Sample of Reading Quizzes
Questions1. Why was the late nineteenth century known as the "Gilded Age"?
2. How did America's economy develop in the Gilded Age?
3. What characteristic defined American politics during the Gilded Age?
4. What was the experience of the "have-nots" during the Gilded Age?
5. How did many Americans feel about the new Gilded Age society?
Answers1. Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner were the first to call the years after the Civil War the "gilded age." Struck by what they saw as the rampant greed and speculative frenzy of the marketplace, and the corruption pervading national politics, they satirized a society whose serious problems, they felt, had been veiled by a thin coating of gold.
2. During those years, America's economy did grow at an extraordinary rate, generating unprecedented levels of wealth. Railroads, and soon telephone lines, stretched across the country, creating new opportunities for entrepreneurs and cheaper goods for consumers.
3. Corruption plagued American politics during the Gilded Age, and the administration of Ulysses S. Grant was a cesspool of graft and maladministration. Many politicians embraced a governing philosophy rooted in the premise that this economic elite should be allowed to pursue its endeavors with minimal government interference.
4. Industrial workers struggled to survive the bleak conditions often hidden behind the nation's glittering façade. Industrial wages were low and hours were long in factories that were typically dangerous and unhealthy. But perhaps worse, the restructuring of work—the subdivision of labor into its unskilled parts—left many workers with few marketable skills and little hope for occupational or social mobility. In addition, farmers were faced with increased competition, saturated markets, and falling prices for their produce.
5. Even during the Gilded Age, there was considerable discomfort with the direction of American life. Social critics and reform politicians appeared on the scene relatively early, voicing concerns about what they saw as economic exploitation and political corruption surrounding them. Furthermore, many of the most successful players within the new economic order of the Gilded Age revealed their own discomfort with the times as well; for example, Andrew Carnegie realized that he needed to articulate a philosophy that defended the size of the personal fortunes he and his friends were accumulating.