What Was the Gilded Age in History?


Quick Answer

The Gilded Age was the period following the American Civil War and Reconstruction and was characterized by a booming economy. From 1877 to 1893, the economy doubled in size, continuing to grow until 1914 and making the United States the largest industrial nation in the world.

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Full Answer

The Gilded Age in American history was a developmental period when the industry of agriculture was surpassed by technological innovation and expansion. Gold rushes in the middle and late 1850s brought Americans to the Western Frontier, which they began settling. As a result, railroad expansion soon followed.

During this time, Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller became the captains of the steel and oil industries respectively. Because the rise of industry was relatively new, there were very few laws regulating business. As a result, corruption and power reigned in both the business and political arenas of the United States. In fact, Mark Twain coined the term the Gilded Age to describe the corruption and greed seething under the surface of American prosperity.

Besides westward expansion and industrial innovation, the Gilded Age was also a time for mass immigration from Italy, Russia, Poland and Eastern European countries. These immigrants settled largely in the cities, causing urban expansion and growth.

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