In what ways can the Gilded Age be characterized? Booming economy, political corruption, and/or sweeping political reforms?
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I'm not sure there's a question here, but "The Gilded Age" is such an interesting time that I thought I'd start the discussion. One of the reasons it's so interesting is that it, in many ways, mirrors many of the excesses that are present in our time. It was a time of tremendous growth with many of the most famous names in American business creating their companies and reaping huge profits --- names like Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockerfeller, J. P. Morgan, Phillip Armour and Gustavus Swift are among the best known. They grew fabulously rich while many of the nation's poor lived in squalor. It might we worth your while to read "How The Other Half Lives" (Jacob Riis) to get a vision of how bad life was for the poor. Tammy Hall in New York represented one of the greatest examples of political corruption in our history.
This all crashed in the Collapse/Depression of 1893, much like our own problems except theirs were largely caused by overspeculation in the railroad industry rather than the housing industry. There were widespread bank failures, in part casued by government intervention. The Sherman Silver Purchase Act and McKinley protective Tarriff are thought to have contributed to the Panic. Ironically the Democrats (then in power) were blamed for the Panic and were ushered out of office, giving the Republicans their largest gains in history.
Doesn't all this sound familiar?
Actually I think we're in a sort of mini-Gilded Age right now. In the 19th century we had a laissez-faire (hands off) government policy towards business and the wishes of the political bosses and robber barons corresponded to the wishes of the politicians and the Presidents, because they were both in each other's pocket. Working conditions were difficult at best in the cities, and pay was low.
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