Essay: U.S. History 1865 to 1945

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U.S. History from 1865-1945

Mark Twain coined the term "Gilded Age" in 1873 to refer to not only the name of his novel, but to the excessive greed and corruption he witnessed during that time. "Gilding" referred to adorning something further that is beautiful to begin with -- in other words, in Twain's mind -- excessive and wasteful, which characterized the era in the U.S.

The greater part of the nineteenth century saw significant change in the United States, perhaps the last third of that one hundred year period most of all. The country began that time period as an agrarian, unpopulated, spread-out, local-oriented, isolated group of individual states.

By 1900, the U.S. grew to be one of the great powers of the world -- industrial, urban, modern, and national-oriented country of states spread from sea to shining sea. (Calhoun, 2006, p.1)

The growth of big business represented the dominant economic fact of the era. An expanding railroad network brought the nation together and created a national market. In the process, the railroads emerged as the nation's first big business. They employed thousands of people, created bureaucratic structures to carry on their operations, and posed large policy issues for the political system. The iron and steel, petroleum, and electrical industries all loomed large in the economy. Consumers used processed foods in tin cans, ready-made clothing, and telephones. http://www.encyclopedia.com/doc/1O119-FarmMachinery.html" Farm machinery spurred productivity in the agrarian sector. (Boyer 2, 2001)

Mass Society

The definition of mass society from The Encarta dictionary is: A society in which the national or global nature of the influences on life, e.g. mass production and the mass media, has stripped the population of its diversity.

Alexis deTocqueville toured the U.S. during the gilded age of the 1800's. His classic description of what he found he described as: "mass society has echoed through the whole subsequent history of social theory: '...an innumerable multitude of men, all equal and alike, incessantly endeavoring to procure the petty and paltry pleasures with which they glut their lives.

Nineteenth-century sociologists shared many of de Tocqueville's concerns about the emerging culture of industrial societies. (Marshall, 1998)

On the farms of the South and Midwest, populist protest erupted over the power of the railroads, the financiers, and the middlemen who in the eyes of angry farmers were nothing but parasites who fed off their harvests. (enotes.com, n.d.)

In 1890, twelve per cent of the population controlled eighty-six per cent of the growth, while the top two per cent earned fifty per cent of all income in the U.S. In this climate of growing social disparity, "reformers" did the work of the wealthy who wished to keep the wages of the workers low and their own profits high. Misery and impoverishment became evident at levels never seen before in this country. (Friedman, 2007, p.252)

The last quarter century was an era of big business domination, expanding railroads, huge steel factories, and rampant oil production. Mass production and mass distribution lowered price levels. Deflation and falling prices defined the economic situation during the last quarter of the nineteenth century. And with economic growth came huge social inequities between the working class and the wealthy… [END OF PREVIEW]

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