The gilded age began with just a few talented men pioneering the many aspects of industry that we encounter today.
The end of the civil war brought about the rise of the railroads, Cornelius Vanderbilt saw this coming and quickly invested much of his money in railroads, this ended with him becoming the richest man in America. The expansion of the railroads also sped up the settlement of the western united states, allowing for people and supplies to be transported quickly. The many towns cropping up along the railroad lines had need for large amounts of oil to provide light and fuel, which lead to John Rockefeller partnering with Vanderbilt to help his growing oil company, and transport oil to the people.
Soon, many of the towns and pre-existing cities grew exponentially due to being supplied by the railroads, but none of this would have been possible without Andrew Carnegie, who brought a new steel making technique into the mainstream, allowing cheep steel to be produced en mass, this of course created the possibility for much larger buildings.
While many of the poorer residents where packed in tight rows of small houses, the richest residents, such as the Vanderbilt family, had large mansions on 5th avenue, and one of the Vanderbilts had a large summer home constructed in Rhode island known as "The Breakers"
Around the same time that cities began to grow, immigrants began pouring into America in search of work and a better life in the quickly growing industrial climate. Many of these immigrants were employed by Carnegie and contributed much to Americas growth. Unfortunately these immigrants could only afford to live in the packed center city, which quickly became a slum, and even getting into America was difficult as they had to pass many tests of health and intelligence at Ellis island and Angel island, Although Asians had it the worst due to the Chinese Exclusion Act, which allowed very few Asian immigrants to enter America each year.
In this time of industrial growth, Henry ford created the first truly affordable car. He did this by pioneering the assembly line, allowing him to cheaply produce a large amount of cars in a small amount of time. He also created a method of painting a car by running an electric charge through it and dipping it in paint.
Due to a lack of regulations, factory workers in this industrial era were treated very poorly, with low pay and dangerous conditions. to make matters worse even the public took the magnate's side on most issues. Many workers snapped, which lead to the Hay market riot in which 7 policemen were killed. However, the public opinion began to change after the triangle shirtwaist factory fire in which countless workers were killed due to being locked in by the foreman. It was then that people became pro worker instead of pro business. a journalist named Joseph Pulitzer contributed to the pro worker mentality by writing countless articles speaking out against corruption and unfair working conditions.
Though all of this may seem far in the past, we still deal with many of those issues in some form today. One of the most prominent is the dispute over how immigration should be handled.