Change and Continuity in the Guilded Age

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Change and Continuity in the Gilded Age

Emergence of Modern America

"Every day things change, but basically they stay the same."-Dave Matthews

Change and continuity are two major principles of life. They can easily be applied to history because their application accurately portrays the circumstances, and characterizes the era of interest. Merriam-Webster defines continuity as an uninterrupted connection, succession, or union, or an uninterrupted duration or continuation especially without essential change. Change is defined as to make different in some particular, to alter, to make radically different, to transform, or to give a different position, course, or direction to. These antonyms are critical in understanding history.

The gilded age of the United States is an extremely interesting era that generally gets diluted in the teaching of American history. However, this age was very critical in the development of many modern ideas and institutions we utilize today. Change and continuity are both prevalent in this time, but change is the primary element from 1877 to 1900.

When discussing change in the late 1800's a few things come to mind, but the progression of capitalism was a major catalyst for most of them. Capitalism is an economic system of free market. It promotes private or corporate ownership of goods from investments based upon price, production, and distribution of goods. This new idea tended to promise wealth and stability, but when the distinction between the working lower class and bourgeoisie became more evident, people were irritated. Capitalism began to exploit the greed in man and bring fear to the strongest of wills. Many dreamed of this as the golden age of man kind and saw new prosperity as a benefit for all "for how could there be greed when all had enough."(George, p.21) Poverty spread through the working class like disease and forced millions of Americans to fight for survival. In a trip to Chicago Rudyard...
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