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A history of the gilded age the age of robber barons and government corruption

Visit Website This enormous railroad expansion a history of the gilded age the age of robber barons and government corruption in rail companies and their executives receiving lavish amounts of money and land—up to 200 million acres, by some estimates—from the United States government. In many cases, politicians cut shady backroom deals and helped create railroad and shipping tycoons such as Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jay Gould.

Robber Barons Railroad tycoons were just one of many types of so-called robber barons that emerged in the Gilded Age. These men used union busting, fraud, intimidation, violence and their extensive political connections to gain an advantage over any competitors.

Robber barons were relentless in their efforts to amass wealth while exploiting workers and ignoring standard business rules—and in many cases, the law itself. They soon accumulated vast amounts of money and dominated every major industry including the railroad, oil, banking, timber, sugar, liquor, meatpacking, steel, mining, tobacco and textile industries.

Some wealthy entrepreneurs such as Andrew CarnegieJohn D. Rockefeller and Henry Frick are often referred to as robber barons but may not exactly fit the mold. Some tried to improve life for their employees, donated millions to charities and nonprofits and supported their communities by providing funding for everything from libraries and hospitals to universities, public parks and zoos. Industrial Revolution The Gilded Age was in many ways the culmination of the Industrial Revolutionwhen America and much of Europe shifted from an agricultural society to an industrial one.

Millions of immigrants and struggling farmers poured into cities such as New YorkBoston, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Chicagolooking for work and hastening the urbanization of America. By 1900, about 40 percent of Americans lived in major cities.

Most cities were unprepared for rapid population growth. Housing was limited, and tenements and slums sprung up nationwide. Heating, lighting, sanitation and medical care were poor or nonexistent, and millions died from preventable disease. Many immigrants were unskilled and willing to work long hours for little pay. A history of the gilded age the age of robber barons and government corruption Age plutocrats considered them the perfect employees for their sweatshops, where working conditions were dangerous and workers endured long periods of unemployment, wage cuts and no benefits.

The home had 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, a dairy, a horse barn and beautiful formal and informal gardens. It was the summer home of railroad mogul Cornelius Vanderbilt. The Italian-Renaissance style home has 70 rooms, a stable and a carriage house.

Rosecliff, also in Newport, was completed in 1902. Whitehall, located in Palm Beach, Floridawas the neoclassical winter retreat of oil tycoon Henry Flagler and his wife Mary. The 100,000 square foot, 75-room mansion was completed in 1902 and is now a popular museum. Income Inequality The industrialists of the Gilded Age lived high on the hog, but most of the working class lived below poverty level.

As time went on, the income inequality between wealthy and poor became more and more glaring. While the wealthy lived in opulent homes, dined on succulent food and showered their children with gifts, the poor were crammed into filthy tenement apartments, struggled to put a loaf of bread on the table and accompanied their children to a sweatshop each morning where they faced a 12-hour or longer workday.

Some moguls used Social Darwinism to justify the inequality between the classes. Muckrakers Muckrakers is a term used to describe reporters who exposed corruption among politicians and the elite. In 1890, reporter and photographer Jacob Riis brought the horrors of New York slum life to light in his book, How the Other Half Lives, prompting New York politicians to pass legislation to improve tenement conditions.

Another journalist, Ida Tarbellspent years investigating the underhanded rise of oilman John D. In 1906, activist journalist and novelist Upton Sinclair wrote The Jungle to expose horrendous working conditions in the meatpacking industry. Much of the violence, however, was between the workers themselves as they struggled to agree on what they were fighting for. Some simply wanted increased wages and a better working environment, while others also wanted to keep women, immigrants and blacks out of the workforce.

Although the first labor unions occurred around the turn of the nineteenth century, they gained momentum during the Gilded Age, thanks to the increased number of unskilled and unsatisfied factory workers. Railroad Strikes On July 16, 1877, the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company announced a 10-percent pay cut on its railroad workers in Martinsburg, West Virginiathe second cut in less than eight months.

The strike spread among other railroads, sparking violence across America between the working class and local and federal authorities. At its peak, over 100,000 railroad workers were on strike.

Many of the Robber Barons feared an aggressive, all-out revolution against their way of life. Instead, the strike—later known as the Great Upheaval—ended abruptly and was labeled a dismal failure.

As the working class continued to use strikes and boycotts to fight for higher wages and improved working conditions, their bosses staged lock-outs and brought in replacement workers known as scabs. They also created blacklists to prevent active union workers from becoming employed elsewhere. Even so, the working class continued to unite and press their cause and often won at least some of their demands. Urbanization and technological creativity led to many engineering advances such as bridges and canals, elevators and skyscrapers, trolley lines and subways.

The invention of electricity brought illumination to homes and businesses and created an unprecedented, thriving night life. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and made the world a much smaller place for both individuals and businesses.

But while the middle and upper classes enjoyed the allure of city life, little changed for the poor. Most still faced horrific living conditions, high crime rates and a pitiable existence.

Gilded Age

Many escaped their drudgery by watching a vaudeville show or a spectator sport such as boxing, baseball or football, all of which enjoyed a surge during the Gilded Age. Women in the Gilded Age Upper-class women of the Gilded Age have been compared to dolls on display dressed in resplendent finery.

They flaunted their wealth and endeavored to improve their status in society while poor and middle-class women both envied and mimicked them. Some wealthy Gilded Age women were much more than eye candy, though, and often traded domestic life for social activism and charitable work. Some created homes for destitute immigrants while others pushed a temperance agenda, believing the source of poverty and most family troubles was alcohol.


Wealthy women philanthropists of the Gilded Age include: Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, wife of John D. Many women during the Gilded Age sought higher education. Others postponed marriage and took jobs such as typists or telephone switchboard operators.

Thanks to a print revolution and the accessibility of newspapers, magazines and books, women became increasingly knowledgeable, cultured, well-informed and a political force to be reckoned with. The neighborhood was a melting pot of struggling immigrants, and Hull-House provided everything from midwife services and basic medical care to kindergarten, day care and housing for abused women. It also offered English and citizenship classes. Adams received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1931.

Carrie Nation Temperance leader Carrie Nation gained notoriety during the Gilded Age for smashing up saloons with a hatchet to bring attention to her sobriety agenda. She was also a strong voice for the suffrage movement. Convinced God had instructed her to use whatever means necessary to close bars throughout Kansasshe was often beaten, mocked and jailed but ultimately helped pave the way for the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol and the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

As muckrakers exposed corrupt robber barons and politicians, labor unions and reformist politicians enacted laws to limit their power. The western frontier saw violent conflicts between white settlers and the United States Army against Native Americans.

The Native Americans were eventually forced off their land and onto reservations with often disastrous results. In 1890, the western frontier was declared closed. Populist Party As drought and depression struck rural America, farmers in the west—who vilified railroad tycoons and wanted a political voice—organized and played a key role in forming the Populist Party.

The Populists had a democratic agenda that aimed to give power back to the people and paved the way for the progressive movement, which still fights to close the gap between the wealthy and poor and champion the needy and disenfranchised. End of the Gilded Age In 1893, both the overextended Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and the National Cordage Company failed, which set off an economic depression unlike any seen before in America.

Banks and other businesses folded, and the stock market plunged, leaving millions unemployed, homeless and hungry.

In some states, unemployment rose to almost 50 percent.

The Panic of 1893 lasted four years and left lower and even middle-class Americans fed up with political corruption and social inequality. Their frustration gave rise to the Progressive Movement which took hold when President Theodore Roosevelt took office in 1901.

Although Roosevelt supported corporate America, he also felt there should be federal controls in place to keep excessive corporate greed in check and prevent individuals from making obscene amounts of money off the backs of immigrants and the lower class.

Helped by the muckrackers and the White Housethe Progressive Era ushered in many reforms that helped shift away power from robber barons, such as: