The commencement of the Gilded Age, after the end of the Reconstruction period in 1877, sparked domestic change and reform for the United States that transformed the nation in economic, social, and political aspects. The economy flourished due to the expansion of railroads and industrial and agricultural development. That created jobs for citizens and it was an efficient method to produce and transport goods throughout the United States (Calhoun, 1996).
Social advancements, such as Jane Adam’s foundation of the Hull House in 1889 and the establishment of the National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA) in 1890, reveals the achievements made for America that benefited the citizens of society. Despite the progression of the country economically and socially, the political perspective of America plunged due to dishonest governmental bodies and arguments over how to restructure domestic issues. In comparison to 1877, the differences in American reform until the year 1900 overall helped society and impacted the future of the nation (Dobson, 1972). The changes that were made to America since the start of the Gilded Age in 1877 demonstrate how advancements in the economy benefited the nation as a whole.
The rise of industry, the dominance of wage labor, and the growth of cities gave numerous job opportunities for skilled and unskilled workers, introduced an abundance of raw materials such as coal and oil, and manufactured improvements in transportation, communication, and labor-saving devices that saved productivity. The development of the nation’s first transcontinental railroad in 1869 unified the east and west and allowed for more of the interstate transportation of goods to travel across the country in an efficient amount of time. The establishment of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887 provided reasonable rates for railroads to operate and regulated the industry and its monopolistic practices (James, 2013).
Enhancement in agriculture in the 1880’s such as the use of steel plows, the McCormick reaper, and fertilizer enabled farmers to cultivate vast tracks of American land and produce more goods with less labor in a shorter period of time. The Titans of Industry including John D. Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie, and J.P. Morgan built monopolies in oil and steel companies which revolutionized business practices and contributed to the growth of cities and labor for citizens (The Curse of Bigness: Antitrust in the New Gilded Age, 93).
In contrast, many view the development of the economy throughout the Gilded Age as a negative progression due to the harsh working conditions faced by men, women, and children, and how the freedom and relaxed regulations granted to society by the capitalistic laissez faire theory contributed to a disorganized economy run by greed of the people (James, 2013).
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