Unit 1: The Gilded Age

January 5, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: History, US History
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Unit 1: The Gilded Age

“Gilded Age” term created by famous American author Mark Twain

To “gild” something is to lay a thin layer of gold over some rougher/cheaper base material

Gilded Age • Refers to the period after the Civil War through 1900 • Period of great economic and population growth • Refers to the new found wealth of industrialists, which masked the extreme poverty of the majority – 9% of Americans held 75% of the nation’s $ in 1890

The home of a Gilded Age industrialist

The home of a Gilded Age factory laborer


New forms of energy • 1859 Edwin Drake struck oil – Kerosene production – Future products such as gasoline

• Thomas Edison – Dependable lightbulb – Central power stations made electricity widely available

• George Westinghouse – Alternating current/transformers made home use safer/cheaper

Electricity changes business and life Business electricity increased productivity (amount of goods created in a period of time) • Lengthened hours of operation • Powered machinery • New inventions (especially appliances)

Life changed factory work (longer work day) improved standard of living (lights in home) new products available new forms of entertainment new forms of transportation (electric trolley) allowed people to live further from work

Communication Revolution • Telegraph – Morse code; 1870 linked the country; almost instant communication

• Telephone – Alexander Graham Bell 1876 – Used switchboard/operators to connect – Mainly used by businesses until early 1900s • More efficient ordering/production

Railroads create national networks • • • •

Industry relied on RR for shipping Created nationally linked market 1st “big business” model Communication revolution made RR more efficient/safe • 1883 national time zone system

Bessemer Process • Manufacturing process made steel production more efficient and cheaper – Steel RR rails – Skyscrapers (contributed to growth of cities) – Suspension bridges


Robber Barons or Captains of Industry? • Different interpretations of the same industrialists • Robber Barons--negative – Stole from the public, drained natural resources, bribed officials, destroyed competition, abused workers

• Captains of Industry—positive – Leaders, increased supply of goods, created jobs, gave money to worthy causes (philanthropy)

Andrew Carnegie’s “Gospel of Wealth” -philanthropy -they deserved the $, but had a responsibility to help society -$ should go to worthy causes, not be inherited

Andrew Carnegie was a poor Scottish immigrant who became the wealthiest man in America, owner of Carnegie Steel. He gave most of his money away at his death to the Carnegie Foundation (Carnegie Hall, Carnegie Libraries)

J P Morgan, banking

John D. Rockefeller, Standard Oil Trust

Cornelius Vanderbilt, railroads

Laissez faire • As industry grew rapidly, the US government promoted free enterprise (business that can operate competitively for profit with little government involvement/regulation) • Laissez faire (“leave alone”)—freedom of economic conduct from dictation by the government

Pros/Cons of Laissez faire • Pros – Allows the market to govern itself, based on supply and demand

• Cons – Limited government control reduces the possibility of regulation – Increased chances for corruption

Business on a large scale • Railroad network, communications, electrification made it possible for businesses to expand • Larger pools of capital ($) available – More $ coming into business – Corporations/investors

• Revised role of ownership—professional managers run business • New methods of management—formal rules, specialized departments

Gaining a competitive edge • Monopoly—one business has complete control of a product or service – Vertical consolidation—gaining control of all steps that it takes to create a product • Creates economy of scale—as production increases, manufacturing cost per item decreases

--Horizontal consolidation—bringing together many firms in the same business

Horizontal Consolidation— control of one phase of a product’s development; a sideto-side line

Vertical Consolidation—control all phases of production from raw material to finished product; up and down line

Response to big business • Many Americans resented monopolies (competition usually leads to better prices for consumers) • Interstate Commerce Act • 1890 Sherman Anti-trust Act—federal law forbidding businesses from monopolizing a market or limiting free trade • Early 1900s effort to limit “bad” monopolies, but allow “good” ones (not very effective)


Working in the Gilded Age • Millions of immigrants and Americans moved to cities for jobs • worked 12 hours/day, 6 days/week, could be fired for being late, not working • Few hundred $/year • Piecework—workers got paid a fixed amount for each finished product • Unsafe work conditions • Sweatshop—employees work long hours at low wages in poor conditions

• Division of labor—worker performs one task in production, never sees finished product • Workers seen as machinery; never interact with owner • Frederick Taylor’s Scientific Management – Analysis of worker’s movements/workspace to increase productivity

Working families • Women – Young, single – Unskilled jobs, mostly in textiles – Paid less than men

• Children – – – –

5% of industrial workforce Left school at 12/13 to work full time Unsafe work in dangerous conditions Families often depended on kids’ income to survive

Darwin applied to society • There was no public assistance/welfare, worker’s comp, or unemployment insurance • Social Darwinism—applied survival of the fittest to people – Poverty resulted from personal weakness – Relief for poor/unemployed would encourage idleness


Unions • Labor leaders criticized owners/managers for – Reducing competition (making prices higher) – Paying low wages – Unsafe working conditions

• Knights of Labor – National union, skilled/unskilled, women, blacks

• American Federation of Labor (AFL) – Craft union, skilled workers, “bread and butter”, used collective bargaining (workers negotiate as a group)

Employers Reaction • Dislike and fear – Forbid meetings – Fired organizers – “yellow dog” contracts (to never join a union/strike) – Refused collective bargaining – Refused to recognize unions as representatives

Railroad Workers Organize • Great Strike of 1877 – Unfair wage cuts/unsafe working conditions – Violent/unorganized strike – President Hayes sent troops to put down strike; employers rely on fed/state troops to repress labor

• Eugene V. Debs/ American Railway Union – 1877 strikers organized “brotherhoods”, craft unions – Debs proposed industrial union for all railway workers

Haymarket Riot, 1886 • Issue: 8 hour workday • Violence between workers and scabs (replacement workers) • At a rally to support strikers, anarchists (radicals who oppose all government) joined in • Someone threw a bomb that killed a police officer; following riot killed dozens on both sides • 8 anarchists tried/4 hanged for murder • Public associates anarchists/violence with unions

Strikes Rock the Nation • Homestead, 1892 – Carnegie’s partner, Frick cut wages – Union called a strike, Frick called Pinkerton guards – Anarchists (not with union) tried to kill Frick, union called off strike – Public associates anarchist with rising labor violence

• Pullman, 1894 – Strike slowing down mail delivery – Judge uses Sherman Anti-trust Act for court order forbidding union activity that halted RR traffic – Court orders against unions continued, limiting union gains for 30 years


Urbanization—the growth of cities • Why did cities grow during the Gilded Age? – Technology • Electric trolley/train/subway allowed people to move further out to suburbs (residential communities surrounding a city) • Skyscrapers

– Immigration/migration • People came for factory jobs

Conditions • Tenements—low cost buildings to house as many families as possible; little space, communal bathrooms, poor ventilation • Fire danger • Rampant disease—no water treatment, sanitation

Reforms • Dumbbell tenement floor plan for light and ventilation • Water treatment facilities • Sanitation departments • How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Riis; reported horrible living conditions to promote reform

Political Result of Growth • Political machines – Unofficial city organizations designed to keep a political party in power – Headed by a “boss” – Fought for control of city government and revenue – “helped” poor and immigrants in exchange for votes – Worked through exchange of favors – Graft: money paid to political machines for favors/jobs


Getting Here • Why did they leave home? – Persecution (pogroms—violent massacres of Jews) – Government policies/taxes – Crop failure – Lack of land/jobs – Pursue the American Dream (each generation will do better than the previous one)

Getting Here • Crossing the Ocean – 2 to 3 weeks – Steerage—large open area under ship’s deck

• Arriving – From Europe, most went through New York – From Asia, most went through San Francisco – Physical exam; sick could be sent back; language/intelligence testing – Faced language and cultural barriers – Faced threat of poverty, struggled due to competition for jobs/living space – Some skilled immigrants used their trade skills to open their own businesses

Ghettos—urban neighborhood dominated by an ethnic/racial group • Formed from desire to live near people with the same language and traditions • Formed because of restrictive covenants (homeowners agreed not to sell real estate to certain groups) • Formed when ethnic groups isolated themselves because of threats of violence

European Immigrants • 10 million between 1865-1890 – Mostly northwestern and central Europe

• 10 million between 1890-1920 – Mostly from central, southern, eastern Europe

Asian Immigration • Majority from China or Japan • Mid-1800s million Chinese workers brought by railroad companies • Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—under pressure from labor unions, Congress prohibited Chinese immigration (until 1943) • 1906, San Francisco school board segregated Asian students, angered Japanese government • President Theodore Roosevelt’s Gentleman’s Agreement—no segregation, but Japan would stop giving laborers passports

Mexican Immigration • Hired to work on farms, ranches, mines and railroads in southwest • 1917, US entered WWI – Labor shortage, recruiting workers from Mexico – 1910 Mexican Revolution/Civil War—lots wanted to leave

Immigration Restriction Act of 1921 limited immigration from Europe and Asia, increased Mexican immigration

Nativism—individuals opposed to new immigration • Based on competition for resources created tension and division • Some faced exclusion from employment or housing • Immigrants were encouraged to assimilate into American culture


Scandals • Laissez faire government policy • Illegal bribes paid to politicians by business leaders common – Credit Mobilier • Fake railroad building company taking money to build RR, bribes paid to Congessmen to keep awarding $ to Credit Mobilier to keep building

The Spoils System • When a politician won office, they were expected to reward supporters with jobs, contracts, etc. • Led to corruption when dishonest people used their jobs for personal profit

Reforming the Spoils System • Civil service—government’s unelected workers • James Garfield elected President 1880, assassinated by a disappointed job seeker, Charles Giteau • Chester Arthur becomes President, supports the Pendleton Civil Service Act – Applicants for government jobs had to prove ability to do the job


Helping the Needy • Middle/upper class movement • Social Gospel Movement – Sought to apply the teachings of Jesus directly to society – Focused on ideals of charity and justice

• The Settlement House Movement – Community center offering social services – Reformers lived in the neighborhoods they helped – Jane Addams, Hull House in Chicago

Controlling Immigration and Behavior

• Nativism

– Teach only English/American culture in schools – Especially wanted to limited southern and eastern European immigration (too different from mainstream America)

• Prohibition—ban on alcohol – Some felt alcohol was the root of social decline; link between saloons, alcohol and political machines – Carry Nation, smashed bars with a hatchet

• Purity Crusaders – Wanted to rid their communities of vice (immoral or corrupt behavior—drugs, gambling, prostitution) and political machines that often profited from it

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