Change and Continuity in the Gilded Age
Emergence of Modern America
“Every day things change, but basically they stay the same.”-Dave Matthews
Change and continuity are two major principles of life. They can easily be applied to history because their application accurately portrays the circumstances, and characterizes the era of interest. Merriam-Webster defines continuity as an uninterrupted connection, succession, or union, or an uninterrupted duration or continuation especially without essential change. Change is defined as to make different in some particular, to alter, to make radically different, to transform, or to give a ...view middle of the document...
”(George, p.21) Poverty spread through the working class like disease and forced millions of Americans to fight for survival. In a trip to Chicago Rudyard Kipling furiously describes the dreary, money driven conditions that consumed the earth, water, and air. “I spent ten hours in that huge wilderness, wandering through scores of miles of these terrible streets, and jostling some few hundred thousand of these terrible people who talked money through their noses.”(Kipling, p.122) The free market, which seemed to promise progress, was bringing the beast of man to the limelight and pinning him against his own greed. However, do not misinterpret my statements, I am surely an advocate of capitalism but at the time it was unregulated, therefore untamed.
This onslaught of capitalism directly revolutionized modern industrialism as well as the industrial city. Machines morphed the predominately agricultural nation to a herd of factory and corporate workers. Swarms of people, both native and immigrant, flocked to major cities. “The present century has been marked by a prodigious increase in wealth-producing power. The utilization of steam and electricity, the introduction of improved processes and labor saving machinery, the greater subdivision and grander scale of production, the wonderful facilitation of exchanges, have multiplied enormously the effectiveness of labor.”(George, p.20) The major problem with this newfound industrialism was the way in which the workforce was treated. Capitalism was supposed to provide a way out, a way ascend the financial and social staircase, if you worked hard enough. This however was not the case, if you were a loyal, hardworking employee you simply got to keep your job, and if you were in any way injured or incompetent you were fired.
During this time America saw some of its most rapid increase of immigration and population, not to mention westward expansion. Between 1880 and 1900 many cities grew in the hundreds of thousands, making work, shelter, and life a little more competitive. Much of this was directly related to the rapid immigration from Germany, Ireland, Poland and many other European countries, as well as Canada. Never before had the nation been so diverse. This altered every aspect of American life. Culturally and socially the various backgrounds melted, as money became scarce and survival was the only priority. These conditions however tended to unify the people against one common factor, corporate monopoly.
The gilded age began to spawn new ideas amongst the people. Beginning in 1877, numerous railroad and anti-industrial strikes took place amongst American citizens. They were tired of living in poverty while a few industrial moguls, whom they did all the work for, made millions. Taking place in America, at this time, was a huge labor movement; one prime example is the organization of the Noble and Holy Order of the Knights of Labor, in the...