The Gilded Age Swetha Sampath-Kumar

The Gilded Age occurred after the Civil War. It was time of industry development and growth in cities. But it was also marked by the great amount of political corruption and lavish spending.

Development of Railroads

The events of the Civil War increased the importance of railroads. They were a breakthrough in transportation. Goods, necessities, and even people could be transferred across the country in a matter of days. This breakthrough led to the growth and development of new cities and major industries.

New York City, New York - 1850's

Along with the development of railroads came the growth of major cities. Cities had a growth of nearly 15 million people between 1880 and 1900. This massive increase in the population didn't only lead to more industrial expansion, there was a change in city life, noise, pollution, crowded areas and hygiene issues.

The Empire of Cornelius Vanderbilt

Cornelius Vanderbilt, also known as the Commodore, knew how to do business. By the time of his death, Vanderbilt managed to built an empire worth millions on the railroad industry. The Commodore had either bought out or crushed competing railways and overlooked the impression he created on the public. Later, the fortune was doubled by his son, William.

Left-Carnegie Steel Mill Right-Andrew Carnegie

The steel industry was a great place to make fortunes and a great to place to invest. Scottish immigrant, Andrew Carnegie was the richest of all. By controlling the steel making process and gaining control of all rival companies, he managed to revolutionize everything. Railroads began to use steel instead of iron and tall skyscrapers had steel girders to support their weight.

John D. Rokefeller

Industries couldn't have developed soon without rich natural resources such as oil. Rockefeller knew not to rush into drilling out the oil. Instead, he purified and refined it to increase the value. The Standard Oil Company was the product of an excellent business man. By lowering prices to attract more customers and looking for ways to improve the quality of the kerosene, Rockefeller gained a strong advantage on his competitors.

Henry Ford

This is the man who made the automobile an everyday part of our lives. Henry Ford introduced the assembly line. Workers would stay in one place and work as the product parts moved along a conveyor belt. This method was adapted in other industries and mass production become more common. The automobile, though it was laughed upon at first, offered a lot of freedom. By 1917, there were more than a 4 million automobiles driven.

As industries grew and factories started to pop up everywhere, more and more workers were needed. But because their skills could be easily replaced, they worked for low wages. These sweatshops were places where people labored for long hours for low salaries. Conditions were hazardous, especially to the women and young children at work. Many workers found ways to fight back by going on strike or by slowing their work pace.

Joseph Pulitzer

Joseph Pulitzer was one of the most powerful journalists in his time. Pulitzer found a way to create a journalistic voice for Democratic party by exposing political corruption and the dirt that factory owners and many bosses tried to hide. Pulitzer also introduce the innovations of a sports column, comics, and fashion coverage to attract more readers.

Haymarket Riot

Thousands of workers filled Haymarket Square to protest the killings from the protest outside of the McCormick Factory. A bomb explosion killed seven police officers leaving eight anarchists, or people who oppose the government, to be arrested. The nation started to believe that unions were controlled by anarchists and soon an antilabor feeling rushed everywhere.

Homestead Strike

The Homestead strike was the one of the biggest union vs. company protest. The Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steel Workers were demanding the Carnegie Steel Company that they be let back in their factory with better work conditions. While Carnegie was away, the plant manager, Henry Frick had stepped up production demands and introduced new conditions. The union had refused and they were all locked out. Many workers were killed by the Pinkerton men, a militia force hired by Frick, and this led to a sympathy for workers.

Both Pictures show the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory back in 1911 and present day

Nearly 150 people, mostly young women, lost their lives that day in March, 1911. Many people jumped through the windows in an attempt to escape the fire, while others made it safely down the stairs or down the elevator. The discovery that the exits had been locked to prevent workers leaving caused a public uproar. People were shocked and started to protest for better working conditions. The fire made the government pro-labor, when they started reinforcing fire escapes, hydrants and other fire precautions.

Immigrants came to the U.S for a variety of reasons. Some came for industrial factory jobs and others came to rejoin family members who had arrived earlier. Leaving their homes required a great amount of courage to face the long journey ahead. But in the end it was worth it.

Tenements- crowded apartments in which one or two families lived

Adapting to the new society and accepting reality was tough. Tenements were great places for disease to spread rapidly. Outside of home, immigrants who could not speak English were yelled at and treated horribly by their bosses. Larger families sent all their children to work, mostly in hazardous working conditions. In the night, crime seemed to thrive.

Architecture from the Gilded Age

Poor families lived in the center of cities, mostly in tenements. As crowding increased, factory owners took advantage of low rents and cheap labor. By buying those homes for factories, the poor were forced into even crowded homes. The middle class consisted of doctors, lawyers and managers. Their homes were all nicely spaced and lined town homes with plenty of trees. The rich owned large mansions on the borders of the city. They lived lavishly and showed off their social status.

Right- Angel Island Left-Ellis Island
  1. Immigrants who arrived between 1892 and 1910, were delivered to the receiving station on Ellis Island. There, they were inspected to be medically fit and interviewed. Anyone who showed a sign of weakness was sent back or told to stay longer to get well. Many European names were hard to pronounce, so in the little time they had, officials changed the names to the closest name they knew.
  2. After 1910, many Asian immigrants were received on Angel Island in the San Francisco Bay. Many faced long delays while others could immediately make a new home.
Chinese Immigrants

Chinese immigrants helped with the development of the West. As the number of immigrants grew in the city, so did the violence against them. Gangs attacked and killed many innocent Chinese. Congress responded by passing the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882. It prevented Chinese laborers from entering and also stated that any Chinese who left could not return. This act was repealed in 1943.

Gilded Age continues to Today

The minimum wage for an employee is simply not enough to live off of. In Pennsylvania the minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. For people with larger families, it's very hard to make sure there is enough food on the table for everyone and to make sure that overspending doesn't occur. In the Gilded Age, many workers faced the same issues. Though there are better working conditions and no forced long shifts today, the question about if the minimum salary is enough to meet basic needs, still exists.

Made with Adobe Slate

Make your words and images move.

Get Slate

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.