Gilded Age (1877-1900)

Called the Gilded Age by Mark Twain, shows its inconsistencies, to list a few major ones:
1. Economic prosperity, but only for a few
2. High political involvement, but corruption and ineptitude prevails
3. Blacks are legally freed, but still fight racism and segregation

I. Economic
    A. South
        1. Progress
            a. The introduction of railroads allowed for cheap transportation
            b. Cheaper labor rates helped Southern factories grow
            c. More industrial cities sprang up
        2. Poverty
            a. The majority of southerners remained in poverty
            b. African Americans and poor whites often ended up in the vicious cycle of sharecropping or tenant farming
            c. Economy still mainly agricultural and tied to cotton
                i. Cotton prices declined as cotton flooded the market
                ii. Competition with other countries also drove prices down
                iii. Large corporations benefited by buying a monopoly and keeping prices high
            d. Railroad taxes seemed to benefit rich companies not the small buyer
        3. Response to poor conditions
            a. National Grange Movement
                i. Organization which worked to help cut out middleman and lower costs for farmers
                ii. Successfully lowered the railroad price
                iii. Munn vs. Illinois (1877)- Supreme Court upheld that states had the right to regulate business of a public nature
            b. Interstate Commerce Act
                i. Federal efforts to regulate commerce
                ii. Wabash vs. Illinois (1886)- ruled states could not control interstate trades it was the federal government's job
    B. Industrial America
        1. Reasons for economic growth
            a. Abundance of natural resources such as coal, iron, and timber
            b. Labor was cheap and easy to find
            c. Population increase and transportation made for big market
                   i. Transcontinental railroad
                    ii. Omaha, Nebraska
                    iii. Union Pacific and Central Pacific
            d. Capital and investments were plentiful
            e. Technology to increase productivity
        2. Governmental support for growth
            a. Land grants and cash loans for railroads
                i. Led to corruption as businesses bought op monopolies
            b. Financial panic of 1893
                i. J.P. Morgan and others "save" the economy by buying up everything
                ii. They now had total control
         3. Industrial Empires
            a. Steel- Andrew Carnegie
                i. Later U.S. Steel Corporation
            b. Oil- Rockefeller and Standard Oil trust
            c. For the most part the government believed in Laissez-faire capitalism
                 i. Let it be
                 ii. Survival of the fittest
            d. The wealth became highly concentrated and the gap between rich and poor widened
                i. Yet a new middle class was also growing
          4. Cities
             a. Skyscrapers
             b. Slums  
        5. Inventions
              a. Edison- the light bulb
                 i. Westinghouse- expanded lighting to whole cities

Political Corruption
       A. National Politics
            1. Era of Forgettable Presidents
                a. none served more than one consecutive term
                b. stayed away from controversial issues, focused on getting elected
                c. Campaign strategies
                    i. brass bands, flags, rallies and pins
                    ii. much more like huge parties than conventions
                    iii. fostered voter turnout rates of over 80%
                    iv. Hayes served lemonade to show he wasn't a drinker, McKinley didn't smoke in public to set and example for the youth
                    v. Cleveland elected only due to minister equating democrats with "Rum, Romanism and rebellion"
                d. idea of limited government limited progress
                e. corruption was common
                    i. "Rutherfraud" due to disputed election
                    ii. Harrison bribed to win Indiana and New York
            2. Party Patronage/Spoils system/Political Machines with Party Bosses
                a. political parties focused on holding offices instead of pushing an agenda
                b. Conkling vs Blaine
                    i. Senator Conkling-leader of Stalwarts
                    ii. Congressman Blaine- "Plumed Knight"-leader of Half-breeds
                    iii. Neutrals were Mugwumps
                    iv. All sides very popular, yet also almost openly corrupt
                c. fostered corruption and ineptitude
                d. President Garfield assassinated by discontented office-seeker bringing attention to the problem
            3. Legislation issues
                a. popular tactic was to "wave the bloody shirt", allude to Civil War
                b. Pensions
                    i. Soldiers cajoled gov't into giving them pensions
                    ii. one of the largest welfare commitments ever made, ($8 million)
                c. Railroad regulation
                    i. Only congress could limit interstate rates
                d. Tariffs
                    i. Republicans wanted surplus and raised tariffs, also to protect american industry
                    ii. Democrats sought to limit the surplus and reduce tariffs, arguing they hurt the american farmer/consumer
                    iii. Important tariff: McKinley Tariff of 1890
            4. Gold versus Silver
                a. Silverites supported switching standard to silver, famous silverite was William Jennings Bryan
                    i. wanted to coin silver to increase the amount of currency in circulation, lower debts
                    ii. supported by farmers, small businessmen in the South and West
                b. Goldbugs wanted gold standard
                    i. wanted limited money supply, thought silver standard would fluctuate
                    ii. supported by large manufacturers and bankers in the conservative Northeast
                c. Congress stopped coining of silver dollars in 1873, but new mines flooded silver market
                d. Congress tried to compromise Bland-Allison Act (1878) and Sherman Silver Purchase Act (1890)
                e. Silver supported by Populists, seen as solution to the nation's ills
                f. William Jennings Bryan, "You will not crucify mankind upon a Cross of Gold" speech basically elected him democratic nominee
            5. Election of 1896
                a. WJB was Democratic/Populist nominee on the campaign promise of the silver standard
                    i. caused the Democratic Goldbugs to split off
                    ii. WJB then campaigned accross the country, covered 18,000 miles with 600 speeches
                b. McKinley was republican candidate
                    i. supported by Marcus Hanna, who financed campaign, got millions from scared business folk with phrase "silver lunacy"
                    ii. ran a front-porch campaign with many ads through mass media
                c. McKinley wins, decisive victory in both popular and electoral vote
                    i. rise in wheat prices meant farmers doing better and consequently not voting for WJB
                    ii. Factory bosses threatened to shut down if WJB won
                    iii. this election spelled the death of the Populists, racial tensions prevented them from uniting poor blacks and poor whites