The story of America between the end of the Civil War and the Progressive Era

The Civil War did not solve the sectional conflict between the North and the South, and the Reconstruction did not recover the past economic strength of Southern states. At the same time, the Northern and Western states met the enormous technological and economic progress and population growth. This period between the Civil War and the Progressive Era was called the Gilded Age.

The Gilded Age was characterized by extreme development of the state economics and industry that allowed the United States to compete with Great Britain for the title of the most powerful country in the world. The economics of the United States is considered to be established during the Gilded Age. Salaries, capitals and domestic product were growing rapidly, although the Gilded Age was also marked by the highest rate of poverty (Public Broadcasting Company, 1999). The period was called “gilded” because it was “golden” on the outside, but was not indeed so beneficial for Americans. However, it was a stable political period, when only the Democratic and Republican parties dominated on the US political stage, and most influential people of that era were members of these parties.

The enormous economic and technological growth was affected by the advance of heavy industry, which became the basis of economic development of the United States. The number of factories, railways and coal mines was increasing every day. Actually, the second Industrial Revolution that took place in the United States occurred in the Gilded Age. The production technologies became more mechanized, in order to decrease the costs. Numerous inventions, such as electricity, greatly contributed to the exploration of the natural resources of the United States. Notwithstanding the modernization of heavy industry and production, it made American citizens more dependent upon employers and landlords. At the same time, factories and plants became less dependent upon hired labor force. However, the number of qualified and non-qualified worked increased as well as their wages.

Many influential people of the Gilded Age were sponsors and philanthropist and invested a lot of money in educational sphere. At the same time, workers were unsatisfied with work conditions and created trade unions in order to defend and maintain their rights. Trade unions soon became more political organizations than the labor ones. They often promoted some political party in order to gain support. Actually, most American citizens did not adore the life in the Gilded Age that was influenced by the high rate of corruption and bureaucracy in the state and federal governments; it mostly relates to the government of the President Grant. The US government was used to control the state economy that inevitably led to the corruption and bribery. However, when Democrats came to power in the second part of the Gilded Age, the government shifted from the control of the key industries to the free market.

Another distinctive feature of the Gilded Age was a high rate of immigration. Rapidly developed industry required more workers than the United States was able to provide. The growth of immigrants from Asia and Europe had an extreme effect on the industrial development and urbanization of America. This period was characterized by liberal policy of the government that adopted one of the most important Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments. The Third Great Awakening, female rights struggle along with the social Darwinism were integral parts of the Gilded Age culture.

The Gilded Age was over mainly because of the economic crisis of 1893 that greatly influenced the presidential elections of 1896, which initiated the beginning of the new era of Progressivism.


Public Broadcasting Company. (1999). The Gilded Age. WGBH Educational Foundation. Retrieved from