Urban Growth During the Gilded Age: Social, Cultural, Political, and Economic Changes

Topics: Reform movement, Women's suffrage, Poverty Pages: 5 (1900 words) Published: May 1, 2010
Rodrigo Sanchez
Urban Growth during the Gilded Age: Social, Cultural, Political, and Economic Changes One of the most notable times during the late 19th century was the Gilded Age. This is a term often used to describe this time period since from the outside looking in urban life in America seemed perfect, but in reality, many citizens did not like the changes that were occurring. Since the verb gild means to cover with or as if with a thin coating of gold[1], historians often refer to this time period as “the Gilded Age”. New ideals about poverty, social reforms, different political approaches, and a new women’s culture brought forth political, economic, social, and cultural changes in urban growth during the Gilded Age. Some were mostly beneficial, but others were not. The Gilded Age was a time of politics, and new forms of it influenced urban growth during this time period. Campaigning was no longer enough to keep voters on your side. George Washington Plunkitt recognized this and changed their approach toward politics. “…you have to go among the people, see them and be seen…I know what they like and what they don’t like…” says Plunkitt as he describes his new strategies (Document E). He goes on to explain how he helps people follow their passion, “I hear of a young feller that’s proud of his voice…I ask him to join our Glee Club,” (Document E). This new form of politics and obtaining votes closely resembles the strategies political bosses used during this time period. Via favors and help, political bosses secured votes for their political parties. This new way of getting votes, both from politicians and political bosses, changed the way people viewed politics. Politics became a new interest for many, since now they were personally affected by it. Not only that, but people now saw politics as a means of getting what they wanted. Some, such as old immigrants, wanted everything to be closed on Sundays. New immigrants wanted to be able to relax and be able to enjoy their day off on Sundays (Book). Minor things like this got people interested in politics. They now felt they had a voice, and with the new methods of getting votes they were instantly rewarded through favors. Politics during the Gilded age also stirred raw emotions and anger among citizens. The Spoils System was good for many people who were looking for jobs and had made monetary contributions to political campaigns. The people who were on the other side of the spectrum did not like the Spoils System. Ultimately, this system put qualified people out of jobs and replaced them with unqualified people (Book). Those lucky enough to not be affected by the Spoils System who had jobs often suffered bad working conditions in the workplace and low wages. In an effort to reform these conditions unions sprung up throughout American cities. Government oftentimes kept unions down, afraid big companies and factory owners would make them look bad in court. Document C clearly points a finger toward the government. “…man’s liberties are trampled underfoot at the bidding of corporations and trust,” states a letter on labor, as it then explains how tyrants have always found a willing judge “to clothe that tyranny in the robes of legality” (Document C). With unions down, entrepreneurs kept getting richer and richer. The wealth amounted by these entrepreneurs would be the new political standard. William Graham Sumner stated that America was turning over a new political system, plutocracy. Plutocracy, as defined by Sumner, is a political system in which the ruling force is wealth (Document I). This was in fact true as the rich controlled government, as it is made clear when judges put unions down. All these bad aspects of politics during the Gilded Age were a set back. Regardless, they contributed to the urban growth in the forms of reform movements, and activism by individuals to try to change what they didn’t like. It is clear that...
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