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The Changes Offered by the Gilded Age and Progressive Era

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The years following reconstruction, both the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era provided growth and development to our nation. Not only did we expand in the industrial and technological field, but the moral concept of the land finally began to develop into something concrete and lawful. Of course, this joyous resolution of the Progressive Era only became possible after the hardships faced in the Gilded Age. Both sources provide a clear and rational explanation of the importance of both periods. Expanding from 1870 to the 1900’s, the Gilded Age paved the road for the Progressive Era in the 1890’s to 1920’s.

The Gilded Age was that of tainted dreams. New concepts of wealth, communication, and trade lead to greed, vulgarity, and scandalous business practices. It can be understood from reading the source that this time period was responsible for the formation of modern America. No longer were we driven solely based on our religious beliefs. We had conquered lands unknown and followed our own morality (or lack thereof). As a nation, we grew from minimal production to flourishing societies and industrial creations; for the first time, the industrial economy ruled the land. To compensate for the vast placement of laborers, public transportation, and communication systems were created. Phone booths and trolleys had allowed for those living in the urban country to travel to factories in the city. The introduction of a management-worker relationship provided smoother business operations. Still, discrimination ripped through urban life.

It was obvious that those of greater wealth had advantages over the government. Not only did money run the government, but finance capitalism and bossism provided protection to persons aware of these “loopholes”. These people included: Jay Gould, Cornelius Vanderbelt, Andrew Carnegie, and arguably the most relevant, John D. Rockefeller. Milked like cattle, the Presidency was forced to deter these industrial giants. The Civil Service Act, Interstate Commerce Act, Sherman Antitrust Act, amongst other reforms, were created to control government corruption. No longer were individuals able to be referred or internally elected, applicants were required to participate in polls and competitive examination. On the other end of the social spectrum, the citizens were going through turbulence as well. Social Darwinism was a growing trend amongst citizens, with its laissez-faire ideals and superiority outline; policies affecting immigration, imperialism, and public health incorporated it’s way into the toxic slew of pre-existing tension. Worker revolts, racial aggression, and a general discontent swept the population. While steel finance was booming, competition amongst farmers became political with the increase of Populist Party members. The goals of such organizations reflected the average worker: wanting higher pay, tariff reduction, and more money in circulation. The Gilded Age saw massive and rapid growth in many aspects. The document introduces the readers to new developments in science and technology, and the importance of social/economic wealth. The mass execution of corruption led way to years captivated by forward-looking movements that proceeded to flower from the dirt and grime of the recent past.

The Progressive Era lead to social growth and personal welfare. Our first Progressive President, Theodore Roosevelt, created a vast amount of movements. His support of equality led to many job opportunities and freedoms for the individual. In this period of time, a sort of “buffer zone” between work and leisure becomes apparent. The unjust conditions workers endured during the Gilded Age led to the introduction of worker rights (e.g.; increased wages, shift hour limits, discrimination) led to many jobs releasing its workers around dusk; though a minority of those, especially those involved in professions such as garbage collecting, baking, bartending, becoming “nightmen”. Transportation companies even had special night-time services for these workers. The concept of having labored production around the clock grew as electric power became further understood. Electrical use illuminated once dull, disgust-riddled cities. It created a sense of security and life; advertisements, theaters, and stores drew awe from those who passed the arc of lights.Time Square and many other places that had once been mundane morphed into different aspects of themselves as stars grew visible. Culture as a whole was changing.

With corruption practically removed from the mainstream culture, forms of entertainment, which had prior been disregarded, were becoming more acceptable. Alas, gender barriers allowed for men to be the greater percentage of this “night culture”. Bars, burlesque shows, brothels, and gambling saloons became a hotspot for the general male young adult. Restaurants, fancy hotels, cinemas, and opera-houses grew in popularity; one’s social ranking could be defined by the type of entertainment they attended. The physical placement of furniture in such places encouraged open socialization; a concept that once was discouraged due to poverty and other factors in the Gilded Age. While there was still racial segregation, there was still an extent of involvement, given that many ethnic groups could obtain catering. Along with this concept came the faltering of male homosociality. Movements involving the rights of women, which arose in the Gilded Age, were pursued into the Progressive Era. Thus, the introduction to the modern American economy.

Both the Gilded Age and Progressive Era provided technological innovation, mass immigration, and intense political partisanship. While the Gilded Age document expressed the ugly part of reform, the Progressive Era document dwelled on those reforms and applied them to the innovations of that era. From one period to the next, businesses grew in size and scale, horizontal and vertical. Banking, manufacturing, meatpacking, oil refining, railroads, and steel companies alike obtained a common law of morality, and were no longer controlled by certain companies. Urban inflation formed into urban expression. Immigrants, blacks, and women were becoming more and more of an equal to the white male. It can be concluded after reading both documents that, although the Gilded Age and Progressive Era developed the nation in two different ways, both offered social, political, economic, and constitutional implications.

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