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In which John Green teaches you about the Gilded Age and its politics. What, you may ask, is the Gilded Age? The term comes from a book by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner titled, “The Gilded Age.” You may see a pattern emerging here. It started in the 1870s and continued on until the turn of the 20th century. The era is called Gilded because of the massive inequality that existed in the United States. Gilded Age politics were marked by a number of phenomenons, most of them having to do with corruption. On the local and state level, political machines wielded enormous power. John gets into details about the most famous political machine, Tammany Hall. Tammany Hall ran New York City for a long, long time, notably under Boss Tweed. Graft, kickbacks, and voter fraud were rampant, but not just at the local level. Ulysses S. Grant ran one of the most scandalous presidential administrations in U.S. history, and John will tell you about two of the best known scandals, the Credit Mobilier scandal and the Whiskey Ring. There were a few attempts at reform during this time, notably the Civil Service Act of 1883 and the Sherman Anti-trust act of 1890. John will also get into the Grange Movement of the western farmers, and the Populist Party that arose from that movement. The Populists, who threw in their lot with William Jennings Bryan, never managed to get it together and win a presidency, and they faded after 1896. Which brings us to the Progressive Era, which we’ll get into next week!
Hey teachers and students – Check out CommonLit’s free collection of reading passages and curriculum resources to learn more about the events of this episode. The Gilded Age was marked by the success of the richest coupled with inequality and corruption. Repeated factory disasters, such as the triangle shirtwaist factory fire revealed the unsafe working conditions of the urban poor: https://www.commonlit.org/texts/the-triangle-shirtwaist-factory-fire
Meanwhile, workers began to join unions and strike for better working conditions: https://www.commonlit.org/texts/the-coeur-d-alene-miners-uprising
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