The Gilded Age

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But, the timing wasn't quite right, and so the series was "put on the back burner," according to Deadline.

Now, Fellowes is diving into The Gilded Age again. I could not be more excited and thrilled. The truth is, America is a wonderful country with a rich and varied history, and nothing could give me more pleasure than be the person to bring that compelling history to the screen. According to Variety , HBO has committed to 10 episodes, but a premiere date has yet to be made public.

It will be about ambition, of course, and envy and hatred and, perhaps most of all, about love. I hope people will enjoy the series. I know I will enjoy making it. The strike spread among other railroads, sparking violence across America between the working class and local and federal authorities. At its peak, over , railroad workers were on strike. Many of the Robber Barons feared an aggressive, all-out revolution against their way of life.

Instead, the strike—later known as the Great Upheaval—ended abruptly and was labeled a dismal failure. As the working class continued to use strikes and boycotts to fight for higher wages and improved working conditions, their bosses staged lock-outs and brought in replacement workers known as scabs. They also created blacklists to prevent active union workers from becoming employed elsewhere. Even so, the working class continued to unite and press their cause and often won at least some of their demands.

Innovations of the Gilded Age helped usher in modern America. Urbanization and technological creativity led to many engineering advances such as bridges and canals, elevators and skyscrapers, trolley lines and subways. The invention of electricity brought illumination to homes and businesses and created an unprecedented, thriving night life.

In , Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone and made the world a much smaller place for both individuals and businesses. But while the middle and upper classes enjoyed the allure of city life, little changed for the poor. Most still faced horrific living conditions, high crime rates and a pitiable existence. Many escaped their drudgery by watching a vaudeville show or a spectator sport such as boxing, baseball or football, all of which enjoyed a surge during the Gilded Age.

Upper-class women of the Gilded Age have been compared to dolls on display dressed in resplendent finery. They flaunted their wealth and endeavored to improve their status in society while poor and middle-class women both envied and mimicked them.

Great Fortunes of the Gilded Age

Some wealthy Gilded Age women were much more than eye candy, though, and often traded domestic life for social activism and charitable work. Some created homes for destitute immigrants while others pushed a temperance agenda, believing the source of poverty and most family troubles was alcohol.

Wealthy women philanthropists of the Gilded Age include:. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller , wife of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.


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Many women during the Gilded Age sought higher education. Others postponed marriage and took jobs such as typists or telephone switchboard operators. Thanks to a print revolution and the accessibility of newspapers, magazines and books, women became increasingly knowledgeable, cultured, well-informed and a political force to be reckoned with. Jane Addams is arguably the best-known philanthropist of the Gilded Age.

The neighborhood was a melting pot of struggling immigrants, and Hull-House provided everything from midwife services and basic medical care to kindergarten, day care and housing for abused women. It also offered English and citizenship classes.

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Adams received the Nobel Peace Prize in Temperance leader Carrie Nation gained notoriety during the Gilded Age for smashing up saloons with a hatchet to bring attention to her sobriety agenda. She was also a strong voice for the suffrage movement. Convinced God had instructed her to use whatever means necessary to close bars throughout Kansas , she was often beaten, mocked and jailed but ultimately helped pave the way for the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol and the 19th Amendment giving women the right to vote.

As muckrakers exposed corrupt robber barons and politicians, labor unions and reformist politicians enacted laws to limit their power. The western frontier saw violent conflicts between white settlers and the United States Army against Native Americans. The Native Americans were eventually forced off their land and onto reservations with often disastrous results. In , the western frontier was declared closed.

The Gilded Age - AMERICAN EXPERIENCE - PBS America

As drought and depression struck rural America, farmers in the west—who vilified railroad tycoons and wanted a political voice—organized and played a key role in forming the Populist Party. The Populists had a democratic agenda that aimed to give power back to the people and paved the way for the progressive movement, which still fights to close the gap between the wealthy and poor and champion the needy and disenfranchised.

In , both the overextended Philadelphia and Reading Railroad and the National Cordage Company failed, which set off an economic depression unlike any seen before in America. Banks and other businesses folded, and the stock market plunged, leaving millions unemployed, homeless and hungry. In some states, unemployment rose to almost 50 percent. The Panic of lasted four years and left lower and even middle-class Americans fed up with political corruption and social inequality. Their frustration gave rise to the Progressive Movement which took hold when President Theodore Roosevelt took office in Although Roosevelt supported corporate America, he also felt there should be federal controls in place to keep excessive corporate greed in check and prevent individuals from making obscene amounts of money off the backs of immigrants and the lower class.

Helped by the muckrackers and the White House , the Progressive Era ushered in many reforms that helped shift away power from robber barons, such as:. Fewer monopolies meant more people could pursue the American Dream and start their own businesses. Most robber barons and their families, however, remained wealthy for generations. He wants hour operation, two shifts, 12 hours each for the… workers. The point is to get the productivity going at… peak performance. His newly consolidated company was on its way to a profit of 40 percent in its first year, which meant a personal take of more than a million dollars.

At forty-five, the steel baron found himself with plenty of spare time to reflect back on his improbable rise. He read the great English philosophers, made studies of Confucius and the prophets of Buddhism, Hinduism and the Persians. And he tries to figure out how the hell did this happen. Why have I made all this money? Narration: It was, by design, like no house New York had ever seen -- a gleaming palace with gargoyles and gables and flying buttresses.

Plans for the grand interiors included the fine and expensive detail favored by European aristocracy. Alva meant to create a spectacle at Fifth Avenue and 52nd Street. And she did.

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They were appalled by the nude statues, which stood proudly on exterior walls — for all the world to see. Sylvia Hoffert, Historian: Alva craves attention and so she… intentionally makes the outside of the house something that New Yorkers are not used to. She has a goal and her goal is to make the Vanderbilts leaders of New York society. Narration: Scaling the heights of New York society was perilous work for any newcomer, even one with the right address on Fifth Avenue.

Their own homes reflected this sensibility. That was considered bad form not just gauche but really bad republican form, small R republican form. Sylvia Hoffert, Historian: Old money was wealthy but these new entrepreneurs were immensely wealthy, the kind of money that could buy anything.

They want to flaunt it. It was Mrs. Astor who would decide if the Vanderbilts were worthy of ascension into the highest tier of society. It was a very exclusive club, roughly the number of guests Caroline Astor could comfortably host in her ballroom. Four hundred was the magic number. Their patriarch, Cornelius, who had made his fortune building railroads, was considered ruthless, unscrupulous and crude. He had reportedly horrified one society dame — and all of her friends — by spitting his tobacco plugs onto her carpet. Astor did have a grudging respect for the Vanderbilt family money.


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  5. And with no inheritance tax, income tax, or tax on corporate earnings, they were certain to remain so. Narration: Alva understood the power of money. Born in Alabama before the Civil War, her family fortune — made in the slave-fueled cotton trade — afforded her a privileged existence. She spent her girlhood at fashionable homes in New York and in France, attended a pricey boarding school outside Paris, and summered at the resort town of Newport, Rhode Island.

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    Sylvia Hoffert, Historian: She was disobedient. She was willful. She says that there was one year that she was beaten every day for misbehaving. The furniture was still being delivered from Europe when Alva and her husband, Willie K Vanderbilt, decided to throw a housewarming party in their very accommodating ballroom. Alva could not be sure Mrs. Astor would accept, so she made certain her upcoming ball was the talk of the town. And hundreds of thousands of people not only in New York City but also nationally are reading these newspapers.

    So instead of tweets we have people like Alva who are understanding this change and starting to take advantage of the new possibilities of the media coverage. Sylvia Hoffert, Historian: She invites newspaper columnists to come into her house. Society dames spent hours fitting themselves into gowns styled after bygone European aristocracy. Their husbands visited hairdressers, then rushed home to pull up their tights and strap on swords.

    Crowds of curious onlookers began gathering outside the Vanderbilt mansion at eight that evening, though the party would not begin until eleven. As she made her way down the grand staircase, she took in the century old French and Italian tapestries, towering palms, Japanese lanterns and gilded baskets filled with roses.

    Steve Fraser, Historian: This is a nouveau riche world.