Gilded Age

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The Gilded Age was a period in the U.S.’s history during the 1860’s to the 1900’s. This was a time period in which there was a great deal of political injustice, an economic growth caused by an industrial boom, a massive wave of immigrants, environmental exploitation, and new inventions that push America forward in time. All of these aspects are what lead the US into what we now call the “American Renaissance”.

Political injustice was common throughout the Gilded Age. Money was an asset that many people wanting to become a part of politics used. An example of this was Boss Tweed, a man that was mayor of New York in 1867. Tweed would send workers to Ellis Island to greet new immigrants and bribe them with things like jobs, shelter, food, and money. The immigrants would usually happily accept and become very loyal workers and voters when Tweed ran for mayor. Tweed not only used bribery to get votes but also used different mottos and quotes to get people to vote for him and sway the polls. For instance, one of his quotes was, “Vote early and vote often.” The problem with that is that one can only vote once. Usually, the immigrants didn’t know that and would vote more than once for Tweed, causing a large sway of votes.

During this time, there was also an enormous industrial boom that caused America's economy to grow by more than 400% (between 1860 and 1900) and several monopolies to be formed. Due to these monopolies, the first time millionaires were produced. A man that was among the first millionaires is JD Rockefeller. Rockefeller owned Rockefeller Oil, a self-owned and self-made monopoly thanks to his strategic planning. His plan was to eliminate the competition, which he did. To do that, he secretly buys that railroad and barrel companies and raises their prices on opposing oil companies. By 1900, Rockefeller controlled 95% of all the oil in the US. With these new riches, the millionaires would spend their money just to show how much wealth they had. While most of the people during the Gilded Age were unbelievably below the poverty line and scrambling for work, the rich showed their wealth ridiculously by building extravagant homes, buying gold bathroom fixtures, and having luxurious parties.

Like the monopolies, many inventions were created as well. A very evident invention that is still relevant is the first effective electric lighting system by Thomas Edison in 1879. Another very relevant and staple in American fashion invention are jeans. After one of Jacob Davis' customers kept purchasing cloth to restore torn pants, he had an idea to use copper rivets to reinforce the points of strain, like on the pocket corners and at the top of the button fly. Davis did not have the money to purchase a patent to do it himself, so he wrote to Levi Strauss proposing that they both go into business together. They were co-invented by Strauss and Davis in 1873.

From 1860 to 1920, over 22.5 million immigrants came to America in ever-increasing waves in search of work and freedom. Many of the immigrants were of Italian, Polish, Jewish, and other northern and southern Europeans. Some of them were farmers with money looking for new land, but most of them were poor farmers looking for the American Dream in mills, mines and factories. In the 1870’s, some of the northern Europeans had meshed into American society. An example of this is Henry C. Frick, who became a force in steel manufacturing, and Frederick Weyerhaeuser constructed a lumber and timber empire.

The philosophies of the people of the Gilded Age had much to do with freedom of the people and keeping a weak central government. They saw the monarchies and empires and saw the crime and injustices that they caused for their people. They didn’t want a strong, absolute leader that decided everything for them, especially after seeing how unfair and controlling an absolute monarchy was before the Revolutionary War.

With a weak central government, people also wanted the...
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