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US History Gilded Age

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US History Gilded Age
Although some historians believe that the late 19th century was a golden age in American history, to many living during the time it was an era filled with corruption and hardship and thus was coined by the author Mark Twain, the Gilded Age. “The term Gilded Age represented the view of many during the time period and stood for a society that appears magnificent on the outside but is quite brittle under the superficial golden layer” [1/26/11]. For example, the economy during this time was called a triumph of industrial capitalism and was marked by great wealth, yet during this period the United States went through two costly depressions. Moreover, this period saw a rise in progressive movements but was also marked with inequality, segregation, persecution and sexism that thwarted any hopes for social development and progression. Lastly, the corruption of the political system and unrestricted influence of Big Business diminished the role of the democratic process and hindered civil liberties. The Gilded Age of American History was an era of unresolved problems with dreams of success followed only by failed aspirations and adversity.

“In 1873 the economy faced a financial panic that lead to the first of two depressions that would mark the late 19th century as a period of high unemployment and labor unrest” [483]. The first sign of the economic depression’s affects on society was the railroad strike of 1877. Fueled by low wages, poor working conditions and continual layoffs, the rail workers went on strike to show their discontent with the new economy. “The strike epitomized the thoughts of many civilians who where tired of the extreme power of big business and the large gap between the rich and poor” [1/31/11]. “The working class was forced into crowded, unsanitary and unsafe slums within cities while the rich built mansions uptown” [484]. “The only people who benefitted from the new capitalistic economy where Big Business leaders like Carnegie,

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