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Gilded Age Industry and Agriculture

The late XIX century in the American history is usually named Gilded Age. The epoch extends from the 1870s to 1900. The period is characterized with the rapid economic growth which took place after the Civil War and the Reconstruction Era. The very term was consciously borrowed from the satirical book by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley “The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today” (Sutch 1). The expression was used to emphasize that though the late XIX century seemed to be extremely productive, it was not completely true for the economic growth, because it was not constant, uniform, and at times volatile. The period of unheard economic success was followed by the unemployment and depression in 1893 (Brown 2).

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During that time, the USA managed to output a large part of the world’s industrial products, leaving the other developed countries well behind. Though, because of the influx of immigrants, the population of the USA considerably increased, and there was not enough workplaces. Entrepreneurs strived to overcome a labor shortage with the help of the rationalization of production and being sponsored enough by funds for scientific endeavors. By the number of different discoveries and development of the new technologies America was in a leading position among the other countries. Plants and factories were equipped with the latest machinery. The economy of the country experienced profound structural changes. Some new industries such as oil-mining and oil-refining, chemical, automobile, and electrical energy industries appeared and became dominant (Brown 2).

The year 1882 was vital for the American economy as at that time Thomas Edison gave start to the electrification of the industry, transport, and household. The first thermal electric power station was constructed during the year, and by the end of the XIX century there were more than three thousand stations in the country (Israel 3).

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It is a well-known fact that railroads contributed greatly to the development of American industrialization. Railroad construction made it possible to unite the whole country, and to assure speedy economic development in all the areas of the USA. Moreover, the main advantage of the railroads’ construction was that it promoted westward expansion. Railroads were used as convenient means of transportation. Their effectiveness was so high that a lot of other channels and roads were considered to be inconvenient and useless. The government of America encouraged the construction of the railroads by all possible ways. Most often the railway companies were granted with federal credits and plots of land. The construction of railroads was so rapid that in several years American railways banded together not only all the states of the country, but also Pacific and Atlantic coastlines.

As it was already mentioned, the construction of the railroads in the USA contributed to the new tendency of people to move to the west. In order to encourage such migrations, the government issued the Homestead Act of Congress according to which in the western region the additional piece of land was given to peasants free of charge. Besides, agriculture was modernized with the help of the new technologies and fertilizers which made the labor of the farmers much easier. Unfortunately, the promotion of agriculture development did not last for a long period of time. Soon enough the government cut off the prices for the agricultural products which caused dissatisfaction among the farmers. Desperate peasants created their own political party – the Populist Party. The aim of the party was to attract attention of the politicians towards the problems in the agricultural sector.

Talking about the relation between the industry and the government, it should be stated that it was uneven. On the one hand, the politicians strived to promote the development and extension of the industry by all means. Most often the government was introducing a number of loans, fees, free plot of lands in order to make business prosperous. However, when the aim was achieved, they forgot about certain industries, and left them to face the problems along (Brown 3).

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In a conclusion, it may be stated that “Gilded Age” is the most appropriate nickname to the period. It precisely reflects the state of the things during those times when the great achievements were mixed with misfortunes. However, we cannot deny the fact that the Gilded Age made America one of the most powerful world’s countries.

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