Gilded Age Politics and culture
Second half of 19th century ‘age of invention’ • Alexander Graham Bell invented telephone, soon Americans could communicate both locally and at a long distance
Edison • Thomas Alva Edison pioneered the use of electricity as an energy source
Mass Marketing, Advertising, and Consumer Culture • Railroad allowed for a national market so large-scale consumer businesses flourished • Advertising stimulated a new consumer culture enticing people to buy things they did not need
Swift • Gustavus Swift built a ‘vertically integrated’ meat packing business in Chicago that stimulated cattle ranching in the West
Heinz • John Henry Heinz applied these methods to processed foods, others like Quaker Oats and Campbell Soup followed, producing consumer goods for national markets
JP Morgan and Finance Capitalism • Morgan dominated American banking and acted as a power broker in the creation of industrial giants like General Electric and US Steel • His overcapitalization and stress on short term gain took a toll on the railroad industry • 1898 turned to the steel industry, in a direct challenge to Carnegie
Finance Capitalism • Investment sponsored by banks and profits from the sale of stocks and bonds • In finance capitalism, financial institutions have the ability to control the economy by reorganizing industries and stabilizing markets • For example, J.P. Morgan’s take-over of Carnegie Steel
New Corporate World Order • Morgan’s acquisition of Carnegie Steel signaled the passing of one age and the coming of another; • Carnegie represented the old entrepreneurial order, Morgan the new corporate world • Morgan, more than the others, left his stamp on 20th century business economy
Laissez-Faire and the Supreme Court • Laissez faire held the government should not meddle in economic affairs, except to protect private property • Conservative Supreme Court supported laissez-faire and used its power to build business interests • Court reinterpreted 14th amendment and defined ‘corporations’ as ‘persons’ in order to protect businesses from taxation, regulation, labor organizations, and antitrust legislation
A Trust • A corporate system in which corporations give shares of their stock to trustees, who coordinate the industry to ensure profits and limit competition • For example, Standard Oil under Rockefeller and his ‘horizontal integration’ • The term ‘trust’ is sometimes used to describe large business combinations
Monopoly • Exclusive control by a single business of an entire industry.
Social Darwinism • According to Rockefeller’s son, the elimination of smaller, ineffective units, was “merely the working out of a law of nature and a law of God.” • Social Darwinism is the theory, based on the scientific work of Charles Darwin, that social progress comes about as a result of relentless competition in which the strong survived and the weak died out.
Gender Race Politics • Gender began to influence politics • Democrats fought against cross-racial alliances • Lynching of black men by white mobs
1892 Ida B. Wells launched an anti-lynching movement • She insisted that the myth of black attacks on white southern women masked the reality that mob violence had more to do with economics and the shifting social structure of the South than with rape • She met with reprisal, but spurred the creation of the National Association of Colored Women in 1896 • Her voice brought the issue to national prominence
Women’s Activism • National Woman Suffrage Association founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in 1869, the first independent women’s rights organization in the US • Women’s clubs proliferated between 1860s and 1890s, civic usefulness • Reform-minded women got involved in the temperance movement, forming the Woman’s Crusade, and turned to political action to end the sale of alcohol
Women’s Rights Leaders Susan B. Anthony Elizabeth Cady Stanton
WCTU • The Woman’s Crusade brought the issue of temperance back to the national spotlight and led to the formation of the WCTU, Woman’s Christian Temperance Union 1874
Presidential Politics • Corruption and party strife, and in the Grant Administration 1880s • Reformers v. spoilsmen • Rutherford B. Hayes, contested election 1876 • Party bosses dominated national politics
Civil Service Reform • Garfield’s assassination led the press to condemn Republican factionalism; • attacks on the spoils system increased; • the public soon joined the chorus demanding reform, which came with the passage of the Pendleton Civil Service Act in 1883; • brought some fourteen thousand jobs under a merit system that required examinations for office and made it impossible to remove jobholders for political reasons.
Railroads, Trusts, and the Federal Government • Regulation of railroads (spear headed by Midwestern farmers) and federal legislation against trusts • Supreme Court hostile to states’ efforts, so Congress passed the Interstate Commerce Act (1887) creating the first federal regulatory agency, the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC)
Sherman Anti-Trust Act • Sherman Anti-trust Act 1890 outlawed pools and trusts, ruling that businesses could no longer enter into agreements to restrict competition • Supreme Court gutted the act • Both the ICC and Sherman Antitrust demonstrate a growing concern about corporate abuses of power and a growing willingness to use federal measures to intervene on behalf of the public interest
Fight for Free Silver • Biggest issue of the day • One side: those who believed gold constituted the only honest money • Other side: a coalition of western silver barons and poor farmers from the West and South who hoped that increasing the money supply with silver dollars, thus causing inflation, would give them relief by enabling them to pay off debts with cheaper dollars
Crime of ‘73 • 1873 Congress voted to stop buying and minting silver, silver advocates called it the ‘crime of ’73’
Silver Act Repealed • 1878 and 1890 Congress took steps to appease silver advocates and passed legislation requiring the government to buy silver and issue silver certificates • Did little to promote inflation or help debtors, so farmers continued to call for the free and unlimited coinage of silver • Despite his party’s support for it, Democratic President Grover Cleveland’s repeal of the 1890 Silver Purchase Act in 1893 dangerously divided the country.