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The Gilded Age


found in: social studies; 6-8; 9-12

The Gilded Age, roughly the end of the Civil War to the turn of the century, was an era of rapid industrial and economic growth, especially in the North and West. The name came from the novel, The Gilded Age: A Tale of Today (1873), by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner. Though huge fortunes were made by a few, less than 1% of all Americans, and the wages of industrial workers rose, not everyone benefited. Many lived in poverty. Farmers and immigrants were especially hard hit. The inequalities of the Gilded Age led to proposed reforms during the Progressive Era. (grades 6-12)

The following resources and lessons will support a study of the period:

Background Resources:

The Gilded Age (American Experience)  (1:53:02) (6-12) Examines the gulf between the very rich and the masses during the late 19th century.

For context: Rise of Industrial America: Teacher’s Guide  provides an overview, learning objectives, and suggests vocabulary and essay & discussion questions. Lists NCSS Standards for U.S. History.

Teaching Guide: Exploring the Politics of the Gilded Age  suggests how to use the primary source set, Patronage and Populism: The Politics of the Gilded Age  with discussion questions, classroom activities, and primary source analysis tools. It links to additional resources.

The Gilded Age (The Rise of Industrial America)  is a collection of 217 images and includes photographs of the poor in New York City by Jacob A Riis.

Lessons & Activities:

The Gilded Age and Liberty  Students identify economic and social implications of the Gilded Age, learn about the growth of the Populist Party and sing and compare lyrics of “My Country ‘tis of Thee” with two parodies published in 1891, “Future of America” and “A New American Anthem”.

African American Identity in the Gilded Age  Students examine how African-Americans survived and thrived in an environment in which they were considered inferior.

Farming In the Gilded Age: A Simulation  includes a introductory video (9:42) showing the simulation being used in a classroom and provides all its supporting materials. Teachers must create a free account to download supporting materials and post to the discussion board.

Primary Source Learning: Gilded Age Teaching Resources & Strategies  provides teaching ideas, lesson plans, and other teaching resources and strategies.

Learn About the Gilded Age  is a source of background, documents, handouts and fact sheets, lesson, and a quiz.

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