The Gilded Age Timeline
How It All Went Down
Grant Elected President
Republican Ulysses S. Grant defeats Democrat Horatio Seymour and is elected president of the United States. Grant receives 214 of 294 votes in the Electoral College. But his margin of victory in the popular vote is only 306,000 out of 5.7 million votes cast. The support of 500,000 recently enfranchised southern black voters accounts for Grant's victory.
Rockefeller Incorporates Standard Oil
Curtis Heads Civil Service Commission
President Ulysses S. Grant names George William Curtis to head the Civil Service Commission. Curtis, as editor of Harper's Weekly, has condemned political corruption and advocated imitation of the British system of awarding government positions on the basis of performance on a written test. The commission's recommendations will be disregarded and Curtis will resign in 1875.
Carnegie Imitates Bessemer Steel
Crédit Mobilier Scandal
The New York Sun reports that Vice-President Schuyler Colfax, and several members of Congress, including future President James Garfield, received what amounted to free stock in return for protecting the Crédit Mobilier, a railroad construction company, from investigation for financial irregularities.
Ulysses S. Grant Reelected
President Ulysses S. Grant is reelected to a second term as president of the United States, defeating Horace Greeley, the nominee of both the Democratic and Liberal Republican Parties. Grant receives 56% of the popular vote and 286 of 352 Electoral College votes. Greeley dies less than a month after the election. The National Labor Party (formerly the National Labor Union) candidate, Charles O'Connor, receives only 29,489 votes, ending the National Labor Union's experiment in direct political action.
Mark Twain Publishes The Gilded Age
Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner publish The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today, a satire of contemporary greed and corruption, coining the label for the period that is now commonly applied to the second half of the nineteenth century.
Panic of 1873
Corruption in Grant Administration
A federal grand jury indicts 238 people—including President Ulysses S. Grant's personal secretary, General O.E. Babcock, and dozens of whiskey distillers and revenue officials—for conspiring to defraud the United States government of tax revenues.
Alexander Graham Bell Invents Telephone
Hayes Wins Disputed Presidency
The Electoral Commission established by Congress to investigate the presidential election of 1876—in which disputed returns from Louisiana, South Carolina, Oregon, and Florida have left the outcome undecided—declares that Rutherford B. Hayes is elected president of the United States.
Railroad Strike of 1877
Brakemen and firemen from the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad walk off the job at Camden Junction, Maryland, initiating a wildcat strike that will shut down thousands of miles of track throughout the northeastern United States.
James Garfield Elected President
Republican James Garfield is elected president of the United States. His popular-vote margin of victory over Democrat Winfield Hancock is 7,018 votes out of more than 9 million cast. Garfield receives 214 Electoral College votes; Hancock receives 155. James Weaver, the candidate of the Greenback Labor Party, receives 308,578 votes.
McCormick's Mechanical Harvester
Hoping to reduce corruption in the distribution of government jobs, the United States Congress passes the Pendleton Act, introducing an examination system for selecting federal civil servants. Only 10% of all federal appointees are made subject to this process of selection by examination.
Railroads Create Standard Time Zones
Cleveland Elected President
Democrat Grover Cleveland defeats Republican James Blaine and is elected president of the United States. Cleveland's popular vote margin of victory is 62,683 votes out more than 10 million cast. Greenback Labor Party candidate Benjamin Butler receives 175,370 votes; John St. John, candidate for the Prohibition Party, receives 150,369 votes. In the Electoral College, Cleveland receives 219 votes to Blaine's 182.
Knights of Labor Strike Railroad
The Knights of Labor join a strike against the Wabash Railroad, part of Jay Gould's Southwest System, paralyzing the entire system. Gould is forced to make concessions to the Knights, leading to a dramatic boost in their membership. Within a year the Knights of Labor will have more than 700,000 members.
A rally in Chicago's Haymarket Square in support of striking workers from McCormick Harvester Works ends when a bomb is thrown, killing six policemen and wounding more than 60 others. Eight anarchists are convicted of the crime, but all supporters of unions and the eight-hour day are found guilty by association in the public eye. The influence of the Knights of Labor quickly diminishes; membership will decline by more than 50% over the next year.
Rail Gauge Standardization
Most southern railroads adopt the standard rail gauge of 4' 8.5", completing the process of standardizing the nation's rail system begun in the North several years earlier.
American Federation of Labor Founded
Harrison Loses Popular Vote, Wins Presidency
Republican Benjamin Harrison is elected president of the United States despite polling almost 100,000 fewer votes nationwide than Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland. Harrison carries the critical swing states of Indiana and New York in winning 233 Electoral College votes to Cleveland's 168.
Andrew Carnegie's "Gospel of Wealth"
Industrialist Andrew Carnegie publishes an essay entitled "The Gospel of Wealth," which outlines the social responsibilities and social benefits of vast personal wealth.
Stanford Beats Cal
Walter Camp, Yale's football coach, is invited to prepare Stanford University's football team for its game against the University of California, marking the emergence of college football as a national sport. Stanford wins the game.
Homestead Steel Strike
Henry Frick, Chairman of the Board of Carnegie Steel and plant manager at Carnegie's Homestead steel plant, shuts down the factory and locks out its employees when negotiations with representatives from the Amalgamated Association of Steel and Iron Workers break down.
Populist Party Convention
Thirteen hundred delegates gather at Omaha, Nebraska to select a presidential nominee and draft a platform for the recently formed Populist (or People's) Party. James Weaver is selected as the party's presidential candidate; James G. Field is named the party's vice-presidential candidate.
Battle at Homestead Steel
Two barges filled with armed Pinkerton Detectives attempt to land at Homestead to guard Carnegie's steel plant. Striking steel workers prevent the barges from landing. During the fourteen-hour battle, seven steel workers and three detectives are killed.
Henry Frick Survives Attack
Alexander Berkman, a labor activist and anarchist, attempts to kill Henry Frick, plant manager at Andrew Carnegie's Homestead steel plant. Despite being stabbed several times in the neck and torso, Frick survives—and refuses to seek medical treatment until the end of his normal workday.
Cleveland Returns to Presidency
Democrat Grover Cleveland is elected president of the United States, returning to a second term in the White House after a four-year hiatus. He receives 5,554,414 popular votes; Republican Benjamin Harrison receives 5,190,802; Populist James Weaver receives 1,027,329. In the Electoral College, Cleveland receives 277 votes to Harrison's 145 and Weaver's 22.
Workers employed at the Pullman Company, outside of Chicago, go on strike when the company's owner, George Pullman, refuses to reduce rents in the company housing to match announced wage cuts.
Debs Expands Rail Strike
Federal Troops Crush Pullman Strike
President Grover Cleveland sends federal troops to Pullman to enforce a court order prohibiting American Railway Union leadership from encouraging striking workers. Rioting in several cities will lead to the deployment of more than 14,000 state and federal troops.
With American Railway Union president Eugene Debs arrested for violating the court order, and thousands of troops protecting railroads from striker interference, the Pullman strike ends in defeat for the workers and the union.
Democrats Nominate William Jennings Bryan
Populists Endorse William Jennings Bryan
The Populist Party, meeting at St. Louis, nominates Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan as its candidate for the presidency, primarily because of his support for the free coinage of silver. "Mid-roaders" oppose the selection of Bryan, arguing that alliance with the Democrats will compromise the broader objectives of the Populist Party.
William McKinley Elected President
Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders
J.P. Morgan's U.S. Steel
United States Steel, J.P. Morgan's holding company, which includes the recently acquired Carnegie Steel, is chartered by the state of New Jersey.
Theodore Roosevelt is sworn in as president of the United States after President William McKinley dies eight days after being shot by anarchist Leon Czolgosz.