 and 1943. Anti-Chinese act of 1880.

· The Chinese were shunted into the least desirable area of San Francisco, which later became Chinatown. As a result of that, anything goes in Chinatown. Which gave the Chinese a reputation of courting vice. The police didn’t care when something illegal was going on in Chinatown because it was such a bad area already.

· The Chinese having already been exposed to Opium, were blamed for the illegal things going on in Chinatown (gambling, prostitution, etc.)

· Again, white people were worried about losing their wives. American men thought that the Chinese were going to take their wives.

· Chinese Exclusion Act of 1880 is renewed every decade until 1943.

· The Chinese population is disproportionately male and cannot grow the way that it naturally would.

· Until about 1880 LA was a backwater, SF was an instant metropolis. It becomes an instant center for finance, banking, insurance, etc. within the first century.

· A small population of Chinese made it down to LA from SF and invented the abalone industry. It was estimated that the abalone and shrimp industries were multimillion dollar industries that the Anglos were cut out of because they never thought about it.

· In 1871 there was a major massacre in the Chinatown in LA (before it was moved). Therwe was a dispute between a Chinese businessman and an Anglo businessman and the Anglo man was killed. Because of this LA people surrounded the town with their horses and wagons and went through killing people. About 1000 Angelinos descends on Chinatown to punish them for the murder of the Anglo man. 20 Chinese people were murdered, massive looting, 150 Anglos were indicted and only 6 were sentenced, and of those all were immediately released. The chief of police gave orders to shoot any Chinese person that tried to leave Chinatown.

And the second source is:

–Unger/Tomes, American Issues: A Primary Source Reader in United States History,

Volume II, Since 1865, 5th edition Chapter 2


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