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The Gilded Age

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The Gilded Age can be regarded as an age that brought a great amount of strife, yet an exponential amount of economic growth. This era in time from 1870-1900, essentially saw the rich get richer and the impoverished left in the dust, due to an escalation in the beliefs of Social Darwinism. An example of this would be the monopolies Andrew Carnegie and John Rockefeller had in their respective markets and the sweatshops that forced the lower class into working countless hours in atrocious conditions. The rise in industry came from the influx of immigrants to create an impoverished labor force. The impoverished labor force brought up the labor unions to defend the workers conditions in the work place. These entities effected the social, economic, and political atmospheres of the Gilded Age.

The rise in industry through a generally poor labor force that effected the social atmosphere can be seen in Document A. The document clearly shows the great percentage of men and women ages 10-65 that toiled in the labor force. Earlier women were mostly involved in domestic housework but they were introduced to the industrial US labor force alongside men. Two familiar industries to work under were the steel industry under Andrew Carnegie or the oil industry under John Rockefeller. However, those workers usually worked long, menial, 12 hour shifts. The terrible conditions in a sweatshop and the child worker shown in Document C led to the rise of labor unions and child labor laws, which regulated eight-hour a day shifts, minimum wage, and less harmful working conditions. Immigrants too, were part of the US labor force; the vast amount being Chinese. For a while they joined the force, most working on railroad construction for cheap wages,until 1882, when the Chinese Exclusion Act was enacted. According to Document B, the opinion of the US Government was that, “Chinese laborers to this country endangers het good order of certain localities within the territory thereof..” This discrimnation against the Chinese leads to a point made by Jacob Riis in How the Other Half Lives. In the excerpt shown in Document F, Jacob Riis discusses the various and vast amount of immigrants in the area, and not one native-born individual in the vicinity, hinting at the discrimination of immigrants.

Two industries that dominated their respective markets and benefitted the economy were the steel industry run by Andrew Carnegie, and the oil industry run by John Rockefeller. Andrew Carnegie did acceptionally well in the sense that he merged relativley small steel factories in order to create an entire monopoly in the steel. He utilized the business approach of horizontal integration which allowed him to be the only one to manufacture and sell it to the populous. In Document D, Carnegie even says himself “…we must accommodate ourselves, great inequality of environment, the concentration of business, industrial commercial, in the hands of few.. as not only being beneficial, but essential..” hinting that the minimal competition is beneficial and essential to his total monopoly



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