The years after the American Civil War have been characterized by Mark Twain and others as “The Gilded Age.” Generally, historians have emphasized the decline of human values, the low state of public morality, greed, corruption and crass materialism. Do you feel this characterization presents an accurate overall picture of the years 1865-1890? If so, what caused this marked departure from the past in a nation with such strong religious and moral cultural traditions? Use the documents and your knowledge of U S History to answer the question.
“Our agricultural products have been abundant for the last few years. The crops of cotton, four-fifths of which have been raised by the colored people since the close of the Rebellion, have been increasing annually in quantity, till that of 1880 was the largest ever made. Our exports to Europe have taken an annually wide range. . . . . So great have these exports been for the last few years that the balance of trade has been in our favor on an average of 150,000,000 dollars a year. For many years the value of our exports has been many millions in excess of our imports.” Harper’s Weekly, 1881.
“As an evidence of the increasing interest in material progress in the southern section of the country, may be cited two Expositions: one held in Atlanta, Georgia, in which were exhibited remarkably fine specimens of productions of that section, agricultural and otherwise. The Exposition partook almost of a national character, as so many of the products of mechanical industries were sent from the manufacturing centers of the northern section to be placed on exhibition. The other and similar Exposition was held in New Orleans in the winter (1884-85); the latter in its design was more comprehensive than the former. One object was to demonstrate the importance to the foreign trade of the Great Valley, in having a port so accessible as that of New Orleans; another