3.5. Towards a Global Presence
1. The Gilded Age
The term “The Gilded Age” → title of a satire written by Mark Twain together with Charles Dudley Warner in 1873 on the materialism, opportunism, corruption, and uncontrolled speculation which characterized the era. There was a new dominant speculative economy. Derogative term: gilded (as opposed to “golden”) → glitter is only a surface based on corruption and that covers an empty core. Unprecedented economic growth and technological and industrial advancements (limited to North and West, South stagnates). The country became one of the leader economic countries in the world. Boom largely based on speculation related to the railroad construction → this led to two profound depressions (1873-1879;1893-1897). Steel was needed to make the railroad, also land and labour to make it. Wealth was unequally distributed: only 1% of the population was rich and millionaire (Andrew Carnegie, John D. Rockefeller).
Ulysses S. Grant
He was a Northern Civil War hero and the 18th President of the US (1869-1877). His government was so corrupt that the term “Grantism” was coined to refer to the fraud, bribery and corruption of the office. He tried to protect black freedmen’s civil rights in the South: One of his main measures: he had the last remaining States ratify the 15th Amendment (guaranteed voting rights) in 1870. He put into practice the Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871 (“the Ku Klux Klan Acts”) forbidding discrimination against voters based on race, use of federal troops allowed to defend black voters (Klan declined in 1872). The end of Reconstruction
The Reconstruction ended in 1877, when federal troops were removed from the South. The North and the West lost interest in the “Southern question”, they were more interested about economics, unemployment, labour unrest. In 1883 the Supreme Court invalidated the Civil Rights of 1875 (against segregation because of race except of the schools). Later it would uphold segregation laws. Return of Democrats to the power in the South (they called themselves → “redeemers”). They introduced some measures to make sure that blacks will be a cheap force: they cut back expenses, they eliminated social programs, legal measures to ensure a stable and cheap black labour force → the “redemption” period, devastating for freedmen. Many African-Americans found the situation intolerable and moved to the North and Midwest (esp. Kansas) → “exodusters”= exodus + dust
The Second Industrial Revolution
There were several technological innovations:
Thomas A. Edison → the phonograph, light bulb, motion picture, a system for generating and distributing electricity. The telephone, the typewriter and handheld camera. Street cars (trams); railroad… Atlantic cable opens in 1866 (to send war messages from US to Europe) → telegraph messages. Consequences: Spurred rapid communication and very important economic growth. Transformed private life, industries, economic activity…
This 2nd Industrial Revolution meant that labour was again needed. There was a rapid expansion of factory production: between 1870 and 1920, almost 11 million Americans moved from farms to the city; in addition, it took place the 3rd wave of immigration: almost 25 million immigrants arrived from overseas. Railroad tripled the distance covered between 1860 and 1880 (private investment, massive grants of land and money by governments. Moneyholders were very connected to the government) → vast new areas opened to commercial farming (farming machinery → vast extension of land devoted to agriculture, especially to cereal) and creation of a national market for goods → market for mass production, distribution and marketing of goods (spread of national brands live Ivory soap, Quaker Oats). 1890: 2/3 of Americans worked for wages (as opposed to owning a farm, business or craft shop) → new working class. Rural people living in the city + immigrants. A sector which did not have access to freedom...
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