Unit 5 (Period 6): Industrialization & The Gilded Age 1865-1898

 Unit 5 (Period 6) Industrialization & Gilded Age 1865-1898 

Unit 5 Textbook Chapters: 

AMSCO Chapters 16-19 / American Pageant Chapters 23-26 Reading Guides (Optional but HIGHLY ENCOURAGED): 
Chapter 16:    The Rise of Industrial America 1865-1900
Chapter 17:  The Last West and the New South 1865-1900
Chapter 18:  The Growth of Cities and American Culture 1865-1900
Chapter 19:  The Politics of the Gilded Age, 1877-1900

American Pageant chapters 17 - 22: 
If you do  not have your textbook yet, you may read American Pageant chapters online:

Chapter 23:  Political Paralysis in the Gilded Age 1869-1896

Chapter 24:  Industry Comes of Age 1865-1900

Chapter 25:  America Moves to the City 1865-1900

Chapter 26:  The Great West and the Agricultural Revolution 1865-1896


All videos are approximately 20 minutes each.

  1. Transforming the West (1860's-1900)
  2. Rise of Industry (1865-1900)
  3. United States (in 1900)


(alternate recorded lectures!)


Unit 5 Key Concepts


Unit 5 Terms:


Chapter 23

Political Paralysis in the Gilded Age, 1869–1896

(When asked how his ring had managed to keep the scandals hidden for so long): 
“Well, we used money wherever we could.” 
William Marcy Tweed

Chapter Themes

Theme: Even as post–Civil War America expanded and industrialized, political life in the Gilded Age was marked by ineptitude, stalemate, and corruption. Despite their similarity at the national level, the two parties competed fiercely for offices and spoils, while doling out “pork-barrel” benefits to veterans and other special interest groups.

Reviewing President Grant

Theme: The serious issues of monetary and agrarian reform, labor, race, and economic fairness were largely swept under the rug by the political system, until revolting farmers and a major economic depression beginning in 1893 created a growing sense of crisis and demands for radical change.

Theme: The Compromise of 1877 made reconstruction officially over and white Democrats resumed political power in the South. Blacks, as well as poor whites, found themselves forced into sharecropping and tenant farming; what began as informal separation of blacks and whites in the immediate postwar years evolved into systematic state-level legal codes of segregation known as Jim Crow laws.

Reconstruction Amendments and the End of Reconstruction

chapter summary

After the soaring ideals and tremendous sacrifices of the Civil War, the post–Civil War era was generally one of disillusionment. Politicians from the White House to the courthouse were often surrounded by corruption and scandal, while the actual problems afflicting industrializing America festered beneath the surface.

The popular war hero Grant was a poor politician and his administration was rife with corruption. Despite occasional futile reform efforts, politics in the Gilded Age was monopolized by the two patronage-fattened parties, which competed vigorously for spoils while essentially agreeing on most national policies. Cultural differences, different constituencies, and deeply felt local issues fueled intense party competition and unprecedented voter participation. Periodic complaints by “Mugwump” reformers and “soft-money” advocates failed to make much of a dent on politics.

The deadlocked contested 1876 election led to the sectional Compromise of 1877, which put an end to Reconstruction. An oppressive system of tenant farming and racial supremacy and segregation was thereafter fastened on the South, enforced by sometimes lethal violence. Racial prejudice against Chinese immigrants was also linked with labor unrest in the 1870s and 1880s.

Garfield’s assassination by a disappointed office seeker spurred the beginnings of civil-service reform, which made politics more dependent on big business. Cleveland, the first Democratic president since the Civil War, made a lower tariff the first real issue in national politics for some time. But his mild reform efforts were eclipsed by a major economic depression that began in 1893, a crisis that deepened the growing outcry from suffering farmers and workers against a government and economic system that seemed biased toward big business and the wealthy.


· The post-Civil War era is rife with corruption, graft, and influence peddling. Corruption is rampant at the local and state level as well. The infamous New York City political machine known as the Tweed Ring, for example, bilks the city and state out of millions of dollars.

· In an attempt to clean their own house, the Republicans take steps to lower the protective tariff, which many consider unreasonably high and beneficial to specific industries. In addition, to address the problem of nepotism and favoritism in attaining government employment, the Republicans pass modest civil service reform legislation such as the Pendleton Act.

· A devastating Depression hits the nation in 1873, adding to the already significant political woes of President Grant and his Republican Party.

· An effect of the Civil War, the weakening of the Democratic Party during this period, would have a long term effect. Indeed, only two Democrats were elected president between 1860 and 1912.

· While he himself was honest to a fault, President Grant’s administration was riddled with political figures who viewed their position in government as a means to acquire ill-gotten wealth. Some people who were not government officials found ways to penetrate the federal government to benefit them selves. For example, financial speculators Jay Gould and Jim Fisk cornered the gold market. Their unscrupulous acts were uncovered, but not before ruining many unsuspecting investors and businessmen and further tarnishing the already tainted Grant administration.

· With the end of Reconstruction, Jim Crow laws brought a new form of subordination and degredation for southern blacks. Relegated again to a position of dependence, many former slaves turned to sharecropping, one of the few options open to them. Millions of blacks scratched out a meager existence while locked into a system that made them indebted to the owners of the land on which they worked. In many cases those landowners were their former masters.

Chapter 24

Industry Comes of Age, 1865–1900

“In speaking of the real beginnings of the Standard Oil Company, it should be remembered that it was not so much the consolidation of the firms in which we had a personal interest, but the coming together of the men who had the combined brainpower to do the work.…It is not merely capital and plans and the strictly material things that make up a business, but the character of the men behind these things.…”
John D. Rockefeller

Zinn's Rober Barrons and Rebels:


Ch. 24 PPT (railroads)
Ch. 24 PPT (captains of industry)

Chapter Themes

Theme: America accomplished heavy industrialization in the post–Civil War era. Spurred by the transcontinental rail network, business grew and consolidated into giant corporate trusts, as epitomized by the oil and steel industries.

Theme: Industrialization radically transformed the practices of labor and the condition of American working people. But despite frequent industrial strife and the efforts of various reformers and unions, workers failed to develop effective labor organizations to match the corporate forms of business.

Theme: With the concentration of capital in the hands of a few, new moralities arose to advance justifications for this social and economic phenomenon.A “survival of the fittest” theory emerged, a popular theory based on the thought of Herbert Spencer and William Graham Sumner, which argued that millionaires were products of natural selection. Another theory known as the “Gospel of Wealth” argued that societies well-to-do had to prove themselves morally responsible.

chapter summary

Aided by government subsidies and loans, the first transcontinental rail line was completed in 1869, soon followed by others. This rail network opened vast new markets and prompted industrial growth. The power and corruption of the railroads led to public demands for regulation, which was only minimally begun.

New technology and forms of business organization led to the growth of huge corporate trusts. Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller led the way in the steel and oil industries. Initially, the oil industry supplied kerosene for lamps; it eventually expanded by providing gasoline to fuel automobiles. Cheap steel transformed industries from construction to rail building, and the powerful railroads dominated the economy and reshaped American society.

The benefits of industrialization were unevenly distributed. The South remained in underdeveloped dependence, while the industrial working class struggled at the bottom of the growing class divisions of American society. Increasingly transformed from independent producers and farmers to dependent wage earners, America’s workers became vulnerable to illness, industrial accidents, and unemployment.

Workers’ attempts at labor organization were generally ineffective. The Knights of Labor disappeared after the Haymarket bombing. Gompers founded the AF of L to organize skilled craft laborers but ignored most industrial workers, women, and blacks.


· A catalyst for postwar industrial and economic expansion is the railway industry, which not only facilitates trade, commerce, and transportation but also makes locomotive production a major industry. The government plays a major role in the industry’s development and importance by providing the companies with millions of acres of free land.

· By the turn of the twentieth century, important industries necessary to the health and prosperity of the nation and its citizens are controlled by economically and politically powerful trusts and other types of business combinations, which undermine the foundation of capitalism: competition.

· The Gilded Age is dominated by key industrialists and financiers. So enormous is their own wealth, control of business capital, and political influence that many refer to them as Robber Barons.

· Justifications for enormous disparity in wealth were expressed in philosophy, literature, and the social and behavioral sciences. One novelist, Horatio Alger, established a format for his works of fiction that repeatedly expressed the same theme: industry, self-discipline, sacrifice, and hard work ultimately lead to financial success regardless of obstacles.

· Industrial development was uneven, especially in the South. Some industries, such as textile production, flourished while others, such as the steel industry, lagged behind those of the North.

· Industrial development had a human toll as many laborers, including women and children, worked long hours under oppressive conditions for very low wages. Not surprisingly, many workers attempted to unionize in order to engage in collective bargaining. Most capitalists refused to recognize the legitimacy of the unions and balked at even the thought of negotiating. Often-intense and costly strikes such as the Railroad Strike of 1877 shaped the period. It is important to note that President Hayes called out the army to suppress the Railroad Strike, a harbinger of what was to come as business interests and the federal and state governments allied in

Chapter 25

America Moves to the City, 1865–1900

Ch. 25 PPT

“I found myself…with high expectations and a certain belief that whatever perplexities and discouragement concerning the life of the poor were in store for me, I should at least know something at firsthand and have the solace of daily activity.…I had at last finished with the ever-lasting ‘preparation for life,’ however ill-prepared I might be.” Jane Addams

“The wisest among my race understand that the agitation of questions of social equality is the extremist folly.…The opportunity to earn a dollar in a factory just now is worth infinitely more than the opportunity to spend a dollar in an opera house.” Booker T. Washington 

Chapter Themes

Theme: In the late nineteenth century, American society was increasingly dominated by large urban centers. Explosive urban growth was accompanied by often disturbing changes, including the New Immigration, crowded slums, new religious outlooks, and conflicts over culture and values. While many Americans were disturbed by the new urban problems, cities also offered opportunities to women and expanded cultural horizons.

Life in the City (a collection of pictures)

Theme: African Americans suffered the most as the south lagged behind other regions of the country with regard to educational improvements and opportunities. Two schools of thought emerged as to the best way to handle this problem. Booker T. Washington advocated that blacks should gain knowledge of useful trades. With this would come self-respect and economic security – Washington avoided the issue of social equality. W.E.B. Du Bois demanded complete equality for blacks, both social as well as economic.

chapter summary

The United States moved from the country to the city in the post–Civil War decades. Mushrooming urban development was exciting but also created severe social problems, including overcrowding and slums.

After the 1880s the cities were flooded with the New Immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. With their strange customs and non-Protestant religions, the newcomers sometimes met with nativist hostility and discrimination.

Religion had to adjust to social and cultural changes. Roman Catholicism and Judaism gained strength, while conflicts over evolution and biblical interpretation divided Protestant churches.

American education expanded rapidly, especially at the secondary and graduate levels. Blacks and immigrants tried, with limited success, to use education as a path to upward mobility.


· Industrialization sparks urbanization, and cities become magnets for immigration. Those who can afford to leave behind the hustle and bustle of urban life move to the budding suburbs.

· The late nineteenth century sees a surge of immigration, now from eastern and southern Europe. Most encounter living and working conditions not appreciably better than what they had left.

· As it was for earlier immigrants, those who immigrate in the post-Civil War era are generally not welcomed by those whose families established roots in America in an earlier period. Asians, Eastern and Southern Europeans, and Jews often face hostility from those who consider themselves culturally superior and who maintain that American culture is being weakened by these new immigrants.

· Disappointed with the premature end of Reconstruction and the continuing struggle of blacks to achieve social acceptance and political and economic equality, black leaders suggest various ways to defeat racism. Some black leaders such as Booker T. Washington advocates a gradualist approach, while W.E.B. Bu Bois is committed to a more aggressive, confrontational approach.

· Incensed by the expanding gap between wealth and poverty, corruption in government, and a host of other social, economic, and political concerns, reformers put pen to paper and educate millions of Americans about these problems. Books and journals such as The Nation provide readers an alternative perspective to more widely known mainstream political ideas

· The foundations of the twentieth-century women’s rights movement are laid in the nineteenth century by advocates such as Victoria Woodhull and Jane Adams. The struggle over women’s suffrage is one facet of the strain between those who celebrated the new, modern American woman.

· The prohibition movement attracted those who claimed that alcohol consumption was immoral and unchristian. Some contemporaneous critics of the movement refuted this perspective as a veiled attempt to impose a set of social and cultural values on society.

· In 1909, WEB DuBois helped found the black civil rights organization that is still in existence, the NAACP.

. Significant conflicts over moral values, especially relating to sexuality and the role of women, began to appear. The new urban environment provided expanded opportunities for women but also created difficulties for the family. Families grew more isolated from society, the divorce rate rose, and average family. Amusement became business.

Chapter 26... the WEST (no summary or themes for this chapter... sorry)

The West Review PPT

Wizard of Oz (essay on the film)

Wizard of Oz Review of Populism (PPT slides with summary notes)

World's Fair Links:



cattle map

Indian Wars map

Unit 5 Review Materials

Unit 5 Timeline Review with unit overview