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Lecture 23

HIST 2110Y Lecture Notes - Lecture 23: Haymarket Affair, Agribusiness, Homestead Strike

Course Code
HIST 2110Y
Jeremy Milloy

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HIST-2110Y March 26, 2014
Wild West, Gilded Age
"What is the chief end of man?--to get rich. In what way?--dishonestly if we can;
honestly if we must." – Mark Twain, 1871
Gilded Age took its name from Mark Twain’s book
“I can hire one half of the working class to kill the other half.” – Jay Gould, robber baron
Jay was famous on Wall Street
“The only good Indian is a dead Indian.” – General Phillip Sheridan, US Army general
during the Indian Wars (disputed)
He denies having said this, his actions claim that he said this
“This book tells the saddest story: How, having redeemed democracy in the Civil War,
America betrayed it in the Gilded Age. – Jack Beatty, “Age of Betrayal: The Triumph of
Money in America, 1865-1900”
The Statue of Liberty at her dedication, 1886
State of Library was a gift to America from France, used as a symbol of America’s
Major Topics
American Industrial Power
Labour Struggle
Settling the Old West
The Gilded Age
In the twenty years after the Civil War, the United States attempted, and then
abandoned Reconstruction, as we looked at over the last two weeks
During this era, the United States also rose to become the world’s greatest
industrial power
It was an age of great wealth for some, but of widespread misery, exploitation for
working people, and political corruption
It was a Gilded Age, not a golden age- where showy wealth and power concealed
the rot and ruin underneath
It was also the era where settlers poured west to look for land, and a decisive
chapter in the relationship between America and Native Americans unfolded
Just as in the early Jamestown days, this era saw people heading West and chasing
wealth and freedom
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HIST-2110Y March 26, 2014
The Indian Wars ended with the Native Americans of the Plains consigned to
And the rest of the West opened to mining and farming
Stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific, united by railroads, an industrial giant
– the US was now poised to become, within the next 50-60 years, the world’s
most powerful country
But it was also marked by deep divisions and contradictions that would continue
to shape the nation’s path
American Industrial Power
After the Civil War, manufacturing, railroad construction and mining escalated all
over America, except for the South
The America of small farmers of Jefferson, and even to an extent Lincoln’s
dreams, was gone forever, replaced by a nation of big business and wage workers
2/3 of Americans worked for someone else
By 1880 a majority of Americans worked in non-farming jobs
By 1913 American produced 1/3 of the world’s manufactured goods
Scientific breakthroughs, like Edison's lightbulb and phonograph, and Nikola
Tesla's electric motor and alternating current, created new products, and powered
cities, factories, and streetcars
The railroads linking the nation created market for national brands like Quaker
Oats or Ivory Soap (people would buy all over the country thanks to the power of
the railroads)
The railroads even reshaped time, dividing America into the 4 standard time zones
that we use today (invented by Sir Stanford Fleming)
The Robber Barons
The chief winners of this era of dramatic economic expansion were the owners of
America’s biggest corporations, the so-called ROBBER BARONS
Like Andrew Carnegie (steel, railroads) and John D. Rockefeller (oil)
These were the ones who triumphed in the era’s ruthless competition between
businesses, when capitalists bought politicians, destroyed their competition, and
crushed unions in order to maximize profits
Carnegie and Rockefeller pioneered vertical integration – controlling every aspect
of your industry, from supply to production to distribution (example: steel – from
mines to factories to trucks)
Some saw these men as American success stories who created wealth and gave
generously to charity
Others saw greedy monopolists, whose power threatened democracy, corrupted
politics, and exploited workers (thought they had too much power)
Indeed, the Gilded Age was one of rampant inequality, where some grew very rich
while others worked backbreaking hours in dangerous conditions just to avoid
An average of 35,000 workers a year died in factory and mine “accidents”
(horrible conditions killing people)
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