The Gilded Age, the period from 1870 to around 1900, got its name from Mark Twain, who thought the era was glittering on the surface but corrupt underneath (Mintz, McNeil). When most people picture the Gilded Age, they refer to Mark Twain’s view of an imbalanced, corrupt society. Many think that the Gilded Age was mainly an era full of social inequality, greed, careless captains of industry, unhealthy and immoral lifestyles of the lower class, business scandals, and devious political tactics.
Many critics and historians, who haven’t set aside time to thoroughly study or take note of most of the beneficial effects of his period, may easily support and claim these beliefs. Although the Gilded Age is frequently viewed as an adverse era of social inequality and political corruption, I believe the economic, industrial, and social changes that accompanied these costs enabled America to become a world power. It is extremely important to recognize and acknowledge the lasting impacts that the Gilded Age contributed to the development and success After the Civil War ended in 1865, many of modern America. itizens living in small towns moved to urban cities to find job opportunities and hope for a better life.
During this time, America began to drastically change from an economy that was dependent on agriculture to an economy that was rapidly industrializing and urbanizing. It was transitioning from a traditional nation to a capitalist nation, leading America to become independent and extremely wealthy. For instance, between 1878 and 1900, the gross national product more than doubled, from 7. 4 to 18. billion (Hatheway 36). The North, an industrial powerhouse, encouraged many people to become employed in several factories and industries. By 1800, five million Americans were industrial employees (especially mmigrants, women, and children) (Lutz). Between 1880 and 1900, the numbers of employed women soared from 2. 6 million to 8. 6 million (Blight et al. 468). Even though the labor conditions of the factories were hazardous, a minority of workers were able to experience new forms of freedom and receive high wages.
Social Darwinists, like William Sumner, argued that the turbulence and casualties of economic development were unfortunate but necessary for economic growth (Shmoop Editorial Team). While modern historians acknowledge that many suffered through this transitional period, they argue that American entrepreneurs were building a national economy that would deliver better goods, improved lifestyles, and eventually higher wages for the vast majority of Americans (Shmoop Editorial Team).
For example, life expectancy at birth lengthened significantly between 1870 and 1900 and registered a greater gain over the next twenty years, reflecting advances in the standard of living and investments in public health (Campbell). Since America had just emerged from the Civil War, its society was in desperate need of a situation that would give it the internal strength to survive the external threats of the 20th entury. I believe that the Gilded Age, through the process of its industrial and economic changes, did just that, regardless of the social injustice issues and poor living conditions that resulted from these changes.
The industrialization of the Gilded Age led to the innovation of new technology, industrial materials, the commercial use of electricity, transportation and communication systems, big businesses, higher wages, and more job opportunities for immigrants and workers. Many of the technological inventions of the Gilded Age centered around the use of electricity. Innovations such as the telephone, electric tove, vacuum cleaner, air conditioner, refrigerator, and typewriter increased the productivity and efficiency of tasks. I believe that these inventions helped America to become one of the top producers in the world.
America has been able to create and sell a variety of products by adding to and building off of these past inventions. As Michael G. Mulhall, an eminent statistician, declared in 1895, the United States “possesses by far the greatest productive power in the world,” and “this power has more than trebled since 1860” (Santis 1). The production of industrial materials (steel), sources of power, and internal ombustion machines helped America to become an industrial power. For example, by the 1890s, the U. S. had the most extensive railroad network in the world- cities were linked together in every state.
These railroad systems carried and supplied natural resources for the raw materials of industrial use, lowered the cost of shipping freight (which lowered the price costumers paid for food and durable items), carried food and products to the urban labor force, and promoted the growth of heavy industry. By 1900, the United States had one- half the world’s manufacturing capacity (White). Overall, I think hat these technological and industrial innovations advanced
America’s society and helped it to catch up with the progress of other world powers. he world’s industrial production, while Britain had fallen to 15%, in third place, behind Germany’s 16% (Riker). As a result of industrialization, many big businesses such as coal mining, petroleum, and railroad companies were formed. The business leaders who dominated these businesses became extremely wealthy and powerful. Those who used their wealth to benefit others or the country in some positive way, without cheating or taking advantage of them, were known as Captains of Industry. These Captains of Industry contributed to America by increasing productivity, providing more jobs, expanding the markets, and promoting acts of philanthropy.
However, some critics call these By 1910, the U. S. accounted for 35% of individuals “robber barons” because some were known to benefit themselves by cutting their workers’ wages and lengthening their working hours. However, some Captains of Industry, such as John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie, were extremely beneficial to America’s society; they brought forth significant technological and industrial advances and became some of the wealthiest men in America. John Rockefeller, one of the most famous entrepreneurs, revolutionized the oil industry by creating the largest business in the land, the Standard Oil Company.
Some critics view Rockefeller as a robber baron because he put the needs of his business and his desires over the needs and contentment of his workers. However, Rockefeller drastically changed America’s economy by bringing in low oil prices and advancing the oil industry. Near the end of his life, he donated half of his fortune (over a half a billion dollars) to medical research and education. When history passes its final verdict on John D. Rockefeller,” wrote Winston Churchill, “it may well be that his endowment of research will be recognized as a milestone” in human progress (Frost).
Andrew Carnegie, the founder of the Carnegie Steel Company, created a multi-million dollar corporation that focused on steel production. Carnegie was also labeled as a robber baron because he spent tons of money on various things and donated most of it to foundations instead of raising the wages of his workers. Before his retirement, Carnegie had given away $350,695,653 (“Politics of the Gilded Age”). He also helped build three thousand libraries, helped build schools such as Carnegie- Mellon University, and donated his fortune to artistic pursuits.
Even though both men are capable of being viewed as robber barons, I think that their actions have had an important effect on America’s economy and have dramatically helped America to grow into a world power. Without their industrial advances, I think America’s industries would be underdeveloped and less powerful than other countries’ industries. I believe that these wealthy individuals brought America up to par with the rest of the world by revolutionizing the economy and society. the nation was becoming more industrialized, many immigrants ere migrating to America for cheap land, higher wages, and more job opportunities.
The population of the country increased by about 27 million people, fror million in 1900 (White). Immigrants migrated to America from different parts of Europe: Italy, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Russia, about 49 million in 1880 to 76 Turkey, Lithuania, Romania and Asia: China and Japan. They believed in many various religions, such as Catholicism and Judaism, and introduced several unique, cultural ideas to other immigrants and American inhabitants. The United States welcomed immigrants because they were essential to its rowing economy, but nativists opposed immigrants as antithetical to American culture and society (White).
They felt threatened that the immigrants would compete with them for jobs and housing. Some of these immigrants faced discrimination and unjust acts and laws. Even though there was rising rates of political tension, overcrowding, high unemployment rates, and unsanitary living conditions, new opportunities, jobs, housing, and transportation systems, benefited the immigrants. The growing number of immigrants had a significant impact on American society. The immigrants helped to transform America into a multicultural, diverse ociety, one full of various religions, languages, practices, ideas, and beliefs.
Would America still be known as a melting pot without the immigration and urbanization effects of the Gilded Age? I believe that if immigrants didn’t migrate to America, modern America would be less complex, diverse, and mature. The cultural contributions of these immigrants changed American society and can still be seen today. For example, there are still parts of the United States where Swedish, Italian, Polish, Yiddish, Spanish and many other languages are spoken in the streets (“The Gilded Age: 1865-1900”).