Gilded Age  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

In American history, the "Gilded Age" refers to major growth in population in the United States and extravagant displays of wealth and excess of America's upper-class during the post-Civil War and post-Reconstruction era, in the late 19th century (1877-1890). The wealth polarization derived primarily from industrial and population expansion. The entrepreneurs of the Second Industrial Revolution created industrial towns and cities in the Northeast with new factories, and contributed to the creation of an ethnically diverse industrial working class which produced the wealth owned by the rising super-rich industrialists and financiers such as Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Flagler, and J.P. Morgan. Their critics called them "robber barons", referring to their use of overpowering and sometimes unethical financial manipulations. There was a small, growing labor union movement, led in part by Samuel Gompers, who created the American Federation of Labor (AFL). It featured very close contests between the Republicans and Democrats, with occasional third parties. Nearly all the eligible men were political partisans and voter turnout often exceeded 90 % in some states.

The wealth of the period is highlighted by the American upper class's opulent self-indulgence, but also the rise of the American philanthropy (Andrew Carnegie called it the "Gospel of Wealth") that endowed thousands of colleges, hospitals, museums, academies, schools, opera houses, public libraries, symphony orchestras, and charities. The Beaux-Arts architectural idiom of the era clothed public buildings in Neo-Renaissance architecture.

The end of the Gilded Age coincided with the Panic of 1893, a deep depression. The depression lasted until 1897 and marked a major political realignment in the election of 1896. After that came the Progressive Era. This period overlaps with the nadir of American race relations, during which African Americans lost many of the civil rights obtained during the Reconstruction period. Increased racist violence, as well as exile of African Americans from the Southern states to the Midwest, started as soon as 1879.

The term "Gilded Age" was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their book, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873).

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Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Gilded Age" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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