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202-The Gilded Age and Unrest

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Kevin Grimm

on 6 September 2017

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Transcript of 202-The Gilded Age and Unrest

The Gilded Age and Unrest
Economic Take-off
- many natural resources, large labor supply, expanding market for goods, capital available for investment after Civil War years
- government helps with high tariffs to protect American manufacturing and giving land to railroads
- final transition from individual farmers/plantation owners/small artisan workshops to mature industrial economy
- 1913 - U.S. accounts for 1/3 of industrial output in the world
- Great Lakes - iron, steel, machinery, chemicals, packaged foods - Chicago the epicenter of agriculture/cattle products

- 1890 - 2/3 work for wages - not on own farm/business
- 1870-1920 - 40 million rural migrants/immigrants into cities
- 35,000 deaths annually in factory/mine accidents - highest rate in industrial world
- strikes broken with replacements, public/private police forces
- Thorstein Veblen's
The Theory of the Leisure Class
- wealthy spent money just to show off money
- Jacob Riis's
How the Other Half Lives
- exposed dark, airless, overcrowded urban tenement apartments

Business During the Gilded Age
1897-1904 - 4,000 companies disappear

Andrew Carnegie's "vertically-integrated" U.S. Steel - control all aspects from mining to transportation to distribution of finished product

John D. Rockefeller's "horizontally-integrated" Standard Oil - buy all items at certain part of process (i.e. all refineries) - by 1880s owns 90% of U.S. oil industry
Gilded Age Politics
1873 book by Mark Twain/Charles Dudley,
Gilded Age:
- layer of gold, but nothing of value underneath
- corruption of democratic system
- oppressive treatment of those at the bottom
- "Get rich, dishonestly if we can, honestly if we must."

"Politics of Dead Center" - 1876-1900:
- less than 1% of popular vote separated parties
- rare for one party to control entire government at once = stalemate
- series of one-term presidents
- BUT - party loyalty intense, voter turnout often above 80%
- small federal government of 100,000 employees (vs. 2.5 million now)

"The Labor Question"
Newer ideas:
- something had gone wrong with nation's social development
- why so much economic inequality? why so much social, labor, and class strife?
- perhaps federal and state governments can alleviate some of the problems that stemmed from such rapid economic transformation

Transformation for individuals:
- wage labor used to be a step on way to economic self-sufficiency
- could Americans still obtain economic autonomy - small farm or business?
- West no longer a "safety valve" for this to occur
- America now experiencing what plagued Europe - "social classes"

"Public debate in the late nineteenth century more than at almost any moment in American history divided along class lines."
Labor Activism

The Great Railroad Strike of 1877:
- pay cuts lead to nation-wide halt, militia called in
- Pittsburgh - troops kill 20, railroad yard burned
- Hayes uses army to suppress strikes

Knights of Labor in 1880s:
- 800,000 official members, millions more under its influence
- can meaningful freedom occur amidst extreme economic inequality?

Social Gospel by Protestant clergy:
- economic inequality and plight of workers is troubling
- freedom, spiritual self-development dependent on more equal wealth/power in society
- unregulated, unrestrained competition did not conform to idea of Christian brotherhood
- built missions, served poor, tried to get laws passed

- low crop prices from 1870s-1890s - due to intl. competition
- many farmers dependent on creditors
- high railroad freight rates blocks goods from market

Farmers' Alliance (Populist Party):
- founded in Texas in late 1870s, in most states by 1890
- fed. gov. to provide warehouses for storage until sale
- fed. gov. to issue low-interest loans to farmers
- reduce dependence on bankers/merchants
greatest political insurgency of the era
- also supported striking industrial workers
- a thousand local newspapers, thousands of speakers
- other goals - direct election of U.S. senators, graduated income tax, workers' rights to form unions, public ownership of railroads, and women's suffrage

More "incidents":
- May 1886 - strike and Haymarket Square Incident
- July 1892 - Homestead strike against Carnegie plant - 8,000 militia needed
- 1894 Pullman Strike - also cripples national railroad traffic - 34 killed

1892 - Populist candidate wins a million votes and carries 5 western states - 3 Populist governors and 15 members of Congress

1896 Election:
- Populists join Democrats and support William Jennings Bryan
- "Cross of Gold" speech at Democratic nominating convention
- 1900 Frank Baum's book,
The Wonderful

Wizard of Oz
Emerald City = Washington, D.C.
Wizard of Oz = Republican victor William McKinley
Yellow-brick road = gold
Wicked witches of east and west = industrialists and mine owners
In book, Dorothy's shoes are silver

Other impacts of 1896:
- ushers in era of Republican dominance (except for 1912-1920) until 1932
- last election with 80-90% participation rates
- Populist Party defeated and dissolves

The Populists in Politics
Full transcript