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University of Toronto St. George
Dr.Liamvan Beek

Gilded Age Period after Reconstruction, ending around 1890-1900 Called the gilded age because what may appear to be beautiful from the outside is not necessarily beautiful on the inside Beyond the golden exterior of growth, the interior was ripe with inequality, poverty, and social decay Businesses and the Workplace Features of large-scale manufacturing: o Exploitation of immense coal deposits as a source of cheap energy o The rapid spread of technological innovation in transportation, communication, and factory systems o The need for enormous numbers of new workers who could be carefully controlled o The constant pressure on firms to compete tooth-and-nail by cutting costs and prices o The relentless drop in prices o The failure of the money supply to keep pace with productivity Modern Corporation o Efficiency (scientific management, divisions of tasks and workplace hierarchies) o New management techniques (middle-management between the workers and owners) o Consolidation (Horizontal Integration and Vertical Integration) John D. Rockefeller o Creator of Standard Oil and master of the use of pools and trusts to monopolize the industry o He aggressively forced out his competitors o When local refineries rejected his offers to buy them out, he priced his products below cost and strangled their businesses o When rival firms teamed up against him, Rockefeller set up a pool an agreement among several companies that established production quotas and fixed prices o By 1879 Rockefeller had seized control of 90% of the countrys oil-refining capacity o He then established the Standard Oil Trust, which unlike the pool, created an umbrella corporation that ran them all o In this way Rockefeller integrated the petroleum industry both vertically and horizontally, by merging the competing oil companies into one giant system o Fearful that trusts would stamp out all competition, Congress passed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act in 1890, which outlawed trusts and monopolies o Example of the ways in which consolidation had resulted in the formation of huge corporations by the end of the 19 century Ideology behind the myth o There were several key ideologies circulating during this age to justify this cutthroat capitalism o Deep-seated belief in individualism and equal-access to opportunity Supporters of big business argued that anyone who was willing to work hard had the same chance to gain success as anyone else o Gospel of Wealth Rested on the idea that even though things many look uneven, if one sector of society was successful, eventually it would translate into other areas Idea that people like Rockefeller had a responsibility and that his success would create opportunities for others o Social Darwinism A way of explaining why some people were still unfortunate (they didnt work hard enough or try hard enough) (the average income of an industrial worker was $100-200 lower than the minimum required to live with reasonable comfort) Hardships of the workers o The average income of an industrial worker was $100-200 lower than the minimum required to live with reasonable comfort o Unions at this time were limited to skilled and semi-skilled workers o There were no real options for unskilled workers, who needed help the most o Big businesses had changed the place of the worker... no need for skilled workers, and unskilled workers were very replaceable o Corporations targeted the most vulnerable (women, children, immigrants) because they were the least protected o Corporations did everything they could to limit the connections that workers had with one another (split language groups, etc.) Homestead Strike o Company lock-out that sparked a strike and violence at a Carnegie steel plant in 1892 o To destroy the union, managers had cut wages and locked out the workers o When workers fired on the armed men who were hired to protect the plant, a battle broke out o 7 union members and 3 armed guards died o A week later the governor sent 8000 National Guardsmen to restore order Unions failed in this period because o Ineffective in the political arena o Blocked by state officials o Divided by ethnic differences o Harassed by employers o Frustrated by court decisions Immigration and the City Between 1870 and 1900 nearly 11 million immigrants arrived Immigration myths: Ellis island, Americanization and the Melting Pot, Freedom and opportunity Immigration realities: exclusion, immigration restriction, assimilation, nativism o In the 1890s new immigrants start arriving from southern and eastern Europe (vs. western Europeans) o Many felt their stint in American would be temporary and thus were less willing to Americanize Fears about immigration o Americans believed those coming to the US were the drags of other countries o Immigrant communities threatened American social, cultural, and political institutions o Immigrants were unwilling to assimilate o Disease o Immigrants would take American jobs Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882 o First time a group of people were prohibited from entering the country o The exclusion act was primarily due to lobbying from Californians o Banned Chinese immigration for 10 years o Restricted rights for Chinese already living in the States (citizenship rights and banned interracial marriages) o Wasnt repealed until 1943 Immigration Restriction League, 1894 o Wanted to reduce the number of immigrants arriving in the US o Called for literacy tests to determine whether immigrants had enough basic schooling to be literate, which would make assimilation easier
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