The Gilded Age, as Mark Twain named it, is a very interesting time in U.S. history. U.S. history books rarely talk about it. And I suspect I know why. It was a very dark and evil period in American history, certainly nothing we should be proud of. But a lot the social progress and social movements, as well as technology we just take for granted, had their seeds in this time.
As I said, I think history books in the US rarely cover it. But I am glad they did in my high school. People really need to learn about this period in U.S. history.
PS History books in American grade and junior high schools represent the Gilded Age as the Fords and Rockefellers becoming wealthy and beginning their philanthropic foundations and building libraries while railroads were being built and telephone lines laid. While that's correct, the truth that these industrialists were anti-Semites, racists, and misogynists who didn't want POC or women to have the franchise is hard to swallow. People want heroes--not flawed human beings who beat their wives and children, steal patents from the women and minorities sweeping their floors and are for all intense purposes socio- and psychopaths. This is why people don't want Black history to be taught in schools: they don't want to feel bad about what they did to get to the progress we have today. That said, half of Europe is still making Germany feel bad and PAY for the sins of their great-grandfathers, grandfathers and fathers. The failure to actually logically think and evaluate how these behaviors make history repeat itself is lost on a lot of people who will most likely teach their children lies about what actually happened--all in the name of protecting the children from the ugly truth.
For the poor and many minorities, the Gilded Age literally kept them in poverty and was a form a slavery just 20 years after slavery and indentured servitude ended. To say that people were at each other's throats is an understatement. Not only that, there was huge loss of life caused by on job accidents, large scale environmental pollution (tainted water, tainted baby food and tainted groceries and lead poisoning) and lawlessness from both civilians, police and company owners. People were made to feel that working for two bits was something to be proud of as they slept in overcrowded flats and houses. When the Gilded Age ended when WWI broke out, those social woes were put aside for the war effort. The FAILURE of our politicians to solve the immense social and legal problems is a reflection of the belief that those who own the wealth are entitled to it because they ride the backs of the poor because they were born lowly or are simply lazy. It reflects poorly on a country that is so proud of its achievements.
I often attribute the dark history of those days to a level of ignorance that couldn’t be helped. They didn’t have the technology or resources that we possess today and many things were done back then that were ridiculous to us because while we do have the resources and technology, they had little to rely on. A lot of folklore and superstition governed their actions.