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The Gilded Age

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The Gilded Age began during the Reconstruction of the South after the Civil War

and ended shortly after the conclusion of the Panic of 1893. This era of American history

was known as a time of forgettable presidents, industrialization, depression and

corruption. Between the years of 1865 and 1900 Americans witnessed the government’s

inability to adequately solve issues, such as controlling monopolies and trusts, addressing

the needs of farmers, regulating railroads, and enforcing the equal rights of African

Americans (Doc. A).

Until the Sherman Anti - Trust Act was instated in 1890, monopolies and trusts

dominated the United States government (Doc. C). Monopolies such as the Standard Oil

Company and the U.S. Steel Corporation were selling trusts to congressmen and other

government officials to encourage the Congress not to vote against big businesses. The

Populist Party, who primarily protected the rights of farmers, disagreed with this,

believing that the government had lost sight of how destructive these trusts and

monopolies were to the country (Doc. H). Because the government failed to control

monopolies until 1890, they continued to eliminate competitors by buying them out and

raising prices, which was a main contributing factor in the depression in 1893.

Mary Lease stated “raise less corn and more hell”, referring to the grievances

farmers had after the United States government had ensured them that if they provided

the government with a plentiful crop, in return the farmers would receive a greater profit,

but instead, the government claimed it to be overproduction. This “overproduction”

resulted in a very significant decrease in profit that the farmers would receive for their

crops. During this time period, farm life as American knew it, was beginning to

deteriorate. Mary Lease also believed that the government was run by Wall Street and

big business, and had no interest in the needs of the farmers. To help each other cope

with debt, and reluctant support from the government, farmer’s formed organizations

such as the Grange and the Farmers’ Alliance, which later evolved into the Populist


For the first eight years that the Transcontinental Railroad operated it was no

system of regulation. Each railroad station posted its own pricing, there had no standard

national time system and long distance freights were often receiving rebates. Problems

such as these occurred not only on the Transcontinental railroad, but on all American

railways. Depending on where you loaded your freight on a railway, the prices fluctuated.

Prices were also inconsistent for farmers who needed to ship small freights rather than

large freights. Rebates were also a component of railroad corruption; if a farmer had a

large freight, the railway would charge him a certain price, then he would receive a rebate

of the money he had paid. Until 1883, every town in America had its own local time. To

avoid accidents and make it easier to schedule trains, the United States adopted a

standard time. This divided the nation into four standard time zones: Pacific, Mountain,

Central, and Eastern, with times that staggered, moving forward as you moved east.

When Reconstruction ended in 1877, African Americans were forced to

assimilate into the white American culture. They were not instantly treated equally as

W.E.B Dubois



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