As “gilded” means covered with gold and “age” depicts a certain time, the gilded age was a certain period in history when the America’s upper-class members, having gone through a nasty civil war, welcomed a period of peace through an overwhelming display of affluence. Coined by the writer Samuel Langhorne Clemens also known as Mark Twain, it was a parody term for a time of great political and financial corruption (Cashman 2). It was the formative times. Developments in the aspects of economy and commerce were on-going.
Factories owned by industrialists, financiers, and politicians mushroomed in the cities. Considered as the robber barons, these individuals abused the capability of providing employment for the people. Utilizing even the unfit for labor, robber barons exploited laborers. Women and children were hired into factories, overworked and underpaid (Cashman 3). The rich became richer in those days and the poor remained unfortunate. Splendid cities were built in the midst of slums.
It was a time of great disparity that led to the formation of labor unions trying to have their rights acknowledged. It also influenced the rise of the anarchists, or the groups revolting against the government (Cashman 5). The economy seemed to have progressed but the lack of just treatment to laborers and enacted laws to uphold their rights proved it otherwise. After the death of the famed president Abraham Lincoln, there had not been a good statesman to be elected. Political influence became the basis for position and not popular appeal.
In addition, high office was utilized for financial gain. With these, corruption became rampant and improvements remain vague. As such, politics during the era was stagnant (Cashman, 243-244). The Gilded Age was a dark time in American history concealed under a veil of affluence personified in wealthy hypocritical upper class citizens. What seemed to be a memorable period was but an illusion. The improvements in the industry covered the bigger picture of widespread poverty, political stagnation, and unbridled corruption.
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