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Immigration In The Gilded Age Essay

The Gilded Age marked the beginning of a colossal rise of industrialism. America was becoming a world power economically, and had everything it needed to grow: plenty of raw materials, a growing workforce, and capital that could be invested. The growth of this industry resulted in vast wealth, as well as a growing call for reform that heavily influenced the nation. Despite the efforts of conservatives and nativists, the rise in industry and labor unions as well as the influx in immigration influence the social, economic and political atmosphere of the Gilded Age. Immigration was a big part of the

Gilded Age. There was an influx of immigrants during this time period, most of which came from southern and eastern Europe, and were Catholic. This was significant because it caused a re- emergence of nativism. The nativists especially did not like that it took these new immigrants so long to assimilate into American society, and feared that the immigrants would ruin American culture and values. In How the Other Half Lives, Jacob Rii pointed out that usually there was “a distinctly American community”, however, in tenements filled by immigrants, “there is none” (doc D).

Communities like this evoked fear from nativists, who sought to decrease the number of them in America. Nativists also disliked Chinese immigrants. In 1882, Congress passed an act that restricted the immigration of the Chinese. The purpose of the act was to satisfy nativists in California who harbored anti-Chinese sentiments. This act was significant because it was the first of many acts that restricted Chinese immigration. The act stated that the immigrants endangered “the good order of certain localities” (doc F). This statement likely resulted from nativists complaining about

Chinese communities in their cities, who, like the other immigrants, were probably not assimilating fast enough. Although nativists complained bitterly about the communities of immigrants that were not assimilating into American society fast enough, there were organizations that helped immigrants to assimilate, such as the Hull House. These organizations were significant because they helped new immigrants to become more “Americanized” by teaching them English, and helped them to find work. Hilda Satt Polacheck went to a party at the Hull House and said that she “became an American at that arty. (doc H)

These organizations helped new immigrants to become part of American society and encouraged them to learn about American culture. Labor unions also influenced the Gilded Ages. They grew immensely in power during the over the years, advocating for better working conditions for laborers, such as shorter hours, better pay, and a safer work environment. Labor unions were significant because they succeeded in getting better working conditions for workers, and they provided a way for workers to have some sort of power against the big businesses that they worked for.

Labor unions in the Gilded Ages were pretty successful. Between 1860 and 1891, wages increased by 72. 5% and hours went down from an average of 9. 9 hours a day to 9. 4 (doc I) Labor unions also lobbied against child labor. Companies were looking for the cheapest labor possible, so they hired children because children could be paid less than adults. This was significant because workers did not want to compete with children, so they advocated for the creation of mandatory education for children, as it kept them out of factories.

A cartoon depicting child labor illustrates this ear of children taking jobs away from adults (doc B) because they could be paid so cheap. Labor union leaders and members would have agreed with this cartoon. There were also large conventions where labor unions joined together, such as the International Labor Congress, which was held in Chicago in 1893. What Does Labor Want was a speech heard at this convention. It was given by Samuel Gompers, the founder of the American Federation of Labor, a labor union.

This was significant because Gompers would have advocated for the working class and better working conditions. In his speech, Gompers demanded “a reduction of the hours of labor” (doc A), which if it went through, would benefit the working class, and was a common demand from labor unions. However, while labor unions accomplished better wages and hours for workers, they were relatively unsuccessful because they were so divided. There were several different labor unions, all who advocated for different things and allowed different types of workers in their unions.

This was significant because it diminished the overall success of labor unions. A cartoon depicting labor interests hows different labor unions fighting (doc L), which made them less effective. Business also influenced the atmosphere of the Gilded Age, sometimes creating scandals and scamming taxpayers. There was a lot of corruption in the Gilded Age that extended into Congress, and America saw scandals such as Credit Mobilier, a scandal that not only involved members of the Union Pacific Railroad, but also members of the public.

These scandals, although harmful, were significant because they paved the way for the modern relationship between big businesses and members of Congress, where businesses donate to lections and then politicians vote in favor of them in return. The American public did not like this, as seen by a cartoon of Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall standing on the corpse of New York (doc C). The price to build Tammany Hall increased dramatically because of corruption, and the American taxpayers were not happy about this, as well as the corruption in the House and the Senate that supported big businesses.

Joseph Keppler drew a cartoon entitled “The Bosses of the Senate” that also captured the opinion of the public. A banner drawn in the cartoon stated, “This is a Senate of the monopolists and for the onopolists! ” (doc G) The purpose of his cartoon was to show the corruption in the Senate that resulted from monopolies, such as Standard Oil, illustrated in the cartoon as “Standard Oil Trust”. This is significant because it showed the dislike that the public had for monopolies, and especially how they controlled Congress.

In the face of an angry public, businesses felt that they had to justify their methods, thus turning to Darwin’s theory of survival of the fittest to justify their monopolies by placing the theory in the context of business. Social darwinism as significant because it justified capitalism. The acceptance of it allowed capitalism to prosper. Businessmen used social darwinism to justify their cutthroat methods that they used to make a profit.

Andrew Carnegie’s book, The Gospel of Wealth, enforced the idea of social darwinism in business (doc E). The Gilded Age also marked the decrease of small businesses. Although big businesses were good because they were able to sell their products cheaper, they hurt small businesses because they got benefits that small businesses did not. George Rice, who wrote How I Was Ruined by Rockefeller was one of the mall business owners who were forced out of business by the Standard Oil Company.

Rice’s purpose was to explain the relationship between businesses, such as railroads and Standard Oil, that allowed big businesses to sell their products for cheaper. This was significant because it raised awareness of the negative effects that big businesses had on their smaller competitors. In his writing, Rice explains how he was forced out of business because he could not compete with Rockefeller’s deals with railroads (doc J), and how he was one of many businesses who failed.

The Gilded Age created an America that became a leader in the economic world and had a vast amount of wealth. However, this era was not a time of prosperity for everyone, such as the immigrants and children who labored in factories without fair wages. While labor interests attempted to correct these bad working conditions, their lack of unity made them ultimately unsuccessful. The Gilded Age truly was “gilded. ” Coined first by Mark Twain, the term referred to a gloss coating of gold covering up the turmoil which immigrants and laborers beneath the monopoly’s outward success.

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