gilded age

MiniLesson: The Gilded Age

SSUSH11 The student will describe the economic, social, and geographic impact of the growth of big business and technological innovations after Reconstruction.
a. Explain the impact of the railroads on other industries, such as steel, and on the organization of big business.
b. Describe the impact of the railroads in the development of the West; include the transcontinental railroad, and the use of Chinese labor.
c. Identify John D. Rockefeller and the Standard Oil Company and the rise of trusts and monopolies
d. Describe the inventions of Thomas Edison; include the electric light bulb, motion pictures, and the phonograph, and their impact on American life

SSUSH12 The student will analyze important consequences of American industrial growth.
a. Describe Ellis Island, the change in immigrants’ origins to southern and eastern Europe and the impact of this change on urban America.
b. Identify the American Federation of Labor and Samuel Gompers.


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Click for Interactive trip into Ellis Island


Old Immigrants (Click Here) vs New Immigrants (Click Here)

Arrival at Ellis Island

Detained on Ellis Island

Award winning Documentary on Ellis Island

Awesome website detailing the experiences of Immigrants coming through Angel Island (Click Here)

Angel Island Documentary Video


Urbanization occurs when the population shifts from rural to urban areas. With the advent of innovative agricultural technologies and industrialization, Americans began to migrate to cities in droves during the 1800s. By 1920, over 50% of Americans lived in cities.

This movement had many negative consequences for the people living in cities:


Negative Effects of Urbanization

Corrupt political machines such asTammany Hall in NYC took advantage of their positions in order to receive graft. These organizations also provided much needed services for immigrants and new city-dwellers in exchange for their vote.
The massive wave of population entering cities helped to spread diseases. To make matters worse, clean water and proper sanitation were virtually unheard of, making disease even more common.
Housing was constructed quickly and cheaply to provided for the great numbers of people entering cities. Many tenements were unhealthy due to lack of light or sanitation. Neighborhoods of tenement housing became slums where crime flourished.



Soon, many of these problem began to be addressed, and cities soon demonstrated positive characteristics. 


Positive Effects of Urbanization

Social reformers began to provide services for immigrants and new city dwellers, making them less susceptible to the influence of political machines. Examples abound, including Jane Addams who founded the Settlement House Movement with her Hull House in Chicago. This freed public money to be spent for the public good.
Museums, libraries, schools, parks, zoos, and other cultural centers were built in cities. These facilities provided urban citizens with cultural and educational opportunities that were unavailable in rural areas.
Technology made urban living more practical and comfortable. Elevators and the use of steel girders allowed cities to grow into the sky. Mass transit was being provided by trolleys, street cars, and eventually subways. Public lighting made areas safer, while water and sewage systems improved the overall health of cities.